Veterinarian examining bearded lizard on table in clinic, closeup. Exotic pet

Exotic Pets


Diet and nutrition play a pivotal role in a rabbit’s overall health. A proper diet will avoid common health conditions like dental disease, obesity and intestinal stasis. The percentage of each food type below is very important. Remember that treats should only be given sparingly.

Recommended Diet:

  • 80%- Unlimited amounts of High Quality Hay (Timothy, Bermuda, Broam, Oat, Orchard) Alfalfa ONLY in small amounts
  • 12%- Greens, plants, and herbs. Some examples include bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, celery, carrot tops, cilantro, collard greens, dandelion flower, green bell peppers, mustard greens, parsley. Limited; kale, watercress, iceberg and head lettuce
  • 6%- Pellets (Timothy based)
  • 2%- Treats (carrots and fruit)

Rabbits eat their own fecal balls to maximize the amount of nutrients absorbed. Do not interrupt this behavior. This is a natural behavior needed for their nutritional requirements.

A rabbit’s enclosure should be safe from dangers and potential predators. It should be cleaned daily and allow plenty of fresh, clean water and food. It should be long enough to allow at least 4 hops and tall enough to allow your rabbit to stand. The floor should allow plenty of cushion to prevent foot sores. Clean fleece is a great option because it is easy to clean, low on dust, and is inexpensive. A hide box, litter box, and hay box must also be included in the enclosure. Always supervise your rabbit if allowed to free roam. Cords and other common household items can be dangerous.

Rabbits are social animals. Consider housing opposite sex animals together. Rabbits also enjoy digging and chewing. It is important to provide acceptable outlets that are safe for them to practice these behaviors. Some acceptable toys include sisal, wooden toys, paper towel and toilet paper rolls, paper wads, paper sacks, cardboard or plastic tunnels, towels, small toys for tossing, and food dispensing puzzles. Supervise your rabbit first to ensure they engage with these items in a safe manner. Please reach out to the hospital staff if you have questions about appropriate and safe toys for your rabbit.

  • Castration and Spaying- Intact female rabbits are at an increased risk to develop ovarian and uterine cancers that are life threatening. Intact male rabbits will commonly mark their territory with urine and are usually more aggressive than castrated rabbits. It is recommended for spaying and neutering to be performed around 4-5 months old.
  • Physical exams and systemic diagnostics- At least yearly exams are recommended to detect medical issues and conditions before they become a significant threat to your rabbit’s health. It is important to intervene early to ensure your rabbit has a happy and healthy life.
  • Flea, tick and mite preventatives- Yes, even indoor rabbits can become infected with fleas, lice and ticks. Talk with the veterinarian to discuss which products are safe for your rabbit based on their lifestyle and size.
  • Grooming- Rabbits will need their nails trimmed every few weeks. Long nails can get caught in bedding, carpet or even damage a rabbit’s foot if they are too long. A rabbit may also need a sanitation trim or “potty patch”. This can help prevent urine and feces from building up and causing infections and irritations on your rabbit’s rear end and rear feet.

  • Decreased food intake or fecal output- Seek medical advice right away! This clinical sign could suggest many different causes including Intestinal stasis, dental disease, illness, or stress.
  • Trouble breathing, eye or nasal discharge- this is an emergency. This could indicate an infection, pneumonia or thymoma.
  • Hair loss, itching or foot sores- rabbits can get skin infections including mites or fungal infections just like cats and dogs. A foot sore can worsen quickly. It is important to seek medical advice quickly before the condition worsens.

Guinea Pigs (GP)

Guinea pigs are herbivores. Plant material and fiber are critical for a healthy gastrointestinal tract. The best source of fiber for a Guinea pig is hay. Hay and water should ALWAYS be available for your GP. Fresh greens, vegetables and fruits should be in small quantities. Vitamin C is also very important. There are plenty of commercially available Vitamin C additives and treats to ensure your GP is getting enough. There are water additives available, however; this could decrease your GP’s water intake, so they are not recommended. Safe options of each food category are listed below.

