Every pet owner should maintain a good working relationship with a veterinarian. Owners of multiple types of pets, particularly exotic or unusual pets, may need several veterinarians. However, sometimes the decision to take a pet, particularly a small mammal, to the vet for an illness or injury is a difficult one. Small pets are particularly sensitive to stress. Some are also susceptible to airborne viruses. For both these reasons, it’s best to avoid unnecessary stress.
While I am not a vet and a consultation with a veterinarian is always the best choice if you are uncertain or think your pet may be in need of treatment, here is some basic information on symptoms and injuries and their severity.
Wait and Observe the Pet If…
- Your rat has a small amount of a red substance called poryphin near its nose or eyes. This indicates stress and may be a sign of illness, but could also just mean a change in the weather or a fight with a cagemate caused a brief reaction.
- Your pet has torn a toenail, but you were able to stop the bleeding quicky using flour, cornstarch, or a stypic safe for that pet.
- Your bird has broken a newly grown feather, but the bleeding stopped quickly.
- Your hedgehog has lost a few quills, but has no other outward signs of mites.
- Your pet eats less than it usually does for one or two days.
- Your pet has a minor laceration that stops bleeding after a few minutes.
- Your pet has a torn ear that is not bleeding or infected.
Make a veterinary appointment within three days if….
- Your small pet is sneezing
- Your pet seems unusually lethargic
- Your pet has visible lice or has lost hair and is itching
- Your pet other than a hamster has runny stool
- Your small pet has bloody urine only once or twice
- Your pet seems weak or dizzy briefly, but recovers and appears normal
- Your small pet has a small, hard lump somewhere on its body
- A laceration seems to be healing slowly or with difficulty, but is not impairing the pet’s normal activities
- A wound appears infected, but the pet is behaving normally
- Your pet is shaking or tilting its head
Go to an emergency vet immediately if…
- Your pet appears to be having difficulty breathing
- Your bird has been injured by a cat (even if it is one small poke with a claw)
- A bone is obviously broken or sticking out
- Your hamster has liquid stool (this is likely a bacterial condition called wet tail, which should be treated immediately as the mortality rate is very high)
- An injury does not stop bleeding within twenty minutes, or bleeds in heavy spurts
- Pus is coming from a female animal’s reproductive organs
- Your pet has bloody urine or feces repeatedly
- Your pet’s gums or ears appear blue or gray
- Your pet has been exposed to extreme temperatures, like being left in a hot car or placed outdoors when the weather is below freezing
- Your pet has been stepped on or had something dropped on it
- Any small pet has been attacked by a dog or cat
- Your pet has ingested poison or a toxic substnace
Again, if you’re uncertain, always consult a vet first. Don’t be afraid to call an emergency vet and ask their advice, even during the night or on weekends. They will, if staff is available, have someone advise you about whether or not to bring your pet in. When in doubt, it’s better to spend the money for a veterinary consultation than to wait too long and potentially cause a condition to worsen.