All Posts By

scottvc

♫ Summer Time, Summer Time, Sum-Sum-Summertime ♫♪♫

By | Clinic Renovations | No Comments

Finally the weather is warming up. After what seemed like an eternity of rain we have sunshine and blue skies.

This is the time of year to remember that we need to take special care of our four-legged friends when it’s hot outside.

Leaving your pet in a hot car, even for a few minutes, can be life threatening. Researchers have studied how long it takes for a car to heat up on a hot day. The findings were alarming: in less than an hour the inside temperature of a car parked in the sun on a day that reached 35 degrees C or hotter, hit an average of 47 degrees C!

Cars parked in the shade on a hot day had lower – but still scorching – temperatures. After 1 hour, the interior temperature of these cars reached an average of 38 degrees C.

The dashboards of these cars averaged 48 degrees C, the steering wheel averaged 42 degrees C, and the seats averaged 41 degrees C. It is never safe to leave a pet unattended in a parked car, even with the windows rolled down.

If you see a pet left in a car you can call 310-SPCA (7722), your local SPCA or Humane Society, or your local police.

 

Another thing that we need to be careful of is the temperature of asphalt. Unless you’re walking around barefoot it’s easy to forget just how hot the pavement can be. Use the “5 second rule” to determine if it’s cool enough for your pet’s feet. Place the back of your hand on the pavement where you want to walk your dog. If it’s too hot to leave it there for 5 seconds it’s too hot for the pads of your dog’s feet. Serious burns can occur.

Stay safe and have a great summer! 

magnified Mosquito

Heartworm testing

By | Clinic Renovations | No Comments

4DX Plus. This test shows a blue dot for a positive control only. The test is negative for heartworm and tick-borne diseases.

Each year starting April 15th we begin drawing blood samples from dogs 6 months of age or older. With the antigen test that we use we are actually looking for the presence of adult heartworms that your dog may have picked up the previous year. Heartworms need to be at least 6 months old for our test to detect them. The test also screens for exposure to 4 different tick-borne diseases., the most well known being Lyme disease. We use Idexx’s Snap 4DX Plus test and each dog is tested individually, usually while you wait. All we need is 3 drops of blood and 10 minutes.

Heartworm is an insidious disease that is spread by mosquitoes that carry the heartworm larvae. It can take upwards of 3-5 years for your dog to show any symptoms of the disease.

Immature heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) seen under microscope in our own lab using Difil method and stain.

We’ve had a few dogs this year that have tested positive for tick-borne diseases, and one dog that has tested positive for heartworm disease. Heartworm is very serious in our area, with pockets of it all along the Grand River all the way to Lake Erie. Heartworm disease can be easily prevented, but treatment for a positive dog can be very expensive and just as dangerous to the health of the dog as the disease itself. Untreated dogs will eventually succumb to the disease, as it will progress to pulmonary and cardiac failure.

If you have any questions about heartworm, or tick borne diseases such as Lyme, please let us know.

Snap reader shows results and saves them in patient file.

How Do I Bring My Cat to the Vet?

By | Clinic Renovations | No Comments

Is bringing your kitty to the clinic a nightmare? Do you end up scratched and bleeding and still not have him in his carrier? This is an all too common problem for cat owners and the result is far too many kitties not receiving the veterinary care that they need.

We can make it easier for you and your kitty with a few simple steps:

  • Make your cat love his carrier.

Leave the carrier out and open so your cat can go in and out whenever he likes. Put blankets in the carrier. Use pheromone wipes or sprays such as Feliway in the carrier and on the blanket. Put food and treats in the carrier and after he starts going in on his own close the door for brief periods of time. Then start taking your kitty for short rides in the car. Remember to never leave him unattended in the car.

  • Choose the right type of carrier.

The carrier should be large enough for your cat to turn around in. It should have a door that locks and the top should be removable. You should not have to dump your kitty out of the carrier or stuff him into the carrier. Always use one carrier per cat.