  • Hay- Timothy or mixed grass (Alfalfa should only be fed in SMALL amounts)
  • Greens (Small quantity)- Radish, clover sprouts, beet greens (tops), basil, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots, carrot tops, celery, cilantro, clover, collard greens, dandelion greens or flowers, green peppers, kale, mint, mustard greens, pea pods, peppermint leaves, red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, raspberry leaves. Spinach and kale should only be offered sparingly.
  • Fruits and Vegetable (1/2 tablespoon daily)- kiwi, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, apple, pear, peach papaya, pineapple, cactus fruit, melons, bean or alfalfa sprouts, green or red bell peppers, mango, cherries, cranberries, edible flowers, flat pea pods.
  • Pellets- NOT recommended unless meet strict nutritional requirements. Choose a brand with no less than 18-20% fiber and is low in protein, fat and calories. It should NOT contain seeds.
  • Oxbow and Mazuri have acceptable GP pellet diet that can be purchased or used for comparison when researching other options.

Guinea Pigs enjoy large spaces with plenty of room to run. Ensure their enclosure has plenty of space to hide. Clean, fresh water, hay should always be available. Ensure the bottom of the enclosure is padded with low dust bedding or fleece that should be dry and clean. GP’s can overheat easily in hot, humid environments but do well in colder temperatures. Daily exercise is important for daily enrichment and gastrointestinal motility.

  • GP’s should be evaluated by a veterinarian at least once each year to prevent serious medical conditions. 
  • Spaying and neutering can also be performed to decrease the risk of ovarian cysts in intact females. 
  • Nail trims, weight monitoring and dental checks are important to track and evaluate frequently.

  • Dental disease- diet plays a very important role in a GP’s dental health. Fiber helps wear down teeth so they cannot overgrow.
  • Gastrointestinal Disease- persistent diarrhea, decreased fecal output, lack of appetite, loss of appetite could all indicate a serious medical condition. Seek medical attention right away.
  • Urinary stones or kidney disease- lack of urination, straining to urinate or blood in urine can be clinical signs of an issue.
  • Skin diseases- GP’s are susceptible to fungal, bacterial and mite infections. Hair loss, dandruff, scaly skin, scabs or growths could indicate a problem.
  • Respiratory Diseases- Sneezing, ocular or nasal discharge, or trouble breathing can be a serious and life-threatening issue. These all require prompt medical attention.


Ferrets are obligate carnivores that have specific nutrient requirements. They need a high protein, moderate to high fat, and low carbohydrate diet. The recommended requirements are 32-38% protein, 20-23% fat, and <2% fiber. The tricky part is ferrets can have food aversion. It may be difficult to introduce new foods to a picky ferret. There are several commercial diets available for ferrets. A home prepared diet is also a great option if your ferret accepts it. Cat diets are NOT recommended. Vegetables, fruits or seeds should NEVER be fed. Healthy treats that include small amounts of unseasoned lean meats and organ meats, cooked eggs, homemade turkey/salmon/beef jerky, insects, Ferrettone, Furotone, N-bone Ferret Chew Sticks and Zupreem Dental Sticks as ferret treats are acceptable.

Ferrets have a very fast metabolism. Food and water should always be freely available.

Enclosures/cages should be large and include multiple stories. The bottom of the cage should be flat and padded with either bedding or fleece. Ferrets enjoy climbing and having high vantage points. They love tunnels, hides and hammocks. Ferrets can be litter trained relatively easily. They prefer to urinate/defecate by backing up into corners so place litter boxes in these locations. If sides of cages are made with wire ensure the wire is no wider than 1” apart. Ferrets can be very flexible and will fit in any space or hole that they can fit their head through.

Ferrets should have at least 3-4 hours outside of their enclosure to explore every day. This time should ALWAYS be supervised. Be cautious of any holes in furniture, cupboards, or walls. It is advised to “ferret proof” the area prior to allowing them to play. Ferrets are very social animals that love to dig, tunnel, dook and dance.

  • Yearly exams are recommended. The veterinarian will perform a full physical that may include blood work.
  • Nail trimming should be performed every few weeks.
  • Bathing is not required more than once per month. Bathing more often can increase the oil produced by your ferret’s skin and contribute to a musky smell.
  • Ear cleaning. Ferret’s ears are naturally dirty and can increase odors. If a ferret’s ears are healthy, then once monthly cleaning is more than enough.
  • Flea, Mite and heartworm prevention. Doses can be calculated by our veterinarian based on your ferret’s weight.

