Exotic Animal Care Center News
Spring 2013

Dear Friends,  


Spring is upon us! That means Easter and people buying bunnies for their children without realizing how much work goes into caring for an animal that can live 10 years or more. We recommend that anyone thinking about getting a bunny for Easter should do some research first. There is a great deal of information available online from the House Rabbit Society (www.rabbit.org), Bunny Bunch (www.bunnybunch.org) and Zooh Corner Rabbit Rescue (www.mybunny.org), as well as other rabbit rescues. On these sites you can also order toys and fun things for rabbits to play with to enrich their lives.

Learning about an animal BEFORE you get one is ideal for all pets. Should you get a cat, easy to care for, playful & cuddly, or do you want a guinea pig that will squeak and ask to be fed and needs to be held regularly? Do you enjoy observing the bouncy antics of a chinchilla and watch it hold food with its hands as it eats? Do you like watching a bearded dragon hunt for crickets? Do you want a rat that will cuddle up on your shoulder and nuzzle your ear? Do you want a hands-on pet like a rabbit that follows you to the frig and sits on the couch with you, or a pet that requires less attention like a snake? Do you want to bond with a parrot and teach it to say words? How much time do you have to spend with your pet? Are you willing and able to give it the best housing, from keeping rabbits as house pets to properly maintaining reptiles with the correct temperature, humidity and ultraviolet lights? Are you able to afford wellness exams and to take care of your pet when it gets sick? If you are considering an exotic pet and want to learn more, or if you have one, you can contact us for advice.


Along with the nice weather comes an increase in fleas. Rabbits can get fleas from dogs and cats in the household, or from cats, raccoons and opossums roaming the yard - even if your rabbit stays completely indoors. Guinea pigs, chinchillas and small rodents do not get fleas, but they can have mites or lice - contact your vet if you see anything suspicious. Keep all dogs and cats that go outdoors on flea control. Check your rabbit for fleas regularly - part the fur on his shoulders and back to look for live fleas or small black specks of flea poop. If your rabbit does have fleas, DO NOT use an over-the-counter flea medicine - many of them are toxic to rabbits. Contact your veterinarian for a flea medication that is safe for rabbits, like Revolution.


In addition to fleas, we get more flies and mosquitos. If you have a rabbit that gets soft stool stuck to its rear end, then that rabbit is at a very high risk for attracting flies and developing maggots. This is an emergency, and many rabbits die from maggot infestations. Mosquitos frequently come out at dusk and can carry a deadly disease rabbits get called myxomatosis. This disease is rare here but does occasionally occur. Signs are swollen eyelids and sudden death.


As the temperature rises, we need to prevent heat stroke. Rabbits and guinea pigs are most sensitive, but any animal in an extremely hot environment is at risk. In their natural environment, rabbits spend the hotter middle part of the day snoozing in their burrows. For indoor rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas the AC should be on to keep the house below 80 degrees F. Outdoor rabbits should ideally be brought into a cool house during the hottest part of the day, or they should be in a shaded cool area with a misting system.


It is ideal to keep your rabbit as an indoor house pet to protect them from flies, heat stroke and predators. When a rabbit is a family member, it is easier to closely monitor them for early signs of illness. Plus when you have these animals in your home, you can let them run around and kick up their heels. When a rabbit jumps for joy, it is called a "binky". When a guinea pig does, it is called "popcorning". When ferrets are happy they dance sideways with their back arched and tail up in the "weasel war dance." If anyone knows any other similar terms, or if there is a name for a chinchilla or rat playing, please let me know!


Lastly, we have very exciting news!  We are hiring a third exotics veterinarian! Dr. Stephanie Lamb will be joining us in July. More details to come.



Sari Kanfer

EACC Animals for Adoption!   



EE-or is approximately 8 years old, though he doesn't look a day over 5. EE-or is a sweet & handsome neutered male that just had a mass removed from the left part of his face. We are waiting to hear if it is cancerous. EE-or is looking for a home either way.






is 5 1/2 years old and is an unneutered male with minor molar issues, which requires his molars to be trimmed 1-2 times a year. He is super sweet and would love to have a forever home.







had severely infected rear feet - after many months of treatment the infections are gone. Her rear feet are crooked but she can run and jump and play. She loves to explore and will come up and ask to be petted. It's wonderful to see her enjoying life like she couldn't do before (her nickname is Crazypants).  She is about 3 years old and spayed.





