Basic First Aid
There are many circumstances for which you should be prepared to provide first aid for your small animals. Sometimes a condition is something completely treatable at home, other times providing first aid is only temporary assistance while you get your pet to the vet. This is by no means an all inclusive guide, just a simple starting point. We highly recommend seeking proper vetrinary care for anything except -very- minor injuries.

When You Don't Need A Vet
You may not need a vet for very minor injuries, such as minor cuts and bites, common parasites or other minor maladies.

When You Do Need A Vet
For just about anything else. Small animals don't have alot of blood to lose so severe injuries must be seen by a vet immediately. Parasite infestations can likewise make your pet anemic and need veterinary attention. Rasping or wheezing sounds in the chest during breathing are signs of respitory distress, again, go to the vet.

What You Need

  • Sterile Saline Solution
  • A Small Clean Towel
  • A Large Clean Towel
  • Mild Antiseptic (3 percent hydrogen peroxide) or Holistic Antiseptic
  • Q-Tips
  • Triple Antibiotic Ointment
  • Several 10cc syringes with no needles
  • Sterile Gauze
  • Tweezers
  • A Heating Pad
  • An Isolation Cage
  • A Travel Cage

Treatment of Minor Cuts and Bites
First you must be prepared for your pet to be frightened and very likely to snap at you. Even the most tame animal may bite when injured and scared. It is best to restrain your pet gently with the small, clean towel for treatment. Use the syringes (with no needles on them!) to first flush the wound with sterile saline solution. Pat dry with a piece of gauze, and disinfect with the antiseptic solution. Again, pat dry, and lightly apply the antibiotic ointment. At this point, it is best to keep the injured animal in the isolation cage. Your isolation cage should be fairly basic to encourage more nap time then play time until your pet is back in good condition. Absolutely moniter your pet's intake of food and water after any injury, as a change in their dietary habits can be cause to see a vet.

The most important thing to assess after a cut or a bite is the cause of the injury. If your animal is a social species and is living with another animal who bit them, you may want to assess if the animals are still getting along. Particularly in the early stages of bonding, there may be a bite or a scrape as animals settle dominance issues, but these arguements should be closely monitered to make sure that no dangerous wounds are inflicted.

If your animal had a cut, you will need to determine what they cut themselves on. This could be a loose wire in the cage, a sharp edge of plastic, a toy, or it could be their own nails if they are scratching. A nail trim may be in order, and you should watch your pet for excessive scratching that might indicate topical parasites.

Treatment of Parasites
The two main parasites you are likely to deal with (if ever) are lice and mites. Signs of your pet being infected by parasites can be itching, scratches on it's skin, red bumps and a patchy coat. In this case, prevention is the best cure. If you bring a new animal into your home it is always good to have it vet checked and quarantined in a seperate part of the house. Make sure you wash your hands and do not handle your pets against the same clothing to avoid the spread of potential parasites. Lice are species specific, so you won't have to worry about your hamster transmitting lice to your rats. Mites are not species specific and can be transmitted to all of your animals.

Mites are said to only live for one hour off of their host, so it is important not to handle other animals after interacting with a pet with mites for the first hour, or to change your clothing and wash your hands.

Diagnosis and treatment should be found with a vet, though some small animal owners have had varied degrees of success treating the parasites at home.

The treatment for topical parasites varies greatly from species to species. If you would like to know about possible home remedies, you can E-Mail Us or contact your Veterinarian.

Depression in Eating
If your pet becomes depressed in it's diet following an injury it is important to keep them eating and drinking fluids. If your pet is a carnivore (rats, hamsters and mice) you can try offering them more enticing foods, such as yogurt, baby food, cooked chicken, eggs or cooked pasta. If your pet is an herbivore (chinchillas, guinea pigs, rabbits) you must take your animal to the vet, as their intestinal systems can shut down without a constant supply of food. Talk to your Vet about possibly supplementing your pet's intake with Oxbow's Critical Care.

Major Bleeding
Major bleeding requires an emergency vet right away, rush your pet there as SOON as you find your pet injured. It takes no time at all for a small animal to bleed to death. You can provide temporary first aid by applying pressure to the wound with either gauze or a towel. Sometimes it is best to wrap your pet in a towel before placing it inside the travel carrier to try and keep it quiet and from struggling too much. Make all haste to a vet, NEVER try to treat a major wound yourself.

Hair Loss
Hair loss can occur in your pets for a variety of reasons, and some of them may or may not be a reason to go to the vet. If you have recently switched your pet onto a different type of food, or are feeding many 'hot' foods like corn and alfalfa, your pet may have some thinning of their coat. Poor nutrition can also contribute to hair loss, as can topical parasites.

If you suspect your pet may be having hair loss problems due to a food or other environmental allergy, you should immediately clean and disinfect the cage. Remove everything from the cage that is not plastic or metal. Use plain white paper towels for bedding to determine if there might be an allergy to the type of bedding you are using, and switch your animal onto a more basic diet to make sure they are not having a reaction to something that you may have recently introduced to their diet.

Other types of hair loss are not a medical issue. As many hamsters get older, they will lose hair over their hips. Even young hamsters may have spots of hair loss by their hips where their scent glands are located. Guinea Pigs naturally have bald patches behind both ears. All animals may develop behavioral problems that can lead to hair loss, either one animal 'barbering' the other by chewing their fur, or chewing or pulling their own fur.

If you believe your animal is experiencing hair loss due to a behavior problem, we recommend that you check your animal's habitat to make sure they are receiving enough mental enrichment, or introduce a companion if your pet is of a social species.

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