For those of you not in our area (NC), let me inform you that we’ve been having record setting temperatures here for the past month or so. The heat index is routinely reaching 105°F, and warnings are all over television asking people to stay out of the heat. Unfortunately, while the people readily comply with this, they often forget about their companions, especially rabbits and guinea pigs.
These species suffer greatly in the hot weather, being naturally equipped for dealing with cold temperatures much more readily than heat. Each year, we get numerous calls from people asking for medical advice for their ailing guinea pigs and rabbits who have been kept outside in “hutches”, and invariably our recommendations to bring the animals in are rejected because “wild rabbits are fine” or “he’s been fine for all these years”. People unfortunately believe that the wildlife is not suffering from the heat simply because there are no wild rabbits dying in their direct line of vision, and that an animal’s ability to survive despite lack of adequate care means that they are ‘fine’.
At a recent adoption event we conducted, a woman stopped by with her daughter and inquired about adopting a rabbit as a companion for her elderly bunny. She then hesitated for a moment, and asked if we had any advice about keeping her bunny cool in the summer, as he had started having problems with the heat. We recommended making sure he had frozen water bottles and tiles to sleep on and making sure that his cage was in a part of the house receiving good air circulation from the air conditioning. She admitted that he was an outdoor rabbit. When we entreated her to bring in her elderly bunny who was suffering from the heat (by her own admission), she said that she could not, because she had read on the internet that they would get “used” to the air conditioning, and then could not be put back outside. Besides, she assured us, he was doing fine as he was a very tough bunny. He had outlived two cagemates! Two thirds of her pets had died outside from preventable problems, yet she refused to bring in her poor elderly rabbit so that he could at least enjoy the twilight of his life in comfort.
We have also had people inform us that they did not need to bring in their animals until there was a problem, and that they would happily seek vet care if something did happen, and then they would move their pet inside. Vet care is not a guarantee of survival. Friend of ACR&S Cindy wrote us with a sad story about a pig named Copper that she rescued from an outdoor home:
Received a call from my vet’s office saying that someone had left their pig out in 100-degree weather and had brought him in with severe heat stroke. When my vet told the owner he had to keep his pig inside, the owner told the receptionists he couldn’t do it and needed to find a new home. So they called me. Before I knew the situation, I told them I was in contact with a rescue, but when I learned that the guinea pig was once at a day care and then ended up with a family who left him outside, I couldn’t say no. I adopted him Saturday after he’d been at the vet’s overnight for observation, receiving fluids, etc., and after the owner came and signed him over to the vet.
It is with extreme sadness that I report that Copper didn’t make it. I’ve lost track of how many weeks of 90 and 100-degree weather (and heat indexes) we’ve had, but Copper’s former owner left him out the whole time <sniff>. I think that probably Copper’s systems were beginning to shut down little by little until he finally was flat out, and the man (I use the term loosely) finally got him to the vet. Copper perked up quickly with fluid therapy and with being in the incubator, and we were so excited to adopt him. However, during the weekend, he didn’t want to eat, so my husband and I began hydrating him with a slurry of pellets and water and also with homemade Pedialyte (with no-sugar-added cranberry juice substituted for sugar). He began to perk up, and on Monday, when I was going to take him back to the vet for a checkup, he ate breakfast on his own and was doing so well I thought he was out of the woods. Monday afternoon he was eating carrot pieces and grabbing the slurry syringe. Then Tuesday morning he had totally gone downhill. I rushed him to the vet’s, but we sadly had to help him to the Bridge yesterday afternoon.
I am at a loss to understand how Copper could have been left outside.
We had so hoped he would have some happy years with us. I do think he had some good, though brief, times — he liked sitting on my husband’s stomach and in the crook of my elbow. A friend who met him Monday night thought he was sweet, alert, and very handsome.
Please make sure your guinea pigs, rabbits, rats, chinchillas, and other small animals remain inside, especially for the summer. Additionally, be aware of your animal’s changing needs as they age. An older animal cannot tolerate the same temperature extremes as a healthy animal in the prime of life. The same goes for very young animals. Often our most heartbreaking calls are from otherwise excellent owners who took their beloved pet outside to play, not realizing that event 15-20 minutes of this extreme heat can cause heat stroke/exhaustion.
