Rodents: digestive system disorders | BSAVA Library

Rodents: digestive system disorders

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Although interspecies differences exist in gastrointestinal anatomy, physiology and disease predisposition, dysfunction of the rodent gut is usually characterized by abnormalities in motility, secretion and/or the composition of the microbial flora. It is important to understand these general processes because, regardless of the definitive diagnosis, a critical component of therapy is supportive and aimed at restoring these functions. Moreover, many gastrointestinal disorders are multifactorial in origin and approaching the problem from first principles will facilitate diagnosis and formulation of an appropriate therapeutic plan. The chapter observes Disruption to motility; General approach to rodent gastroenteropathies; Common gastrointestinal diseases in mice, rats, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, chinchillas and degus.

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11.3 Lateral whole-body radiograph of a hamster, demonstrating generalized distension of the intestinal tract with gas, consistent with a diagnosis of ileus. In this case ileus had developed secondary to dental (and associated respiratory) disease. Note the elongation and abnormal curvature of the upper incisors, which are impinging on the upper respiratory tract.
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11.4 Guinea pig sow and newborn. Monitoring the appetite and faecal output of breeding and young animals is vital. These animals are more prone to infectious digestive diseases than individual pet rodents, especially if husbandry conditions are suboptimal (note the soiled bedding). In addition, even short periods of anorexia can induce hepatic lipidosis in pregnant and lactating females.
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11.5 Clinical signs of digestive disease. Specific: a guinea pig with green, mucoid diarrhoea accumulating at the anus along with some substrate material. Non-specific: a rat showing non-specific signs of illness such as lethargy, reluctance to move, anorexia and poor coat condition.
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11.6 Ill rodents with poor faecal output, such as this chinchilla, that show an interest in food but inability to eat are often suffering from a primary dental disorder. Note the poor coat condition and obvious weight loss in this animal.
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11.8 Noting the amount, size and consistency of faecal material is an important part of the history-taking procedure and clinical assessment of rodents with suspected gastroenteropathies. This dry poorly formed faecal material was being passed infrequently by a lethargic and inappetent guinea pig, suggestive of a primary or secondary enteropathy.
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11.9 Abdominal auscultation can be a useful physical examination tool to assess the motility of the gastrointestinal tract.
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11.11 Administration of isotonic fluid to a degu via an intraosseous catheter. The patient was suffering from severe nutritional hypomotility (associated with a low-fibre diet).
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11.12 A gerbil receiving oral fluids as a supportive measure to treat mild enteritis associated with a recent change in diet.
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11.13 An anorexic chinchilla being fed a high-fibre commercial gruel via a catheter-tipped syringe. Feeds are given every 4–6 hours throughout the day until the animal’s appetite returns to normal. The amount given is calculated on the basis of body condition, the level of debilitation and the underlying disease (if identified)
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11.14 Fresh food must be offered to all rodents with gastrointestinal dysfunction, even if they are completely anorexic. This hospitalized guinea pig is being offered timothy hay, fresh grass, a variety of vegetables and small amounts of a concentrate mix with which she is familiar.
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11.15 Oral examination of a guinea pig that presented with diarrhoea of 2 months’ duration. Elongation of the lower premolars is evident. Such changes affect the animal’s ability to chew food and can lead to a subsequent gastrointestinal disorder. Note also that one of the lower incisors is missing (previously fractured) and there is evidence of concurrent cheilitis.
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11.18 Severe excoriation of the anogenital area secondary to diarrhoea (frequently termed ‘wet tail’) in an 8-week-old Syrian hamster. Post-mortem examination revealed markedly distended intestinal loops. A diagnosis of proliferative ileitis (transmissible ileal hyperplasia) secondary to infection with was made on histopathological examination. (Courtesy of Emma Keeble.)
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11.19 Dorsoventral radiograph of a guinea pig with acute gastric tympany. The stomach is markedly distended with gas. Acute abdominal distension developed in this animal 3 days after anaesthesia and surgery (cystotomy to remove a urolith). Aggressive medical therapy led to complete resolution of the gastric distension.
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11.20 Geriatric guinea pigs, especially males, are prone to develop impactions of faecal matter in the rectum. This is thought to be due to a loss of muscle tone and cessation of coprophagy.
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