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Top Rabbit Ailments and How to Prevent Them

Did you know that February is Adopt-a-Rabbit Month? While rabbits make great pets, many people do not realize the commitment of being a rabbit parent. Rabbits can live 8 to 12 years. To make sure that your bunny has a long and healthy life, you will need to provide a nutritious diet, proper housing, and become familiar with their health issues. Here are some of their most common health problems.   Overgrown teeth Rabbits’ teeth grow continuously. Unfortunately, this means that if they do not wear them down, their teeth can become sharp and overgrown. This can cause trauma to the cheeks and tongue and be painful. In severe cases, the front incisors can get so long that they curl around and prevent a rabbit from closing their mouth and even eating. So how do you know if your rabbit’s teeth are too long? Rabbits with dental problems often stop eating. If you notice your rabbit’s face is wet or they aren’t eating like they used to, be sure to check their teeth or see your veterinarian. The best way to prevent your rabbit from having overgrown teeth is by making sure your rabbit always has access to fresh hay, like carefresh Timothy Hay from chewy, and toys to gnaw on. Chewing hay, or gnawing on toys, helps wear down teeth and prevents them from getting too long.       Upper Respiratory Illnesses Respiratory infections are common in rabbits, especially when rabbits are housed in crowded stressful conditions. Likewise, rabbits kept in dirty enclosures with inadequate ventilation are more susceptible to these types of infections.  Pasteurellosis is the most common causes of bacterial upper respiratory infections in domestic rabbits and its often referred to as “snuffles.” It is highly contagious and spread through sneezing, coughing and direct contact. It causes an inflammation of the mucous membranes and lungs and left untreated can lead to pneumonia. The typical signs of an upper respiratory infection in rabbits are: runny nose, nasal or eye discharge, sneezing and coughing, and decreased appetite. Rabbits wipe their noses with their front feet, so sometimes people will notice their bunny has wet matted fu on their front legs. Infected rabbits require treatment with antibiotics and supportive care.   Gastrointestinal Stasis For many years, it was believed that rabbits stopped eating due to intestinal blockage caused by hairballs from excessive grooming. This condition was often referred to as “wool block.” However, we now know that it is normal for rabbits to have some amount of hair in their stomach since they are fastidious groomers. When rabbits stop eating, it is usually caused by gastrointestinal (GI) stasis rather than true blockage. GI stasis refers to slowing of the passage of food through the gastrointestinal tract. Veterinarians now believe that GI stasis in rabbits is caused by a change in the intestinal bacterial, also known as gut microbiome. These bacteria are beneficial and help a rabbit digest its food. When rabbits develop GI stasis, they stop eating, stop passing stool, become bloated, and can die if untreated. Treatment involves IV fluids, syringe feeding if the rabbit is not eating, antibiotics if there is an infection, and drugs to speed up gut motility. The risk of GI stasis can be reduced by feeding your rabbit hay and a high-fiber diet and by exercise your rabbit to stimulate gut motility.     Ear Mites Ear mites are a common parasite seen in rabbits. Rabbits with ear mites shake and scratch at their ears. In addition, affected animals usually have thick, dry, brownish crusty discharge in one or both ears. Ear mites are highly contagious from rabbit to rabbit and can lead to a head tilt if left untreated. Treatment is simple and involves an injection or topical medication.   Ulcerative Pododermatitis Ulcerative pododermatitis, commonly called “sore hocks,” is an infection of the soles of the rear feet. It occurs when rabbits develop pressure sores on their rear feet that then become infected. This occurs more frequently in overweight rabbits that are housed on wire-floor cages. Urine-soaked droppings and dirty bedding create the perfect breeding ground for bacteria that can colonize irritated and inflamed skin leading to infection. Signs of ulcerative pododermatitis include: abnormal walking, limping, and sitting in a peculiar position with weight shifted off the rear feet. Treatment involves moving affected animals to a clean cage with a solid floor and soft bedding. Topical and oral antibiotics are used to treat the infection.    Myxomatosis Myxomatosis, often called “big head disease,” is a deadly viral disease seen in domestic rabbits. It is caused by the myxoma virus, which is a type of pox virus and is transmitted by mosquitos, biting flies, ticks, fleas and direct contact. Rabbits with myxomatosis often have nasal and eye discharge, nasal swelling, fevers and lethargy. Unfortunately, there is no treatment and the disease is usually fatal. The best way to prevent this horrible disease is to protect them from the insects that transmit the disease. Talk to your veterinarian about the best parasite control measures for your rabbit.   When to call your veterinarian Like people, rabbits can become sick, but unlike us, they can’t tell you when they don’t feel well. In addition, they are very good at hiding signs of illness, a trait that was necessary for their wild rabbit cousins. So how do you know when your bunny is sick? Common signs of illness in rabbits include: nasal discharge, congestion, eye discharge, lethargy, poor appetite, diarrhea or reduced stool. If you notice any of these signs, notify your veterinarian right away.   Prevention So how can you keep your rabbit healthy? Make sure they are fed a nutritious diet that includes fresh hay daily. For more information about what to feed your rabbit, check-out this article. Rabbits also need to kept in a well-ventilated clean habitat with proper bedding and a litter box, using carefresh® bedding or litter. Soiled bedding should be removed daily and entire habitats should be cleaned weekly. Just like dogs and cats, rabbits should be spayed and neutered and have annual veterinary check-ups to ensure they are healthy and up-to-date on preventatives.  >>> Learn more about rabbit care, bonding and playtime    By feeding your rabbit a nutritious diet, housing them in a clean and tidy habitat, looking-out for common health problems, and taking them to the veterinarian regularly, you can give your rabbit the best chance to live a long healthy life.            