If your house is older and prone to hot spots, even with air conditioning, make sure your animals are well ventilated. Use fans to help circulate air (make sure you don’t point them directly at the cages), provide frozen water bottles or tiles that have been placed in the freezer so your animals can cool off, and if you suspect a problem, seek vet care immediately!
Spring is the season of romance, and it’s been no different this year for ACR&S! Though we have been unusually lucky in the past and received few animals in mixed sex groups, this year has been a veritable lotto of wayward teenaged rodents with accidental pregnancies.
We first took in a group of four baby guinea pigs who were in a mixed sexed group. We believed the guinea pigs (Noelle, Ivy, Gloria, and Kris) to be young enough that pregnancy wouldn’t be an issue. However, nature does find a way, and on Friday, February 26th, Noelle delivered three baby guinea pigs to much fanfare in the house (but not much fuss on her part).
Roughly 2 months after the Charmeck group came in, we took in 6 more guinea pigs from a private party who was keeping them in mixed sex pairs. Ruth arrived already huge and barely able to waddle. In early February, she proudly produced three babies of her own:
(These are the culprits at exactly 3 weeks of age, having just been weaned).
Around a week after Ruth’s birth, ACR&S accepted a group of “all female” rats. 2 were adult males, and we split them up so that we could do emergency spays since none appeared to be visibly pregnant. Visibly being the key word, because less than 12 hours before her spay appointment, Onyx produced a robust litter of 13 babies:
This is their 2 week picture, and they’ve just recently opened their eyes!
And then finally, Ms. Wanda the guinea pig gave birth to her litter on March 12, 2010 (a thankfully small group of two!)
A big welcome to Petey and Fudgems! The two boys were surrendered to ACR&S by loving parents who were having problems with a chronically ill child. The boys were kept in spacious C&C cages with a superb diet. The two boys, however, do not get along well, so they’re available for adoption to be friends with other pigs more suited to their personalities.
Welcome to Drustan and Callum, our newest adoptables. The two boys were privately surrendered to ACR&S when their owner became unable to care for them due chronic health problems coupled with an upcoming surgery. The two boys are fairly skittish, but sweet, and have quickly learned about the joys of veggies!
Gabriella, a big chocolate abyssinian sow that we rescued from the local shelter a few scant weeks ago, already obviously pregnant, has graced us with five babies! She was dumped off by her previous owner with a litter already suckling! The shelter has a strict policy of not adopting out pregnant animals, so they called us. Gabby’s first litter had already been adopted by the time we got there for Gabby, so we took her and said a little prayer — back to back pregnancies are tough on piggies! Poor Gabby was so huge she couldn’t even go through the pigloo door. As each day passed, she got bigger and bigger and we began taking bets that she might actually physically explode!
Finally, on May 28, 2009, she gave birth to a total of seven babies, although two were stillborn. That left us with a prodigious litter of five, four little girls, and one little boy. Without further adieu, bring on the cute!
Andrea, their foster mom, writes of them with particular fondness, and loves telling us all about their differences! Nina, the firstborn, she says, is the first to do everything! “She was the first one to eat pellets, the first one to use the pigloo, and the first one to try to use the water bottle (which ended up with her soaking herself while looking aggravated!)”.
Ah, but Bia was the first one to learn the ancient piggie art of sleeping on food so nobody else can eat it!
ACR&S has just had another wonderful opportunity to assist vet students in learning more about exotic animal medicine. The UW-Madison Vet School’s Wildlife, Exotic, and Zoo Animal Medicine Club (WEZAM) invited us to do another small animal handling lab this past Saturday.
WEZAM is a student-run organization which provides students interested in these topics with opportunities for hands-on experience with non-traditional animal species which they cannot get from their regular classwork. We brought 10 guinea pigs and 10 rabbits to the lab, which was attended by around 20 students, and the students had an extensive examination and handling session.
The guest lecturer at this lab was Dr Paul Gibbons, who is a board certified avian veterinarian at the Animal Emergency Center in Milwaukee. Dr Gibbons also has a strong interest in exotics medicine and has treated a number of our piggies and bunnies. His lectures covered the basics of handling, sexing, and physical exams in guinea pigs and rabbits, and also provided some excellent take-home information on diet and husbandry, and then he guided the students during the handling and examinations.
