Small furries 2017-11-24T23:54:42+00:00

Small furries

Here at Well Animal Clinic we see a wide variety of small furry animals including rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets and rodents. We perform routine anaesthesia; neutering and dentistry regularly as well as medical workups and surgical procedures. We work closely with our local RSPCA and deal with a large number of rabbits and guinea pigs that need health checks, neutering and medical treatment in order to be re-homed.

Rabbit image


We love rabbits! We have an annual Rabbit awareness week involving promotions on products and free advice from our nurses and we are members of the UK Rabbit Welfare Association which promotes better welfare for our bunnies.

Rabbits are increasingly becoming a popular pet in the UK. Ideally they should be kept in pairs (a boy and girl is best). Rabbits can mate as early as 4 months old so be careful and always neuter your rabbits!

A new anaesthetic method for Rabbits

We use an anaesthetic protocol specifically designed for rabbits. This includes premedicating them with pain relief, a gut stimulant and sedation. We place intravenous catheters into their ears which provides good access for fluid therapy and injection of the anaesthetic agent.

We use a numbing spray to desensitise the larynx and intubate our rabbits to maintain an open airway and provide the rabbit with oxygen and anesthetic gas. They are kept warm during and after procedures.

To neuter or not to neuter?

We recommend neutering of both female and male rabbits between the ages of 5-6months of age, we can Microchip them too so they never get lost! Female rabbits are prone to developing a cancer of their uterus therefore, having them speyed when they are young prevents this cancer from developing later in life. Male rabbits are very territorial and castration can make them easier to handle and a better friend for other rabbits to be housed with.

A combined annual vaccine for rabbits, even house rabbits are at risk!

We use a combined vaccine which is injected under the skin annually to protect rabbits against:

  • Myxomatosis which is spread via blood sucking insects such as fleas and mosquitoes, even house rabbits are at risk
  • Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) which causes internal bleeding

Teeth that grow 10-12cm per year!

Rabbits have continually growing teeth and require the correct diet of 80% good quality hay/grass and 20% vegetables and 10% pellet ration to help keep their teeth short. Often the teeth overgrow and cause abscesses or spurs on their cheek teeth which are very painful. Abscesses often require surgery to treat, and teeth spurs require an anaesthetic and dental procedure to file the teeth down and remove the spurs.Rabbits also need fresh water daily, it is now thought that rabbits may prefer to drink from shallow bowls rather than dropper bottles.

Diet – Fibre, Fibre, Fibre!

This is a major part of the health problems we see in domestic rabbits. They need very high amounts of fibre in their diet and little carbohydrate. Cereal diets with multicoloured flakes are too high in carbohydrate and allow the rabbits to select the bits they like so that they don’t get a balanced diet.Rabbits should eat mostly fresh, good quality hay (ie. Timothy hay), and have a small amount of pelleted food (such as Burgess Excel rabbit nuggets) to make sure they are getting all their vitamins and minerals. They can then be supplemented with small amounts of vegetables such as carrots and carrot tops, grass (not cut from lawn), garden weeds, swede, pea pods, kale, cabbage, spinach, herbs, dandelions leaves. ***Buttercups are poisonous to rabbits***

Rabbits can suffer with sore feet

Rabbits don’t have foot pads like other animals and are very prone to getting pressure sores on their feet or ‘pododermatitis’. This can be avoided by using good quality bedding including hay, straw or dust -free wood chippings, and giving them enough room to stand and hop around their cage. The bedding needs to be changed every 2-3 days, but leave some of the old bedding in as they like familiar smells.

Don’t be shocked if your Rabbit eats its own poo

rabbits produce a special type of soft faecal pellet called a ‘caecotroph’ which stick to their bottom, they provide a vital source of nutrition for the rabbit when eaten. This should not be confused with diarrhoea.

Keep an eye of your Rabbit’s weight as obesity is common

This is a massive problem in domestic rabbits that are fed too much carbohydrate (mixed cereal diets and sugary foods such as grapes and banana) and not enough FIBRE. Rabbits need exercise and playtime. Obesity can lead to arthritis, heart problems, pododermatitis, matted fur, urine sludge, sticky bottoms; fly strike, malnutrition and other health problems.

Guinea pig image

Guinea pigs

Like rabbits, guinea pigs have continuously growing teeth and also require a diet high in good quality timothy or grass hay and a small amount of pellet diet and vegetables.

Avoid too many treats, starchy vegetables such as carrot/parsnip or sugary fruits such as grapes, banana as these may alter the gastrointestinal flora. They are very fussy and don’t like change so any diet change needs to be done gradually.

Vitamin C must be supplied

Guinea pigs require a high level of vitamin C in their diet which should be supplemented in the form of fresh greens such as kale; cabbage;dandelions;parsley. It can also be added to the drinking water in a liquid form but the water should be changed daily as vitamin C degrades quickly. Signs of a deficiency include lameness; swelling of joints; teeth problems; depression and poor wound healing.

Guineas are very sociable and should be kept in pairs or small groups. We do recommend castration of male guinea pigs to avoid problems with aggression and pregnancy.

Itchy skin? Mites can kill

If your guinea pig has any of the following symptoms: itchy skin, hair loss or wounds, it is important to seek a vet’s attention. Mites burrow into the skin and can cause extreme discomfort and stress to a guinea. They can’t always be detected on a skin scrape. Appropriate treatment should involve a drug called Ivermectin (wipes, shampoos etc won’t work and can contain harmful chemicals). Other possible causes of these skin signs could be lice or Ringworm.

Stress, boredom, too small a cage or too many guineas in one cage can cause ‘barbering’, where a guinea may pick on another and cause small wounds in the skin.

All guinea pigs should have an annual health check with a vet.

Ferret image


Ferrets are very playful creatures and great escape artists. They live up to 6-8 years. They are carnivores and can be fed specially formulated diets for ferrets or some high quality cat foods. They love to sleep up to 18 hours a day and have poor eyesight but a good sense of smell and hearing.

Vaccination and flea treatment

It is important to vaccinate your ferret annually against Canine Distemper.  Ferrets are also susceptible to the human influenza virus. They are also just as sensitive to flea infestations as cats and dogs therefore a routine flea treatment is recommended.


Yearly checkups are advised for your ferret. Ferrets are particularly prone to developing Cushing’s disease (an over-production of sex hormones); heart disease; Insulinoma’s (tumours of the pancreas causing low blood sugar) and Lymphoma.

Ferrets are very playful creatures and great escape artists. They live up to 6-8 years. They are carnivores and can be fed specially formulated diets for ferrets or some high quality cat foods. They love to sleep up to 18 hours a day and have poor eyesight but a good sense of smell and hearing.

The need for chemical or surgical neutering

The ferret breeding season runs from March until September. If a jill isn’t mated she will not ovulate which leads to high levels of oestrogen in her system. This results in a severe anaemia; hair loss; lethargy and weakness and can be life threatening.

It is therefore important to neuter females either surgically or by using a chemical injection, or provide a vasectomised male for her to mate with, therefore allowing ovulation without the risk of pregnancy. Males can also be castrated surgically or chemically using a long acting injection called Suprelorin. Contact your vet for further advice.