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Cats

Worming

Many kittens have roundworms and a heavy burden can cause “poor-doing” and diarrhoea. Roundworms can be transmitted to in-contact humans, especially children, so regular worming is essential, starting at 4 weeks of age and repeated monthly until six months old. It is vital a good quality wormer is used such as Panacur. From 8 weeks of age we recommend monthly treatment with Stronghold “spot-on” up to 6 months of age to treat both roundworms and fleas.

Adult cats should be treated for roundworms and tapeworms 4 times yearly (depending on hunting behaviour). We recommend Milbemax tablets or Profender Spot-On as a routine wormer.

Feeding

Feed cats cat food (not dog food!!). There are considerable advantages to feeding a dry diet such as Royal Canin. Not only will it not go off when put out, but it costs about half the price of a quality tinned product. Dry diets are also good for teeth and can reduce the incidence of dental operations. We stock a good range of Royal Canin foods at the surgery.

Neutering

Puberty in cats is typically between 5 and 8 months of age (4 months minimum).  In line with recommendations made by many feline charities we therefore advise that kittens are neutered between 4 and 6 months of age.  Failure to neuter cats can result in unwanted pregnancies in females and increased fighting and urine marking in male cats.  An unneutered cat is more at risk of contracting Feline Leukaemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus through fighting and sexual activity.  Unneutered male cats also tend to have much larger territories and are therefore more at risk of injury through road traffic accidents.

Kittens must be well grown (weighing >2kg) and in good health at the time of the surgery.  It is also important to wait for 2 weeks following a vaccination before any operation.

Kittens which are to be neutered at 4 months should have a reduced period of starvation before their surgery or 3-5 hours.

Fleas

All cats get fleas unless they remain indoors. They are the commonest cause of skin problems in cats and dogs. All cat owners should pursue an ongoing programme of flea control all year round. The majority of the flea life cycle (over 90%) takes place in the environment so carpet spraying can be important in the treatment of flea problems.

The most effective methods of flea prevention for use on the cat are Stronghold Spot-on or Comfortis tablet. If ticks are a problem then we advise using a Seresto Collar or a tick removing tool.

Stronghold Spot-on is used every 4 weeks. Stronghold not only treats fleas but also roundworms and ear mites. It does not treat tapeworm.

Comfortis is a flavoured tablet effective against fleas for one month, it does not treat any worms.

Seresto collars for cats cover for fleas and ticks for 8 months and again does not treat worms.

All year round use of either of these products will largely negate the need to treat the house and in most situations it is cheaper to treat your cat all year round than spray your house.

Please note…..felt flea collars, tablets, powders and shampoos are not effective methods of flea control. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO ASK ANY MEMBER OF STAFF ABOUT FLEA CONTROL OR ANY OF THE FLEA PRODUCTS WE SELL.

Vaccination

Vaccination is given at nine and twelve weeks of age for cat flu, feline enteritis and feline leukaemia. Feline leukaemia vaccination is strongly recommended for all cats, although it can be given at a later date if required. We will sometimes suggest cats are tested negative for leukaemia virus before they are vaccinated, especially those from feral backgrounds. If we do not advise a test but you would like peace of mind about your cat’s health please ask the veterinary surgeon at the time of vaccination. Annual boosters are needed to keep the immunity reliably high and virtually all catteries will insist that your cat is fully vaccinated every year before boarding.

Cats that are not 100% fit and well will not respond reliably to vaccination, so each patient is given a thorough health check by the vet before the booster is given. Every illness is best treated when diagnosed as early as possible, so the annual health check is just as important for your pet as the booster vaccination.

Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)

Over 70% of cats pick up this infection at some time in their life and a third of these will develop a related disease (often years later). Some cats will become carriers and spread the virus throughout the cat population. The virus causes many of the cancers seen in cats as well as immunosuppression. This predisposes the infected cat to a very wide spectrum of disease, particularly the infectious agents of feline infectious anaemia, feline infectious peritonitis, viral respiratory disease, mouth infections and abscesses. The virus also causes infertility.