  • On arrival at the veterinary clinic do not place your carrier on the floor. Cats do not like to be on the floor and do not like other animals peeking at them through the carrier door. Place your carrier on a table or on the chair beside you if you are not put into an exam room right away.
  • Let your cat explore the exam room if he likes. Offer him toys and treats and praise to help him relax.
  • Your veterinarian likely has a cat specific exam room and will offer your kitty a blanket to sit on rather than just the cold table. They will also have treats and toys and will have a pheromone diffuser in the room. Pheromones emit “friendly scents” that only your cat can smell. They tell them to relax, everything is good here, and have no fear. Some clinics will have cat videos, such as birds or fish playing, that will interest your cat as well.
  • If you are still having trouble, there are other products available such as Thundershirts for cats. These can sometimes make your cat feel more comfortable and secure. As a last resort you can ask your veterinarian for a prescription medication that you can administer at home previous to travel to help alleviate fear and anxiety.
  • For more information please give us a call or visit wwwcathealthy.ca. This is a great resource for cats and their “staff” for all things feline related.

Why Should I Bring My Cat to the Vet? He Never Goes Outside.

By | Clinic news | No Comments

 

Regular visits to the vet for our feline fur-babies are very important, even if they live indoors.

  • Indoor cats need to be vaccinated and dewormed. They should also be on a flea preventative and have a yearly physical exam.
  • A cat in Hamilton, Ontario that lived in a 5th floor apartment contracted rabies from a bat.
  • It is the law that you must vaccinate your cat for rabies.
  • Rabies can be transmitted to humans.
  • Every 9 minutes somewhere in the world someone dies from rabies. Vaccination is the main reason this is not a common occurrence in Canada.
  • You can come into contact with other preventable feline diseases such as distemper, carry them on your clothing or footwear, and transmit them to your indoor cat.
  • You can also carry parasites such as fleas, ticks and intestinal parasites home to your kitty this way.
  • Potting soil has been proven to carry parasite eggs which your cat can ingest.
  • Fleas are vectors for tapeworm.
  • A cat ages approximately 6 years for every one human year, therefore changes in their physical condition can progress very quickly but can be noted on an annual physical exam.
  • Other changes in behaviour, socialization, weight and activity should be addressed by your veterinarian as soon as possible to avoid possible distress, pain or disease for your kitty.

To find out more reasons to bring your kitty to the veterinarian please visit wwwcathealthy.ca.  This is a great resource for cat owners to enrich the life of their kitty cat.

Continuing Education

By | Clinic news | No Comments

Our technicians, Sue and Crystal, recently attended a conference in Niagara Falls hosted by the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians. This particular conference is unique, as it is a series of lectures and labs for veterinary technicians, and the event is put on by veterinary technicians. There are guest speakers from all over North America talking about the latest in anesthesia, nursing, internal medication, radiographs and nutrition, among others. Technology is constantly changing as well, so this is also a great way for us to see what’s new and gives us a “hands-on” chance to see how things work at the conference’s trade show.

The doctors attended a few major conferences this past year, too. Dr. Lee went to the NAVC (North American Veterinary Conference) in January which gives lectures in small and large animal medicine. She also went to ExoticsCon in September which was all about birds, reptiles, and small mammals. Dr. Mantle and Dr. Lee both attended the OVMA (Ontario Veterinary Medical Association) conference in January that took place in Toronto.

Lifelong learning is crucial to keep us up to date with ever-evolving medicine. There is constantly new and emerging science-based knowledge and information in medicine and surgery that can help to improve your pet’s health, life span, and of course, quality of life.

February is Pet Dental Health Month

By | Clinic news | No Comments

Although Pet Dental Health Month is recognized in February, your pet’s oral health is very important to us year round. February is the month where most veterinarians across Canada focus on promoting dental care and educating clients about how they can manage their pet’s dental health at home.

Can you imagine what it would be like if you didn’t brush your teeth for months? No flossing, no mouthwash? Unfortunately for our 4 legged friends they can’t do that, so we have a number of ways to manage their oral health at home. The best way is to brush your pet’s teeth daily. There are toothbrushes and toothpastes that are specially designed for animals that are easy to use. If daily brushing isn’t for you, or your pet won’t let you do it, there are dental diets that can be fed that work just like a toothbrush, oral rinse, and flossing, all in one. All you have to do is feed your pet! A daily brushing regime, or dental diet (or both) along with periodic cleaning by your veterinarian can keep your pet’s teeth tartar free.

Brushing and dental diets greatly reduce the amount of tartar that will accumulate on your pet’s teeth. Bacteria that remains in the mouth for more than 24 hours will turn into plaque which will attach to the teeth and build up on the teeth over time, turning into tartar. You can easily see tartar on your pet’s teeth; it’s the brown accumulation that’s usually near the gum line. Often it can cause bad breath, and if allowed to continue accumulating can eventually cause dental disease, such as gum recession, bone loss, loose teeth, and infections.

