Tiny pocket pets are easier to take care of than cats and dogs, right? This common misconception may sound true, but it’s not. Pocket pets eat less and may take up less room, but they still require as much time, energy, and attention as a dog or cat. Proper care for your pocket pet includes veterinary care, which can be challenging to find in some areas, as not all veterinarians are well-versed in exotic pet care. But, our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team wants to cater to all species, and we’re delighted to bring on board Dr. Leahanne Alexander, who will focus on pocket pet care. 

To help you better care for your small pocket pet, we share signs that indicate they should see our veterinarian. Keep in mind that these tiny creatures are typically prey animals, so they are masters at hiding illness and injury. However, spotting sickness promptly is key to a speedy recovery before it’s too late, so keep an eye out for the following illness signs in your pocket pet.  

#1: Your pocket pet is not eating or drinking normally

Pocket pets don’t eat much compared with cats or dogs, and some exotic pets, like mice and hamsters, will stockpile their food, so gauging how much they’re actually eating can be tough. Ideally, feed your pet the amount they’ll eat in one day so you can closely monitor their eating habits and ensure their food remains fresh. Changes in appetite or thirst can signal an underlying metabolic problem, dental concern, or dietary issue. 

#2: Your pocket pet is losing weight

Monitoring a small mammal’s weight with a quick glance, or by lifting them in your hands, can be difficult. Instead, use a kitchen scale that measures in ounces to watch your pet’s weight. Weigh them monthly to provide a normal baseline, and more frequently if you suspect an issue. 

#3: Your pocket pet is having difficulty breathing

Breathing difficulties are one of the easiest illness signs to spot in your pocket pet, but they also require immediate veterinary care. If you notice that your pet is open-mouth breathing, wheezing, squeaking, or producing excessive saliva to the point of difficulty breathing, contact our hospital.

#4: Your pocket pet has diarrhea or stool changes

Changes in stool or urine production may be difficult to immediately spot, unless you’re cleaning your pet’s habitat daily. However, you should relatively easily notice diarrhea or other significant changes in the feces or urine. Since pocket pets are so small, diarrhea can rapidly lead to dehydration and inadequate nutrition, so don’t delay in scheduling an appointment for veterinary help.

#5: Your pocket pet is self-isolating

Whether your pocket pet lives alone or in a same-species colony, isolation can be a major clue something is wrong. If your pet is shunning contact with you or their cage-mate, or in seclusion away from the group, they can be seriously ill or injured. 

#6: Your pocket pet is limping or appears lame

Although a slight limp or misstep in your scurrying pocket pet can be challenging to note, these tiny creatures suffer from lameness, like their larger pet counterparts. Their wire housing commonly causes lameness in pocket pets, as their legs can be injured when they fall between the bars. 

#7: Your pocket pet’s behavior is changing

Behavior changes can be extremely subtle, but any abnormalities in your pet’s typical attitude and habits can indicate something is amiss. If your normally friendly hamster is hiding, suddenly aggressive, lethargic, or disoriented, they are likely ill. 

#8: Your pocket pet is changing in appearance

Appearance changes may not be noticeable until a serious problem is obvious, but handling your pocket pet daily will help you spot issues sooner. The following issues need addressing as quickly as possible:

  • Hair loss
  • Skin color changes
  • Lumps or bumps
  • Swollen limbs, tail, or jaw
  • Lesions  

#9: Your pocket pet may appear completely normal, but wellness checks are essential

Pocket pets are masters of disguise, and by the time you spot any sickness, it may be too late. Routine wellness exams and checks for hidden illness or injury will help keep your pet in tip-top shape. During your pet’s regular wellness visit, we’ll also guide you on providing appropriate nutrition, habitat enhancements, and environmental enrichment, to ensure your furry pal stays in the best of health. 

Pocket pets are unique creatures who require specialized care to remain happy and healthy. For these special pets, schedule a wellness visit with our new veterinarian who focuses solely on pocket-pet care. Give our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team a call to schedule an appointment with Dr. Alexander.