Exotics 

Dublin Animal Hospital is one of Southern Colorado’s most experienced and knowledgeable exotic veterinary hospitals. Dublin has been treating exotic animals since it opened in 1993.

When combined, our doctors have decades of experience treating exotics pets, such as:

-Small mammals and Pocket Pets, like mice, rats, hamsters, gerbils, ferrets, guinea pigs, rabbits, sugar gliders, chinchillas, and hedgehogs.

-Domesticated birds, like chickens, ducks, geese, hawks, Cockatiels, African Greys, Macaws, Budgies, Parakeets, Canaries, Finches, Parrots, and Cockatoos.

-Reptiles, including all domesticated turtles, tortoises, snakes, and lizards.

For exotic pets and birds, we offer diagnostic blood tests, fecal testing, x-rays, medications, nail/ wing/ break trims, emergency surgery, and spays/neuters for some species. We also have a specialized holding room for exotic pets, which is equipped with heat lamps, UV lamps, brooder tanks, and small kennels. We can also supply food for exotics when they are hospitalized.   

Birds

While Dublin is not considered an “Avian Specialist Hospital,” our doctors have years of experience handling, caring for, and treating most species of domesticated birds. Dublin is proud to be a member of the Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV).

For avian patients, we offer:

-Routine care, such as wellness exams, beak trims, nail trims, and wing trims.

-Services for ill birds, such as diagnostic blood work, x-ray, anesthetized surgery, fecal tests, and medications.

Spay & Neuter Procedures of Exotics

Rabbits

Rabbits should be spayed around 6 months of age. If you wait and spay a rabbit when she is several years old, you run the risk of her developing cancer later in life. Spayed, well-cared for house rabbits usually live 10 to 14 years. Unspayed rabbits usually live 5 to 9 years. Rabbits tolerate anesthesia and the spay surgery very well, so it is strongly recommended that all female rabbits be spayed.

The obvious reason for spaying rabbits is to prevent them from reproducing but there are many other advantages including:

Spaying prevents a condition called “pseudopregnancy,” or false pregnancy, where hormonal changes make a rabbit act as if she is pregnant. Rabbits with this condition will build nests, have milk production and can become quite stressed and aggressive with other rabbits or people.

Neutering and spaying can also reduce aggression. As rabbits reach sexual maturity hormones tend to bring out aggressive and/or destructive behaviors. Rabbit that are spayed or neutered tend to be calmer, easier to handle, and more affectionate with their owners.

Spaying and neutering greatly reduces territorial marking behavior, such as urine marking, and can make litter box training easier.

In females, spaying eliminates the risk of uterine cancer, which is very common in rabbits. Female rabbits have an 80% or higher chance that they will develop uterine cancer if they are not spayed. The risk of ovarian cancer is also eliminated along with a reduction in the risk of mammary cancers (the animal equivalent of breast cancer).

Female rabbits can also develop an endometrial aneurism, causing them to bleed to death within a few days. This usually occurs in rabbits 2-4 years old.

Spaying also prevents other diseases of the reproductive tract such as infection of the uterus (pyometra).

-If you have an intact female rabbit and you see red blood in their urine, that may be an emergency – rabbits do not menstruate. If the urine is orange or rust colored, however, that is normal plant pigments.

Male Rabbits: It is recommended to neuter rabbits mainly for behavioral reasons. When they hit puberty, around 6 months of age, many male rabbits will start spraying urine and humping everything that moves. They also may not develop good litterbox habits. In addition, an intact male rabbit will fight with other rabbits, or just hump them constantly. If you have a single male rabbit, and he isn’t spraying or humping, he is using his litterbox, and you don’t plan on getting another rabbit, then he does not need to be neutered. But if he is driving you crazy, neutering helps a lot. Intact male rabbits can develop testicular cancer, usually later in life. Neutering them is curative, and relatively easy. The problem that may occur is if it is an older, sickly rabbit that is too frail to be neutered. This is one of many reasons why yearly wellness exams are recommended, so your veterinarian can find things early. In males, neutering also eliminates the risk of testicular cancer.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs rarely develop uterine cancer. Instead, they frequently develop ovarian cysts. Some of these are very benign, not causing any problems at all. Some of them can cause altered hormone production, leading to hair loss and sometimes abdominal discomfort. There is no effective medical treatment. Spaying guinea pigs is more challenging than spaying rabbits or other rodents, and they sometimes don’t tolerate anesthesia as well. In general, guinea pigs are not routinely spayed, and if they do develop ovarian cysts, but they aren’t causing the guinea pig any problems, we often do not spay them. If you see red bloody urine, it is more likely that your guinea pig has a bladder stone.

Intact males can often live with other intact males without fighting. But if you want to have a male with a female, and avoid them having babies, at least one of them needs to be sterilized.

It is usually preferred to neuter the male because it is an easier and less risky surgery to neuter a male than spay a female guinea pig. Guinea pigs have a higher chance of getting an infected surgery site after being neutered, so careful surgical technique, antibiotics, and keeping them extremely clean for the week after the surgery helps decrease the risk of infection.

Chinchillas

Reproductive diseases are uncommon in chinchillas, but occasionally they can have a life threatening uterine infection or cancer. Any unusually colored urine or vulvar discharge is cause for concern. Chinchillas are not routinely spayed.

Neutering a male chinchilla will make them less overbearing with both males and females, decrease mounting behavior, and prevent breeding, although it will not stop territorial conflict. Neutering a male chinchilla is usually performed between 1-4 years old. Sometimes a male chinchilla is neutered so that he can live with an unspayed female.

Rats

Female rats have a very high incidence of breast tumors, which usually start to develop after 1.5 years. They are often but not always benign. They will grow quickly, and can get as big as the rat. Treatment involves surgically removing the mass while it is still small. Because rats have breast tissue from their neck down to their genitals, they can develop multiple tumors during their lifetime. The best way to prevent tumors is to get your rat spayed when she is young, around 4 months old, to prevent the hormones from stimulating her breast tissue. Occasionally rats can develop uterine infection or cancer – bloody urine, vulvar discharge, lethargy, or weight loss would be signs to look for.

Male rats that are intact get along fine, as do intact male chinchillas, so there is rarely need to neuter these species. Neutering a male rat may reduce aggression, reduces urine marking, slightly increase lifespan, but does increase obesity. Male rats are usually neutered around .

 

Ferrets

Female ferrets that aren’t spayed can have so much estrogen produced that it affects their bone marrow and causes life-threatening anemia. But we don’t have to worry about it much, because most all pet ferrets are already spayed before they are sold (unless you get a ferret directly from a private breeder).

Male ferrets, generally, are already neutered when you get them from the petstore.

Sugar Gliders

Since Sugar Gliders are marsupials, females have a complicated reproductive anatomy. That is why female Sugar Gliders are rarely spayed. Neutering males will obviously prevent them from breeding, but also minimize unneutered male traits, such as a strong odor and marking their cages with oily scent glands. Oftentimes, neutering male sugar gliders will make all the gliders in the colony get along better.  The male sugar glider testicles form a low hanging “pom” and are easily removed with surgery, and they typically respond well to anesthesia. Intact males have been known to masturbate using their teeth, commonly called “flossing.” If they are hiding in their beds and you hear cleaning (spitting) noises, you might find them doing this, which is not to be confused with self-mutilation.

Information from Dr. Sari Kanfer, DVM, with the Exotic Animal Care Center, www.ratbehavior.org, and www.chincare.com.