The vaccine is almost 100% effective if given to a non-infected cat. If the cat already has the virus (and it can be passed from the mother to her kittens) then the vaccine may not be protective. All cats can be tested at the practice to see whether they already have FeLV.

Feline Infectious Enteritis (Feline Panleucopenia Virus)

This is a rapidly fatal disease caused by a parvovirus. It causes diarrhoea, vomiting and dehydration. Kittens in particular can die within a few days after infection due to the rapid fluid loss. The virus can also cause abortions and neurological disease in kittens if the mother is infected during the pregnancy. Thanks to vaccination this is now a disease that we do not see often but when it does appear we are still limited in our success with treatment.

Cat Flu

This is the name for symptoms caused by several viruses acting either together or alone. The main causes are Feline Herpes Virus and several strains of Feline Calicivirus. The vaccine contains several of these viruses in a mixture which gives reliable immunity in most cases. The typical signs noted are those of runny eyes, sneezing, a streaming nose, depression and anorexia. Prompt treatment normally leads to a good recovery but may still cause death particularly in kittens or adults with a compromised immune system. Some cats can end up with continual snuffles after infection or symptoms that return at times of stress. These cats act as carriers of the disease.

Microchipping

Unfortunately cats do sometimes get lost or injured and are brought to the surgery without the owner’s knowledge. We are unable to identify most of these cats and many are re-homed. Fortunately we are able to mark cats with a unique rice grain sized microchip under the skin in the neck that can be read with a hand held scanner. This then enables us to find the owners quickly. The microchip can be inserted while owners wait and we provide a free identichip with our kitten vaccination course.

Insurance

We believe strongly in the concept of animal insurance. Having your pet insured frees the owner and the vet from the worry of a large bill and therefore your pet receives the best possible treatment. Insurance does not cover routine procedures such as vaccination, neutering or worm/flea control. It is important if you decide to insure your kitten that you choose a reputable company who give lifelong protection. Most cheaper policies will exclude conditions on renewal that have been the subject of a previous claim.

We are able to give 4 weeks free insurance cover with Pet Plan (at no future obligation) for kittens presented for vaccination. Please ask at reception.

Dogs

Worming

Most puppies have a roundworm burden which is transmitted from the bitch across the placenta before birth. Roundworms carry a health risk to the puppy and to humans, especially children, so regular worming with an effective product is essential. Wormers containing the drug piperazine are of limited use. Our recommendation is to use either Stronghold “Spot-on” or Milbemax tablets every month until six months of age.

Adult dogs should be wormed every 3 months using Milbemax Tablets.

Feeding

The standard feeding regime for puppies is:

4 meals per day until 12 weeks of age 3 meals per day 12 to 16 weeks of age 2 meals per day thereafter (breed dependent)

It is vital to feed a complete food which means that the diet is balanced with the correct vitamins, protein and carbohydrate levels. Dry feeds are more cost effective and cleaner to handle than tinned products. We have a range of premium quality Royal Canin foods designed to provide optimum nutritional requirements at each life stage.

Most diarrhoea in puppies is caused by a dietary component (either found in the diet or scavenged). Treatment involves a change in diet to something highly digestible such as Royal Canin Sensitivity diet. This is a prescription diet available through the surgery. It is usually fed for a 7 to 10 day period then the normal diet slowly reintroduced. Please note that if your puppy is ill, or is repeatedly vomiting then you need to book an appointment to see a vet.

Exercise

Puppies need exercise and play for normal mental and physical development. Twenty minutes exercise 2 or 3 times daily is adequate for most dogs until skeletally mature.

Neutering

There are definite advantages to neutering bitches: 1. No seasons. 2. No false pregnancies. 3. No real pregnancies! 4. No uterine infections (“pyometra”). 5. Significant reduction in incidence of mammary and vaginal cancer later in life. This protective effect is rapidly lost if a bitch is not spayed by her second season.

Some bitches will put on weight after neutering due to a reduction in circulating sex hormones and a significant number of female dogs can become incontinent at some point in their life if they are neutered. Although incontinence is normally easily treated and obesity can be prevented with good dietary management, these problems do represent the major disadvantages to neutering female dogs. The practice policy is to spay bitches at 6 to 9 months of age, before their first season. If a season occurs before this time then neutering is delayed until 3 months after the season.