  • Foreign Bodies- This can be a common problem in young, curious ferrets. This is a serious problem that can lead to vomiting, dehydration and death. Seek medical attention if you suspect your ferret may have eaten something.
  • Adrenal Disease- This is one of the most common medical diseases among ferrets. The clinical signs of this condition are weight loss, increase in aggression, hair loss (especially on the tail), itchiness and swollen vulva. Have a veterinarian evaluate your ferret for this condition and explain treatment options.
  • Insulinoma- this condition results in a high level of insulin release and leads to low blood sugar levels. The clinical signs of this condition are pawing at the mouth or face, increased salivation, vomiting, seizures, lethargy and weakness. This condition should be evaluated immediately. Call the hospital for important fasting instructions to allow diagnostic testing for this condition.
  • Cancers- Unfortunately, ferrets are commonly affected by numerous cancers. One of the most common cancers observed in ferrets is lymphoma. Lumps or bumps felt on your ferret may be serious and should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
  • Respiratory Disease- ferrets are very susceptible to respiratory disease to include HUMAN respiratory diseases like Influenza and Coronavirus. Take precautions to protect your ferret if you have a respiratory illness. Masks and gloves can be enough to prevent passing the infection. Tell your veterinarian if you were recently ill and suspect you may have passed it to your ferret.

Small Rodents

We have come a long way from store bought seed-based diets in small rodents. These diets are a BIG NO! Seed based diets are not nutritionally balanced and often lead to health problems including obesity. Each small rodent should be fed a “block” or “pellet” based diet designed for their individual species. Great options include Mazuri Rat and Mouse Diet, Mazuri Hedgehog Diet, Mazuri Chinchilla, Mazuri Hamster and Gerbil, Oxbow Essentials Rat/Mouse, Oxbow Gerbil and Hamster and Oxbow Chinchilla. Additional food items may be offered depending on the species. See specific links below for recommendations.

Most small rodents can easily be kept in cages that include plastic bottoms and wire or mesh sides. Ensure bottoms of cages include clean, minimal dust, and species-specific bedding or soft, clean fleece. This is important to avoid injuries to the bottom of their feet/paws. Cleaning bedding should be frequent. Plastic or glass sides to enclosures should be avoided because they do not provide proper ventilation, however; it is also important to ensure drafts are minimized (i.e. avoid placing enclosures near windows or under ac vents). Offering enrichment in enclosures is important. Enrichment should be focused on natural behaviors such as chewing, burrowing, foraging, exploring/climbing, grooming, and nesting. See below for species specific recommendations.

  • Yearly exams and parasite prevention (usually against mites and lice)
  • Excellent nutrition and husbandry are vital. Reach out to us if you have questions.
  • Spaying and neutering. Performing this procedure early can reduce the risk of Fibroadenomas in Rats, Ovarian Cancers, Urinary Stones and same sex aggression.

· Rats/Mice

  • Respiratory disease- common clinical signs include discharge from the eyes, nose or mouth. Increased rate of breathing and efforted breathing, such as open mouth breathing. Rasping breathing, snuffles or wheezes may also be heard. This condition is most commonly a bacterial condition. It is important to have a veterinarian evaluate your pet and decide on an appropriate treatment quickly.
  • Masses. Rats commonly get fibroadenomas which can grow quite large and decrease their mobility and quality of life. Spaying and neutering decrease the chances of developing these types of tumors. Mice can develop a similar, but unfortunately, more aggressive tumor. There are many other lumps and bumps small rodents can develop. It is important to have these tested to determine the best treatment.
  • Skin irritations/infections. These may range from bacterial infections to mite/lice infestation to excessive fighting or barbering or cage/litter mate injuries.
  • Obesity. This can be avoided if offered a proper diet.

· Hamster/Gerbils

  • Skin diseases. These can range from bacterial and fungal infections, injuries to mite infestations.
  • Diarrhea, Wet-tail. This is an overgrowth of bacteria. Seek medical attention quickly to avoid dehydration from diarrhea.
  • Bladder stones and/or ovarian cysts. Clinical signs include blood in urine, lack of urination or straining to urinate. Ovarian cysts can present with a decrease in activity, lack of appetite or weight loss.
  • Chronic Wasting Disease in Hamsters. Clinical signs in hamsters include weight loss, diarrhea, and seizures. Some hamsters can clear this virus on their own, but this infection can also be spread through urine to other animals and people.
  • Cheek pouch impactions. Primarily in hamsters. Have your hamster evaluated if you observe a firm mass near a cheek or asymmetry of the face.
  • Ocular injuries. Excessive squinting, discharge from the eye or one eye appearing bigger than the eye may indicate a problem.

