Illustrated Articles

Small Mammals

  • Due to their well-deserved reputation as escape artists, ferrets should be housed in a cage that can be securely closed and/or locked. The cage should be as large as you can afford; a suggested minimum size might be 24 x 24 x 18 high (60 x 60 x 45 cm).

  • Ferrets have several unique problems; understanding these problems will allow you to better care for your pet and minimize future health care problems.

  • Mast cell tumors are the most common skin tumor found in ferrets. They can also be found internally on the spleen. They arise from a cell type called a mast cell. In dogs and less so in cats, these tumors can vary from benign to highly malignant.

  • Flea infestation is a common problem in pet ferrets, especially in ferrets that go outdoors or live in a house with dogs, cats, or other animals who have fleas. Affected ferrets may or may not be itchy depending on the sensitivity of the individual animal to flea bites. Early in the infestation, there may be no signs that your ferret even has fleas. Young ferrets with heavy infestations may even become anemic as the fleas feed over time. Some topical medications used to treat fleas in dogs and cats appear to be safe in ferrets but should only be used under the guidance of a veterinarian familiar with ferrets.

  • Hedgehogs can acquire external parasites. Flea infestation is not a common problem in pet hedgehogs. Fleas are a small insect parasite that may take up residence on your hedgehog, especially if exposed to fleas outdoors or in a house with dogs, cats or other animals who themselves have fleas.

  • Rabbits can become infested with fleas, especially if they go outside or live in a house with other pets that have fleas. Rabbits with fleas may show no signs or may bite, lick, or scratch themselves. Young rabbits with heavy infestations may become anemic. There are no rabbit-specific drugs for managing fleas. Certain topical cat medications appear to be safe but should only be used under the guidance of a veterinarian familiar with rabbits. It is very important to treat the environment, as well as the pet.

  • Fluconazole is an antifungal medication used off label in cats, dogs, and small mammals to treat fungal infections, especially those in the brain and spinal cord. It is given by mouth in the form of a tablet or liquid suspension, and is also available as an injection for hospital use. Common side effects include gastrointestinal upset such as decreased appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea but liver toxicity can also occur. It should be used with caution in pets with liver or kidney disease, or pregnant or lactating pets. If a negative reaction occurs, call your veterinary office.

  • Fludrocortisone acetate is given by mouth and is used off label to treat hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s disease) and hyperkalemia. Give as directed by your veterinarian. Side effects are uncommon but may include vomiting. Do not use in pets that are allergic to it or in lactating pets without using a milk replacer. If a negative reaction occurs, please call your veterinary office.

  • Flunixin meglumine is given by mouth, injection, or applied directly to the skin and is used on and off label to treat pain and inflammation in a variety of species. Give as directed by your veterinarian. Side effects include swelling at the injection site, muscle stiffness, or sweating. Do not use in pets that are allergic to it or other NSAIDs, in pets expecting to give birth within the next 2 days, or in birds. If a negative reaction occurs, please call your veterinary office.

  • Gastrointestinal disease occurs commonly in ferrets - from dental disease, through gastrointestinal foreign bodies to persistent diarrhea. Some, such as foreign bodies, are readily prevented, while others require considerable diagnostic investigation and may need long-term treatment.