Laparoscopy (“key-hole” surgery)

Through TV programs and articles in the press, most of us are familiar with the term ‘keyhole surgery’, or more accurately ‘minimally invasive surgery’. What this describes is where a surgical procedure is viewed by the surgeon using a tiny telescope whose image is projected onto a video screen via a special camera.

Examples of minimally invasive surgery are:

Laparoscopy – abdomen, Arthroscopy – joints Cystoscopy – bladder, Rhinoscopy – nasal chambers Otoscopy – ear canals

Surgical wounds are tiny – usually a few millimetres. Smaller wounds mean less pain, faster recovery and less cosmetic effect (scarring) to the patient. The surgical field of view is magnified by the camera so that the tissues are seen in great detail, enabling abnormalities to be seen that would otherwise be missed. Because the surgical wounds are so small, the time taken making them is reduced so the overall duration of the surgery may well be shorter than for conventional surgery

KEYHOLE SURGERY AND BITCH SPAYS

A ‘spay’ describes the surgical sterilisation of a bitch. In the UK this has historically been through the removal of the ovaries plus the entire womb in an ‘ovariohysterectomy’. Although this is a routine procedure which we perform almost every day, it is major surgery none the less. Recently, it has been shown that the removal of only the ovaries gives the same benefits as the full ovariohysterectomy, whilst reducing surgical time and trauma to the patient. This has paved the way for a spay to be done in a minimally invasive way though laparoscopy (keyhole surgery). In spite of this type of surgery being accepted over the last 10-15 years as the ‘gold-standard’ technique for people undergoing many abdominal operations, it is very new in the veterinary field and is currently being performed by only a handful of vets in the UK, and less than 200 throughout the USA.

Taverham Veterinary Practice vets have undergone extensive specialist training in laparoscopy surgery and we are the first and only practice in the whole of East Anglia to offer this service to our clients. There are many advantages of keyhole spays:

Significantly less pain and discomfort experienced by your bitch Rapid recovery from surgery Enhanced field of view enabling a thorough examination of the abdomen No skin stitches are used so avoiding the risk of stitch-related reactions and infections Skin wounds of only a few millimetres in length avoids the possibility of the major wound complications which can result from bitches chewing their sutures out prematurely following convential surgery No need for your bitch wearing a ‘lampshade collar’ after the surgery to keep her from licking the stitches Minimal tissue injury at the time of surgery reduces the risk of adhesions which can cause pain and illness later in life

Disadvantages: Keyhole approaches mean that in the unlikely event of complications such as bleeding or anatomical abnormality, it may be necessary to convert to convential ‘open’ surgery, with the associated potential for problems through having a long skin wound and stitches Cost – there is an extra cost for clients choosing keyhole surgery since the equipment required for the technique is extremely expensive to buy and maintain. We are very confident that keyhole surgery will revolutionise many surgical procedures currently performed by vets in the UK over the coming years. The benefits are clear and we hope that you would like to chose it for your bitch’s spay. Please feel free to ask us any questions you may have.

Laparoscopic camera being inserted through operating port

View of ovary and uterus being grabbed using laparoscopic forceps

Laparoscopic spay in progress

View of one of our operating theatres prior to laparoscopy

Male dogs are castrated at 10 to 12 months of age. It will often reduce libido, inter-male aggression and urine marking. Castration is strongly advised for dogs with undescended testicles.

Insurance

We strongly recommend to all owners the principle of pet insurance. A selection of leaflets can be found in reception and in the puppy pack. Insurance will cover medical and surgical fees and gives liability protection. It does not cover vaccinations, routine or preventative treatment or conditions present at the time the policy is initiated. It is very important to be aware that cheaper policies do not give lifelong cover – conditions claimed for one year will usually be excluded upon renewal. We recommend that you insure your pet with a company that guarantees this lifelong cover. We are able to give your puppy a 4 weeks free cover note with Pet Plan. Please ask the vet or receptionist for details.

