Guinea pigs, like all small furries, are not natural travellers. Taking them away from home can be stressful for everyone. So, if you need to get your guinea pig from A to B this summer, why not follow our Vet Kate’s advice on minimising stress and maximising the chances of a successful trip for you and your pets?
Kate’s Small Furry travel tick list:
- Get a suitable pet carrier
Your furry pal is going to need a place to rest, hide, and maybe even play. Get a highly rated pet carrier and make sure it’s big enough for them to move around in, but small enough so they don’t get thrown around. It’s got to be chew proof too.
2. Get them used to it
Don’t wait until the day and just put them in and go. Your pets will be much less stressed if you get them used to their travel carrier by letting them play around in it for a week or two before you travel. You could also start with short journeys around the block to see how they handle it and if you need to make any changes to their setup.
3. Plan ahead
Before you travel, have a think about the trip. Do you have enough food & water? Can you travel at a cooler/quieter time of day? How will you clean up any mess? Can you take a route that doesn’t have speed bumps or involve a fast road? Taking a few minutes to think these things through will make the trip less stressful.
4. Stick together
If your pet has a pal, then make sure you take them both on the journey. They will naturally lend each other support.
5. Taking your pet on public transport
If you’re planning on using public transport, first check their rules of carriage, then do a few practice-runs at quiet times. Finally, make sure you travel when it’s cool.
There you go, for the very few times you’ll be moving your guinea pig, you now have all the basic info you need to make the journey less stressful for everyone.
The advice above is good for most small furries. However, if you do feel like you need species specific advice, please call our team at Walton Lodge Veterinary Surgery on 01202 747678 and we can talk through your pet’s specific needs.
You are probably familiar with dogs and cats being microchipped, but what about rabbits? With it being National Microchipping Month in June, our Poole veterinary team are here to tell you everything you need to know about microchipping rabbits.
Is your rabbit secure in your home and garden? You would hope so, but rabbits are inquisitive creatures and their curiosity can get them into trouble.
What would you do if your rabbit got lost? Rabbits do not typically wear a collar & ID tag so with no identification, anyone finding your pet would not know who or where to return them to. This is why microchipping rabbits is a good idea.
What is rabbit microchipping?
Microchips are tiny electronic devices that contain all the data needed to trace you if someone finds your lost pet. A microchip is about the same size as a grain of rice. It is implanted just under the skin (usually between the shoulder blades) via an injection. Microchips are designed to last for life and should cause no bother to your pet. If an animal is deemed large enough, our team at Walton Lodge Vets can microchip them – ask us about microchipping your rabbit.
How is microchipping helpful?
A microchip stores a unique code, which is matched to the owner’s details on a central online database. Walton Lodge Veterinary Surgery and other veterinary practices, as well as some animal rescue centres, have special microchip scanners to reveal the code. If you do not keep our contact details up to date on the central database, it may not be possible to reunite you with your rabbit.
Benefits of rabbit microchipping
Microchipping is currently the most effective way to reunite pets with their owners if they are brought into a vet practice or animal shelter without an ID tag – this could be due to a successful escape attempt or if a stolen pet is recovered. With no way to identify the owner, pets are typically put up for rehoming. Pet theft isn’t just a dog and cat owner issue. Since the start of COVID, pet thefts across a variety of species have risen. In 2021, Darius – the world’s largest rabbit – was stolen from his garden hutch in Worcestershire. Read the BBC news story about Darius here.
The Government Department of Environmental Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published a Pet Theft Taskforce policy paper in September last year, which outlined measures being taken to tackle the rising number of pet thefts. One of the proposed measures is to have vet practices scan all new pets at their first appointment. You can read the full DEFRA report here.
The bottom line is, without any form of identification, pets have little to no chance of being reunited with their owners should the worst happen. Rabbit microchipping is a low-cost, simple way to give your pet rabbit a traceable form of identification and give you peace of mind.