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Bigger is Better for Your Small Pets

Many people are drawn to smaller pets like hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs due to space constraints. But the fact is even though these pets are small, when it comes to caring for them,  bigger is better. Small pets do better with larger habitats, more bedding, ample hay, and lots of exercise and socialization.  Large Habitat They may be little but even small pets need elbow room. A larger habitat allows pets room for exercise and more space to sleep, eat and play. There is a body of literature supporting the health benefits of a larger cage size. These studies show benefits with reproduction, lifespan activity, and other positive effects.  Since you can’t take your gerbil on a walk, their habitat needs to be larger enough to accommodate exercise wheels and space to run around.  More Bedding Likewise providing ample bedding is preferred as it allows pets to dig, tunnel and forage for treats. Having plenty of bedding also helps keeps their enclosure clean and dry. Soiled bedding not only smells bad but can lead to medical problems. In particular it can lead to pododermatitis, more commonly known as bumblefoot, which is an inflammation of the skin of the paws and feet. Bumblefoot is common in rodents and small animals that are housed on abrasive surfaces, (like wire) and those that have prolonged contact with wet or soiled bedding. Bumblefoot causes red, swollen, painful feet and lameness. Left untreated it can lead to severe infections, arthritis, and chronic inflammation of the tendons. To prevent health issues like pododermatitis, be sure your pets always have plenty of soft absorbent bedding like carefresh, spot clean as needed, and change bedding regularly. Avoid using cedar chips or pine materials which may be toxic to some animals.   Ample Hay Fresh grass hay is a vital component of a small pet’s diet and has many health benefits. Hay provides essential fiber. Dietary fiber stimulates gut motility and helps promote normal healthy stools. Dietary fiber also helps reduce the risk of obesity. Certain small animals, like rabbits, chinchillas and guinea pigs, need hay for their dental health. Their teeth grow continuously, and hay satisfies their natural need to chew and helps wear down their teeth so that they do not become overgrown. Finally, hay keeps small pets busy and helps prevent boredom. Be sure your small pet has ample high-quality grass at all times. Speak with your veterinarian to learn which type of hay is best for your pet. Exercise & Socialization Just like us, small pets need exercise and socialization. The more the better. Provide your pet exercise wheels, tubes and/or play structures that allow them to climb, explore and run. Don’t forget you can take your little critters out of their cage for exercise too. Hamster balls are great fun for hamsters, humans and even entertainment for curious cats. Larger animals like, guinea Pigs and rabbits enjoy exercising in exercise pens that can be set up inside or outside (always be sure to supervise them especially if they are outside). In addition to exercise all pets need companionship and socialization. Be sure to give your pets lots of love, cuddles and pets. The more love the better.   Exception to the rule In the case of food and fruits and veggies, more is not better. Too much fruit can lead to obesity and gastrointestinal problems. Likewise, too much commercial food like pellets can also lead to an overweight pet. The best way to prevent over feeding or intestinal upset is to follow feeding guidelines for your particular pet’s species. Wee Companions is a great resource for information about small pet husbandry, care and nutrition and don’t forget you can also ask your veterinarian for advice.  Conclusion These pint size pets may be small, but they give lots of love. Be sure you provide them with the space, bedding, hay and exercise they deserve. And remember, in this case bigger is better.  
