Skin and coat care of small mammals
Over the past few decades, exotic pets have appeared alongside the traditional cats and dogs in our home, and there are now specialist clinics to care for their health problems.
Falling under the generic term of exotic pets are aquarium fishes as well as caged or aviary birds, reptiles, amphibians, but also small mammals: rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, chinchillas, rats, mice, gerbils, ferrets, squirrels…
The hygiene of small mammals and their skin problems
Bad odors and greasy coat
Some small mammals have numerous sebaceous glands all over their bodies which produce more or less sebum according to the season (e.g. increases during the breeding). This results in a rather strong odor sometimes needing to be reduced; this is the case with ferrets (a very strong musky smell), but also with rabbits.
Furthermore, when these glands produce a lot of sebum (a phenomenon stimulated by obesity or dietary imbalances…), it results in a greasy coat. The glands can also clog up easily and become the base for inflammation. Additionally, if hygiene is inadequate, a bacterial infection can occur leading to irritation, skin eruptions and hair loss. These events are frequent in guinea pigs, rats, mice and hamsters (on the flanks).
To reduce an unpleasant smell and to avoid excess sebum, while strengthening the skin’s defenses, there are sebo-regulative cleansers (used with or without rinsing), as well as spot-on products to be applied weekly if necessary.
Poor upkeep of cages or unsuitable flooring can cause a foot condition, known as pododermatitis, in certain small mammals (rabbit, guinea pig). Effective treatment will, first and foremost, require complete regular upkeep of the cage and the selection of a less irritating flooring. Furthermore, careful cleansing of the interdigital spaces (e.g. with purifying wipes) and the application of a protective, restorative ointment will help to combat this condition.
Certain small mammals (guinea pigs, rats, mice…) are also very susceptible to dietary deficiencies (in Omega 3 and 6, for example) or to allergy-related disorders (food and environmental allergens). This can have repercussions for the skin and coat: dry skin, hair loss, dandruff. In both cases, appropriate diet, provision of specific food supplements and product care to be applied directly on the skin (spot-on, sprays…) will help strengthen the skin’s defenses.
Dr. Isabelle Mennecier, veterinarian