Like any pet, guinea pigs can have health problems that require urgent veterinary attention. As part of National Pet Month, which promotes responsible pet ownership, the clinical team at Walton Lodge Veterinary Surgery have put together a list of emergency conditions and lifesaving advice for guinea pig owners.
This is not a comprehensive list; it is better to err on the side of caution and phone our Poole veterinary surgery for advice if you notice anything of concern with your guinea pig. Any non-descript symptoms such as lethargy, depression, and a decrease in appetite should always be acted on.
Call us if you need us on 01202 747678.
Life-threatening guinea pig health problems
Gut stasis in guinea pigs is a very serious, life-threatening condition caused by other stressful or painful conditions. Common factors include a sudden change in diet or a lack of fibre, an obstruction in the gut, dental disease, traumatic injury, dehydration, boredom, or loneliness. The gut comes to a standstill and the normal passage of food through the gut does not occur.
Symptoms of gut statis include not eating, passing less or no droppings, a bloated or painful abdomen and not wanting to move. This list is not exhaustive, so you should phone our veterinary surgery straight away if you have any concerns on 01202 747678. Treatment can include medication to help the gut to move again (unless there is an obstruction in the gut), often pain relief too, alongside fluid therapy and syringe feeding. While this can help to get the gut moving again, any underlying health problems that contributed to the gut stasis will need to be addressed.
If you notice your guinea pig has breathing problems, you should phone our Poole surgery immediately. They might be breathing more quickly or more laboriously than usual, possibly alongside a discharge from their nose, sneezing, a loss of appetite, and lethargy (amongst other symptoms). Our Vets will carry out a clinical examination and may do further diagnostic tests. There are several things that can cause respiratory problems in guinea pigs including pneumonia, which can be fatal, so early diagnosis and treatment are vital.
Like any pet, guinea pigs can suffer from injuries due to trauma. The cause of trauma can be unknown, or due to falling, being dropped by accident when handled, fighting with other guinea pigs, or attacks from larger pets. If you witness any trauma occurring, or you see any signs of injury such as wounds or lameness, you will need prompt guinea pig health care from our Vets – contact us.
If you have a female guinea pig that you know to be pregnant, or think may be pregnant, it is advisable to monitor her carefully throughout the pregnancy – especially when she is close to giving birth. This is particularly true if she is over seven months of age and has not given birth previously; her pubic symphysis will have fused and so the birth canal will be too narrow for a natural birth. Therefore, a C-section will be needed to ensure the safety of your guinea pig and her pups. There are other potential complications with giving birth so it would be prudent to have a conversation with one of our Vets in advance about what to look out for.
As we mentioned earlier, this is not an exhaustive list of guinea pig health problems and like any pet, acute illnesses can occur at any time – poisoning from plants or food is definitely one to watch out for. The best advice that Walton Lodge Vets’ clinical team can give guinea pig owners, is to stay vigilant and if you notice anything unusual or concerning, call us.
Call us on 01202 747678.
The winter months are behind us which means the spring gardening season is here. Many rabbits will be out in the garden enjoying a potter but with all the green growth, it is important to be aware of plants and other items that could cause harm. Our Poole Vets have put together this advice for rabbit owners.
Please share this article on your social media profiles to help other rabbit owners know what hazards are lurking in the garden for their pets this season.
Garden safety for your rabbits
Bunnies love to hop around, but did you know that not everything in the garden is safe for these small pets? Discover what you need to look out for so you can create a safe haven for your rabbits.
Rabbits have many natural enemies, and sadly it is common for a rabbit to be attacked and seriously injured or killed. Wild predators include foxes, owls, birds of prey, and even seagulls will have a go. Closer to home, your cat, dog, or neighbouring pets can be a threat to your bunnies too.
In the garden, most of the danger to rabbits comes from manmade hazards. Using common sense will reduce the risks. Rabbit-proof your garden by making sure they can’t escape, injure themselves, get trapped somewhere, or access anything harmful.