Turtledove is an extremely cuddly bunny! She prefers to be held daily, as much as possible. She enjoys exploring and begging for attention. Turtledove is a 1 yr old spayed female rabbit. She had a tooth root abscess that has been treated, and her dental issues are mild.  If adopted, Turtledove's future costs of dental care will be heavily discounted. Turtle just wants someone to love her! And how can you resist those baby blue eyes!




Boo is an adorable 2 month old ball of fluff! She was found by Pasadena Humane Society and is healthy. She is a little shy but will melt into your arms when held.  She loves to run and play when no one is looking...or so she thinks no one is looking!







Please call us at 626-405-1777 or email Kim if you are interested in any of the animals above. 


Little Cottontails!


We have two baby cottontails, one is about 6 weeks old, Dizzy, and the other, Orphan Annie, is about 2 weeks old.  Aren't they adorable? They need to be fed every 3-4 hours and are very fragile at this stage. The older cottontail was near death from starvation, dehydration and cold by the time she got to us. She almost died twice! She has some neurologic signs now, which we think are from her near death experience. We are starting to look for a sanctuary for her - she probably shouldn't be released into the wild. So far, Orphan Annie is doing well, and when she's old enough she will be released into the appropriate habitat.


If you find a baby cottontail, first consider that maybe its momma will come back for it. Bunny moms usually only feed the babies once or twice a day, so the baby may not need rescuing. If the baby does need help, keep it in a box with a heat pad underneath, or hot water bottles inside. Call us or a wildlife rehabilitator ASAP. You can syringe feed it small amounts of WARMED KMR (kitten milk replacer, available at petstores) or pedialyte until you can get it to someone more experienced.




By Tiffany Margolin, DVM, Dipl ABVP-Avian


Ah yes, the lovely smells of spring. The flowers, the trees, the birds, the bees...Uh oh. The birds and the bees. Ok, so it's that time again.

There are a number of things that might be occurring with your pet bird as we "spring" into the next season. They are most often noticeable with hookbill, or parrot types ranging from budgies to macaws. But small passerines also suffer from springtime issues, though not usually the behavioral ones.

All the cute head bobbing, wing flipping, cuddling up to you and calling to you, dilating of the eyes and new vocalizations -- these might appear "cute," but they are not intended that way by your pet. There may be more aggression, nippiness, "teenage" rebellious behavior. These are all hormonal signs. Although they may at first seem endearing or entertaining, they are BIG red flags. The issues they precede need to be addressed before things get totally out of control. This is especially true if you own a FEMALE bird. The reason for this is that the females in captivity--ranging in all sizes and including finches and canaries, frequently become egg-bound or experience dystocia (life-threatening egg-laying problems). There are several causes for this.

The captive females often get into trouble because they have been eating a very nutrient-poor diet. Seed is not the appropriate diet for birds. The only birds that eat seeds in the wild are the softbill finches and canaries. They still supplement with proteins (small insects) and fiber (plant material). Seed, which is most often fed to your pet birds, actually ABSORBS the critical nutrient, vitamin A, and is also very fattening. Birds need at least 14 hours of OUTDOOR sunshine per week to form vitamin D in their body. This means no window or screen. If they are vitamin D deficient (as MOST indoor pet birds are), they cannot absorb calcium, so even if you give your female, egg-producing or hormonal birds calcium supplements, they will not have a way to absorb them due to lack of outdoor sun, all of which can lead to life-threatening and egg-laying issues.

To correct the diet of passerines, add a flat paper plate of stripped/grated kale, carrots and bell peppers. You can hang fresh parsley or cilantro every day-no seed treats or millet. For the larger species, the details are beyond the scope of this article, but remember they are omnivores. This means they need protein and vegetable matter, with a small amount of fruit, daily. NO SEED. If your bird is acclimated to seed, it may take a while to convert him. Be patient; it can take from three months to one year. At EACC we can do the conversion for you within 7-10 days. We recommend Harrison's brand bird food as the organic base dry diet. Roudybush crumble is also excellent for those darn stubborn cockatiels. Mix CHEERIOS (plain) into any dry new diet and sprinkle their own seed in as well. You must change this food daily. Do not leave large amounts of dry food in the cage-there is no way to monitor their intake that way. It is also CRITICAL that you have a gram scale in order to weigh your bird, especially during times of illness or dietary conversion. A few grams lost steadily can be a big problem and you should immediately get your bird in to the vet.  In addition, if your female bird is actually laying it is best to get a liquid calcium glubionate syrup to put in the water. It is much better absorbed and utilized than most cuttlebone or powdered forms.


