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General Health Information

Health Considerations
"This is not meant to be a substitute for proper veterinary care. Always consult and confer with your veterinarian before administering any mediation or medical treatment."

As I said earlier, I cannot give veterinarian advice on what to do with your animals. But in some instances I will tell you what I do with my animals. There are many things you can safely treat yourself, but first I strongly suggest that you develop a rapport with your veterinarian and seek his/her advice whenever you have a health problem with your animals. Veterinarians are specialists in diagnosing problems and they may see something that you have overlooked that will help in determining the solution to your problem. If you have a large volume of animals and are some distance from your vet, ask him to make a small kit for you of the most appropriate medications, etc. so that you will have them for an emergency. See later in this text for a kit of this type.

Whenever you lose an animal, consider having your veterinarian perform a necropsy on the animal to determine the cause of death. If you have any problems with diarrhea, feces with a strange color or odor, females dying prior to giving birth, respiratory afflictions, etc. to name a few, ask your vet to do culture and sensitivity tests to determine what organism your animal may have been harboring. This test is inexpensive insurance against a problem with the rest of your herd. Keep a notebook of the symptoms and the final diagnosis and treatment so you can refer to it if you have a recurring problem.

"This is not meant to be a substitute for proper veterinary care. Always consult and confer with your veterinarian before administering any mediation or medical treatment."

Of course, prevention is the key to healthy animals. Keep the humidity down to about 40% for most animals. See, however, that some rainforest animals need much higher humidity. Remember that with many animals breathing and urinating, the humidity can a reach a very high level in a closed building. High humidity is a good breeding ground at 70-80 degrees for a multitude of organisms that can cause problems in your animals. Proper ventilation and air exchange is a must, especially in a closed environment. Good sanitation practices will also help keep your animals healthy.

Look at each animal every day. When its habits or demeanor change, be suspicious that there may be a problem. Is it listless, lethargic, depressed? Has its bowel movement changed? Has its appetite diminished? Is its fur laying properly or is it separated. Has it lost any hair? Are its eyes clear and bright? Are its eyes less open than usual? Use any changes as a red flag to pinpoint the reason for the change. If you have seen the problem before and know how to treat it, do so with caution because there are many symptoms that are similar for different diseases or disorders. Remember that there are self-proclaimed experts who see their animals perish because of the misdiagnosis and improper treatment of a sick animal. And last but not least, there are some diseases that are directly transmissible to humans from animals.


Internal: Small exotics can be plagued by a variety of internal parasites such as round worms, hookworms, flukes and tapeworms to name a few. Once your animals have been treated and are parasite-free, there is less danger of internal parasite infestation if you maintain a closed colony unless your animals come in contact with wild rodents. You should be sure that new animals coming in are quarantined and de-parasitized first. I have used several de-wormers on my small exotics depending on the animal species and the parasite being treated. You must be careful to use the proper wormer for the parasite being treated and the species involved. I do not know of any de-wormers that are specifically labeled for small exotics, for example: Ivomecr Pour-on insecticide (this medicine is indicated only for cattle at this time) is often used as a de-wormer and de-miticide. It is not effective on all types of internal parasites. To measure tiny doses, it may be necessary to use an insulin syringe and apply it directly to the skin on the back of the a! nima l. Strongid-T (pyrantel pamoate) also called Nemex is used also and is a yellow oral liquid. Piperzine is a de-wormer that is used which is added to drinking water. There are various strengths of this product so you will have to consult the directions and your vet. Panacur (fenbendazole) is another de-wormer that works well. Not all de-wormers treat all worms. Ask your vet what he thinks will be best, and have him figure the dose. Believe me, this can be very tricky and you could overdose your animal. De-wormers are poison and can kill in the wrong dose. Marsupials, for example, are touchy about the type or anthelmentic used and method of administration.
"This is not meant to be a substitute for proper veterinary care. Always consult and confer with your veterinarian before administering any mediation or medical treatment."
You must know the proper medicine, dose and method of administration.

