Posts Tagged ‘mice’

CareFRESH Blog!

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

I am SO excited about my newest writing project!  I have been working with CareFRESH for a little over a year, and the team decided to start a blog on the website.  I love it!

Lavender CareFRESH bedding complimented Fuzzy and Wuzzy’s gorgeous skin the best of all the colors…

With this project, I will be less able to just go with my random kicks, and need to focus on themes and schedules and such much more than I do here on Riley and James, which, honestly, will be very good for me!

I am fairly disciplined, but (I have only ever told Russ this, and just very recently…) a large part of my discipline is extrinsic.  For example, I love having a made bed every morning, but if FLYLady did not tell me to make my bed, I probably would not!  I love being a veterinarian, but if I had not had the structure of veterinary school, I would not have learned all that I have.

And I love writing about environmental enrichment of <hamsters>, but if I were not led to write about it, I probably would not!

I will write somewhat shorter posts than what I normally write here, focus on small pets – rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, mice, rabbits and ferrets – and send the team every single picture I have of Fuzzy, Wuzzy, Princess and Piggy!  Feel free to send cute pictures of your Warm Fuzzies too!

Wuzzy in her Classroom in a Box

I will let you know where on the CareFRESH website the blog is as soon as I know.  It will probably attract a similar crowd to the Ask-a-Vet part of the CareFRESH website (kids and adults who are in love with small pets – two of my very favorite subsets of humanity!)  It will be an interactive blog, which will be very fun.  I hope you will come join me as often as you can!

For now, will you help me come up with topics? Do you have questions that would be best answered in a longer post than the Q & A of Ask-a-Vet?  Are there things about your own favorite small pet species that you think everyone should know, but may not yet?  THIS is going to be fun, people! :)

Princess Gerbil



Laboratory Animals are Exotic Pets on a Different Life Path

Monday, May 16th, 2011

I have spent the afternoon researching small pet (rabbit and rodent) nutrition in my constant, obsessive quest to be a better veterinarian for my patients and veterinary resource for CareFRESH.  Much of my reading today has circled back to laboratory animal nutrition resources.  That is weighing heavily on me.  It is difficult to read about research subjects when my frame of reference in Real Life centers around my own pets and the rodent patients who come in for individual, loving veterinary care, often in the hands of a child.

In college I worked with the best teacher I have ever had, Dr. Merlyn Nielsen, a Professor of Animal Science at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.  His research interest at the time was primarily the heritability of obesity in mice.  I loved helping Dr. Nielsen with his research and spending time with his super cute little white mice.

I did data collection and analysis pertaining to fat percentages of purposely bred thinner and heavier genetic lines of mice – all survival studies, because Dr. Nielsen knew from the start I was a wimp and would cry if I were asked to do terminal studies.  (A story for another day – CPR on a laboratory mouse was my first rodent CPR attempt, not CPR on our baby ratties.)

See full size image

It took me thirty minutes to find a plain ol’ white lab mouse picture to contrast with the pet hamster picture, and I still think this guy is super cute!

Fast-forward to senior year of vet school.  I was finishing a well-rounded Midwestern veterinary education covering cattle, horses, pigs, cats and dogs, and realized no one had said “mice” to me in four years.  So I headed down to the Lab Animal corner of the veterinary school and Dr. Lab Animal created an exotic pet rotation for me.  We threw in a couple goat cases for fun.  Again, a surprisingly wonderful experience.  And again, I was shielded from terminal studies.

Fast-forward um…many…years, and I LOVE my career as a small animal vet.  I started in Littleton where lots of vets saw exotics, and ended up in Omaha, where I often get “You’ll see my hamster??  Woo!  I will be right there!” which is almost more fun.  Yeah, exotic pet loving vets are here, and they are awesome, but they are few and far between.  I get quite a few referals from vets who only see dogs and cats and even from mixed animal practitioners (vets who see pets and large animals).  Imagine the courage it takes a pet owner to ask that guy for a hamster referral!

Most of what I have learned has been from exotic pet veterinary books, experience, continuing education and other veterinarians with an interest in exotic pets.  Every once in a while I will wonder…

What if laboratory animal researchers and veterinarians who like exotic pets communicated?

