Pets come in many varieties, and whether they slither, fly, crawl, or hop, they need regular veterinary care. Our team at Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center – Willis recently welcomed Dr. Ben Bedore, who is able to treat several exotic pet species. In order to know when your exotic pet needs veterinary care, in addition to regular wellness visits, you need to know what conditions can affect them. 

Common pet rabbit ailments

Rabbits can live 10 to 12 years if they are fed an appropriate diet, and kept in a healthy environment. The most prevalent conditions seen in rabbits include:

  • Ear mites — These parasites irritate the ear lining, and cause fluid and thick crusts to form. Infested rabbits will frequently scratch and shake their head and ears. The mites can cause the rabbit to lose interest in food, resulting in weight loss. In severe cases, secondary infections that damage the rabbit’s inner ear, and possibly affect their central nervous system, can occur.
  • Hairballs (i.e., trichobezoars) — Rabbits self-groom regularly, ingesting hair, which is usually passed through their digestive tract. However, if too much hair accumulates, a hairball can form, causing a gastrointestinal blockage. Signs include appetite and weight loss. If the hairball is not removed, the rabbit can die in three to four weeks. Feeding your rabbit a high-fiber diet, keeping them at an ideal weight, preventing stress, and combing them daily can help prevent hairball formation.
  • Snuffles — This condition is a bacterial infection caused by Pasteurella multocida that is highly contagious. Spread can occur through direct contact, or air droplets passed when an infected rabbit coughs or sneezes. Signs include discharge from the eyes and nose, and sneezing. The bacteria can cause other problems, including skin abscesses, uterine infections, and ear infections, commonly causing a head tilt.

Common pet ferret ailments

Ferrets can live up to 10 years if cared for properly. Common conditions seen in ferrets include:

  • Distemper — Ferrets are susceptible to canine distemper, a viral infection caused by a paramyxovirus. Transmission typically occurs through aerosol droplet secretions from infected animals. Signs include discharge from the eyes and nose, appetite loss, diarrhea, brown crusts on the eyes, nose, lips, and chin, and seizures. A vaccine is available to help prevent this highly contagious disease.
  • Adrenal gland disease (AGD) — AGD occurs when the adrenal glands produce an abnormal amount of sex steroids and adrogens, resulting in numerous disease conditions throughout the body. Signs include hair loss, itchy skin, and aggressive behavior.
  • Insulinoma — This condition occurs when pancreas cells develop tumors that secrete excess insulin, causing blood sugar to drop. Signs include lethargy and sleepiness. If the ferret’s blood sugar drops too low, seizures, coma, and death can occur.

Common pet bird ailments

Depending on their species, birds can live 10 to 60 years. Common conditions affecting birds include:

  • Proventricular dilatation disease (PDD) — This disease affects the nerves that supply the bird’s gastrointestinal tract, and is most commonly diagnosed in Macaws, African grey parrots, Amazon parrots, cockatoos, and conures. Signs include weight loss, vomiting, changes in droppings, and a swollen crop.
  • Psittacosis (i.e., parrot fever) — This bacterial infection, caused by the Chlamydia bacterium, is highly contagious, and can be passed from birds to other animals, including humans. Signs include lethargy, difficulty breathing, eye infections, and diarrhea.
  • Psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD) — PBFD is a highly contagious viral disease that most commonly affects birds under the age of 2 years. Signs include feather loss, abnormal feather development, and beak growths, lesions, and abnormalities.

Common pet snake ailments

A pet snake’s lifespan depends on their species, but some can live as long as 30 years. Common conditions affecting snakes include:

  • Dysecdysis — Snakes can experience difficulty when shedding, which is usually caused by an underlying problem, such as improper environmental temperatures, improper humidity levels, or incomplete nutrition. This condition is particularly concerning when the eye caps are retained. If not addressed promptly, permanent damage can occur, causing blindness.
  • Stomatitis — Also known as mouth rot, this condition occurs when a bacterial infection invades the snake’s gums and mouth. Signs include swelling or redness in the snake’s mouth, an inability to completely close their mouth, and frequently rubbing or opening their mouth.
  • Dystocia — Also known as egg-binding, this condition occurs when a female snake is unable to pass an egg. Dystocia is usually caused by improper environmental lighting or temperature, inadequate nest site, malnutrition, or dehydration. Signs include lethargy, appetite loss, and weakness.

Common pet guinea pig ailments

A guinea pig’s average lifespan is 5 to 8 years, but they can live up to 12 years. Common conditions include:

  • Pneumonia — Bacterial infections, including Bordetella and Streptococcus, can cause pneumonia in guinea pigs who are stressed or affected by other illnesses. Signs include eye and nose discharge, sneezing, and difficulty breathing.
  • Ileus — This condition occurs when gas builds up in the gastrointestinal tract, and the tract’s normal movement is slowed. This condition can be extremely painful and potentially life-threatening, if not addressed promptly. Signs include appetite loss, lethargy, and fewer or smaller stools.
  • Scurvy — Guinea pigs require vitamin C supplementation to develop and maintain their skin, joints, and mucosal surfaces. Scurvy signs include poor hair coat, diarrhea, swollen feet, and ulcers on their gums and skin.

Regular veterinary care can ensure your exotic pet leads a long, healthy life. If you are concerned about your exotic pet, contact our team at Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center – Willis, and we will get them slithering, flying, or hopping again.