· Hedgehogs

  • Skin infections. These can include bacterial, fungal and mite infections. If you see missing spikes, oily skin, or scaly/dry skin it may indicate a problem.
  • Respiratory Diseases. Discharge from the eyes, nose, mouth, difficulty breathing, or open mouth breathing should be investigated by a veterinarian quickly. Anointing is a normal behavior where hedgehogs can foam at the mouth and coat their scales with the foam. It is thought self-anointing could be caused by an unusual smell, taste, protective instinct, or a form of sexual behavior. This can be alarming if you are a new hedgehog owner, but this is normal and not a concern.
  • Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome. This is characterized by instability or the inability for your hedgehog to maintain balance or use its back legs. This is a very unfortunate disease that progresses to paralysis and is not currently treatable. Quality of life can be extended with supportive care so please discuss this with a veterinarian.


Nutrition and environment are vital in reptiles. Factors that are so important include diet (changes with maturity level and growth), enclosure type, substrate, temperature, humidity, UVB requirements. There are SO MANY factors and SO MANY different species to consider. Included below are trusted references that we recommend using for information on diet and husbandry.

  • At least yearly exams. These may include physical exams, fecal tests to look for parasites or blood work to check for organ dysfunction.

  • Metabolic Bone Disease. Weak, underdeveloped bones due to inadequate Calcium, UVB and nutrition. Difficulty eating, injuries or abnormal shapes of limbs could indicate an issue. Remember proper diet to include Gut-Loaded insects, Calcium dusting food AND adding supplements are important to avoid this issue. Also keep in mind UVB bulbs need to be changed frequently (about every 4-6 months).
  • Improper shedding may lead to constrictions on fingers, limbs, and tails. Sometimes this is referred to as tail rot. Usually this can be avoided with humidity/shed boxes or soaking but species-specific recommendations are important. Please refer to the references above. If you observe black/brittle fingers, limbs, or tails, seek medical attention from a veterinarian. Addressing these issues quickly may help prevent amputation or loss of these tissues.
  • Ocular issues. Cloudy eyes, squinting, swelling can all be signs of an issue. Several reasons can include improper vitamin/minerals, retained piece of shed, infection or injury.
  • Lack of eating, lack of energy, abnormal color can be normal, or suggest an issue. Work with your veterinarian to decide if medical attention is warranted.
  • Other issues include, but are not limited to, egg binding (female), Seminal plugs (male), shell rot, aural abscesses, prolapses, intestinal impactions, respiratory infections, mouth rot, gout and stick tail.


There are many species of birds, and each species has different nutritional needs. Avoid seed only diets. These diets contribute to diabetes and lead to nutritional deficiencies that cause a multitude of health issues. A formulated pellet diet should consist of at least 80% of the bird’s diet. The remaining 20% should consist of mostly fruits and vegetables. Switching from a current seed-based diet to a formulated diet is possible. A slow transition is recommended, and a veterinarian can help you develop a plan to switch. Some examples of formulated pelleted diets include Harrison’s, Mazuri, Lafeber and Zupreem.

Bird cages should be made from stainless steel or powder coated steel (see toxins below). They should, at least, be two wing spans wide. A grated bottom with newspaper facilitates easy cleaning. Birds also require additional enrichment. Naturally birds are very active during the day. They spend most of their time flying, foraging, and socializing. These behaviors should still be encouraged to avoid behavioral issues. Perches, toys, puzzles, and foraging items are great ways to provide enrichment. It is recommended that these items are specifically made for birds to avoid toxins, choking hazards, etc.

  • Yearly exams. This may include blood work and fecal testing.
  • Nail and beak trims
  • Wing clipping

  • Obesity
  • Deficiency in Vitamin A. This can cause ocular, skin/beak, respiratory and kidney issues. This is commonly seen with feeding seed only diets.
  • Behavioral Problems. Increasing enrichment can sometimes solve this issue. However, some birds imprint on a specific person and may look at others in the home as competition. This can lead to aggression against other family members.
  • Poor feather condition, or loss of feathers. This could be a behavioral or a disease condition.
  • Wing or leg injuries.
  • Respiratory diseases. Any abnormal breathing in a bird is an emergency. Seek medical attention quickly.
  • · Intestinal diseases. Excreting whole seeds and abnormal urination/defecation could indicate an issue with the intestinal tract or urinary tract.
  • · Toxin Exposure. Numerous household items or aerosols are toxic to birds. Some toxins include metals like zinc, aluminum, lead, galvanized metals and aerosols like perfumes, scented candles, sprays. Cooking on high heat using a Teflon pan can also be toxic and fatal.