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Rabbit & Small Animal Grooming

Rabbits

rabbit by christa

Strictly high-maintenance types... 

Rabbits need special care when handling – if they are in pain or distressed, they may bite. Rabbits should NEVER be left unsupervised with children for this reason – they do need gently handling, from both the rabbit and child’s point of view. There are cases where rabbits have suffered broken limbs due to suddenly being dropped – and some of these will be after a sudden bite. As smaller pets go, they are among the more demanding to properly care for.

They need to be picked up by supporting their front end in one hand their rear end in the other – rabbits who have not been picked up like this have suffered spinal injuries. NEVER pick a rabbit up by his or ears – this is known to lead to serious injuries.

Rabbits need regular brushing. You’ll need a special soft rabbit brush, brush gently from the back of the head to the tail. Look out for bald patches, lumps, sore patches, fur with diarrhoea on it especially at the feet and rear end. These need vetinary attention. Be especially aware to check their rear end daily for flystrike. This happens when flies lay eggs around the bunny’s bottom, which hatch within hours into maggots. The maggots then eat into the rabbit’s skin. Apart from the unpleasantness for rabbits and their owners, this causes illness, as the maggots release toxins and encourage unhealthy bacteria. Any rabbit with flystrike, or any unusual sore patches, must be taken to the vet immediately. Hang fly strips near their home, clean the home regularly using special rabbit-safe disinfectants and ask your vet to recommend special anti flystrike preventative products. Also keep an eye out for overgrown nails, which your vet will show you how to trim.

flystrike rabbit butt

Rear end sadly affected by flystrike 

Guinea Pigs

I have my own hairdresser but ok, you can help

I do my own hair-do but ok, you can help

A little bit like cats, guinea pigs are very image conscious – they generally take good care of their own coats. Regular brushing can help to keep the hairs clean and remove any old, loose hair. This is especially important for longhaired varieties, who may need daily gently brushing to stop their coats becoming tangled and matted. If you cannot gently work out the matted hair, your pet needs to go to the vet – they’re very used to dealing with these problems. You can encourage your guinea pig to let you groom her or him if they’re not used to being handled by feeding small guinea pig treats for a while. The gently pick them up, with one hand supporting their rear end and the other supporting their back. You need a special guinea pig brush from a pet store; your vet will be able to recommend one as their needs obviously vary by coat length. If your guinea pig scratches a lot, it could be caused by mites or lice and this needs vetinary treatment. You need to be especially aware for longhaired guinea pigs as they can suffer from a condition called flystrike – where flies lay eggs onto the skin, which hatch within hours into maggots and then literally eat into the skin, causing ill health. Check their fur all over daily, especially under the tail and keep their homes very very clean – clean it every day and change the bedding frequently. If you see sore patches or maggots in your pet’s skin, you must take it immediately to the vet – the condition can become very serious.

Look out with all guinea pigs for bald patches on the face – this can indicate ringworm (actually a fungal rather than helminth – worm – disease). Again, they need a trip to the vets immediately. Check also for overgrown claws and teeth, which a vet can safely deal with for you. For dental health, make sure they have something wooden  to gnaw on – their teeth constantly grow, and gnawing helps keep them in check – make sure the wood  is ’untreated’  (no chemicals used).

Hamsters

Yes, you can brush me - gently - I said gently, c'mon, I'm tiny, man

Dude, I'm tiny, so brush me very gently 🙂 

Need to be gently brushed very day. If your hamster is not used to being handled, encourage them by giving them tasty hamster treats for a while, then gently picking them up – NEVER by the tail, support them gently. Hold your hamster for just a few moments at first, and then he or she will become more used to you and allow you to pick him up for longer. You will need a special hamster brush – your vet can recommend, as this will vary by breed as to what type of brush is needed. Look out for skin sores – bathe sores in warm water with a mild, hamster-safe antiseptic. Ongoing sores need a vet to examine them. If you notice multiple sores, or bald patches, take your hamster to the vet – it could have parasites or ringworm (this is a fungal, rather than ‘true’ worm disease). Check for sore eyes – this could be due to dust in bedding, simply aging or sometimes breathing problems – again, this needs a vet to examine the hamster. Check for overgrown claws and teeth, which the vet can trim – their teeth constantly grow Provide them with wood to gnaw on – it must not have been treated with any chemicals, as this could be harmful.  Be aware that your hamster’s cheek ‘pouches’ where it stores it food can easily be hurt by rough splinters or sharp-edged food. If anything becomes embedded in the pouches, take the hamster to the vet immediately.

Gerbils

Hey! Mind my tail!

Hey! Mind my tail!

These aren’t generally brushed but when you’re handling or observing them, do look out for sore noses and eyes. This can be caused by chewing wire or dust in their home. Also check for overgrown teeth – they grow constantly, and you can prevent overgrowth by providing wood to gnaw on. It must be untreated, as chemicals used for wood could be dangerous to your gerbil.  Your vet can also check for and trim overgrown teeth if necessary.  Be especially careful when handling the gerbil, as the thin end of their tails is delicate and easily injured.

IMPORTANT: This article is written for general educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional vetinary advice on any animals’ health or living needs – if you have any concerns about these, please consult a qualified vet. Thank you.

Posted byNorma De Bloom – former guinea pig, mice and gerbil -mom!

Useful Resources

ASPCA [online] Gerbil Care

http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/small-pet-care/gerbil-care.html

ASPCA [online] Guinea Pig Care

http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/small-pet-care/guinea-pig-care.html

ASPCA [online] Hamster Care

http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/small-pet-care/hamster-care.html

ASPCA [online] General Rabbit Care

http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/small-pet-care/general-rabbit-care.html

RSPCA [online] Handle with Care – Hamsters

http://www.rspca.org.uk/servlet/Satellite?blobcol=urlblob&blobheader=application%2Fpdf&blobkey=id&blobtable=RSPCABlob&blobwhere=1099596633295&ssbinary=true&Content-Type=application/pdf

RSPCA [online] Handle With Care – Rabbits

http://www.rspca.org.uk/servlet/Satellite?blobcol=urlblob&blobheader=application%2Fpdf&blobkey=id&blobtable=RSPCABlob&blobwhere=1099596629449&ssbinary=true&Content-Type=application/pdf

RSPCA [online] Pet Care- Gerbils

http://www.rspca.org.uk/servlet/Satellite?pagename=RSPCA/RSPCARedirect&pg=SmallAnimalsCare&marker=1&articleId=1154077755727

RSPCA [online] Pet Care- Guinea Pigs

http://www.rspca.org.uk/servlet/Satellite?pagename=RSPCA/RSPCARedirect&pg=SmallAnimalsCare&marker=1&articleId=1154077755508

RSPCA [online] Pet Care- Hamsters

http://www.rspca.org.uk/servlet/Satellite?pagename=RSPCA/RSPCARedirect&pg=SmallAnimalsCare&marker=1&articleId=1154077755713

Photo Credits

Pretty Rabbit http://www.sxc.hu/profile/christa Guinea Pig http://www.sxc.hu/profile/Gabija Hamster http://www.sxc.hu/profile/red2000 Gerbil http://www.sxc.hu/profile/lockstockb

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430 Responses to “Rabbit & Small Animal Grooming”

  1. 1
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  30. 30
    Rabbit Says:

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    If you’ve got a rabbit, guinea pig, hamster or gerbil, there’s a few easy care tips you need to know to prevent easily avoidable diseases. Find out how in this easy to read article, with top tips on pet grooming, links to expert care sheets and more….

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