Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Veterinary fact of the day: feeding guinea pigs

We are having some of the final lectures for our zoo medicine course, and today’s was about pet rodents — guinea pigs, rats, chinchillas, mice, and gerbils. Coincidentally, we also covered many of the same animals in our lecture on laboratory animals, earlier in the day. Both lecturers emphasized the fact that guinea pigs require vitamin C supplementation. Unlike most other species, they can’t make it themselves, and if you don’t provide it in their diet, they will get scurvy. Some owners, we were told, are so dedicated in their C supplementation that they actually provide too much, which can also be problematic.

A lot of our zoo medicine course has covered good feeding and management practices. It seems like a large part of practicing on exotic pets (a term which includes things you might not think of as exotic, like rats and rabbits) includes making sure that people are managing their pets right. Basic husbandry is something that is rarely covered in our small animal medicine course, which is about cats and dogs. We assume that people know how to feed them and what temperatures to maintain them at. I think the really good small animal veterinarians, though, are asking their clients about all kinds of management issues and offering advice, not just waiting for a problem to crop up. Maybe vet school should prepare us more for that.

What I’m up to: I am sliding in to the last few weeks of the semester, and don’t have a lot of extra emotional energy for blogging. I miss it and will certainly be writing more when final exams are over. Next week is my second and final spay lab. Wish me luck for getting a dog with a uterus this time!

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