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Critters USA: Breakthrough For Health

Amazing veterinary advances are prolonging the lives of small exotic mammals.

By Audrey Pavia

Fifty years ago, if your hamster or guinea pig fell ill, you couldn’t do much to help it. People thought you were crazy if you took your pet to a veterinarian. If you braved the risk of ridicule and brought your pet to the vet anyway, the doctor wouldn’t have a lot of knowledge or resources to treat the animal.

Times have changed for small mammals in a very good way. A large number of veterinary advances have occurred over the years that have considerably improved the lives of these animals — and the lives of those who love them.

“The last 30 years have revolutionized small mammal medicine as we know it,” said Joerg Mayer, a veterinarian and clinical assistant professor at the Department of Clinical Science Exotics at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. “While texts dealing with reptiles and fish were published prior to this, and lab animal literature on small mammals did exist prior to 1977, small animal medicine as it is practiced today is a fairly new discipline.”

A New Attitude
Probably the most significant advance in veterinary medicine as it relates to small mammals is a change in attitude toward these pocket pets. Although taking a small animal to the veterinarian used to be unheard of, it is now common practice.

“Over the last few decades, people have started to really want good veterinary care for their small mammals,” said Jeffrey R. Jenkins, DVM, of the Avian & Exotic Animal Hospital in San Diego. “At the same time, we now have vets who are willing to treat hamsters, guinea pigs and other small mammals with the same level of care you would expect if they were treating a dog or cat.”

Jenkins noted that 25 years ago, the average veterinarian didn’t work on small mammals and didn’t know anyone who did. Now, owners of small mammals can take their pets to any veterinarian and get a referral to a practice that specializes in exotics.

**For the full article, pick up the 2008 issue of Critters USA or click here to buy the issue.**


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