Plants toxic to rabbits
Speaking of harmful, keep your bunnies hoppy and healthy by safe gardening. There are many great resources out there to help you determine which plants can’t be eaten. Some of the most dangerous include Azalea, Bittersweet, Buttercups, Daffodils, Deadly Nightshade, Figwort, Foxglove, Hemlock, Meadow Saffron, Poppies, Ragwort, and Rhubarb.
If your rabbits have eaten something dangerous, give our Poole Vets a call straight away on 01202 747678.
Pottering in the garden and chewing on grass is every rabbit’s dream. If your lawn has been recently mowed, make sure your rabbits can’t eat the grass cuttings as these can be extremely harmful.
Vegetables & garden plants safe for rabbits
Rabbits love carrot tops, kale, and broccoli, but if you plant too much and leave your pets unattended, they may eat all the plants in sight. Same goes for roses, pansies, pot marigolds, and sunflowers if you are planting these for the summer months ahead. You might be pleased to know that rabbits can eat clover, daisies, dandelions, and nettles, so if your garden is looking a little ‘weedy’, you can always put your bunnies to work.
A rabbit run
Time outdoors is extremely beneficial to your rabbits’ wellbeing and helps them get the vitamin D (from the sun) they need to aid their digestion. To avoid many of the dangers above, Vet Kate Morawska, recommends the best course of action is to exercise your rabbit outdoors in a large, predator-proof enclosed run.
If you are giving your rabbit freedom to roam in the garden, it is wise to monitor them constantly advises Kate. Accidents can happen quickly, and predators can strike more easily if you are not there.
We hope you found our Poole Vets’ advice helpful and can enjoy a danger-free spring season and beyond. As always, we are here if you would like more advice, just get in touch.
We are here for your rabbit emergencies too, just call 01202 747678.
You can share this advice with your rabbit-loving friends by sharing the link by email, WhatsApp, Messenger, or on your Facebook profile or Twitter stream.
Hamsters can be a joy to live with, with their cute little faces and amusing antics. However, like most pets (and humans), hamsters are susceptible to parasites.
Our Head Vet Kate Morawska explains that hamster parasites are common. Parasites are organisms that live on or inside hosts, getting their supply of nutrients from the host and causing them irritation and potential harm.
Generally, parasites are not extremely dangerous for hamsters, but they can cause itchiness, constipation, and weight loss amongst other health issues. Read Kate’s information on hamster parasites below and contact us if you need further advice.
Kate examines four hamster parasites
Dwarf tapeworms are the most common internal hamster parasite; when contracted they live in the small intestine often without causing major issues. Kate advises that large tapeworm burdens can cause internal blockages/constipation, which you would see as a reduction in stools or a swollen/discoloured abdomen or anus, and weight loss, which need to be dealt with promptly.
Mouse pinworms are less common that tapeworms and will live in part of the large intestine if your hamster becomes a host. The most common issue with pinworms is itching of the anus.
Hamster mites – Demodex
The most common external hamster parasites are Demodex mites – two species of tiny mites that cause itching and hair loss when they infect hair follicles. Other signs are dry and scaling skin, scabbing, and dandruff.
Ear mites – Notoedres
The Notoedres family of ear mites can be miserable for hamsters. Infestations can cause crusting/lesions on the hamster’s ears, face, genitalia, and feet. Hamster mite treatment should be started as soon as possible so do contact us for advice.
Diagnosing hamster parasites
Kate wants hamster owners to know the importance of getting their pet checked out by a Vet as soon as possible if there are signs of parasites. External hamster mites can sometimes be spotted on the skin as well as causing the above symptoms.
If you suspect hamster mites or worms, give us a call on 01202 747678 and we can book you in with a Vet for diagnosis and treatment.
Can you prevent hamster parasites?
