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Small Rodents as Pets: Care for Dartmouth Pets in the Winter

While most people are concerned with winter care for larger domesticated pets like dogs and cats, it is also important to consider winter tips for small pets, such as Guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, mice and gerbils. Winter in the northeastern states can get pretty extreme, so it pays to be prepared for any eventuality, including power outages, frozen pipes, and other potentially dangerous situations. Heat sources, fresh water sources and a back-up of food supplies is just the beginning. This article will feature tips you can use to keep your small pets safe and warm during the winter months.

Small pets require veterinary care, just like cats and dogs. Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth is one of the few local clinics that specializes in pocket pets. Our team can assist with education and support for Guinea pig care and feeding, veterinary exams for hamsters and gerbils, as well as other treatments and preventive care for other small rodents as pets. It pays to have a good veterinarian that you trust to provide all of the necessary care and advice that you will require to provide a good home and healthy life for your pet.

Know the Danger Zone
Rodents are mammals who need to be kept in a temperature range that is healthy and safe. When the temperatures dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, small pets need to be kept in an area that has proper thermal control. This is especially true for elderly or very young pets, who are more susceptible to bacterial or viral infections in the cold weather. Hypothermia is a real risk for small rodents as pets, so precautions must be taken to keep them warm.

All pets should be kept indoors during the winter. Even outdoor cats or pets kept in hutches should be brought inside during the winter months. Small pets should not even be taken out to play or exercise in the cold for any length of time. The habitat that you have created for your pet should be in an area that is free from drafts and in a room where the temperature can be evenly controlled. Keep them away from drafty windows and doors that open to the outside.

Using a Heat Source
In a drafty home, you might want to keep your pet in a walk-in closet, bathroom or other small space that can be better controlled with a heater. Central heating is the ideal way to keep the space for your pet properly controlled so that it’s not too hot or doesn’t get too cold. However, if you do not have central heating, you can use a space heater. Just be sure to choose a model that has an automatic temperature control so it won’t get too hot or cold. There are also models that have safety shut off switches that engage if the heater falls or gets knocked over when no one is around.

Take care not to place the heater too close to the care of your pet. Make sure to check temperature requirements for your pet, as there are many differences between various types of pocket pets. If you are not sure, contact your local animal hospital in Dartmouth and speak with an experienced veterinarian. Depending on the type of pet, some may benefit from an under-the-cage heat source that is made specifically for use with pets. Only use this type of heat source on one side of the cage so the pet can move to a cooler side as needed. Again, check with your veterinarian to make sure this is the best option for your pet.

Bedding & Nesting Materials
Another way to help keep your pet warm is to increase the amount of bedding and nesting materials available. Hamsters, mice and gerbils will especially appreciate these winter tips for small pets, as they love to burrow. Provide them with safe bedding choices, nesting materials and, depending on the type of pet, fleece fabric “blankets” can also be used. Guinea pig care and feeding often includes tips on using fabric to create a “tent” inside the enclosure or as extra insulation for warmth. Even rabbits and chinchillas will welcome extra bedding as a do-it-yourself heat source.

Know When to Call a Vet
If your small rodents as pets are exposed to low temperatures without heat for too long, due to a power outage, broken down HVAC system, or some other malfunction, know when to bring them in to Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth for care. Follow these winter tips for small pets, but also contact your vet directly about breed specific options or if you have any questions. Give us a call at 508-996-3731 to schedule an appointment, learn about our emergency veterinary services for South Coast pet owners, or to speak with one of our staff members about your pet.