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Vet Tips for the Best Guinea Pig Care

Guinea pigs make great pets, especially for first time pet owners. They are friendly, hardy, relatively easy to take care for, and have adorable personalities. If you are thinking about getting a guinea pig, what will you need to have? Guinea pigs need: housing, pet supplies, food, toys and of course, lots of love and attention.   Housing First and foremost, your piggy will need a place to call home. When picking a habitat for your pig, the most important consideration is getting the right size for the enclosure. Unlike smaller rodents, guinea pigs need more space. According to the Humane Society, the minimum size for one guinea pig is 7.5 square feet (30” x 36”), but bigger is better. The minimum size for two guinea pigs is also 7.5 square feet, but 10.5 square feet is preferred (30” x 50”).  Guinea pigs should also be housed in a home with a solid bottom. Avoid cages with wire bottoms as these can harm their feet. Ideally choose a habitat made for guinea pigs as these often have ramps and second levels made especially for guinea pigs. The cage needs to be large enough to have a hut for your piggy to hide and sleep in. You can buy plastic guinea pig huts or use a small upside-down cardboard box as well. You also want room for tunnels and other play toys, and of course, your sturdy ceramic food and water bowls. Most cages made for guinea pigs have removable bottom trays that allow for easy cleaning.  Midwest makes a good size guinea pig habitat and you can add on more for additional space.  In addition to the habitat, you will need bedding to cover the floor. You can use recycled paper products, aspen chips, and wood pulp products, such as carefresh®. carefresh® is ideal for guinea pigs because it is twice more absorbent than shavings, can suppress odors for up to 10 days, is 99% dust-free, and is soft and comfortable. Newspaper is not ideal since it is not very absorbent and needs to be changed frequently. Cedar and pine shavings are not recommended because they can cause respiratory problems. Corn cob products are also not recommended as they can be ingested leading to obstructions. No matter which bedding you ultimately chose, the bedding needs to be changed regularly to keep the cage clean and odor-free.  Finally, your guinea pig needs an “igloo” or hut to hide or sleep in. Guinea pigs like to have a hiding place where they can feel secure. Can you blame them for wanting some privacy?    Food Guinea pigs need three food essentials: guinea pig pellets, hay and fresh fruits and veggies. Pick a high-quality guinea pig pellet and make sure it is always accessible to your piggy. While pellets are a major part of their diet, they also need to have fresh hay every day. You can choose from Timothy Hay, alfalfa, or other grass hay varieties made for guinea pigs. Hay is necessary for their intestinal health and to help prevent their teeth from overgrowing. Guinea pigs also need fresh fruit and vegetables every day. Guinea pigs require a dietary source of vitamin C as they lack the enzyme required to synthesize Vitamin C. Without a daily source of vitamin C, they can develop scurvy from vitamin C deficiency. Foods such as parsley, cilantro, kale, spinach, broccoli, and peppers, beet greens and tomatoes contain high levels of vitamin C. While fruits are also a good source of vitamin C, they should be offered only in small quantities as treats due to their high sugar levels. Vitamin C can also be added to your guinea pig’s water. Finally, don’t forget to provide clean water in a either a bowl or water bottle. Water bottles are preferred since they stay cleaner longer and can hold a lot of water.   Toys Like other animals, guinea pigs like to play with toys. Guinea pigs like to play with balls, bells, and stuffed animals, but chew toys are by far their favorite. There are a number of different wooden chew toys you can clip to their cage. Guinea pigs also like cardboard tunnels. Not only are they fun to chew, but they also provide a hiding place and are fun to push around. Consider getting an exercise pen so your guinea pig can get some exercise and safely explore outside of their cage. Make sure to avoid exercise wheels and balls. Guinea pigs’ have different anatomy than smaller rodents and their spines are unable to bend backwards. Exercise wheels and balls can cause severely back injuries. Remember, guinea pigs are social animals and they simply enjoy your company and being petted. You can tell they are happy by the cute sounds they make when they are being loved.  Pet Care Like other rodents, guinea pigs have teeth that grow continuously. In order to prevent their teeth from becoming overgrown, they have to wear down their teeth. This can usually be accomplished by providing them with hay at all times, chew toys, and cardboard tunnels. If their teeth become overgrown, they may be unable to eat and will need to see a veterinarian. In addition to their teeth, guinea pigs need to have their nails trimmed every few weeks. Without regular nail trims, their nails can get overgrown and become painful. If your guinea pig is of the long-haired variety, it will need to be brushed regularly to prevent matting.  Guinea pigs are social animals and generally do well with other guinea pigs. If you decide to get more than one guinea pig, make sure they are of the same sex. Otherwise you will end up with a household full of guinea pigs. Finally, although guinea pigs are relatively hardy, they are curious and can get themselves in trouble. Keep an eye on your guinea pig and make sure that they don’t chew on electrical cords, eat something they shouldn’t, or fall and injury themselves.    Lastly just like cats and dogs, it is ideal for guinea pigs to have annual check-ups. If you don’t already have a veterinarian be sure you choose one that sees guinea pigs and make an appointment to bring your new piggy in for a wellness check right away.   If you’ve decided to get a guinea pig, keep these suggestions in mind and buy the supplies you need to welcome your new guinea pigs home.      
