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Obesity in Exotic Pets: Part 2

Just like cats and dogs, all exotic pets can become overweight. Extra weight can contribute to several health problems and decreased life expectancy.

Below are some exotic pets that commonly struggle with weight:

Guinea Pig

  • When overweight:
    • Prone to ulceration of the feet due to excess weight.
    • Gastrointestinal (GI) upset and/or stasis.
  • How they become overweight:
    • Improper diet – too many pellets, not enough hay.
    • Improper exercise – not enough room to move around.
  • How to prevent obesity:
    • Limit pellet intake appropriately.
    • Unlimited hay.
    • Some vegetables (predominantly greens).
    • Supervised out-of-cage exercise.
    • Consult with your veterinarian.

Rats

  • When overweight:
    • Prone to heart and musculoskeletal problems.
    • Prone to lipoma (fatty mass) formation – may ulcerate and bleed.
    • It can have issues with mobility due to weight and lipomas.
  • How they become overweight:
    • Fed a “little bit of everything” as they will eat almost anything offered to them.
    • Small cage preventing adequate exercise.
  • How to prevent obesity:
    • Feed a limited quantity of high-quality rat pellets.
    • Feed small amounts of vegetables and fruit.
    • Make the rat work for their food – mazes and puzzles.
    • Consult with your veterinarian.

Turtles

  • When overweight:
    • Cannot pull head and limbs into their shell to hide.
    • Fat bulges from armpits and back legs.
    • Have a hard time moving on land due to extra weight.
    • May have difficulty swimming.
  • How they become overweight:
    • A small tank without room to swim.
    • Improper diet (excessive high-starch pellets).
  • How to prevent obesity:
    • A large tank with lots of areas to swim and dive.
    • Provide a limited quantity of high-quality pellets and some vegetables.
    • Encourage exercise (chasing live fish).
    • Consult with your veterinarian.

Hedgehogs

  • When overweight:
    • Cannot roll into a ball to hide/protect themselves.
    • Prone to arthritis.
  • How they become overweight:
    • Fed high-fat foods.
    • You have fed too many pellets.
    • Small cages preventing adequate exercise.
  • How to prevent obesity:
    • Feed an appropriate diet of a limited amount of pellets and insects.
    • Daily supervised the out-of-cage exercise.
    • Provide adequate space and equipment (wheel) for exercise.
    • Consult your veterinarian.

Written by: Dr. Nicole Mann, DVM

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