Most of the rodent family and smaller animals are referred to as “pocket pets” even though most of them won’t fit in your pocket. It is important that you have your pet checked by the vet at the first sign of illness as well as regular check-ups to try and catch any problems in the early stages.
Vaccinations for small pets
Rabbits can be vaccinated against Rabbit Calicivirus, also known as Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus. They can be vaccinated at 4 weeks and every 6 months thereafter to maintain an immunity their entire life. There are no vaccinations for Guinea Pigs. Ferrets should be vaccinated at 8, 12 and 16 weeks for distemper. You should vaccinate them every 12 months after that.
Control of Parasites
Worms are generally not an issue in pocket pets, so worming is not generally required. Rabbits can be infested by the same fleas as dogs. You can use the same external application flea treatments for rabbits as you do for your dogs. Ferrets can pick up cat and dog fleas. Discuss with your vet the best product to use for your ferret if it has fleas. Guinea Pigs do not usually get fleas.
Lice and mites is an issue in many pocket pets. Rabbits can pick up ear and fur mite infestations. Fur mites look like dandruff on the rabbits shoulders. Ear mites can cause itchiness and irritation and the rabbit may scratch its ears a lot. There may also be some earwax visible. Guinea Pigs can also pick up mites from other Guinea Pigs and ever their bedding. This causes itchiness and even scabbing. You might be able to see the mites with the naked eye. Ferrets can also get ear mites, usually from cats, dogs or other ferrets. If you suspect your pocket pet may have mites, have your vet take a look to get the right treatment.
Heartworm is not likely in Guinea Pigs and Rabbits but it is possible in Ferrets. It is important to use preventative medication to prevent heartworm. Certain medications may be prescribed for both heartworm and flea control.
Guinea Pigs and Rabbit have teeth that grown their entire lives. If they do not get the correct diet, they can end up with teeth that overgrow (incisors and molars) which may need to be ground down or even removed in severe cases.
Ferrets can have issues such as gingivitis and tartar in the same way as dogs and cats do. Dental care and diet is important to keeping their oral health in check. Speak to your vet about treatment and prevention of dental diseases in ferrets.
Rabbits subsist on a basic diet of 80% grass/oaten hay and 20% leafy greens. Do not feed Lucerne or iceberg lettuce. The high fibre plants help to control their teeth and maintain their health. This also helps prevent hairballs from grooming becoming an issue.
Guinea Pigs tend to develop food preferences from a very young age. It is important that they are offered an assortment of fruits and vegetables, hay and grass based pellets from the first few days after birth to ensure they get all their nutritional needs met.
Ferrets are carnivorous animals and need to eat high protein diets such as those formulated scientifically for dogs and cats.
To help prevent unwanted litters as well as reduce the likelihood of a number of serious diseases, you can have your pocket pet desexed. This also helps the development of a calmer temperament. Rabbits can be desexed between 4 to 6 months of age. This is highly recommended in female rabbits to prevent the development of uterine cancers (more than 60% of does will get uterine cancer if they are not desexed).
Guinea Pigs can be desexed between 5 to 6 months of age. Female Guinea Pigs that are going to be allowed to breed should have their first litter before they are 6 months old. After this they may have problems with labour due to bones fusing in the pelvis.
Both male and female ferrets should be desexed. In females, they can develop Pyometra due to remaining in constant heat until they have been mated. This illness can be fatal.
Rabbits, Guinea Pigs and Ferrets can be brushed and their nails should be trimmed regularly. While ferrets can be bathed in a similar way to dogs, guinea pigs and rabbits should be offered dust baths instead.
Rabbits live for between 6 to 14 years on average and can weigh from 2kg up to 6kgs depending on the breed. They have a gestation period of approximately 31 days and can give birth to litters of 1 to 12 kits. A female rabbit is called a doe and a male is called a buck. The baby rabbits are called kits. They usually reach puberty at around 4 t0 5 months of age.
Guinea Pigs live 5 to 8 years and can weigh 0.6kg to 1.4kg fully grown. Guinea Pigs take 59 to 72 days to five birth and have litters of 1 to 10 pups at a time. A female is called a sow and a male guinea pig is called a boar. The pups will go through puberty at around 6 to 8 weeks of age.
Ferrets live on average from 5 to 9 years. Their adult weight is around 0.5kg to 2kgs. They reach puberty at around 6 to 8 months and their gestation period is approximately 42 days. A male ferret is called a hob and a female is called a jill. Baby ferrets are called kittens.