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Dear Doctor! My Pet is Sick – But is it an Emergency?

Useful tip for exotic animals

We strongly recommend that exotic pets be weighed once a week on the same scale to monitor the weight. A digital food or postal scale that weighs in grams is ideal, as these are more accurate. A weight loss of 10% is a warning sign of an underlying disease and should motivate a consultation with a veterinarian as quickly as possible. For example, a 150-gram weight loss or more in a 1.5kg rabbit, or a 3-gram weight loss or more in a 30-gram budgie, both constitute emergencies.

Most of the animals that visit our department of birds and exotic Animals are prey species. Instinctively, they mask their weaknesses in order to avoid detection by predators, who prey on sick or injured animals. This survival behaviour has consequences in captivity, since owners of pets that are prey species may not notice their pet is sick until it has been ill for several days and is in critical condition. Consequently, medical conditions or diseases that would not normally constitute an emergency in other animals rapidly become an emergency for most exotic species.

Most illnesses will result in weight loss, which is one of the first signs to be noted by a concerned owner. Since many exotic pet species are small, it is difficult to notice a weight loss unless it is marked, and this may be true even with animals that are handled regularly. Small animals also have a high metabolic rate, which contributes to the rapid progression of disease in exotic pets.

Some exotic pets are kept in large groups (in an aviary, for example), a situation in which a sick individual may be more difficult to detect. The animal can become in critical condition before you ever notice that it is sick!

Reptiles have lower metabolic rates than mammals and birds of similar size. Most cases of 'sudden illness' often turn out to be acute presentation of a chronic illness having developed over weeks, months or even years.

Although illnesses present in different ways, when these factors are taken into account, it becomes possible to appreciate the significance that clinical signs should play in the decision to consult a veterinarian. Should your pet present any of the following signs, we strongly recommend that you contact us for an appointment as quickly as possible.

But is it an emergency?

Birds

  • Anorexia (not eating) for 12 hours or more
  • Inability to perch and stays on cage bottom
  • Absence of stools for 6 hours or more
  • Active bleeding
  • Laboured breathing (can be seen by the bobbing movement of the tail at each breath)
  • Convulsions
  • Victim of a bite from a cat, dog, ferret, or any wild animal
  • Prolapse of the cloaca (the insides of the bird protrude from the vent)
  • Difficulty laying an egg (straining)
  • Inability to use a foot
  • Regurgitation or vomiting (it is to be noted that some regurgitation can be of behavioural origin)

Rabbits and small exotic mammals

  • Anorexia of 24 hours or more
  • Absence of stool for 24 hours or more
  • Laboured breathing, particularly open-mouth breathing
  • Cyanosis (gums are bluish grey instead of pink)
  • Diarrhea
  • Convulsions or incoordination
  • Pronounced weakness
  • Straining to urinate or presence of blood in the urine
  • In case of significant fall or trauma

Ferrets

  • Convulsions
  • Diarrhea, especially with blood in the stools, or if stools are black in colour
  • Vomiting
  • Laboured breathing, particularly with open-mouth breathing
  • Pronounced weakness
  • In case of trauma

Reptiles

  • Refuses to eat for at least 3 meals
  • Absence of stools for a week or more (for giant snakes this is not unusual)
  • Open-mouth breathing
  • Convulsions and incoordination
  • In case of significant fall or trauma
  • Pronounced weakness
  • Prolapse of the cloaca (the insides of the reptile protrude from the vent)
  • Uneven floating in an aquatic turtle (leans to one side)

 

 

Ferret Vaccination

Distemper is a fatal disease in ferrets. Several animals can carry the virus (dog, fox, raccoon, skunk, etc.) and transmit it to ferrets through nasal/oral secretions, urine, stools and even by direct contact with the skin. Symptoms associated with the disease include high fever, weakness, decreased appetite, redness/swelling of the skin, thickening of the paw pads, purulent discharge from the nostrils and eyes, sneezing, cough, and neurological symptoms. When a ferret is infected with this virus, there is unfortunately no possible treatment. However, there is an effective vaccine to adequately immunize your ferret against distemper. To ensure good protection, this vaccine must be given every year.

It is also recommended to vaccinate ferrets annually against rabies, a fatal disease in all mammals including humans.

An annual visit to your veterinarian is therefore essential to the good health of your animal!

Potential Sources of Poisoning in Birds

This list is not exhaustive, because several sources of intoxication are still unknown to date. It is therefore recommended that you never let your bird eat or destroy anything that is not known to be safe. Birds are attracted to metal objects, but lead and zinc can cause serious health problems when consumed. Be vigilant when taking your bird out of the cage and remove all metal ties from its cage (stainless steel is safe). Never expose your bird to smoke or aerosols. After smoking a cigarette, it is important to wash your hands well and rinse your mouth before handling your bird.

Food

  • Chocolate
  • Caffeine
  • Avocados
  • Parsley
  • Onion and related vegetables
  • Rhubarb
  • Salty foods (chips, crackers, etc.)
  • Peanuts, seeds, and corn not intended for human consumption or improperly stored (mycotoxins)
  • Alcohol
  • Fresh food left too long in the cage (contamination by bacteria and mould)

Domestic products

  • Bleach
  • Swimming pool chemicals
  • Cleaning products
  • Furniture polish (Pledge)
  • Sofa protector
  • Perfumes
  • Odour eliminators
  • Denture cleaners
  • Deodorants
  • Shampoos
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Markers or pencils

Plants

Indoor plants

  • Panda grass (Kalanchoe sp)
  • Philodendron
  • Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis)
  • Diffenbachia
  • Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)