For years we called a dental cleaning a “prophy”, short for prophylactic which means disease prevention. Nowadays it is known as a “COHAT” (Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment). In order to do this safely and effectively the procedure is done with your pet under general anesthesia. It is NEVER acceptable to scrape tartar off an animal’s teeth when it is awake. It is dangerous as it can cause injury by accidental cutting or stabbing with the instrument if the animal were to suddenly move. Also, the inside of the mouth cannot be cleaned properly this way and a thorough examination of the mouth is impossible.  While it does add cost to cleaning the teeth, a general anesthetic is actually the safest way to thoroughly examine, clean, and x-ray your pet’s teeth.

Before we start cleaning the teeth, we take full-mouth radiographs to determine the health status of each tooth. Many teeth may look perfectly healthy to the naked eye, while an Xray will show bone loss around the roots, root resorption and other root abnormalities, which would indicate that the tooth needs to be extracted. After extractions we always take another radiograph to determine that the entire root has been removed.

After the X-rays are done, the teeth are cleaned with an ultrasonic scaler, very much like what your dentist uses, to remove tartar.  Each tooth is then carefully polished.  The teeth and gums are carefully examined and a chart is created to record gum recession, missing teeth and any other abnormalities. We also take before and after photographs!

 

A dental exam will give us an idea of how much time will be needed for your pet’s cleaning. COHAT’s are graded from 1 to 3, with 1 being the least amount of tartar, some or no gingivitis and no expected extractions. Cleaning the teeth when they’re like this helps to keep them healthier longer, and shortens the length of time under general anesthesia.

If you are interested in bringing your pet in for an oral exam and quote for dentistry please call us at 519-752-3431 anytime. We care about the health of your pet.

Common Illnesses of Ferrets

By | Exotics | No Comments

Do you own or are thinking of owning a pet ferret? It’s always an excellent idea to familiarize yourself with the most common health issues associated with your pet ferret so that you are prepared and ready to know when they may require veterinary attention.

Adrenal Disease

Adrenocortical disease is arguably the most recognized disease in pet ferrets today. “Adrenal disease” is the umbrella term for when a condition causes the adrenal gland(s) in the ferret to overproduce estrogen and/or progesterone steroid hormones. The most common characteristic sign of this disease is loss of hair (alopecia). This hair loss is commonly first observed on the ferret’s tail, causing a rat-tail appearance, and moves upwards along the ferret’s body. The hair loss is typically most obvious in the early springtime. Other clinical signs can include enlargement of the female external genitalia, overall total body itchiness, and sometimes difficulty urinating/urinary issues in male ferrets.

Adrenal disease is most common in older ferrets over 3 years of age. Adrenal disease varies in severity and presence of concurrent medical conditions, so diagnosis and treatment is decided on an individual basis. If you notice your ferret appears to be losing hair or appears itchy, your veterinarian will need to examine your ferret to rule out other possible causes including normal seasonal hair loss or an ovarian remnant (when female ferret that has not been spayed, or was spayed improperly).

The cause of such high rates of adrenal disease in pet ferrets is currently under debate. Suggested causes under research at this time include early neutering, too much artificial light, a genetic predisposition, as well as inappropriate diet. Speak with your veterinarian for further information about risk factors for your ferret developing adrenal disease.

Gastrointestinal Disease and/or Foreign Bodies

Ferrets make excellent pets due to their goofy unique personalities, their playfulness, and their relatively straightforward husbandry. Unfortunately along with their unique personalities comes a tendency towards naughtiness, and sometimes ferrets will get into things and may consume things that they shouldn’t be eating. It is important to “ferret-proof” your home to help prevent your ferret from gaining access to small items that they may ingest, leading to gastrointestinal blockages that often will require surgery to resolve, and can sometimes be fatal.

Ferrets are also prone to developing stomach and intestinal issues due to infection, inflammation, ingestion of toxins, or even cancer. Clinical signs of gastrointestinal disease or obstruction typically include lethargy, weakness, reluctance to move, and ferrets will commonly refuse to eat or eat less than usual, may lose weight, and may develop diarrhea. If you detect any one or more of these signs bring your ferret to a veterinarian immediately.

