With the holidays fast approaching we all start to worry about our weight and the fear of gaining some extra pounds. The stuffing, turkey, and mashed potatoes can make even the healthiest person scared of gaining a few pounds. But with some self-control, exercise, and portion control we always get through the holidays. Our pocket pets however, need our help from gaining too much weight not only during the holidays but year-round. Yes, there is nothing cuter than a plump Guinea pig or Hamster, but it is not always the healthiest for them. Pocket pets are prone to many health problems when they become overweight so it would be best if we can prevent it from happening. Or if they are already overweight, helping them take off the extra weight, so they can live a much longer life.
How to tell when your pocket pet is overweight
Pocket pets can be very tricky to judge if they are overweight. A good place to start when trying to figure out if your pocket pet is overweight is to first weigh them. Doing daily or weekly weigh ins will help you judge if your pocket pet is starting to gain weight and if you need to change their diet and exercise program. If you are not sure what their ideal weight should be the table below can be a start to see if your pet is at a good weight. You should always consult with your veterinarian on a good weight as well, because your pocket pets’ ideal weight may be different from the table below based on your pets age, exercise, sex, and health status. Hamsters and Rabbits are not included on this table because they are very breed dependent. For Rabbits and Hamsters it is best to consult with your veterinarian on what their ideal weight should be.
Pocket Pet Ideal Weight
Guinea pig 700-1,200g
Male Rat 270- 450g
Female Rat 230- 320g
Male Ferret 1- 4 pounds
Female Ferret 1- 2.5 pounds
Male Sugar Glider 100- 160g
Female Sugar Glider 80- 130g
Degu 220- 250g
Male Mouse 20- 30g
Female Mouse 18- 35g
Male Gerbil 65- 100g
Female Gerbil 55- 85g
Chinchilla 600- 700g
Hedgehog 350- 450g
Another way that you can determine if your pocket pet may be overweight is by judging their body condition. You can do this by feeling your pocket pet. It is normal for most pocket pets when you are feeling across their ribs and spine to feel like there is a thin padding across them. You do not want to feel only fat but you also do not want to not feel ribs or spine. For rabbits, especially females, it is always good to remember that it is normal for them to have an extra roll of fur under their chin. Some people may confuse this with extra fat and think their rabbit is fat when this is normal and should not be used in determining if their rabbit is overweight.
Health problems associated with overweight pocket pets
One of the biggest concerns that not only owners but veterinarians have when a pocket pet is over weight is their health. There can be many health problems that are associated with your pocket pet being overweight. All owners who have an overweight pocket pet should be worried about urine scalding and fly strike. Urine scalding happens when your pet urinates, and the urine stays in the fur because it has nowhere else to go. The urine then soaks into the fur and onto the skin and starts to burn. This can be very painful and lead to other bacterial infections for your pet. Fly strike occurs when there is an overabundance of urine of their fur and flies become attracted to it. The flies then lay eggs on the fur, and when the maggot hatches, they start to eat away at your pocket pets skin. If the condition is serious enough it can cause death in your pocket pet. Hepatic lipidosis is a common health concern that happens commonly in overweight rabbits. It is when there is a layer of fat around the liver and can be fatal. Many pocket pets can also develop “bumble foot”, or for rabbits “sore hock”, this can be very painful for your pocket pet and can lead to serious feet and leg problems. Lipomas are another problem that are common in overweight rats, hamsters, and hedgehogs. They can often be very painful for your pocket pet and in some it can be fatal.
How to prevent your pocket pet from being overweight
One of the biggest questions from any pet owners is “How do I prevent my pet from being overweight?” One of the best things you can do is first consult with your veterinarian on what a good diet and exercise plan should be. Your veterinarian will be able to also tell you what brand of food, type of insects, or the type of hay your pocket pet should be on. There are many brands of food that do not have the complete vitamins and minerals that your pocket pet may need. By checking with your vet on what brand you should get is a good way to make sure your pet is getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals they may need. Exercise is also a very important part in keeping your pet healthy. A good way to make even the laziest pocket pet get some exercise is by making them work for their food. Some pocket pets love having mazes to go through or making a hide and seek game out of their food. This way it is not only fun for your pet but for you as well.
What to do when your pocket pet is already overweight
If you start to notice that your pocket pet is overweight or just starting to gain too many pounds you should first consult with your veterinarian on what a good diet and exercise plan should be. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you how much you should decrease your food by and how much exercise your pet will need. They consider your pets age, sex, health status, and breed when determining a good plan. Never crash diet your pet! This can lead to many serious health problems that can be fatal.
No one likes to be overweight. You're sluggish, you feel big, and your health starts to decline. The same thing happens with your pocket pet. But, with the proper diet and exercise you can easily keep your pocket pet at an ideal weight, so you do not have to worry about any future health problems.