Making sure your hamster and their environment are clean is the best way to prevent hamster mites and worms. Hamsters are usually pretty good at cleaning themselves, but a sand bath will aid this – water or powder baths are not advised. A clean hamster cage will be sanitised regularly with pet-safe products, and free of soiled bedding, stools, insects, and flies. It is also important to keep rodents away from your home as much as possible as these can be hosts to parasites.
So, there you have it, Kate’s guide to hamster parasites. Remember we are here to help, so be sure to contact us if you need further advice.
Did you know that guinea pig grooming has many benefits for both short and long-haired breeds? It’s not just about detangling and de-matting those long locks! Walton Lodge Vets’ Nurses have some advice on why you should, and how to groom your guinea pig.
We always love hearing from our clients and the wider guinea pig owning community. Head over to our Facebook page and ask us any grooming and small furry pet questions and we’ll be happy to help. Ask us questions on Facebook.
Why do guinea pigs need to be groomed?
Guinea pigs usually do a great job of grooming themselves to get clean. However, there are many benefits that come with regular grooming by their favourite human, such as:
- Keeping your guinea pig free from tangles and dirt
- Checking for skin lumps and bumps, hair loss, dental problems, and pests
- Bonding time with your tiny companion
- Help staying clean if they are elderly or unwell
How to groom your guinea pig
If you are wondering how often you need to groom your guinea pig and what’s involved, our Poole nursing team have some helpful advice for you below.
- Short-haired guinea pig breeds like the American Cavy only need brushing once a week to minimise shedding and keep them clean. Any more could result in loss of hair density and quality.
- Long-haired guinea pig breeds such as Peruvians and Abyssinians generally need brushing 2-3 times a week to prevent matting and dirt build-up, which can lead to infection and parasitic ‘invasion’.
Depending on your pet’s breed and hair type, you can use the palm of your hand (add water if your guinea pig is shedding) or a metal narrow-toothed pet-flea comb. Be gentle, and brush in the same direction as your pet’s hair grows.
Not all guinea pigs will enjoy being brushed, however, it is an essential part of keeping them healthy. Try altering the frequency to avoid stressing them out. You could also gently stroke them from head to toe whilst brushing and feeling for anything unusual.
There is a little more to guinea pig grooming than just brushing – they will also need:
- Monthly or bi-monthly nail trims
- An occasional ‘butt’ bath
- Weekly dental check & ear clean
- Regular grease gland ‘clean-up’
Learn more about each of these tasks in our handy downloadable guide.
The New Year is typically a time for change, making now the perfect time to change your pet’s life for the better if they are overweight. The team at Walton Lodge Vets love helping owners and have this advice about overweight guinea pigs.
Reasons for an overweight guinea pig
When it comes to guinea pigs and other small furry pets, weight gain is usually (and we hate to say this but…) because as owners, we haven’t provided them with the right type or amount of food, exercise and mental stimulation.
There are other reasons guinea pigs can gain and lose weight so it’s always wise to get your pet checked out by a vet as soon as you notice a change.
- Weight gain (or loss) over a few days or weeks could be a sign of a medical condition, most commonly a tumour or pregnancy.
- Weight gain over a few hours could be an emergency condition called ‘bloat’, which is a distension of the abdomen – contact us immediately if this is the case.
Head Vet, Kate Morawska, at our practice in Poole explains why carrying excess weight is a BIG problem for small pets.
Overweight guinea pigs are:
- less able to reach their rear-end to clean it, which amplifies the risk of flystrike (often fatal)
- putting more strain on joints leading to painful movement
- less mobile and agile, affecting their everyday quality of life and ability to exercise
- candidates for diabetes, typically if fed a high-carb diet with lots of fruit & sugary treats
- at increased risk of complications if pregnant
Assuming all is well, right now is the ideal time to help your small pet shift excess fat.
Helping your guinea pig lose weight
First, we recommend booking a weight check at our Poole practice. Our nurses will assess your guinea pig’s weight, and tell you how much they need to lose.
