Welcome to our series on exotic pets and when to worry. Over the next few blogs we will go through some of the signs an exotic pet might have when sick and discuss when to worry and take them in to your vet.
Let's start with rabbits and guinea pigs. These little creatures have a lot in common and most of it's to do with their gut! They are both herbivores and hindgut fermenters (meaning their caecum is a giant fermentation vat of remarkable power) and they are also prey species. These features will heavily influence the signs of sickness they show.
In the wild, if you could be someones dinner it pays to not look sick. A predatory fox or eagle is going to target a sick looking animal over a sprightly healthy one as an easy meal. Thus your pet rabbit or guinea pig is going to hide their illness until they are critically ill. This means subtle signs can be seriously significant. A bit flat? Quieter than normal? A bit withdrawn? Not playing around as much? All these could be signs of a very ill pet and it's best to always get them checked over.
We mentioned the fabulous and amazing gut that rabbits and guinea pigs have. It's fantastic at turning grass into good nutrition but also fantastic at getting out of control and causing big issues. Rabbits and guinea pigs must eat and poo EVERY DAY. Not eating for 6 hours makes vets nervous, we get very worried at 12 hours and anything more than that we really need to see that pet! If your rabbit or guinea pig is not eating normally, is eating less, is drooling around eating, is leaving food they would normally eat or has any changes to the volume and quality of poo they produce - bring them in and get them checked. A lot can go wrong with the fabulous fermentation gut system and we need to know about that ASAP.
Obviously, bring your pet to the vet if you notice any other signs of disease or problem areas. If you add subtle changes in behavior and changes to eating and pooing to your list of warning signs in your pet rabbit and guinea pig and get them seen soon, a lot of big problems can be sorted out early. These little guys are the kind of animal we would always rather see 'unnecessarily' rather than let things wait and get out of control.
Watch this space for more on exotic pets and when to bring them in!