Insulinoma

In North America, insulinoma has been recognized as the most common type of tumor in pet ferrets. Insulinoma is a tumor of the pancreatic cells that produce insulin, leading to an overproduction of insulin released into the blood. This overproduction of insulin into the bloodstream causes the ferret’s blood sugar to drop, a condition called hypoglycemia. Common clinical signs include lethargy and weakness, drooling, collapsing, walking abnormally, as well as seizures. Any one of the above clinical signs should prompt an immediate visit to your veterinarian, as hypoglycemia can become severe and fatal. A ferret with a diagnosis of insulinoma may require surgery, usually followed by long-term medical care.

Lymphoma

Lymphoma, or cancer of the lymph tissues, is the most common malignant form of cancer in pet ferrets. Lymphoma can occur at any age in ferrets and the clinical signs associated with it will vary depending on the organ(s) affected by the tumors. Surprisingly, lymphoma is sometimes an incidental finding in a ferret coming to the vet clinic for another seemingly unrelated health reason, such as adrenal disease or dental disease, or even at an annual wellness vet visit. Treatment is often not curative, but is more commonly aimed at reducing the amount of cancer in the ferret’s body and maintaining the ferret’s quality of life. Treatment can include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and different medication to keep the ferret comfortable and feeling well.

Dental Disease

Domestic ferrets in North America appear to be prone to developing disease in their teeth and gums. It is speculated that this high occurrence of dental disease may be due to consuming dry kibble as the mainstay of their source of nutrition, causing abrasion and wear-related damage to the ferret’s teeth. Ferrets are also known for chewing on toys and the bars of their cage, which can lead to damage to their teeth as well. Ferrets will sometimes break the tip of their canine teeth off due to inappropriate chewing of hard objects. Dental disease is commonly overlooked in pet ferrets due to generally lacking obvious clinical signs. Your veterinarian will check your ferret’s teeth during their annual wellness physical examination.

It has been suggested that moistening down the dry ferret kibble may reduce weathering of the ferret’s teeth. For more information on diet and nutrition in ferrets, please see previous blog post on ferret husbandry and care.

Heart Disease

Similarly to humans, middle aged and older ferrets are at risk of developing heart disease. Ferrets with heart disease most commonly show lethargy, difficulty breathing, may lose weight, may stop eating, and may cough. For unknown reasons, ferrets with heart disease may show weakness in their hind-legs. If you see any of these signs in your ferret, your veterinarian needs to examine your ferret, listen to their heart with their stethoscope, and they may recommend taking an x-ray of your ferret’s chest to examine the size of your ferret’s heart and the condition of your ferret’s lungs. Your veterinarian may also recommend an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) for a more detailed look at the valves in your ferret’s heart. Depending on the diagnosis, your veterinarian will prescribe medications to help support your ferret’s heart.

Though uncommon in this location, ferrets can become infected with heartworm. It is prudent to discuss risk of heartworm in your area and the potential need for heartworm prevention in your pet ferret with your veterinarian.

Thank you for taking the time to read about these common ailments to keep in mind when caring for your pet ferret. Of course this list of ailments does not cover everything that can affect your ferret’s health, so it is important to have your ferret checked annually by a veterinarian!

Happy Holidays!!

By | Clinic news | No Comments

Everyone here at Scott Veterinary Clinic would like to extend season’s greetings to you and your family!

What a year of growth and change we have had at the clinic since January! We have seen a huge increase in the number of avian and exotic pets that come through our doors. We love meeting new and exotic critters every day and helping to set them up for a lifetime of good health.

We have also seen a huge increase in the number of dental surgeries we are performing since upgrading our dental suite. We are able to complete much safer and more comprehensive dentistry, especially with the aid of the new dental x-ray.

This year we decided that we would like to use our skills and knowledge to give back to our community. We have developed a relationship with Hobbitstee Wildlife rescue. Hobbitstee is a registered wildlife custodian and a custodian of migratory birds. They rescue, treat, rehabilitate and release native Ontario wildlife of all sorts. Many of you have seen our posts on Facebook with some common and some not so common wildlife creatures. We help them by treating and caring for them as needed and hope with Hobbitstee’s skilled rehabilitation program they will one day be living wild again. This gives us great pleasure!

 

With all of this growth and change at the clinic we have decided that we needed more help. We gladly welcomed Dr. Justine Forbes to our clinic family in July.

Justine is a recent graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College and has a special interest in avian and exotic patients. She is very excited to begin getting to know all of our clients and patients. Sadly, Dr. Forbes had a motor vehicle accident in August which resulted in a badly fractured ankle. She has been off since then. She is recovering nicely at this point and you can expect to see her back in action early next year! We can’t wait!

