Hours of Operation
The Avian & Exotics department is available for consultation and treatment Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 6:00 pm, and Saturday 8:00 am – 12:00 pm. Drop-off appointments are also available for established patients. You are welcome to contact the Avian & Exotics office directly at 713-693-1133 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for further details or to schedule an appointment.
- Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
- Saturday 8:00 am – 12:00 pm
Adrenal Disease in Ferrets
Adrenal disease is a common disease in ferrets that is caused by tumors of the adrenal gland. These tumors cause an overproduction of the androgen hormones. Most ferrets begin showing signs of adrenal disease around 4 to 5 years of age, but it has been seen in much younger ferrets as well. The most common clinical signs include symmetrical hair loss and itchiness. Vulvar enlargement may be noted in some females. In males, enlargement of the prostate can result in straining to urinate which can lead to life-threatening urinary obstruction. In rare instances, pinpoint bruising may also be noted. Any or all of these signs may be present in this disease.
Currently there are two tests available for confirming adrenal disease in ferrets: an abdominal ultrasound and an adrenal androgen panel. An ultrasound examination can identify enlarged or abnormal adrenal glands and has the advantage of evaluating other organs for disease. The success of this exam however, will vary with the experience of the sonographers as ferret adrenal glands can be difficult to visualize. Our sonographers are highly skilled at ferret ultrasonography and are able to identify and measure the adrenal glands in almost all cases. An adrenal androgen panel checks for elevations of various sex hormones that can be produced by a diseased adrenal gland. Routine blood work is also recommended to screen for any other underlying diseases and as a presurgical work up.
Three treatment options are available: surgical removal, a long term hormone implant, and a monthly hormone injection. Surgical removal of the diseased adrenal gland is considered the treatment of choice. Hormone levels begin to decrease within hours of surgery and clinical signs usually resolve within 1-2 weeks (hair re-growth may take up to 2 months). Our board-certified surgeons conduct a full abdominal exploratory and evaluate both adrenals prior to removing either. If both adrenal glands are affected, removal of the larger gland and debulking(partial removal) of the smaller gland is recommended. The right adrenal gland is more difficult to remove because it may adhere to or invade the wall of the vena cava (the major vein which returns blood from the body to the heart). Rarely, after the diseased adrenal gland is removed, the remaining adrenal gland will become diseased after an apparent recovery. Palliative medical options are available, especially for ferrets that are not good surgical candidates. There are two hormones that provide symptomatic control of the clinical signs, but do not treat the diseased adrenal gland(s). Clinical improvement is usually noted within a few weeks, although hair growth may take a little longer. Please feel free to contact us if you have any further questions about the health of your ferret.
Dental Disease in Rabbits, Guinea pigs, and Chinchillas
Rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas have specialized teeth to help them eat hay and leafy greens. Their incisors (the front teeth that you can see) are designed to cut plant material into bite-size pieces while the cheek teeth in the back are designed to crush and grind the food. All of these teeth are continuously growing and are worn down during normal chewing. Problems arise when the pattern of chewing is altered and causes malocclusion (improper alignment) of the teeth. Clinical signs When the teeth are not aligned appropriately, they may become elongated, wear down unevenly, and/or develop dental points. These pointscan cause painful abrasions and ulcers to the tongue and cheek. Early signs and symptoms include a decrease in appetite, taking a longer time to eat, excessive drooling, discharge from the eyes, and a reduction in fecal pellet size and production. If left untreated, clinical signs can progress to significant weight loss, loss of fur around the chin and forearms, and swellings around the face due to tooth root elongation or tooth root abscesses.
At Home Care
The best way to prevent the development of malocclusion is to provide your pet with a proper diet! Providing plenty of roughage in their diet in the form of hay and leafy greens promotes proper tooth wear and health. You can also tell if they are eating enough foodby monitoring their fecal production. Fecal pellets will get smaller and drier if they are not eating enough. If you see a reduction in their appetite or fecal production, you will want to bring your pet in to have their teeth evaluated. Feel free to contact us if you have any further questions about the health of your furry family member!
Incisor malocclusion and overgrowth are the most easily recognized abnormalities, but they are often accompanied by abnormalities of the cheek teeth. Visualization of the cheek teeth requires special tools to look at the back of the mouth and sometimes may require sedation. Moreover, some abnormalities occur in the roots of the teeth under the gum line, requiring dental radiographs (x-rays) for proper evaluation. Other advanced diagnostic tools used to visualize the teeth include CT scan and endoscopy of the oral cavity.