Outdoor plants

  • Small burdock (Arctium minus) or “toques”
  • Castor (Ricinus communis)
  • Chinese cabbage/Taro (Colocasia esculenta)
  • Elephant ears (Alocasia sp)
  • Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) and other Solanaceae species
  • Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
  • Gout herbs (Aegopodium podagraria)
  • Blue algae (Microcystis aeruginosa)
  • Bunge (Trichodesma incanum)
  • Clematis (Montana rubens)
  • Rye ergot (Claviceps purpurea)
  • Astragalus
  • Asclepia

Trees/shrubs

  • Robinia false acacia (Robina pseudoacacia)
  • Flambloyant from Hyères (Sesbania sp)
  • Oleander (Nerium oleander)
  • American grape (Phytolacca Americana)
  • Rhododendron
  • Oak (Quercus sp)
  • Abrus with rosary (Abrus precatorius)
  • Common yew (Taxus baccata)

Lead

  • Weights for curtains or fishing
  • Lead-based paint (old houses) or with lead drying agent
  • Galvanized metal
  • Corks of champagne bottles and some wine bottles
  • Plant seeds (coated with arsenate of lead)
  • Batteries
  • Linoleum / ceramic / plaster
  • Base of lightbulbs
  • Stained glass / tinted glass / Tiffany lamps
  • Certain lubricants
  • Bullets

Zinc

  • Plumbing materials: nuts, washers, bolts
  • Galvanized metal
  • Certain toys or mineral block attachments
  • Rubber
  • 1 cent coins
  • Paper clips
  • Monopoly pieces
  • Some jewelry

Smoke and fumes

  • Cigarettes
  • Fireplace / furnace
  • Barbecue
  • Food burnt in the stove
  • Self-cleaning oven
  • Teflon (stove, hair dryer, iron)
  • Paints / varnishes

A Trendy New Cat…

He jumps around with agility. He is litter trained. He is playful, friendly and gentle. He may be an Angora or Rex breed, for example. He rubs his face on surfaces to deposit his scent. I am, of course, talking about the trendy new type of cat...the domestic rabbit.

There is currently a massive craze for this animal, whether in pet shops, shelters or veterinary clinics, where we are seeing them more frequently. They're so adorable with their big ears and little wiggly nose. You may think, "My kids will love him!"-but the question to ask yourself before any spontaneous purchase: is a pet rabbit right for me, my lifestyle and my family?

Are you ready?

The rabbit can be trained to go to a litter box if it is cleaned properly every day. It is a small eating machine on legs! As long as he eats, everything is fine, and he’ll be happy. He will need his own groceries, as rabbits love vegetables, which they should eat at least one cup a day or even more, depending on his weight. They also need to be given plenty of quality hay, as it is essential to their diet and to ensure proper wear and tear on their teeth. He will need to exercise every day. That’s why it’s important to rabbit-proof the areas of the house where he will have access, i.e., securing them to avoid accidents with electric wire or anything else he might want to nibble on. Rabbits have a very fragile spine and powerful hind legs; that’s why it’s not advisable to leave them with young children without supervision, as they could unintentionally hurt them.

Before adopting your new fury friend, have you found a vet?

Before adopting a rabbit, it is important to find a veterinary team that can provide care, as not all veterinarians are familiar with this species. Just like any other animal, your rabbit should see his vet regularly to ensure that he remains healthy.

In addition, neutering should be considered. It reduces expressed sexual behavior such as territoriality, helps prevent cancer, and reduces abandonment of kits that are born every 30 days at a rate of 4-5 per litter. And let’s not forget that in the wild, the rabbit is prey. If several animals are already living in the house, could they be a potential predator? For example, a ferret would not make a good housemate for a rabbit.

Which rabbit should you choose?

Once your budget has been planned, the house has been arranged, family members have been informed and a vet has been found, all that’s left to do is look for your new pet.

There are numerous rabbit breeds, from small (Dutch dwarf) to large (Flanders giant), hairy (English angora) to very soft (rex). It is advisable to find out more about the breed you are interested in and its particularities (grooming, shedding, temperament, sociability with other animals, etc.) from a breeder before making a definitive choice.

It is possible to adopt a rabbit from a shelter that has been professionally assessed. The shelter staff will be able to help you get the perfect match with your future furball.

No matter which one you choose, avoid adopting a cottontail rabbit from your garden! We do have rabbits living in nature throughout Quebec. Please let them live their lives in the wild, they will always be happier there than in your home!

 

Stéphanie P.  TSAc
Hôpital Vétérinaire Blainville

 

Hôpital Vétérinaire de lOrmière

Your pet is a member of your family and ours; it is a best friend, and even a confidant!

That's why our dedicated team of veterinarians, technicians, assistant technicians, animal attendants and receptionist is always there, ready to care for your pet and give you the most appropriate advice to ensure its well-being and health.

Hôpital Vétérinaire Blainville

Your pet is a member of your family and ours; it is a best friend, and even a confidant!

That's why our dedicated team of veterinarians, technicians, assistant technicians and receptionists is always there, ready to care for your pet and give you the most appropriate advice to ensure its well-being and health.

Hôpital Vétérinaire Ste-Rose

Your pet is a member of your family and ours; it is a best friend, and even a confidant!

That's why our dedicated team of veterinarians, technicians, technical assistants and receptionists is always there, ready to care for your pet and give you the most appropriate advice to ensure its well-being and health.

 

Hôpital Vétérinaire Ste-Thérèse

Your pet is a member of your family and ours; it is a best friend, and even a confidant!

That's why our dedicated team of veterinarians, technicians, animal attendant and receptionists is always there, ready to care for your pet and give you the most appropriate advice to ensure its well-being and health.