 

 

You will also be seeing a new friendly face at the front desk over the next few weeks. We welcomed Laura to our clinic family just a few short weeks ago. Laura and her husband recently moved to Brantford. Laura gave up her veterinary receptionist position in Oakville to join us. Laura has 3 dogs Diego, Cash and Bailey and 4 cats Leonard, Sophie, Dexter and Manini. Laura is great with all types of pets and always has a smiling face to greet you. Please say hi to her the next time you visit.

 

The rest of the clinic family has all been doing well over the past year!

 

Dr. Lee’s twins, Aubrey and Colton turned 4 this year and have started Jr. Kindergarten. Her daughter Brooke has gone on to grade 4. Wow! Their puppy Max, that joined their family last year, has grown in leaps and bounds. He towers over all of the kids now and is especially adept at commandeering stuffed animals from them. (Santa is watching Max!) Dr. Lee attended the avian and exotic conference in Atlanta, Georgia this fall and brought back with her plenty of new knowledge and information that we will be able to use in our practice. She is also attending the North American Veterinary conference in Orlando in January which should be equally rewarding.

 

 

Dr. Mantle grew another beautiful flower and vegetable garden this year. Unfortunately, the deer that frequently visit her yard promptly ate most of it. Dr. Mantle still has her horse Victoria and her flock of chickens are doing well. All of her house felines keep her on her toes with their special needs. Dr. Mantle has also been to a conference this year. She attended the World Small Animal Conference in Singapore this fall. She plans to introduce some of the things that she learned to our practice next year.  

 

 

Holly spent the summer with her horse Frosty and her dogs Pepper and Willow. She kept busy practicing her riding skills and going to horse shows. She and Frosty worked hard and did very well. They are reserve champions in pole bending and dash for cash.  Holly has been very busy at the clinic developing new forms and charts for us to use with our patient care. She is so terrific at those things!

 

 

Sue has been doing a lot of work at home. She and her husband have been doing some renovations and home improvements. They also grew a beautiful garden this year that included a lot of Sue’s orchids that got to spend the summer outside. Sue’s cats Baxter and Rufous are constantly on the go. They are still young active cats and I suspect that they have something to do with all of these “home improvements”.

Sue is still the go to person for anything to do with surgery or dentistry. Sue has spent the last 25 years perfecting her skills in these areas and continues to learn new things every year.  Now if she would just give us a map to where she keeps everything!

 

Crystal is now settled into her new home. She and her husband Dave have been working on a few things too. Crystal has started doing some gardening and decorating and I think she’s got a knack for it! Everything always looks great! Crystal’s puppy Steve is all grown up now but continues to get into a lot of trouble. Her other dog, Tanner and cat, Baby just ignore him and go back to sleep.

Since Sue has been busy in surgery, Crystal has been in the lab and the radiology ward lately. Crystal always takes gentle care of your pets when getting a blood sample or taking a radiograph. She is a kind heart.

 

Kelly has been up to her usual stuff. She learned to surf in Hawaii this fall. Her pet family and human family are all well. Meadow is keeping Alejandro and Julian on their toes and Piper has been watching. Kelly’s chickens have cooped up for the winter. They are terrified of snow!  

Kelly continues to know all of your names and faces when you come in the door.   She has been working with the wellness plans as their numbers continue to grow. If you don’t have one yet, you should ask her about them the next time you are in.  

Our part time girls, Sam and Alyssa are still with us as well. Alyssa was married this summer to her fiancé Ryan. Alyssa and Ryan have a St Bernard named Nala, a Basset Hound named Willard and a cute kitty named Pickle. We are not sure when Nala is going to stop growing; the last time we saw her she was the size of a pony! 

 

Sam has also had an eventful year. She moved into a new place and adopted a crazy cat she named Chester to keep her other crazy cat Bandit busy. It worked out well-they are the best of friends, tearing up the house together! 

 

 

Spookie and Zeta have been keeping up their responsibilities around the clinic this year too. Zeta has been asking for a raise in her food rations because she feels her years of experience and her high skill level is deserving. That is debatable. The girls at the front think it would be a better idea to promote her to head technician so that she can work at the back and stay out of their paper work!

 

Spookie has entered her senior years, thus reducing her workload at the clinic. She is mostly in charge of monitoring the basement from a cozy stack of blankets. Occasionally Spookie makes a guest appearance in the exam rooms to do quality control of the cat treat (a job Zeta has been relieved of). 

 

Thank you for being part of our clinic family-we are so happy to have you.

