Rodents are hardy pets and it is quite difficult to tell when they are ill. We often advise people that if their pet isn’t behaving ‘normally’ then we probably need to see it. As with all exotic pets, the quicker the pet is seen, greater the chance of recovery.
Most commonly conditions include respiratory diseases, overgrown teeth and tumours.
All rodents have teeth that grow continuously throughout their lives. Occasionally these teeth grow too long and can cause pain, which often makes the pet stop eating. Symptoms also include drooling or your pet may have a constantly wet chin. The front teeth(incisors) are most frequently the problem, and their excessive length is interfering with eating and grooming. Overgrown teeth can be trimmed by your vet.
Respiratory infections are commonly seen in pet rodents. Signs to look out for are nasal discharge and/or discharge from the eyes in mild infections, and wheezing, coughing with open-mouth breathing in severe infections. Pets with severe respiratory disease will often stop eating and become lethargic.
Avoiding dusty bedding and a buildup of urine in their living space will help reduce the risk of respiratory disease occurring.
Cancer is often seen in pet rodents, most commonly as external tumours. Mammary (breast) tumours are probably the most common type of cancer seen especially in rats and mice. Mammary tissue in a small pet covers most of the underside of the body, so the tumour can appear anywhere from the neck to the groin. Fortunately most are benign but can grow rapidly. Whilst surgical excision is common, it is much easier and quicker to remove small tumour rather than a large one.