Our team can then also give you advice on how to:
- review your guinea pig’s diet – provide the essentials and give healthier treats.
- experiment with different ways of feeding – bowl vs scatter feeding and foraging trays.
- provide sufficient mental stimulation & physical exercise through pet companionship, suitable housing, stimulating activities & items, and time outside their enclosure.
Let our nurses help you get your guinea pig on the right track and book a weight check at our Poole veterinary practice – see our location and book.
We’re sure many small furry pet owners in Dorset can relate to this; how do you avoid having a bored guinea pig or a bored hamster?
This can be especially tricky when you’re burning the Christmas candle at both ends and struggling to dedicate as much time as usual to your little pal. Our head Vet Kate Morawska, and their team have scoured the internet and come up with some interesting looking, highly rated toys for your small pets to try. We’d love to know what you think so share a photo or video on our Facebook page.
Most small pets (excluding Syrian hamsters) prefer to live in pairs, so it’s important to give them a companion to avoid loneliness. When they get bored, they can become depressed and some will even self-mutilate so mental stimulation is important too.
If you notice anything unusual about your pet, book a small pet Vet check.
To avoid boredom, small pets need toys and activities that allow them to mimic their natural wild behaviours like exploring, foraging, and gnawing. We hope you like the look of these too:
Eight boredom busting toys for small pets
Wooden Exercise Wheel – This might end up with some teeth marks in, but your pet will have enjoyed themselves.
Play Tunnel Giant Tube – Depending on where you hang it from, your pet can have lots of fun jumping in and out of it.
Natural Grass Hammock – Chewable, swingable… what’s not to love?
Boredom Breaking Chew Toys – Get 11 toys designed for hamsters, rats, guinea pigs, chinchillas, gerbils, rabbits, and Syrian hamsters – so much choice!
Floral Hanging Basket – This is ready to be chewed and delightfully destroyed.
Carrot Cottage – A cute cottage covered in hay with a real carrot roof? Yes, this is perfect for climbing on, sleeping under, and gnawing.
Peanut Gnawing Chew – These hamster chew toys will be good for boredom and filing down their teeth, plus they’ll work with most small pets.
Fruit Flavoured Nibble Cage Chew – Another tasty treat that’s ideal for oral health and preventing boredom.
If you’re on a tight budget this Christmas or just enjoy making things yourself, check out these videos on how to make DIY toys for guinea pigs, hamsters, and other small pets:
- How to make a foraging box for guinea pigs
- Make boredom busting toys for hamsters and other small pets
- 10 DIY toys for rabbits and other small pets
We’d love to see how your small pets get on with any of these toys, or if you have your own. Visit our Facebook page and share your photos and experiences!
Rabbits are experts at hiding illness, so daily and weekly checks at home should be backed up with regular visits to our North Road surgery. Whilst the exact frequency of your furry friend’s vet visits will depend on a number of factors, we normally remind owners in spring and autumn. Ideally, we’ll get to see your rabbit at least once a year and just before winter is an ideal time to make sure they’re prepared for the colder months ahead.
Typical vet visits for your rabbit may involve annual vaccinations and dental check-ups, and we may recommend other types of treatments. Kate Morawska, our head vet, thinks it’s useful to remind owners what they should be looking for in between vet visits.
Below is a list of the essential areas we check when you bring your pet rabbit to our Poole surgery. We’re sharing this because rabbits are generally pretty good at keeping themselves clean, so if you spot anything mentioned in this list, it really is worth bringing them in.
Seven essential things for your rabbit health check list
- Eyes – Your rabbit’s eyes should be clear, bright, and free of discharge. Pull up the eyelid and the eye tissue should be pink. If it’s red or pale, or there is discharge from the eyes, call us.
- Ears – The inside of your rabbit’s ears should be clean and clear of wax/dirt. Check inside the ear with a penlight. Ask us to show you how to clean your rabbit’s ears on your next visit.
