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The Eyes Have It For Small Animal Pets

Small animal pets like ferrets can have the same eye ailments that cats and dogs get, and it can be a challenge to treat them.

By Jerry Murray, DVM
Posted: July 27, 2011, 5 a.m. EDT

Ferret Nico/© Courtesy of Seth Vermilyea
The eyes of small animal pets like ferrets can be more challenging to treat for ailments because they're small and it might be difficult to get the pet to hold still for an eye exam.

Exotic pets are prone to some of the same diseases that cats and dogs suffer from. Sometimes exotic pets can have eye problems that are very similar to what cats and dogs develop. It can be a little bit harder to diagnose an eye problem in small mammals and reptiles due to the fact that their eyes are smaller, and it can be difficult to get them to hold still long enough to get a good look at their eyes. I will share a couple of recent eye cases.

The first was a pet ferret with a "blue eye.” The owner was not sure if anything had happened to the eye, but the ferret was now keeping the eye closed and had a clear discharge from the eye. This was a young ferret that likes to play rough with her cagemate. There was lots of inflammation to the cornea, which caused the eye to have a blue and white appearance. In addition there was a small scratch on the cornea, most likely from the cagemate scratching her. The damage to the eye was treated with an antibiotic eyedrop.

The next case was another ferret with a "blue eye.” Similar to the previous case, this ferret was also young and hyperactive. The ferret was squinting his eye and was having a discharge from the eye. There was damage to the cornea; however, this scratch was much deeper into the cornea that the other ferret’s scratch. Fortunately the client was able to take the ferret to a veterinary ophthalmologist for further evaluation. The ferret did not need surgery to repair the cornea, and he responded well to using two different antibiotic eyedrops.

The final case was a snake with a retained eye cap. Snakes do not have eyelids, but they do have a clear "scale” (spectacle) over the eye. This protective covering is usually shed each time the snake sheds its skin (scales). Frequently snakes do not shed this eye scale, and it stays attached to the snake. Usually soaking the snake in warm water a couple of times a day for a few days in a row causes the cap to fall off. When soaking does not work, the eye cap can be delicately removed, which is what was done for this little ball python.

See all of Dr. Murray's columns>>

Posted: July 27, 2011, 5 a.m. EDT

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Reader Comments
The irritated eye/scratched cornea makes sense. Does anybody know if small animals tend to develop glaucoma with age?
Kiki, Naperville, IL
Posted: 8/9/2011 11:52:06 AM
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