It’s a real privilege to be invited to be a part of such a great learning experience for these young vets. The students learn so much more from seeing animals of different ages and types, with different health conditions, than they would from practicing on identical young, healthy lab animals. It’s also great to see them learning the ideal standards of husbandry and care from an expert, so that they’ll be able to teach their future clients the best practices for care.
Thanks again to WEZAM and Dr Gibbons for this excellent opportunity, as well as the very kind donation, and we look forward to participating in the 2010 Student American Veterinary Medical Association meeting as well!
ACR&S is happy to welcome Willie to our adoption program! Willie is a handsome male chihuahua who was abandoned at a local shelter. Like many small, older dogs, he had not been socialized well, and going from his comfortable, familiar home to the shelter environment full of strange people, animals, and noises was just too much for him. Once there, he became defensive and shy, clinging to a single person as his refuge.
The decision was made to bring him into our program with his foster, in order to slowly socialize him to other people and animals. The behavior he exhibited was not unusual by any stretch. The shelter is a scary environment, and small “purse sized” dogs are often not given the training needed to survive in such an environment. In the past, we have pulled these dogs and socialized them with great success and they have become loving, productive family members once they were given the tools to cope with the big scary world.
So a big welcome to Willie, who is getting on his feet again. It’s never too late for a second chance.
This week in ACR&S has not gone well in terms of intakes.
Charlotte Coordinator Andrea has been searching for the perfect friend for one of her own guinea pigs, Maddie, who is a lethal. Because of her special needs (she’s blind and deaf) she needs a piggie who is a little more laid back than your average pig.
She saw a woman giving away a long haired pig, and fell in love with the picture. She wanted to try this piggie with Maddie to see if they could be friends, since we didn’t have any single girls in. She dutifully met this piggie owner, and picked up her beautiful new friend.
One problem: her friend had testicles.
Luckily, Andrea is both a.) savvy enough to know to quadruple check the sex of any new animals, and b.) practicing a strict quarantine. Apparently, the woman had been trying to breed this pig (now known as Wesley) with predictably little success. And yet she never though to simply look at the pig to try and sex it!
Wesley will be neutered, and then he can be Maddie’s friend.
I also got bitten by Craiglist this week. Part of my sanctuary is a rat named Phedre who was meant to be snake food. I took in a friend for her, named Cecilie, who is hearty and hale because rats are extremely social animals, much like guinea pigs and rabbits.
However, lately Phedre has been slowing down and has become more and more sedentary. She likes to spend her days dozing and hoarding food, and I wanted Cecilie to have a younger, more energetic friend to wrestle and romp with.
I succeeded in finding one young female via Craigslist, that was living in a predictably tiny cage, on pine, and eating some typical junk food from the pet store, but was in otherwise good health. And after I had taken her in and made up my mind that I had found my rat, another of my inquiries — ignored for nearly 2 weeks, responded.
They emailed my response that their rat was still available, and that she was very sweet, and that her cage was pink but if I wanted, they would throw in a can of white spray paint. Imagining this rat dying from the paint fumes with an untutored owner, I haplessly agreed to take her also.
I was expecting a lack of basic knowledge for this poor rat, but I was horrified when I picked her up. The cage she was in was made for hamsters, and not rated big enough for a single rat to live in. It had been spray painted fluorescent pink already. It was dingy and dank, and this poor rat had only a single, dirty washcloth to snuggle with, and one tiny box as a toy.
Upon physical examination, two health serious problems were revealed. First, she had lung scarring problems like Phedre. When she was active, she wheezed and huffed like she’d run a marathon. And her poor feet were ulcerated from bumblefoot, most likely from the filthy wire floors on the cage. When I removed her nasty washcloth, it was covered in patches of dried blood — most presumably from her poor swollen feet bleeding onto it. Sadly, she even had to be taught to take treats from human hands.
She has been christened Ysandre, and started on the same medications that Phedre is on to help with her breathing, and we’re starting treatment on her poor hurt feet. She will stay with us forever so that she can continue her lung treatments.
“The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity”
- George Bernard Shaw
Welcome back to some old friends, Bob and Bess.
Bess is a sweet natured brown “helicopter” lop (meaning one ear stands up and one ear falls over). She loves treats, and can be quiet a snugglebunny if she decides you’re worth of her time. Bob is her husband, and is a little more aloof than she, but it’s evident from meeting them at the get go that they are truly a bonded pair. They are estimated to be between 7-8 years of age.
