Pet Vaccinations and Common Diseases

Vaccinating your pet helps protect them against potentially deadly diseases.

Pet Vaccinations and Common Diseases


Ferrets are the only exotic animal that we recommend vaccinating. See “Caring For Your Ferret” for more information on ferrets and the diseases that they commonly get.

Required by law

Rabies is a viral disease that is typically transmitted to humans and other animals through saliva when bit by an infected animal. Rabies causes acute encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain. Early signs include malaise, headaches, and fever. Later signs include pain, violent movements, and mania. Death results from respiratory insufficiency.

Vaccination: Rabies Vaccine – First vaccination between 12 and 16 weeks of age. Local law requires yearly revaccination for the entire life.


Canine Distemper:
Canine Distemper is a viral disease that is spread from infected dogs or ferrets through inhalation or contact with infected body fluids. Signs include loss of appetite, thick eye or nasal discharge, or skin rash. This virus is fatal to ferrets.

Vaccination: Canine Distemper – First vaccination at 6 weeks of age and bolstered at 9 and 12 weeks. We recommend yearly revaccination while an adult and every other year revaccination while a senior.

Other Diseases

Adrenal Gland Disease:
Adrenal Gland Disease is a very common illness in ferrets three years and older and can be surgically corrected or medically managed. The first signs are hair loss; this usually starts on the tail. As the hair loss spreads, it continues up the back. In females, the vulva can swell. Males can have trouble urinating. The disease progression is slow, and ferrets can live for 2-3 years after symptoms first appear.

Insulinomas are cancers of the pancreas that occur commonly in older ferrets. Insulinomas are essentially the opposite of Diabetes in that too much insulin is produced, causing low blood glucose, known as hypoglycemia. Signs initially present as weakness and disorientation but can progress to seizures, convulsions, coma, or death. Insulinomas can sometimes be treated surgically or managed medically but are seldom cured. Survival times typically last for months to a year or two after diagnosis.

Lymphoma is a type of malignant cancer that occasionally occurs in ferrets of all ages. Signs are extremely variable depending on the organs affected, but common clinical signs include lethargy, weight loss, fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Masses, especially in the abdomen, may also be felt. There is no cure for lymphoma in ferrets, but there are treatments available to slow the progression and alleviate symptoms. Ferrets typically live 3-12 months after the initial diagnosis.


We do not recommend vaccinations for birds. However, they must be tested for Psittacosis before boarding in our clinic. See “Caring For Your Bird” for more information on birds.

Psittacosis is a widespread disease caused by a bacterial organism called Chlamydia psittaci (Also known as “parrot fever,” ornithosis, or chlamydiosis). Transmission is primarily by inhalation of infected dust from droppings or feathers and is enhanced by close contact with sick birds that are shedding the organism. Some birds may show general “sick” symptoms such as a lack of appetite, weight loss, depression, listlessness, water-green droppings, discharge from eyes or nares, or even sudden death. However, there are no specific characteristics of Psittacosis.

Psittacosis in humans – It is capable of being transmitted from birds to humans. It is potentially dangerous for persons who are sick, elderly, or immunosuppressed (e.g., AIDS patients). Persistent “flu-like” symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, weakness, fatigue, and respiratory signs may be experienced. Because the condition in humans may be misdiagnosed, anyone who is exposed to pet birds and who develops a prolonged case of the flu should seek the advice of a physician.

Feather Picking:
Feather picking is a very common problem in our avian pets. There are many different underlying causes for feather picking. Most often, they are behavioral issues related to stress or boredom, much like humans chewing on fingernails, although there are medical problems that can cause feather picking or feather loss. Mild to moderate cases are mainly just cosmetic concerns, but severe cases can lead to skin trauma and secondary infections. A physical exam with laboratory work may be needed to rule out medical causes in order to develop a specific treatment protocol.


Pasteurella, also known as “rabbit snuffles”, is a bacteria that is most often spread through inhalation of nasal secretions from infected rabbits. Infected rabbits typically display upper respiratory signs such as coughing, sneezing, and clear nasal discharge that progresses to pus. The infection can spread deeper into the lungs, causing abscesses in the lungs and around the heart. Rabbits often have crusty, stained front paws from nasal drainage. Antibiotics are required for treating Pasteurella infections.

GI Disease:
Gastrointestinal disease is very common in rabbits. Clinical signs often include lethargy, anorexia, diarrhea, constipation, and straining or grinding teeth. Most causes are husbandry related, such as an improper diet, acute change in diet, recently transported rabbits, and the introduction of new rabbits into a home. Other causes may include hairballs, obstructions, or an infection. Rabbits with GI disease should be considered a serious problem and should be treated immediately. Most need supplemental fluids and forced feeding, as well as other diagnostics and treatments.

Dental Disease:
Dental disease is fairly common in rabbits. Rabbits have continuously growing teeth similar to horses. Roughages such as timothy hay are an essential part of a rabbit’s diet. Timothy hay is not only essential for a rabbit’s digestive tract, but the grinding of their teeth while chewing on hay helps to file their teeth down. If they are not properly worn down, they can develop sharp projections that can puncture gums or lips, causing bleeding and infections. Anorexia is a common secondary sign of dental disease as well as weight loss, drooling, nasal discharge, facial swellings, or abscesses. We can perform dental floats under anesthesia to file down any sharp points leveling out their teeth if these projections occur.

Guinea Pigs

Hypovitaminosis C:
Hypovitaminosis C, also known as “scurvy”, is recognized in humans, primates, and guinea pigs because they do not have the genes to synthesize vitamin C. Because they cannot synthesize their own vitamin C, they need vitamin C supplemented in their food or water such as fruits or vegetables or vitamin C tablets to add to their water. Clinical signs of scurvy include dark purple spots on the skin, spongy bleeding gums, bleeding from mucous membranes (nosebleeds), pale color, sunken eyes, the opening of healed scars, diarrhea, nail loss, swollen joints, or the inability to move.


Mycoplasma Pneumonia:
Mycoplasma pneumonia is a common bacterial disease in mice and rats that causes respiratory and genital infections. It is transmitted between rats through direct contact or over short distances through respiratory secretions. It is not contagious to humans. Symptoms include sniffling, sneezing, rough coat, chattering, weight loss, lethargy, hunched posture, porphyrin staining, and/or labored breathing. There is no cure, but antibiotics can treat active infections. Infections may reoccur in the future, requiring further treatment.

Tumors are quite common in mice and rats. They tend to be malignant and can grow very rapidly. Mammary cancers seem to be among the most commonly found in rodents. If you find a mass or nodule, you should have it seen by a veterinarian so they can determine if it is cancer or not. Surgical removal may cure certain cancers, but most especially if malignant will reoccur several months later.

If you have any questions about our services, please contact us today at (903) 894-7278.