We hope that we have served you well in the past year, and that we have in some small way made a difference in your life and the life of your pet. We truly care for each one of them as if they were our own. We wish you the happiest of holiday seasons and all the best for the New Year.

 

 

Ferret Husbandry and Care

By | Exotics | No Comments

The topic of this blog post is near and dear to Dr. Forbes’s heart: Ferrets! Although unconventional, ferrets are known to make wonderful pet companions. Ferrets have huge personalities, are capable of being litter-trained, and are intelligent enough to train to perform tricks! Pet ferrets tend to gain a bad reputation for looking like a combination of a rat and a snake, with the bad smell of a skunk. But despite this negative image, ferrets are known to be silly, fun-loving pets by those who own them.

If you or a family member is considering adding a new small companion into the household, a ferret may be the ideal pet–but only after careful consideration.

Did you know…

  • Ferrets were originally kept for rodent control purposes. It is very important to keep your ferret separated from prey species such as hamsters and rats!

  • Ferrets are escape artists! Any gap wide enough to accommodate their skull, typically the rest of their body will fit through as well.

  • Ferrets are mischievous, and are known to collect items around their living space and hide them. One ferret owner once found a stash of money their ferret had been hiding!

Temperament.

Each ferret is an individual and will have it’s own individual temperament. Overall, ferrets are known to be playful, curious, and energetic. They love to play and romp. When excited, a ferret will perform a “war dance” where they arch their back and leap and hop around, often bumping into the things in the process! Contrary to their playfulness, ferrets are similar to cats in that they sleep the majority of the day. Ferrets will sleep up to 18 hours a day and tend to be most active early in the morning and in the evenings. Some ferrets, particularly young ferrets, may be nippy, and therefore it is important to learn proper handling and be cautious when allowing children to handle them.

Finances & Vet Care.

The initial costs of purchasing/adopting your pet ferret will be considerable. This includes the cost of the ferret itself, a proper ferret enclosure with all associated dishes, toys, litter boxes, etc. Ongoing expenses will include proper nutritious food, litter, cleaning supplies, and replacement toys.

It is important to keep in mind that owning a pet ferret will be associated with veterinary bills. It is highly recommended that ferrets receive annual wellness examinations by a ferret-experienced veterinarian to ensure that your ferret is in good health. Just like us people, your pet ferret can get sick and may require veterinary care to ensure it lives a long, happy, and comfortable life! Ferrets are required in Ontario to have their rabies vaccination. Ferrets are also vaccinated for distemper. Both of these vaccinations must be boosted annually. Ferrets are prone to developing dental disease, and may require dental cleanings under anaesthesia by a veterinarian.

It is typical for ferrets in North America to be provided by large breeding facilities, which have their ferrets spayed or neutered as well as descented prior to sending them for sale at pet stores. Descenting a ferret is the practice of removing the anal glands as an attempt to decrease odour, however this practice is not performed in the UK due to the majority of the odour coming from the sebaceous or skin glands of the ferret.

Common ailments of ferrets will be discussed in the next blog post so keep an eye out!

Lifespan.

Typical lifespan of a ferret is 6-12 years, with majority of ferrets in North America living 6-8 years. The range is so broad as lifespan tends to vary heavily with the source of the ferret (where it was bred/it’s genetics), proper care of the ferret, and often just plain luck. Ferrets are susceptible to a small group of diseases, which occur very commonly, and will be discussed in our next blog post for your interest.

Care and Husbandry.

That brings us to our next point, read on to find out what is involved in the care for a pet ferret!

Housing:

You can purchase a ferret enclosure from most pet stores that sell pet ferrets. It is important that your enclosure is large (at least 24x24x18 inches) and offers ample enrichment. Ferrets should not always be confined to their enclosure and should be permitted ample playtime (min 2 hours/day) in a ferret-proofed area. Ferret-proofing requires ensuring that there are no gaps or holes in the room allowing escape into the walls, out of windows, into floor or wall vents, etc. Ferrets are capable of fitting into very small spaces and enjoy squeezing through gaps and tunnels. Enrichment ideas include playing with toys, playing with other ferrets, use of hammocks and tunnels, giving a variety of appropriate foods, hiding treats and foods, and providing unique materials such as boxes and bags for the ferret to enjoy. Provide multiple litter boxes for your ferret to do their business. Ferrets tend to prefer their litter boxes be placed in the corners of their living space. Use a pelleted litter material instead of clay or clumping.