Flea Control

We advise regular flea treatment with either Bravecto Tablet which treats fleas and ticks for a whole 3 months, Stronghold Spot-on, which treats fleas, roundworms and earmites for 4 weeks or a monthly Comfortis Tablet which only treats fleas. These products are very safe and effective.

Dental Care

80% of dogs over 3 years of age have periodontal disease. This can progress to an irreversible process called periodontitis that will led to tooth loss. The most effective method of dental care is to brush daily with an enzymatic toothpaste e.g. Virbac toothpaste and a finger brush. Both items are available at reception. Very few dogs object to brushing if trained at an early age.

Vaccination

Vaccination is vital for your dog’s health. We routinely vaccinate against 5 infectious diseases: Canine Distemper, Parvovirus, Adenovirus, Parainfluenza and Leptospirosis. The initial two injections are given at 6 and 10 weeks of age. A single yearly booster is needed to maintain protection. Whilst it is important that your puppy is not exposed to infection outside the home before the course of injections is complete, mixing with healthy vaccinated dogs in a safe environment as soon as possible will allow a puppy to learn the rules of social behaviour.

A pet in poor health will not respond reliably to vaccination so we make sure that every dog is given a full clinical examination as part of their vaccination appointment. All diseases are best picked up as early as possible so the yearly health check is just as important as the actual vaccination injection. The consultations are also an ideal chance to discuss and problems regarding not just the health but also diet, behaviour and training.

Parvovirus

This virus causes a rapidly fatal disease. The symptoms are diarrhoea, vomiting and marked dehydration. Puppies in particular can die within a few days due to rapid fluid loss. Adenovirus There are 2 types of adenovirus, one contributes to kennel cough and the other causes canine viral hepatitis. The latter form attacks the liver producing diarrhoea, vomiting, a painful belly and often death. Vaccination with protects well against both types of adenovirus. Parainfluenza This viral infection can cause anything from a mild cough to a deep hacking cough and pneumonia. Leptospirosis This bacterial disease is carried commonly by rats and found in river water. It causes Weil’s disease in humans and can be passed from dogs to us. In dogs Leptospirosis normally presents as acute kidney failure or sometimes as a severe anaemia. The symptoms are collapse, fever, vomiting jaundice and diarrhoea. Canine Distemper Canine Distemper is caused by a herpesvirus. It is one of the agents causing kennel cough and it can also cause severe diarrhoea and vomiting often with pus-like discharges from the eyes and nose. Brain damage and fitting can occur and the disease is often fatal. Vaccination has fortunately made this disease quite rare. Kennel Cough A common and important cause of infectious tracheitis (“kennel cough”) is the bacterium Bordetella Bronchiseptica. A separate vaccination is available which is given via the nose and immunity lasts 12months. We advise all dogs to have this if they mix with other canine friends. Dogs are particularly at risk is places like boarding kennels.

Rabies

Rabies is not present in the UK at the moment and there is no need for the routine vaccination of cats and dogs. For those who which to take their pet to any of those countries participating in the Pet Passport Scheme, rabies vaccination is mandatory.

Identichips

We recommend that puppies are identified with a microchip which can be read with a hand held scanner enabling us to find the owners quickly should a puppy become lost or involved in an accident. Identichip can be inserted under the skin at the back of the neck while owners wait. Please ask at reception for details.

Rabbits

Rabbits

Rabbits have been kept as pets in this country since Victorian times and today they are the third most popular pet in the UK. Rabbits live on average 4-7 years and some even longer. Males are called bucks and females are called does. Rabbits are social creatures and should be provided with a companion wherever possible. Littermates can be kept together but should be neutered if of opposite sexes. Unrelated females will usually tolerate each other if sufficient space is provided, but they can fight and males will fight and inflict severe injuries if they are not neutered. The best pairing would be a male and a female that have both been neutered.