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“Green Pet Living”- How to Help Your Pets Go Green Too!

With COVID dominating the news, it is easy to overlook that April 22nd is Earth Day. However, in many ways, COVID has directed a new spotlight on the importance of the environment. The spread of new viral diseases from wildlife to humans highlights the negative impact of deforestation, habitat loss, the illegal wildlife trade, and climate change. Likewise, stay-at-home orders have resulted in less pollution and visibly cleaner air and water. Photo by Leonardo Baldissara on Unsplash This Earth Day, besides thinking about how you can reduce your carbon footprint, think about what you can do to reduce your pet’s carbon pawprint. Here are a few simple changes you can make to ensure that your pet is living green too.  Waste Management. Anyone who has ever had a pet knows that they create lots of waste. It is estimated that 10 million tons of waste from pets fill landfills yearly. What can be done?  Instead of using plastic bags to pick up and dispose of your pet’s waste, try using recycled biodegradable pet poop bags. If you have a cat, consider switching from a clay-based litter to a biodegradable litter, such as ökocat. By switching to a biodegradable litter, you can cut down on the estimated 2 million tons of clay litter that end up in landfills. If you brave you can also try teaching your cat to use the toilet. It sounds crazy but cats can accurately be trained to use a toilet. Kits are available that help you guide your cat through the process. It may be a lot of work at first but think about never having to clean a litter box again? Now if we could just teach them to flush! Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute. Always pick-up after your pet and follow the backpacker’s motto of leaving only footprints. Leaving your pet’s waste behind is not only rude; it can pollute water sources when washed into the storm drains that empty into streams and lakes. Buy Green. Purchase pet beds, furniture and toys made from recycled or sustainable materials such as hemp. Environmentally friendly hemp can be used to make almost everything, like leashes, collars, beds and toys. Nowadays it is easy to find recycled pet products at large pet retailers all across the country. Buy in Bulk. Buying pet food and pet supplies in bulk not only saves money, it also conserves fuel and lowers emissions by saving you extra trips to the store. Consider buying a plastic bin to keep your pet’s food fresh. Some of the larger pet retail stores also sell litter in bulk- where you bring in your container and they fill it up. This saves packaging and also you a lot of money-as you get to buy the litter at a big discount. Pet Overpopulation. Make sure your pet isn’t adding to the pet over-population problem by having your pets spayed or neutered. Shelters spend millions of dollars caring for homeless pets. Be sure you aren’t contributing to this problem. Consider also donating your old towels, blankets to a nearby shelter-this helps you declutter, helps the shelter cut costs, and gives a needy pet a nice blanket to sleep on. If you have the time think about volunteering at a nearby shelter. Recycled Pets. If you are thinking about adding to your family think about getting a pet from the shelter. There are tons of “recycled pets” in need of a good home. While adopting one of these deserving pets may not lower emissions or save fuel, it can save a life.  One silver lining of COVID has been the realization of what we can accomplish if we work together for a common goal. In a short span of time, stay-at-home orders have produced tangible results, such as cleaner air and water. Across the globe, scientists have measured lower gas emissions and pollution levels as industries, transportation, and businesses have closed. In New York, pollution was reduced by nearly 50%, and in China, emissions fell 25% due to COVID restrictions. Although results are only short-term, they highlight what we could accomplish if we act as global citizens. This year, think about what you, and your pet can do to make our planet greener.  
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