Diet:

It is known that ferrets, like cats, are obligate carnivores. This means that they require nutrients obtained from consuming meat only. This means that like your cat, your ferret cannot survive on a vegetarian or vegan diet. There are many commercial diets available at pet stores for your ferret. Feeding a commercial diet for a ferret is typically the preferred method of feeding a ferret, as they provide meat-based nutrition that has been formulated to meet a ferret’s specific nutritional needs, and these dry foods are convenient to purchase and feed. It is also possible to feed a good quality dry cat food to your ferret that uses meat sources and not grains. It is important to ensure that the food that is high in protein (30-35%) and fat (15-20%), and is low in carbohydrates and fibre. Some owners feed whole prey to their ferret. Do not give live prey to your ferret as there is the possibility of the prey biting or injuring your ferret, and though it is mimicking nature, it is not particularly humane. The suggested ideal diet in literature is currently to feed a high quality commercial ferret kibble, offer a freshly killed whole prey food item once weekly, and offer occasional canned cat food or alternate texture such as raw egg. It is vital to maintain proper hygiene when handling whole prey as raw meat can contain and grow harmful bacteria.

It is important to keep food available or offer food often, as ferrets have short digestive tracts and digest their food quickly. Ferrets, unlike cats, do not tend to over gorge themselves, though it is still important to ensure your ferret does not become overweight and has ample opportunity to be active and exercise. Keep clean, fresh water available at all times as well. Ferrets enjoy playing in water so it is important to ensure the water dish is not easy to tip over.

Socialization:

Ferrets are very social animals and typically prefer to be in pairs or small groups. It is possible to own a single ferret as long as you are capable of offering it plentiful playtime and enrichment. It is important to interact with your ferret often and offer positive interactions such as giving them treats (within reason), and playing with them using toys. Do not encourage your ferret to play fight with your hands as this can encourage nipping and biting. Never use punishment with your ferret, as punishment has been associated with the development of fear and aggression.

Ferrets are known to be a bit stinky, but they are actually very clean animals. Clean your ferret’s litter boxes daily and perform a full thorough clean of the entire space your ferret occupies at least weekly. You can bathe your ferret with a gentle ferret shampoo occasionally, but avoid bathing too frequently as this can actually stimulate production of oils and make your ferret more odourous!

Here at Scott Veterinary Clinic we would be more than happy to answer any questions or concerns you have about the husbandry of your pet ferret, or if you wish to discuss further if a ferret is the right pet for you!

If you are considering purchasing or adopting a pet ferret, please make sure that you check the by-laws associated with your municipality. Some cities and townships in Ontario have regulations that do not permit the ownership of ferrets at this time.

 

Some Ferret Facts!

  • Here in Canada our wild counterpart of the ferret is the black-footed ferret! They live across the prairies and grasslands of North America and are currently listed as an endangered species by the IUCN.

  • Female ferrets are called jills, males are called hobs, and babies are called kits.

  • A group of ferrets is called a “business”.

  • Ferret-legging was a competitive game said to have been popular in England, where people would put a ferret down their trousers and the winner would be the person to keep the ferret in their trousers the longest!

Let’sTalk Rabbits! Part 2 – Diseases

By | Exotics | No Comments

Under the proper care and attention, pet rabbits can make excellent fuzzy companions. But even under the best care possible, there is always the risk of your furry friend becoming ill. If you suspect your rabbit might not be feeling well, it is recommended that you contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

There are a few common ailments that can affect rabbits that all rabbit owners should keep in the back of their mind. Rabbits are prey animals, which means they are easily stressed and very good at hiding their pain. It is responsible pet ownership to become familiarized with the common diseases that can affect pet rabbits.

Dental Disease

Rabbits have different teeth than we do! Rabbits have evolved to consume large quantities of roughage, including grass and hay. As a result, rabbit’s have continuously growing teeth that are worn down by chewing their rough diet. If rabbits are not consuming enough roughage in their diet, this can lead to overgrowth and misalignment of their teeth. This overgrowth and misalignment can lead to sharp points to develop, which can traumatize the rabbit’s lips and cheeks. These wounds inside the rabbit’s mouth can become infected and become abscesses, which require medical attention from your veterinarian.

Some rabbits may be predisposed to developing dental disease, just like some people are more prone to developing cavities and needing to see their dentist more often! It is important to feed your rabbit a proper diet, and to monitor your rabbit for any signs of dental disease including inappetence, drooling, weight loss, facial swelling, and discharge from eyes and/or nose.