Housing

Your hutch should be tall enough for your rabbit to raise itself up on its hind quarters and large enough for it to move around freely. Separate living and sleeping quarters are preferable so the rabbit has somewhere to hide should it so wish. Most rabbits are housed outside or in a garage/shed but many are becoming ‘house rabbits’ who live indoors and can be trained to use a litter tray. If you plan to keep your rabbit outside find a place for the hutch where there will be shade in the summer and protection from rain and draught in winter. Clean out your rabbit at least once a week (more in the summer) and spray the hutch with an appropriate hutch spray (available from pet stores). Use newspaper to line the hutch with straw on top of this for bedding and then hay to eat on top of this or in a hay rack. This makes the hutch easy to clean out by just lifting out the paper.

Handling

Never pick your rabbit up by the ears! Gently pick it up with a firm grip on the loose skin around the neck area with one hand whilst supporting the hindquarters with the other. If the rabbit struggles it can easily injure its back or give you a nasty scratch, thus handling from a young age to socialise your pet will prevent this. Unless you intend to breed it is wise to have your rabbit neutered at 4-5 months of age to avoid ‘hormonal’ behaviour problems and aggression.

Feeding

Rabbits require a high fibre diet and good quality hay, a limited amount of a dried mix and clean, fresh vegetables will provide it with all it needs nutritionally. Fresh water, changed daily is essential and a bottle is the cleanest way to provide this. Rabbits will tend to pick out the sweet biscuits they like from a ‘muesli style’ mix so a pellet mix such as Burgess Super Rabbit is preferable at 25g of pellet per kilo of rabbit bodyweight daily. Fresh vegetables can be given daily in small amounts in the form of cabbage/greens, carrots, broccoli etc. and wild plants such as dandelion, groundsel and chickweed are also safe for them to eat. Rabbits given a good diet will not require vitamin supplements and pet shop treats are best avoided as they can cause obesity.

Vaccination

All rabbits should be vaccinated at 6 weeks of age and annually thereafter against the fatal diseases Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease. Whether they live in the country, the city, inside or outside, all rabbits are at risk since the disease is transmitted via biting insects which can be brought in on new bedding.

Health issues

With a good diet, a clean cage and plenty of attention and handling you should have a happy and healthy rabbit. Check your pet daily, if problems are caught early there is a better chance of recovery. Things to check for would be:-

poor appetite and weight loss Soiling of hindquarters with faeces or urine Discharge from the eyes Drooling from the mouth Overgrown nails Scurfy skin If your rabbit has diarrhoea often withdrawal of greens for a day or so and probiotics (which can be purchased from the surgery) may be enough to put things right. If your rabbit stops eating this could be a sign of intestinal blockage and drooling from the mouth could indicate a dental problem. In dental disease teeth can develop ‘spurs’ which make the gums and tongue sore leading to ulcers. Dental disease can be controlled by cutting/burring back of these spurs under anaesthetic but a good diet as detailed previously will significantly reduce the incidence of dental disease.

Fly Strike This subject deserves a heading of its own as it is an extremely distressing situation for both rabbit and owner. Basically, if a rabbit has faeces on its coat, flies are attracted and lay their eggs on the rabbit’s coat. These subsequently hatch into maggots which then invade the rabbit’s skin. Rabbits are therefore at risk in the warmer weather, especially if they are overweight or elderly and unable to clean themselves properly or have diarrhoea. Check your rabbit twice daily for fly eggs and a soiled rear-end during the summer months. Fly eggs look like tiny, cream, cigar shaped objects and these should be removed as soon as possible. Rabbits can be protected from fly larvae by using a product called Xenex spot-on (available from the surgery) regularly during the summer months along with daily checking and attention to hutch hygiene. In the unfortunate event you should find maggots on your rabbit, telephone the surgery straight away as the toxins released from the infestation can quickly lead to death.

If you have any questions regarding your rabbit’s health or husbandry our staff will be happy to offer advice.

Guinea Pigs

Quick Guinea Pig Facts!

Guinea pigs are intelligent, friendly animals that make excellent pets. Guinea pigs must have extra vitamin C in their diet. Their average life span as a pet is 5 to 7 years. Male guinea pigs reach sexual maturity at 9-10 weeks of age. Females reach sexual maturity at 4-6 weeks.

