A mouse’s lifespan is only 2-3 years so ageing changes and natural fatal conditions such as tumours are fairly common. Here we cover the more common conditions you should recognise so that you know when to take your pet to a veterinary surgeon.
Many people think it is not worth taking a mouse to the vet, but those with mice as pets or show animals can become very attached to them and there are treatment options available for many conditions.
In an animal with a short lifespan such as the mouse, even a couple of months of extra life is significant.
The skin fungus ringworm is relatively common in mice, particularly those that may have some contact with wild mice.
This should not be confused with “barbering”, which happens when mice gnaw each other’s fur and cause bald, often symmetrical patches. Notice that in a group of rodents there will be one, the dominant animal in the group, which is not barbered.
Your veterinary surgeon will diagnose ringworm either by using an ultraviolet light, under which the ringworm lesions on the skin fluoresce or by taking a small amount of hair and examining it under the microscope. Such an examination will also show if there are any fur mites causing the skin problem.
Ringworm can be treated with medication by mouth and mites can be treated with spot-on solution designed for small mammals.
Mammary tumours and other tumours
Cancer of the mammary glands is very common in mice. It is almost always malignant and so the prognosis is very poor. Nevertheless, tumours can be removed surgically and, in an animal with a short lifespan such as the mouse, even a couple of months of extra life is significant.
Although mammary tumours are common, tumours may appear anywhere on the mouse most noticeably on the head or in the abdomen.
Diarrhoea is common in mice and can be caused by inappropriate diet or a wide range of infectious organisms. These range from bacteria, through single-celled organisms like coccidia to parasites such as tapeworms.
Among the bacteria are two of particular importance: Salmonella and Bacillus piliformis . Salmonella is a zoonosis, i.e. it can be passed from animals to man so any diarrhoea should be treated as potentially infectious.
An animal with Salmonella may have to be put down but other bacteria can be treated with a drop of an antibiotic by mouth. Antibiotic treatment may be effective but it is important to have a quarantine period for new animals coming into a collection. Bear in mind that wild mice entering the environment can carry infectious bugs.
Any changes to diet must be made gradually and only appropriate foods should be given as incorrect diet or swift changes to the diet can easily cause digestive upset.
Salmonella is a zoonosis, i.e. it can be passed from animals to man so any diarrhoea should be treated as potentially infectious.
Pneumonia and other respiratory infections
Pneumonia and other respiratory infections are common in mice, however they more often occur in larger colonies rather than in animals kept in small groups.
Animals with breathing difficulties, a hunched up posture and loss of general condition may have respiratory problems and should see a veterinary surgeon. Respiratory problems can be caused by viruses, the organism mycoplasma, by bacteria or may be triggered by poor cage hygiene.
This is only a very small survey of the problems you may see in pet mice. Many diseases are related to poor husbandry, showing the importance of keeping your pet in the best possible conditions and feeding the best diets.
For more mouse advice give us a call at the veterinary surgery to speak to a member of our veterinary team.
Alternatively contact the NMC www.thenationalmouseclub.co.uk for information on varieties and how to contact a breeder.