- Nose – This is really simple; your rabbit’s nose should be free of any discharge whatsoever. If you do see discharge from the nose, call us on 01202 747678.
- Teeth – These are really important. Check your rabbit’s teeth by carefully pulling the upper and lower lips back. You should see the upper front teeth aligning with the lowers and a slight overbite. If the teeth are too long or the bite isn’t good, we may need to trim them, and we’ll probably need to talk to you about their diet.
- Feet – The most common problem with a rabbit’s feet is sore hocks or heels. If you see foot sores, especially open sores, call us.
- Nails – Nails shouldn’t be too long. If they are, then it’s a simple job to clip them at home. Ask us to show you how to safely clip your rabbit’s nails on your next visit.
- Fur & Skin – Your rabbit’s coat should be soft, shiny, and free of matted hair. If you back-brush the coat with your hand, the skin should be clear of dust and flakes.
As well as the essential list above, if you bring your rabbit in for a pre-winter health check-up we’ll be looking at areas such as their glands, their mobility, and talking to you about their eating and toileting behaviours. If you’re not sure when they were last seen, or, if you know it was over a year ago due to the disruption in 2020/21, then please do book an appointment.
Is it safe to breed guinea pigs? It’s not difficult to breed these charismatic pets, but it can be unsafe if you don’t time it right. Female guinea pigs (sows) need to be young and fit for their first pregnancy to avoid tragedy.
Walton Lodge Veterinary Surgery’s nursing team has lots of advice on guinea pigs and breeding. Why not ask them questions on Facebook and help other owners at the same time?
Before breeding your guinea pig, head nurse Emma Matthew recommends asking yourself:
- Do you have suitable, loving homes lined up for the piglets?
- Do you have additional housing to separate male guinea pigs & piglets from females?
- Have you considered the potential health implications?
The risks of breeding guinea pigs for the first time
Delaying a female’s first pregnancy after 6 months of age will result in serious, even life-threatening birthing complications. Part of her pelvis must separate before giving birth and after about 8 months it fuses together, and a caesarean is needed. This is a risk to mum and her piglets.
Another serious risk is pregnancy toxaemia, with stress and obesity being major predisposing factors. Other factors include advancing age, lack of exercise, fasting during pregnancy, and having many babies. Signs may not show until two weeks before the birth, so prevention is key: reduce stress, keep your guinea pig fit & healthy, feed a nutritious diet, and always provide fresh water. Also, house her indoors/somewhere sheltered to avoid cold weather risks.
Emma’s guinea pig breeding ‘need to know’ list:
- Male guinea pigs (boars) are sexually mature and able to mate at around 2-3 months; it’s 2 months (55-70 days) for sows but can be earlier for both. Neutering males is necessary to avoid pregnancies in opposite sex pairs – contact us about neutering.
- Sows have estrous (fertile) cycles throughout the year, but mostly in spring. Cycles last 16 days and she is fertile for 6-11 hours, mostly at night.
- A new estrous cycle begins shortly after giving birth. Boars should be housed separately before she gives birth to avoid her being pregnant again while nursing piglets.
- Guinea pig pregnancies last around 63 days; a large litter will make the pregnancy longer. You can tell if your guinea pig is pregnant as she will gain a lot of abdominal weight in the latter stages, even doubling in size.
- Sows do not build nests so time of delivery can be hard to spot. About 1 week before delivery, part of her pelvis will start to slowly widen, just in front of the external genitalia. An hour before delivery this should be about 1 inch wide.
- Uncomplicated births last about 30 minutes with 5 minutes (average) delivery per piglet.
- Nursing should be allowed for 2 weeks; male piglets should be removed at 3 weeks.
- Breeding can sometimes shorten a female guinea pig’s life expectancy.
Do you have any questions, like “how many babies can a guinea pig have?” or “how do you introduce potential mates safely?” or perhaps “are they born with hair?” Pop over to our Facebook page and our Poole nurses will happily answer them.