Ok, now let's talk about behavior, hormones and modification. If you have a hormonal female bird or a hormonal and aggressive male, there are some options to sweeten them up. This is important because if left unchecked, physical problems for your bird can occur or bite wound injuries to family members are possible.


First and foremost, you and any other family members have to STOP all "mate type" behaviors of your own. That means (I know you don't want to hear this) NO petting and scratching under wings, NO rubbing over any part of the back of your birdie, and NO regular hand feeding. These are all interpreted as courting, or "foreplay" activities by your feathered friend. They can only lead to more issues. So what CAN you do? Since petting is limited, it is best to allow your bird to pal around with you on a more platonic level. They can play games with you (you can find fun ideas at goodbirdinc.com). They can travel on your finger or forearm. Do not EVER put a bird on your shoulder as this is a very dominant and territorial position, and will encourage biting, aggression and injuries to nearby ears, eyes and lips.


Second, you should create a foraging type feeding program for your pet. Foraging is a natural behavior in the wild and is one of the best ways to redirect your feathered friend's hormonal chaos. You will remove any large dry food bowl and instead use numerous small bowls or mix them up with toys that can hold some food. These can be found online and at large bird expos like the Bird Mart in Pomona. You then put small amounts of food in different areas inside the cage or in any area where your bird spends time. This innovative technique will distract your bird away from mating and reproductive behaviors, into the normal activity of looking for food. This is what they do during the day in the wild, and is one of the reasons undomesticated birds do not suffer from problems with egg binding and the like. It takes some creativity and patience, but it can be fun and it is well worth it.

Last, if the above ideas still don't curtail hormones enough, then you may need to consider hormone therapy. There is a very safe hormone called Luprolide acetate that will counteract both male and female hormonal aggression and sexual behaviors. Although it will not work if behavioral issues are not addressed, it is very effective in combination and can help to avoid serious, life-threatening issues and expensive, dangerous surgeries.

Please be aware that if you have multiple birds in your household, the problems will also be multiplied. Birds respond intensely to visual and auditory stimuli, meaning other birds calls and displays will stimulate mating and sexual hormonal activity. So though it may seem to be an uphill battle if this is your situation at home, don't give up hope! If all are foraging, then they all have something to do besides dreaming of mating!

If you have questions, always feel free to call us at EACC (626) 405-1777.


Update on Our Former Foster, R2!

She is fantastic!! She is a happy camper and she gets a TON of love, snuggles, and kisses. She and Bunny Goodman are two peas in a pod! Everything just worked out perfectly!!


P.S. her name is now Petunia Holiday, but we call her "tunie" :)


By Sari Kanfer, DVM


This month, we will discuss tooth care in Rabbits, Guinea Pigs and Chinchillas.  


Rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas are strict herbivores like cattle and horses. They have evolved over the ages to survive on the available vegetation in their environment - coarse grasses and weeds. These plants are very high in silicates which make them tough, like sandpaper. Since a great deal of chewing is needed to break down the coarse fibrous food, the teeth will be worn down accordingly. Herbivores cope with this by having continuously growing teeth. Their large front incisors are sharp for cutting, and the cheek teeth in the back are used for grinding.

Causes of Common Dental Problems: 

Tooth problems are very common in these species. Many pet stores tell new owners to feed pellets. Most people keep the pellet bowl full at all times. Some people do a little more research and feed small amounts of hay. Many people feed several large carrots a day, or give yogurt drops or other treats on a daily basis. These situations lead directly to tooth problems! Pellets are very concentrated, and are not fibrous enough to wear down herbivore teeth properly. When pellets are available in excess, these animals fill up on them, and eat less of the high fiber grasses and hays. Treats will also cause satiation, and insufficient fiber consumption. When rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas are not eating enough fiber, their teeth are not worn down properly and will grow too long. Therefore it is very important to feed herbivores properly. When we look at hay and grass, to us it doesn't look like there is any nutrition value. But that is what herbivores require. They have good bacteria in their intestine that breaks down the plant material and turns it into nutrients that these animals absorb. We may think we are being kind by feeding large amounts of pellets and giving treats like seeds, fruit, raisins, yogurt drops, and carrots, but actually we are unintentionally hurting our pets' teeth and intestinal tract.