Natural History

The scientific name for guinea pig is “Cavia porcellus” and this explains their other common name of “cavies”. Guinea pigs come from the Andes region of Central and South America. The Andean Indians of Peru domesticated guinea pigs and used them both for food and as sacrificial offerings to the Incan gods. Gainea pigs arrived in Europe in the 18th Century and through selective breeding an array of hair colours and hair types have developed. The most common breeds are:

English – both short and straight haired. Peruvian – long straight hair parted down the back. Abyssinian – coarse hair with rosettes or whorls.

Choosing a Guinea Pig

The best way to buy a guinea pig is from a reputable breeder or a good pet shop. The guinea pig should be at least 6 weeks old. Choose one that is active, friendly and looks healthy.

Guinea pigs are very sociable and they need company of their own kind. It’s best to keep a pair or small group of the same sex. Neutered males and females may get along and often a harem system works well with one male kept with several females. Ideally guinea pigs should not be kept with rabbits because they require different nutrition and may get bullied.

Guinea pigs do not groom each other but tend to interact by standing close together and making noises. These noises are quite recognisable and are an important part of guinea pig communication (see below).

Keeping your Guinea Pig Healthy

Be sure your guinea pig always has fresh water. Make sure your guinea pig is getting enough Vitamin C Keep cages clean, dry and well ventilated. Keep the temperature stable and avoid direct sunlight and radiators. Give your guinea pig plenty of exercise and keep it stimulated. Keep him/her stress free and with somewhere to be quiet and hide. Take your pet to the vet at the first indication that something is wrong and ideally twice a year for a check up for teeth, claws, skin and body weight. Guinea Pig Homes

Guinea pigs need a large wooden or wire hutch that is weatherproof and predator-proof, with an open day area and enclosed sleeping area. Position the hutch in a quiet sheltered place away from winds and direct sunlight – guinea pigs are susceptible to chills and heat stroke. Guinea pigs are not very clean and will produce an amazing amount of faeces for such little animals.

Good ventilation is vital so solid sided cages are less good. If this type of cage is used, the bedding should be completely changed twice a week to prevent high ammonia levels from collecting in the cage. The ammonia levels can lead to ‘stress,’ and irritated nostrils, eyes and lungs.

Flooring

The flooring of the cage should be solid. Foot and leg injuries are more likely with wire flooring. An abundant amount of bedding that is clean, absorbent, relatively dust-free and easy to replace should be provided. A layer of newspaper with soft straw on top and plenty of hay on top to eat to eat and burrow in is ideal. Avoid cedar chips and other wood shavings that have natural oils e.g.pine. Hide Box and Cage Furniture Cavies seek ‘visual security’ and need places to hide and feel secure. An upside down cardboard or wooden box with a cut-out door work well. If the boxes get soiled or chewed, they are easily replaced. Although guinea pigs do not climb well, they still like to walk up ramps and climb onto low shelves. They also enjoy rooting and burrowing in hay.

Feeding

Guinea pigs require a constant source of vitamin C. Without enough vitamin C guinea pigs will show signs of illness within a couple of weeks. Young guinea pigs lacking in the vitamin will grow slowly and move reluctantly because of pain in their joints. In adults, a deficiency will increase the likelihood of skin or respiratory disease and also slow the healing of skin wounds. Grass and green vegetables such as kale or cabbage should also be made available each day as these contain vitamin C. During pregnancy vitamin C should be supplemented.

Fibre is important!

Guinea pigs must never be without a constant source of high quality non-dusty hay. This hay is vital for a healthy digestive system and without it they may actually “barber” each other (chewing their companions’ fur as a source of fibre).

The common problems that guinea pigs suffer from are itchy skin, diarrhoea, eye infections and teeth problems. We would recommend a regular 6month health check at the practice.

Cavy Chat

Cooing – a soft sound to reassure other guinea pigs that everything is ok or to show enjoyment when being stroked. Squeak – a high pitched noise can be a sign of fright, pain or excitement such as as feeding times. Chattering – Stay Away! This is a warning to other guinea pigs to keep their distance. Gurgling – a sign of contentment and a happy guinea pig!