Bob and Bess ended up with us at ACR&S due to our return policy. We have a lifetime guarantee that any adopted animal can – and must – come back to us, no matter what, if the adopter cannot keep him. We will always make room for returns. We had adopted Bob out to be Bess’ husband several years ago, but Bess’ mom was moving cross-country and didn’t feel like she could relocate with both bunnies. Because our policy is not to split bonded pairs, Bess came along with Bob back to us.
My previous fosters, Wendy and BB, went to foster with Andrea in Charlotte once it became clear that Bob and Bess had some senior issues which may be difficult for a first time foster parent to deal with.
First and foremost, because both were overweight, jumping onto the second story of the cage proved to be a little much for both buns. After a failed attempt by Bess (which resulted in much thumping and probably cursing under her breath), the several story cage was reconstructed into a 1 story cage with more floorspace. Both rabbits, however, had an enjoyment of jumping onto things, so a series of short stools were added for their pleasure.
In addition, due to their weight and age, they were having severe issues grooming. Because of this, they are going to require frequent shaving around their tails, and until that can be accomplished, frequent bathing. Currently, both buns are having a lot of issue, so there are a minimum of 4 “butt-baths” per week, often more depending on how messy the rabbits have been in the interim. In addition, both of their rear ends look like a dandelion about to explode, and dedicated brushing and plucking of hair has been required so far. Neither of the rabbits particularly likes being bathed or brushed, though they tolerate it with moderately good graces.
The final obstacle in dealing with these mature rabbits is that their former owner allowed them to eat alfalfa-based pellets. Alfalfa is suitable for young rabbits and pregnant or nursing does, but is not desirable for adults, and especially not for seniors. Unfortunately, alfalfa is also a lot more tasty than timothy based alternatives, and they are not very gung-ho on switching out their candy pellets for healthy pellets. Each handful of alfalfa pellets is mixed in with a copious amount of the timothy pellets, but this leads only to the buns picking out each alfalfa pellet individually.
Overall, though, these rabbits are probably suitable for an intermediate owner. Their health needs are basic and easily taken care of at home (and they tolerate them well) and have an excellent chance of improving once they slim down on a more appropriate diet. They are also a well bonded pair who can keep each other entertained and socialized, and are outgoing, curious, litterbox trained, and used to living in a house with cats.
A hearty welcome to ACR&S newest resident, Pantalaimon the chinchilla!
Pan was found by a kind police officer wandering around outside by himself. The fact that he’s still alive is a miracle in and of itself. Chinchillas, with their especially thick, dense fur, are super-prone to heatstroke and dehydration, and our average daily temperature here in North Carolina is easily in the high nineties.
The police officer turned him into the local animal control where his extremely amusing and grumpy intake picture quickly won our hearts. We made arrangements for him and then brought him into ACR&S to deal with some of his more specialized dietary needs (which most shelters are ill prepared for) and to work on socializing him.
So far, he’s proven to be a friendly, if hyper, little fellow, who has quickly learned that people bring treats and is happy to ride around on your shoulder.
Sadly, this year has been a boom year for animals being abandoned outside. Never abandon a domestic species outside under any circumstances! For the most part, that leads only to their early demise, and often in a painful way. Turn them into the local shelter. Even if they euthanize them, they are not going to be starving, overheated, and attacked by predators.
Pan has been a learning experience for everyone with ACR&S, as he is our first chinchilla. With a lot of research, we prepared carefully to bring him to our home, and so far he seems to be having a blast. His spacious cage is a source of enjoyment for him, and he often spends hours simply hopping from shelf to shelf, checking out the lay of the land.
He has also quickly learned how to use his flying saucer wheel, although he admittedly is embarrassed for us to watch him and will scamper off to hide in his favorite wooden house. He seemed grateful when we provided him with a dustbath to clean off his greasy fur (although we did quickly learn that a dusty chinchilla will add dust to all of your personal belongings in a very short amount of time.)
Pan is looking for a home that will love and cherish him for the rest of his days. He’s guesstimated to be middle aged (between 5-7 years old), but chinchillas can live to be 20 or older! He has plenty of time remaining to spend with his preferred person.
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