Gastrointestinal Tract Issues

Typically the most commonly encountered ailments of pet rabbits are conditions related to their gastrointestinal system (stomach and intestinal tract). There are various gastrointestinal (GI) problems that can occur in rabbits, including obstruction, bloat, and stasis. Rabbits have very sensitive GI tracts and are not capable of vomiting. Rabbits can develop GI disease due to stress, improper diet, consuming hair or a foreign object, or even due to concurrent disease in another body system.

GI issues in rabbits are very serious and can be fatal. Time is of the essence. If you notice your rabbit is not eating as much, not eating at all, is behaving abnormally, has reduced or no defecations, is sitting in a hunched position, or seems reluctant to move, bring them into your veterinarian immediately.

Snuffles

The name “snuffles” might sound adorable, but the medical terminology “sinusitis” and “rhinitis” are not so cute! Rabbits are susceptible to bacterial infection of their respiratory tracts, frequently causing nasal discharge, congestion, and sneezing. It can sometimes be challenging to identify respiratory infection due to the subtlety of clinical signs. Rabbits are typically very cleanly creatures; grooming themselves often enough that discharge may be overlooked by even the most vigilant owners. Sometimes there may be matting of fur on the rabbit’s front limbs and paws due to grooming of the nasal and/or ocular discharge.

Antibiotics are sometimes sufficient to treat mild respiratory infection in rabbits, however care must be taken to select an appropriate antibiotic and treatment timeline so not to disturb the rabbit’s sensitive and vital gastrointestinal system. It is very important to properly follow your veterinarian’s guidelines for treatment. Severe or chronic respiratory infections in rabbits may require more aggressive treatment, and further diagnostics to identify a possible underlying cause for the infection. Important rule-outs for respiratory-like clinical signs in rabbits are nasal foreign object, dental disease, heart disease, and even cancer.

Spinal Injury

Although perhaps not nearly as common as dental, gastrointestinal, or respiratory illness, spinal injury deserved a place on this post due to the unique nature of this injury. Rabbit’s hind limbs are extremely powerful, allowing them a quick getaway from their many potential predators. Unfortunately, those powerful limbs can sometimes be to their own detriment. Rabbits are capable of kicking their hind limbs hard enough to cause fractures to their spinal vertebrae and even severe injury to their spinal cord. Improperly handing, startling, or dropping a rabbit are the most common causes of the spinal trauma. Other pets such as dogs can sometimes lead to starting a rabbit enough for them to cause injury to themselves. It is very important to learn how to properly handle your rabbit and keep them in a calm, safe environment.

If you notice your rabbit has hind-end paralysis where they seem unable to move or use their hind limbs, bring them into your veterinarian immediately. They require immediate veterinary attention because the inability to use their hind end is extremely distressing for rabbits, and they will be unable to properly eat and care for themselves. There are other less likely possible causes of hind limb paralysis in rabbits aside from trauma that can occur, so your veterinarian will need to assess your rabbit directly to determine the likely cause of the paralysis, the severity of the paralysis, and therefore appropriate action going forward.

Uterine Cancer

If your female rabbit has not been spayed (had her reproductive tract removed), then she is highly susceptible to developing uterine cancer, most commonly uterine adenocarcinoma. As discussed in the previous blog post on rabbit care, 60% of rabbits over three years of age develop uterine cancer, with some breeds reaching as high as 80% of female rabbits developing uterine cancer. Uterine cancer in rabbits is very malignant, meaning it has a high tendency to spread around the body, particularly to the abdomen and lungs.

The most classical clinical signs seen with uterine cancer in rabbits is blood coming from your rabbit’s uterus, often appearing in the litterbox or in the urine in general, as well as vaginal discharge. Many rabbits with uterine cancer also develop cysts or tumours in their mammary glands.

You may wonder why female rabbits are so prone to developing uterine cancer. Female rabbits have developed to become extremely reproductively fertile, with rapidly fluctuating hormone levels resulting in a constant variation in the cells lining her uterine wall. This continuous flux of the uterine wall increases the chances of the development of abnormal or cancerous cells. Choosing to either breed or to not breed your rabbit does not alter the chances of her developing uterine cancer. The best method to preventing uterine cancer in rabbits is to have your female rabbit spayed when she reaches 6 months of age.

Thank you for reading this post and taking an important step in learning about rabbit health and wellness! Please don’t hesitate to call the clinic if you have any concerns or questions about your rabbit’s health.