External: The three most common external parasites of small mammals are fleas, ticks and mites. You must know the sensitivities of the animal you are treating. Most animals in the cat family are extremely sensitive to some topical treatments Fleas and ticks could be treated with Adam's Flea Mist or Sevin Dust mixed in their shavings if they have bedding. Sevin Dust mixed with garden, and I stress garden (not swimming pool) diatomaceous earth, is a very good insect retardant. I also treat the room with Dursbanr spray. The animals should not come in contact with the wet Dursban. Fleas can be a vector for tapeworms as can be wild rodents, so be sure to keep your animals flea-free and your room rodent-free. Mites can cause skin irritation and flaking and scaling. They often generalize around the face or in the ears. If the animal is not sensitive to IvomecO it might be one to choose for mites. Some breeders treat for mites and certain internal parasites with Ivomec Pour-on insecticide. Fenthion is often used as topical treatment ! for fleas and ticks and is marketed under the names of ProSpot and Spotton. It is put between the shoulder blades, topically, and lasts about two weeks. This chemical can be very dangerous if used in combination with other flea sprays, flea collars, etc. even if you are only spraying the enclosure. In the wrong combination it will cause death!
"This is not meant to be a substitute for proper veterinary care. Always consult and confer with your veterinarian before administering any mediation or medical treatment."

Fungal problems

Some small mammals can easily get ringworm if the humidity is high or there are domestic cats with the problem that can come in contact with them, their bedding or you. Check with your vet for an anti-fungicide. If you are to dust the animal, be careful to wear surgical gloves with systemic products and also add it to the bedding in a small amount. Do not get in yours or the animal's eyes. This has always cleared up with treatment within a short time. In a pinch, we have used Tinactinr or Cruexr on fungal problems.


Your animals can get a localized or generalized infection that manifests in a dermatitis. This can be caused by irritation to the skin by fleas, mites, poor sanitation, injury or fungal or bacterial infection. Crusting, scaling, and/or pustules form with or without loss of hair or quills. This is a good time to see your veterinarian who can do a skin scraping and get to the root of your problem. It is vital to know what the cause is before you can treat it. For example, you might treat for mites, but the animal has an infection in skin lesions created by the mites. Both the mite must be killed/removed and the infection cleared up. This needs both an anti-parasiticide and an antibiotic. Topical treatments may not be effective because they could be licked off by the animal. Systemic treatments depending on the cause are the most effective.

Respiratory problems

These problems are best diagnosed by your veterinarian who can do a culture and sensitivity test on a swab taken from the animals nostrils or throat. This test will identify the organism that has been plaguing the animal and what antibiotic should be used to treat it. This test takes from 48-72 hours. In the meantime, your veterinarian can prescribe an antibiotic based on past experiences he thinks might work best.


Diarrhea is a symptom and not a disease. It can have many causes from a parasitic infestation to a bacterial enteritis. Sometimes, the animal could have both - an infection in the intestinal tract caused by lesions from parasites. So you must get to the root of the problem. If I know the animal is reasonably parasite-free (by previous de-worming or fecal flotation), your vet might treat with Spectoguard for the bacterial enteritis until he can get the results back from a culture and sensitivity test. Amoxicillin is a very broad spectrum antibiotic that is often used to treat small mammals if your vet prescribes it. It comes in several forms, including a very palatable cherry flavored liquid. It can be very helpful in certain infections of the following: respiratory, geno-urinary, gastro-intestinal and certain dermatological problems. It seems very tough against certain strains of streptococcus and staphylococcus that cause these problems. If the bacterial infecti! on i s caused by another agent, your culture and sensitivity test will indicate the antibiotic that will help.

Try not to be the kind of person who just grabs 'something' to use as a medication, figuring, if it worked once, and it will probably work again. You may see your animals die and your money go down the drain.
"This is not meant to be a substitute for proper veterinary care. Always consult and confer with your veterinarian before administering any mediation or medical treatment."

This page was created on 08/27/04