Other common causes include trauma and heredity. Breaking an incisor tooth or suffering head trauma can upset the balance in the mouth, leading to tooth abnormalities. Even if your pet seems fine, get a vet checkup very soon after one of these events. Also, some animals are just born with bad teeth. These animals usually start having problems within the first year of life.


In guinea pigs a common cause of dental problems is lack of vitamin C. Guinea pigs cannot make their own vitamin C, so they need to acquire it in their diet. Insufficient vitamin C causes problems with bones and joints, and causes gum disease and loosening of teeth. 


Common Presentations of Dental Problems: 

We've just discussed the most common reasons why herbivores get tooth problems, now we will discuss what those problems are. First subtle changes occur; insufficient fiber causes the cheek teeth to become a few millimeters too high. This changes how the teeth meet and alters the forces on the teeth from chewing. When the teeth aren't meeting properly, they do not wear properly, so slight abnormalities get increasingly worse and worse. Eventually the teeth start to get sharp edges that cut into the cheeks or tongue. Incisors may overgrow, looking like elephant tusks. These animals can get pain, swelling and infection at the tooth roots secondary to overgrowth and increased forces on the teeth. Swollen or long tooth roots can press up against the tear duct, blocking flow and causing the animal to have a weeping eye. We may start to feel a lump under the animal's chin or under its eye, or an eye may start bulging. This may indicate that an abscess is forming. Any lumps present in the bone or soft tissue of the face are abscesses; other causes of lumps in this area are rare. An abscess is a pocket of pus surrounded by a capsule of thick tissue. This is the body's attempt to wall off infection.


Monitor your rabbit, guinea pig, or chinchilla for a change in what they choose to eat, decrease or loss of appetite, weight loss, drooling or wetness on mouth, bad odor from mouth, lumps under jaws, one bulging eye, tearing from one or both eyes, or crooked overgrown incisors. Just because the incisors look normal and you're rabbit is eating normally, doesn't mean the molars are normal also. Many animals show no signs at all, so you need to bring your pet for physical exams at least once a year. 



Treatment of these dental problems requires the attention of a veterinarian experienced with rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas. Specialized equipment is necessary. Just clipping overgrown incisors ignores problems with the cheek teeth, as well as the underlying cause. Cutting incisors with nail trimmers is not the best treatment. It can cause splitting of the tooth longitudinally, resulting in infection of the root. It also causes trauma to the tooth as well as pain from the concussive forces. Anesthesia is required for animals to allow veterinarians to work inside their mouth and visualize the full extent of the problem. Usually x-rays are necessary to evaluate the tooth roots for abnormalities. A specialized dental drill is used to trim teeth to a normal height and normal occlusion (how the teeth meet). The gums are examined for inflammation and infection. Loose teeth may need to be pulled.


Rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas have thick creamy pus that does not drain well, so just lancing an abscess is not enough. The abscess capsule prevents antibiotics from getting to the infection, therefore surgical removal of the abscess is usually necessary. At the same time, we also need to treat the cause of the abscess, which almost always is due to cheek teeth overgrowing and not meeting properly. Smaller soft tissue cheek abscesses are the easiest to treat, and we can often get full resolution of the abscess. If the abscess is large, or involves a bone infection or infection around the teeth, then more invasive surgery is needed, and there is less chance of complete resolution. These cases call for the veterinarian to remove as much abnormal and infected tissue as possible, and then place antibiotic impregnated bone cement beads in the area. This allows for high concentrations of antibiotics at the site of infection, and it lasts 2-6 months or more. Recurrence of the abscess may occur if any unhealthy teeth or tissue is left. As you can see, treatment of dental problems and abscesses in rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas is complicated, therefore you want to make sure that you have an experienced exotic vet.


It is important to realize that once these dental problems start, they will usually require chronic care for the life of your pet. If your pet is lucky, he or she may only need a tooth trim under anesthesia about once a year. Many of these animals need tooth trims every few months, and are on long term antibiotics and pain medicine. Some pets with jaw abscesses need multiple surgeries over their lifetime. IF YOUR PET HAS DENTAL PROBLEMS, THEY CANNOT BE IGNORED! Ignoring dental problems allows your pet to live a life of pain and misery, eventually starving to death. But dental problems DO NOT mean the pet should be euthanized. Many of these animals live happy, comfortable lives with proper and conscientious dental care.