Exercise And Making Friends With Your Guinea Pig

Most Guinea Pigs are friendly and rarely scratch or bite. They can become very tame as long as they are handled correctly. To pick one up, slide your hand across its shoulders with your thumb tucked behind its shoulder and fingers rapped around it’s chest. Support the hindquarters with your other hand.

Having fun with your guinea pig means encouraging its favorite pastimes – eating, exploration, and exercise. If you watch your guinea pig’s natural behavior you can come up with new toys and activities that will enrich his life and enhance your experience as a pet owner.

Adding new play objects and rearranging the cage can be fun for both of you. Think of the basic guinea pig enclosure, equipped with soft bedding, water bottle and food dishes, as only a starting point. Keeping in mind that your guinea pig needs ample floor space to run around, you can add cage extras like rocks, bricks, clay flowerpots, 4 inch diameter PVC pipes and fruit tree branches to the cage. Guinea pigs aren’t very good at judging distances or heights so it is best not to allow your guinea pig to climb more than a few inches off the ground as it may have problems getting down safely. A fall can mean broken bones or internal injuries that could prove fatal.

Enjoy watching your guinea pig explore. He’s wearing down his toenails and exercising while he investigates the new setup. Some guinea pigs like bird toys with mirrors or balls with bells inside of them. Just make sure that all objects you put in the cage can withstand chewing. Rodent wheels are not suited to guinea pigs. A large outdoor run made of netting on a timber frame will allow then to graze in safety. If you let them indoors watch out for dangerous things that they could chew such as electric cables.

Breeding

The most important aspect of guinea pig breeding is that the females should be bred first between 4 and 10 months of age. If breeding occurs for the first time after 10 months then serious and often fatal problems associated with delivery can occur.

Please contact the surgery for further guidance.

Hamsters

“Syrian or Golden” hamsters are the most common types of pet hamster. They are larger and slower than dwarf hamsters and gerbils, so are easier to handle. If gently scooped up using both hands then they rarely bite. Attempting to wake a hamster by stroking its back will often make the hamster feel threatened and make it more likely to try and nip.

Dwarf hamsters (generally Siberian/Russian dwarfs) are also kept as pets but these tend to be more difficult to handle. They have a short furry tail, a white underside and a grey back. They are quick and often bite if restrained. Hamsters are nocturnal animals meaning that they are naturally awake at night. Wild hamsters might travel miles in the dark foraging for food. If your domestic hamster has access to a wheel then it will often run for hours at night because of the natural instinct to travel.

Hamsters have large pouches that can be filled with food. They are natural hoarders and will use their pouches to stash food away.

Hamsters are naturally solitary animals and should be kept singly. A female will only tolerate the presence of a male during oestrus. This occurs approximately every 4 days.

Health and Feeding

Hamsters are very susceptible to stress. It is important to give them somewhere quiet to sleep during the day and it is vital to buy one only from a reputable breeder or a good pet store. At the first sign of any illness they should be taken to a vet.

Unfortunately the health of these animals is often not as good as it should be because of an inadequate diet. Frequently hamsters are only fed a bag of “mix” off the shelf. This is not a complete diet. Hamsters, like other small rodents, are omnivores rather than herbivores which means that they eat various bugs as well as fresh fruit and seeds. To supplement the mix try any of the following.

Feed a little fruit and vegetables – whatever you have been eating that day. If any food is not eaten then remove it the day after because if it gets old and mouldy then this can make your pet very ill include a little dry cat food in the usual mix to give some extra protein feed a little piece of meat, cheese or let him lick out an empty yoghurt pot!

Housing

It is important to keep the cage as clean as possible. Ideally you need a lightweight cage with a plastic bottom which is deep enough to contain plenty of bedding. You can use wood shavings or shredded paper. Some cages have plastic tubes which are very good for keeping your pet entertained but these must also be kept clean.

Water must always be available for your pet and is best given with a commercial dropper bottle. The water should be changed every few days to keep it fresh.

Try to make the cage as interesting as possible by adding cardboard boxes, plastic piping and fruit wood.