Exotic Pets

Information on Exotics Pets from Animal Medical Center of Forney

Animal Medical Center of Forney is a full service veterinary hospital that treats most exotic and pocket pets. Your pets' health and well-being are very important to us and we take every possible opportunity to provide an exceptional client experience while giving our patients the care they deserve.

We welcome both emergency and routine cases offering medical, surgical and even dental services. Our veterinarians have years of experience treating serious conditions and offering preventative wellness care.

Most exotic pets tend to have shorter life-spans than our dog or cat patients and, therefore, develop "old-age" problems at a much younger age. They also have a tendency to hide illnesses much longer because in their natural environments showing signs of illness could expose them to predation. We recommend health checks at least annually, and in some species every 6 months, to help maintain proper health.

With most exotic pets, proper diet and housing are critical to avoiding disease and injury. Check-out our Exotic Animals Husbandry Tips listed below.

Exotic Animals Husbandry Tips from Our Veterinarians:


rabbitThe best diet for pet rabbits is grass (free from fertilizers and pesticides) and good quality hay (e.g. Timothy) with a small amount of a high-fiber commercial diet with a protein level around 15%. Too much commercial pellet food can result in problems including obesity, dental problems and urinary stones. Fresh vegetables such as kale, cabbage, watercress, root vegetables and their leaves should also be provided.

Rabbits' teeth grow throughout their life and if not fed an abrasive diet (e.g. grass) the result can be teeth growing over the tongue, into the cheeks and misaligning for chewing. If your pet rabbit is not pooping or eating regularly, a visit to your vet is needed to check its teeth.

Rabbits should be held by the scruff and with the weight of the body supported. Twisting and kicking with their powerful legs can result in serious back injury

Rabbits are prone to respiratory infections, so litter/bedding must be changed regularly and they must be housed with good ventilation.

Rabbits need exercise daily, but must be given an environment safe from predators (including the family dog or cat), overheating in the sun, and exposure to things that can injury them (Note: the are proficient diggers).

Guinea Pigs

guinea pigGuinea pigs should be handled by grasping around its shoulders with one hand and then supporting its hindquarters with the other.

It is essential that guinea pigs receive an adequate intake of< Vitamin C as they cannot synthesize it like most other mammals. They require ~ 10 mg of Vitamin C per Kg of body weight per day. This may be provided in the form of a liquid supplement added to their water bottle or powder sprinkled over their food. Make note that vitamin C breaks down relatively rapidly, so make sure to be sure of the amount to give and shelf-life dates given by the manufacturer.

Guinea pig teeth grow throughout life so they must always have hay and grass available to them to help ensure normal dental wear.

Guinea pigs can be highly selective feeders so complete pelleted diets are often preferable as they help ensure that they receive a balanced diet. Mixtures of pellets, grains, and other vegetable material are also available as long as they are not picking out just their favorite morsels.

Guinea pigs are best kept in a hutch, with either a large run or separate pen for exercise. They must be protected from predators (including the family dog or cat) and as a prey species they are often apprehensive of open spaces, so hiding places and shelter should always be provided.

Guinea pigs are messy animals and need their hutches cleaned frequently (typically 2-3 times per week) to help avoid disease.


lizardCaptive husbandry of reptiles is based upon knowledge of the ecosystems in which they live and the diets they eat in the wild. Multiple references are generally available online regarding a suitable housing and proper diet for the particular species you choose. Do not simply rely on advice from your pet store. Failure to provide a "natural" setting and diet can result in stress, disease, and death.

Lizards need an external heat source to regulate their body temperature. This is generally provided as a gradient across the vivarium using light bulbs, ceramic heaters and or cage tapes. All heating devices should be protected from direct contact with your reptile to avoid burns. "Hot rocks" should be avoided.

Substrates: Silica sand should be avoided as it is abrasive and may cause skin and eye irritation. Substances such as ground corncob, walnut shells and wood shavings should also be avoided as they may be ingested and cause gastrointestinal blockage and injuries to the mouth.

Most lizards require ultraviolet light of appropriate wavelength to allow them to synthesize Vitamin D. Without it they can develop metabolic bone disease and serious fractures.

All objects intended for the vivarium should be cleaned in a dilute bleach solution (1:10) and/or placed in a freezer to remove unwanted insects and parasites. Many lizards defecate in their water bowls, necessitating that water be changed regularly and bowls scrubbed with disinfectant to prevent bacterial overgrowth.


ferretsFerrets are carnivores and therefore require a good quality, high protein diet. The fat content can vary from 9%-28% but both the carbohydrate and fiber content should be low. There are numerous ferret specific diets as well as good quality cat food available which are suitable to provide this. Pelleted foods are preferable.

If a ferret is allowed free run of your home it is important to first "ferret-proof" your home. If they can squeeze their tiny heads through an opening, they can easily fit their body through. They can crawl into your furniture, appliances, or cabinets and can wound or poison themselves.

Ferrets love to play and can easily run underfoot or under the legs of a recliner's legs, etc. and become seriously injured. It is important to supervise them whenever they are out playing.

Hay, straw, and wood shavings are not recommended for bedding material as they can be dusty and lead to chronic respiratory irritation. Cloths, towels, or old T-shirts can be used.

Food and water bowls/bottles should be securely fastened so as not to be tipped, flipped, rolled, and tossed in play.

With supervision, ferrets can be kept with dogs and cats but not with rabbits or rodents ( they are hunters ).

Hyperadrenocorticism is very common disease in ferrets due to tiny tumors that often develop on their adrenal glands as they age. This often results in hair loss, swelling of the vulva and itchiness. It is a good idea to bring your ferret to the vet if you see these signs.

Notes on Pocket Pets (Hamsters / Gerbils / Rats / Mice)

hamsterNever grab a gerbil by the tail - the skin of the tail is very fragile and can easily slide right off into your hand resulting in significant discomfort and injury. Hamsters and gerbils should be lifted with a cupped hand and gently restrained by grasping the excess skin at the back of the neck between your fingers. Mice and rats can be held by the tail to keep them from running, but their body should always be supported by your hand.

It is best to house them with at least one other member of their species. Introducing two adult males, however, is not recommended as they will generally show aggression to one another.

The more enrichment that is provided in their environment and the more time spent with them, the more the animal's "personality" comes across.

Enclosures generally need to be made of wire with enclosed, generally plastic bottoms for Rats and mice. For hamsters solid plastic caging with plastic connecting tunnels can suitable. Gerbils prefer a large glass or plastic tank with a deep substrate such as wood shavings, sawdust, or peat/hay mixtures allowing them to burrow their own tunnels. Chewing/gnawing is common with most pocket pets and they can be little escape artists. A properly constructed enclosure will generally prevent unwanted wandering.

Commercial species specific diet mixes are generally best, often supplemented with small amounts of fruits and vegetables. Gerbils may be given less commercial diets and more coarse grasses, roots, seeds, fruits, vegetables, hay and occasional invertebrates (Note: sunflower seeds should be avoided as they tend to eat these to the exclusion of other foods leading to nutritional deficiencies and obesity).

Call us at 972-885-3538 if you have any questions!

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  • "Dr. Goodwin has always gone above and beyond for the care of our family's pets for several years."
    JD Forney, TX

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