Dental problems in rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas can be expensive, and treatment is usually extensive. So prevention is very important. Brushing teeth will not help rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas, because their problems stem from insufficient and improper tooth wear, not plaque and tartar buildup. As discussed in depth earlier, a diet high in tough fibrous foods is required to keep the teeth healthy. Therefore, feed your little herbivore large daily amounts of a good quality grass hay, like timothy, orchard grass, brome, and oat hay. Your pet should have so much hay that even though it is eating a lot of hay, it never runs out. Most pet stores carry alfalfa hay, but this is too high in calcium and protein to be fed to adult rabbits. Many stores carry timothy hay, but it is often very brown and dull. You can get good quality grass hay from rabbit rescue groups and feed stores. Feed limited amounts of a high quality, high fiber pellet: 1/8-1/4 cup per rabbit per day, 2-4 tablespoons per guinea pig or chinchilla each day. Feed green leafy vegetables -1 cup each day (green leaf lettuce, romaine, parsley, cilantro, escarole, dandelion greens, etc). Avoid treats like yogurt drops and seeds completely. Limit carrots to no more than a 1/2 inch long piece once a day.Wooden chew blocks are good toys, but many rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas don't chew on them much, and if they do, only their incisors are being utilized. Branches and leaves from citrus trees and rosebushes are an excellent high fiber treat.


Guinea pigs must receive vitamin C daily. Most guinea pig pellets claim that they are fortified with vitamin C. But vitamin C only lasts in the pellets for 6 months from the milling date, and most pelletted diets do not list the milling date. Parsley and oranges contain good amounts of vitamin C, and should be fed daily. The vitamin drops sold at petstores to be added to the water, does not have enough vitamin C in it, and it starts to degrade as soon as it is exposed to light. The best option is a vitamin tablet from Oxbow or you can buy a children's vitamin C liquid from Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, and give 1cc (50mg) to each guinea pig, every day for life. It is very hard to overdose guinea pigs on vitamin C; any excess will pass out in the urine.

Many signs are subtle until the problem is well advanced. Therefore, it is important to have yearly or more frequent physical exams done by an exotic pet veterinarian, and make sure that you ask them to check ALL of your pet's teeth, including the back teeth. Don't think tooth problems can't happen to your rabbit, guinea pig or chinchilla; a large number of these pets have subtle tooth abnormalities that start to worsen as the pet gets older, causing problems when the pet is 3-5 years old, or older.


In our next enewsletter, we will talk about tooth care in pot bellied pigs, as well as the warning signs of possible tooth problems or issues in exotics.  We will also provide links to a variety of online resources for information on tooth care and tooth issues.  

Mark Your Calendars!

Upcoming Events 

April 19-21: The Orange County Pet Expo in Costa Mesa 

May 19: Bunny Bunch Picnic at Irvine Animal Care Center
(Dr. Kanfer will be speaking) 

June 30: Orange County Cavy Haven Pignic


Upcoming Veterinary Conferences 

August 3-7: Avian Conference-Dr. Margolin will be attending

September 14-19: Exotics Conference-Dr. Kanfer will be attending 

Donations to EACC
We occasionally admit local wildlife that needs our help and in these cases, EACC pays
for the care and medications to make these animals well again.  Additionally, we always have a few individuals who are struggling to cover their EACC bills, as well as rescue organizations whose bills mount up quickly helping rescued and homeless animals.


If you have a few dollars or more to spare, EACC welcomes donations to help cover the costs of care for these animals.  We appreciate any help you can give.  Thank you!

Towel Donations


We are in need of new or gently used towels, of any size, at the clinic.  If you are able to make a towel donation we would very much appreciate it!  We use them many times a day, for appointments, grooming, and inside the enclosures of pets that are staying for the day at the clinic. 

Prescriptions and Prescription Refills
In order for us to serve you better and have your prescription ready on time, please give us 24 hours notice on all prescriptions and prescription refills.  Thank you for your cooperation!

Thank you for supporting Exotic Animal Care Center!  We truly appreciate you and your precious pets!

2121 E. Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena, California 91107