Caring for Rabbits, Guinea Pigs and Ferrets
Regular health check-ups are the cornerstone of a preventative health program for your pocket pet in the years ahead. Regular check ups allow us to catch any illness early and we can inform you of the newest and best options in pet medicine.
These are very important because they will protect your pocket pet from disease.
Rabbits are vaccinated against calicivirus at 10 to 12 weeks of age and then every 12 months to maintain immunity throughout life. Calicivirus and Myxomatosis are diseases that have been introduced in Australia to help control the wild rabbit population. Whilst there are no vaccines available to prevent myxomatosis, rabbits should be vaccinated against calicivirus.
No vaccinations recommended.
Ferrets are vaccinated for distemper at 8 weeks, 12 weeks and 16 weeks of age. A booster is due then every 12 months.
The following are some guidelines for parasite control in pocket pets.
Worms (intestinal-tummy worms)
Intestinal worms rarely cause problems in pocket pets therefore routine worming is not required.
Rabbits can attract dog fleas. There are some excellent, easy to use flea control products available including Advantage and Revolution.
Fleas aren’t a problem in guinea pigs, however ferrets can pick up fleas from either cats or dogs. Please ask our health care team which product would be the most suitable for your pet.
Rabbits can be infected with either fur mites or ear mites. Fur mites usually cause a dandruff type skin condition over the shoulders of the rabbit. It is normally not itchy. Rabbits with ear mites frequently scratch at their ears and earwax may be visible. If your bunny has any of these signs a vet should examine him/her so the condition can be treated and your pet made more comfortable.
Lice/mites are quite common in guinea pigs. They may be picked up from new bedding (eg. hay, straw) or other guinea pigs. Some mites are visible to the naked eye and cause intense itchiness and scabs.
Ferrets can pick up ear mites transmitted from dogs, cats and other ferrets.
Once again it is important to seek advice from our health care team.
Rabbits and guinea pigs aren’t susceptible to heartworm disease, however ferrets are! Prevention is by far the best approach and thankfully relatively simple. Oral medication called “Heartgard” is an easy preventative or “Revolution”, which not only prevents heartworm, but controls fleas too.
Rabbits and guinea pigs
Rabbits and guinea pigs have teeth that continually grow hence overgrown incisors (front teeth) and molars (cheek teeth) can occur. We often see rabbits with overgrown teeth due to poor diet or hereditary factors.
Like cats and dogs, ferrets can have problems with tartar and gingivitis causing dental disease. Our veterinary health care team can provide you with a solution for preventing and treating dental conditions.
The basic diet for a rabbit is simple. Rabbits require 80% grass/oaten hay (not leucerne) and 20% leafy green vegies (never give iceberg lettuce). A high percentage of fibre also helps control teeth growth. Rabbits groom themselves like cats and therefore develop hairballs - a healthy diet prevents hairballs becoming a problem.
Guinea pigs are neophobic. This means that they adopt a strong preference for food type in the first few days of life. So it is a good idea to feed a range of food types from an early age such as fresh fruit and veggies, good quality hay and occasionally pellets.
Ferrets are strict carnivores. Science based cat/dog food are suitable as a diet for ferrets.
If you are not planning to breed from your pet, desexing is recommended. It ensures a calm temperament and reduces the likelihood of some serious diseases.
Male rabbits are usually desexed from 4-6 months of age. Female rabbits should also be desexed between 4-6 months of age. The main reason for desexing female rabbits is the prevention of uterine cancer (it’s reported that 60-80% of rabbits may develop uterine cancer if left entire).
Guinea pigs may be desexed at 5-6mths of age. It should be remembered that a female guinea pig shouldn’t have her first litter after 6months of age, as pelvic bones become fused and can cause problems with labour.
Mature ferret females will remain in heat until mated. This can lead to Pyometra, a condition of the uterus, which may lead to death. Therefore, unless planning to breed your ferrets, desexing of both males and females is recommended.
Guinea pigs, rabbits and ferrets all have continuously growing nails that need to be trimmed regularly.
Pocket Pet Stats!
Life span – 6 to 14 years
Average bodyweight – 2 to 6kgs
Gestation – 31 days
Litter sizes – 1 to 12
Puberty – 4 to 5 months
Female rabbit - doe
Male rabbit - buck
Young rabbit - kits
Life span – 5 to 8 years
Average bodyweight – 0.6 to 1.4kgs
Gestation – 59 to 72 days
Litter sizes – 1 to 10
Puberty – 6 to 8 weeks
Female Guinea pig – sows
Male Guinea pig - boar
Young Guinea pig - Pup
Life span – 5 to 9 years
Average bodyweight - 0.5 to 2kgs
Gestation – 42 days
Litter sizes – 1 to 18
Puberty – 6 to 8 months
Female Ferret – jill
Male Ferret – hob
Young Ferret - kitten
Guinea pig harem says ‘hello Sooty’
A Guinea Pig named “Sooty” had a night to remember after escaping from his pen and tunnelling into a cage of 24 females. He romanced each of them in turn and is now the proud father of 43 offspring.
Staff at Littlefriend’s Farm in Pontypridd, South Wales, have now secured Sooty’s pen - and begun looking for new homes for his guinea pigs.
His owner, Carol Feehan 42, said: “I’m sure a lot of men will be looking at Sooty with envy. We knew he had gone missing after wriggling through the bars of his cage.”
“We looked for him everywhere but never thought of checking the pen where we keep 24 females. We did a head count and found 25 Guinea Pigs, Sooty fast asleep in the corner.” “He was absolutely shattered. We put him back in his cage and he slept for two days.”