Treatment and prevention
Crown reduction (aka tooth trimming or filing) is required to correct malocclusion and establish normal occlusion, eliminate dental pain, and restore the patient’s ability to eat. Reduction of the crown is performed with various dental tools and oftentimes requires full anesthesia to minimize stress and movement during the procedure. Depending on the severity of the dental disease, sometimes crown reduction may need to be repeated to help maintain the best occlusion possible for that patient. In some severe cases, extraction of either the incisors or molars may be necessary to treat recurring issues and to improve the quality of life for these animals. Pain medication is always recommended before, during, and after the procedure to minimize discomfort. Patients may also have difficulty eating for a few days afterwards and may need supplemental feeding with a highly digestible diet that can be syringed fed until they are eating on their own.
Heavy Metal Toxicity in Birds
Heavy metal toxicosis is well documented in medical literature and is commonly reported in birds. Parrots are curious by nature and often investigate their surroundings with their mouth which may lead to the inadvertent ingestion of either lead or zinc.
Common household sources of lead include costume jewelry, paint, drapery weights, linoleum, batteries, stained glass, mirrors, galvanized wire, and improperly glazed bowls. Recent recalls for imported toys contaminated with lead are reminders that we need to be careful on what types of toys are offered. Lead poisoning most commonly affects the gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, and the nervous system. Clinical signs are often associated with dysfunction of one or more of these organs and can range from generalized lethargy, anorexia, and regurgitation to severe neurologic signs such as incoordination, circling, and seizures. Blood in the urine may sometime also be noted.
Sources of zinc include galvanized hardware (wire, nuts, and bolts), zipper pulls, and US pennies minted after 1983. Though the mechanism of toxicity has not been determined, elevated levels of zinc can affect the liver and red blood cells. Clinical signs include weakness, excessive urination, excessive water consumption, diarrhea, weight loss, anemia, and in extreme cases – seizures and death.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Blood levels of lead and zinc are measured to check for elevations in these heavy metals. Metal densities in the stomach or intestines can sometimes be seen (dotted circle) on radiographs (x-rays).If your bird has elevations of either lead or zinc in their blood, chelation therapy to is recommended. Oral and injectable treatment options are available. Hospitalization for supportive care may be required for those birds that are especially ill and are not eating or drinking.
Insulinomas in Ferrets
Insulinomas are tumors of the pancreas that are commonly seen in ferrets. These tumors overproduce insulin which causes a drop in the ferret’s blood glucose (hypoglycemia). Clinical signs typically include lethargy, weakness, nausea, excessive drooling, and difficulty waking up. They may also have trouble walking characterized by weakness in the back legs. In severe cases,a patient may be comatose or have seizures. These tumors often develop around 4 to 6 years of age, although this disease can occur in younger ferrets. These tumors often spread to other parts of the pancreas and the clinical signs often progress if left untreated.
If your ferret is exhibiting signs of weakness or lethargy, it is important to have their blood glucose levels checked for hypoglycemia. A blood glucose less than 70 mg/dL supports the diagnosis of an insulinoma, although other causes of hypoglycemia, such as sepsis, should also be considered. Routine bloodwork is recommended to screen for any other underlying diseases and as a pre-surgical work up.
Two treatment options for insulinomas in ferrets are available. Surgical removal of the insulinomas is the treatment of choice. Our board-certified surgeons conduct a full abdominal exploratory and evaluate the entire pancreas to remove all visible and palpable nodules. In some cases however, the tumors may be microscopic. Prognosis with surgical excision is good for the resolution or improvement of the clinical signs. However, new tumors can develop over time and clinical signs can re-occur. The period of reoccurrence varies greatly between individuals. Palliative medical options are available for managing the clinical signs of hypoglycemia in ferrets. The goal of medical therapy is to increase the blood glucose levels to where the clinical signs are controlled so that the ferrets have an improved quality of life. Over the first several weeks of starting oral medications, we will need to recheck your ferret’s blood glucose levels every 5 to 7 days to adjust the dose of medication to an appropriate level. Once the proper dose has been determined, we will need to recheck the blood glucose periodically to assess if dosing adjustments are needed. It is important to note that these medications help manage the clinical signs, but that they do not treat the insulinomas and the tumors remain in the body.
At Home Care
It is important that you have food available and easily accessible for your ferret at all times. This will help them from having a hypoglycemic crisis. We also recommend that you switch your ferret to a good quality high-protein, low carbohydrate diet if they are not already on a good diet. When switching diets, make sure that your ferret accepts the new diet. Discontinue all sugary treats such as raisins or supplements that contain corn syrup since this can trigger overproduction of insulin from the tumors. Please feel free to contact us if you have any further questions about the health of your ferret.