We don’t.  We have entirely different goals and focuses.  Pet practitioners are sad around research.  It is difficult to wrap our heads around.  Animals educated us so we could help other animals.  We got through it and do not want to look back.


Both of my experiences working with lab animals were very positive.  Both leaders who taught me were kind-hearted, compassionate people who cared very much for the animals they oversaw.

And SO MUCH research has been done over the years on animal health and nutrition and longevity.  It has mainly been done to benefit people.

Thank you researchers.  Thank you animals.

What if the knowledge from that research were also used to help pets?  I joke that we should have more medical knowledge about guinea pigs than any other species, because they are…guinea pigs.  But do we?  And if so, is it all being accessed to its fullest potential?

I think I have been ignoring a huge resource to the detriment of the patients under my care.  I do not have a conclusion for this post because I do not know how it ends.

When I figure out how to bridge the gap between the caretakers of the animals of the research world and the caretakers of the animals of the exotic pet world, I will share with you what I learn.  This is just one tip of the lab animal iceberg, which, for me, is a very emotional topic.  Chime in – I would love to hear your perspective.

Sometimes the most emotionally exhausting journeys are also the most rewarding.

Blogathon 2010 – Hamster Tips (and Costumes)

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

Talking about turtles was fun!  Yes, I am loopy-tired.  Maybe that is a good state to be in when I need fun topics to post!

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 On that note…


When a hamster comes in with a crying kid, it can throw your whole day off.  Well, no more!

How to weigh a hamster, gerbil, mouse, rat, budgie or anole (I am sure I forgot someone, but one of these two ways should work with almost all of the small guys.)

(1)  If the patient may dart off or fly away, weigh them in a small paper bag with the top folded over.

(2)  If the patient promises to behave and stay put, weigh them in a doggy dish.

How to handle a hamster:

Do not wake him up!  Hamsters are not morning people!  If he is awake, quickly pick him up by his scruff.  You will need to grab a much larger amount of skin than you would expect.  You will not hurt him, but you may anger him!  So make sure to apologize and give him a treat when you are done.

How to make a bunny costume for a hamster without angering him: Draw bunny ears and whiskers on your hand with a Sharpie.  Pick the hamster up in a loose fist.  Take a picture because he will look even cuter than he does when he is NOT in costume.  I love this “tip” almost more than I love the turtle weighing tip.  *Safety note:  This works best with happy hamsters.

How to handle a gerbil: Stop or steady him by grabbing the base of his tail (but do not pick him up by the tail).  Place a hand under him and scoop him up.

How to handle a rat: Pick him up under the armpits and then steady his bottom (exactly like you would pick up a very small, very strange looking baby)  Rats do not need excess restraint, as they are usually quite agreeable to whatever you need to do.  I have only ever met one crabby rat, and I suspect he was actually just feeling sick, not actually crabby in Real Life.

Baby Fuzzy and Baby Wuzzy playing in the Lincon Log house my daughters made for them – they loved it!

How to handle a mousie: Pick him up by the base of the tail (This is one of the few little guys whose weight can be supported this way-but just for the few seconds it takes to nab him.)  Place him on your sleeve for the examination while continuing to hold the base of the tail.

How to handle a bird: When you are learning how to restrain a bird, start with the smaller birds who cannot chomp you as hard.  The technique is the same for all of them though!  Once you are comfortable with budgies, move on to macaws!

Examining and working with birds is ALWAYS a two person job!  Have the bird on a finger or your arm, with your thumb gently holding their four front toes down.  With a light towel in your hand, gently place your thumb and forefinger of your other hand in a ring around his neck from the dorsal side.  The palm of the same hand will be over his back.  Close your hand around his back and wings, being careful not to compress the chest.  Slowly turn him upside down.  Everyone is now in a position to safely examine and work with the bird.

Easy for me to say!  Actually the best way to learn how to restrain a bird is to make sure one of the two people involved is experienced at avian restraint.  Restraining birds has been like a skill chain through Omaha veterinary teams until all of us who want to work with birds are now able to safely hold them!  I even have trained teams at Montessori Children’s Room and Lakeside Retirement VIllage, so whenever I go see their cockatiels, I have plenty of helpers!  (Thanks Mom and Mom-Karen!)

Pedro, The Lakeside Village Cockatiel


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