Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Management / Techniques & Protocols:
Physical Examination of Mammals

Hedgehogs: Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click Photo for full-page view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click image for full page view Click Photo for full-page view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Badgers: Click image for full page view Click image for full page viewElephants: Click image for full page view with caption Click here for full page view with caption Click image for full page view with caption Click here for full page view with caption Clic here for full page view with caption Bears: Click here for full page view with caption Click here for full page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full page view with caption Click here for full page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with captionRabbits: Farcture-dislocation lumbar spine. Click here for full page view with caption Floppy rabbit syndrome. Click here for full page view with caption. Rabbit in pain. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit in pain. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit faeces. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit caecotrophs. Click here for full page view with caption Normal rabbit hard and soft faeces. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit producing only a few faeces. Click here for full page view with caption Slippery table top. Click here for full page view with caption Non-slip mat for handling rabbits. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit field of view. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a front-opening cage 1. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a front-opening cage 2. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a front-opening cage 3. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a front-opening cage 4. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit in a top-opening wire mesh cage. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a top-opening cage 1. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a top-opening cage 2. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a top-opening cage 3. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a top-opening cage 4. Click here for full page view with caption Lifting a rabbit onto a handling mat.. Click here for full page view with caption Restraining a rabbit on a mat. Click here for full page view with caption Lifting and turning a rabbit 1. Click here for full page view with caption Lifting and turning a rabbit 2. Click here for full page view with caption Lifting and turning a rabbit 3. Click here for full page view with caption Lifting and turning a rabbit 4. Click here for full page view with caption Otoscopic examination of the ear. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit incisors and peg teeth. Click here for full page view with caption Ear of a rabbit - blood vessels visible. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit skull. Click here for full page view with caption Digital palpation of the molars. Click here for full page view with caption Otoscopic examination of the mouth. Click here for full page view with caption Gag and pouch dilators for improved visualisation. Click here for full page view with caption Table top gag for improved visualisation. Click here for full page view with caption Table top gag for improved visualisation . Click here for full page view with caption Normal cheek teeth. Click here for full page view with caption Abnormal cheek teeth. Click here for full page view with caption Moulting. Click here for full page view with caption Moulting. Click here for full page view with caption Cheyletiellosis in a rabbit. Click here for full page view with caption Cheyletiellosis in a rabbit. Click here for full page view with caption Bloody vaginal discharge. Click here for full page view with caption Sexing - female genitalia. Click here for full page view with caption Picking up rabbit for abdominal exam. Click here for full page view with caption Holding rabbit for abdominal exam. Click here for full page view with caption Percussing the abdomen. Click here for full page view with caption Holding rabbit for abdominal exam. Click here for full page view with caption Auscultation for gut sounds. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit hock lesions. Click here for full page view with caption Normal rabbit eye. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit fundus, pigmented. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit fundus, albino. Click here for full page view with caption Cheyletiellosis lesions on a human arm. Click here for full page view with caption Ferrets: Albino ferret with bright eyes and clean ears. Click here for full-page view with caption Fitch ferret with bright eyes and clean ears. Click here for full-page view with caption Ferret yawning. Click here for full-page view with caption. Bonobos: Male bonobo calling. Click here for full page view with caption

(See also Physical Examination of Birds and Wildlife Casualty Assessment (with special reference to UK Wildlife))

Note: This page describes GENERAL PRINCIPLES of physical examination of mammals. Information has been added specifically for the volumes "Hedgehogs: Health and Management", "Elephants: Diseases and Treatment", "Bears: Health and Management", "Rabbits and their Relatives: Health and Management"  "Ferrets: Health and Management" and "Bonobos: Health and Management" therefore specific information is included on physical examination of hedgehogs, elephants, bears and lagomorphs (rabbits and their relatives). This page has also been linked from other Wildpro volumes. Use the "Back" button on your browser toolbar to return to the last page you visited.

Introduction and General Information

Note: Additional information on assessment of wildlife casualties, including TRIAGE and FIRST AID: Emergency care is provided in Wildlife Casualty Assessment (with special reference to UK Wildlife)
  • Physical examination is an integral part of the investigation of a disease problem and should also be a part of routine disease control, e.g. quarantine, annual health checks, animals involved in translocation and reintroduction programs.
  • Complete physical examination uses the vision, hearing, smell and touch senses of the examiner. (B280.1.w1)
  • In carrying out a physical examination, it is beneficial to be aware of the normal appearance and anatomical features of the species being examined.
  • The results of a physical examination of the mammal should be used in conjunction with its clinical history (see: History & Documentation), consideration of its immediate environment whether free-ranging or under captive management, appearance of faeces (droppings), and further tests as appropriate. 
  • Remembering the adage that "common things occur commonly" in all species of mammals; knowledge of the clinical conditions commonly seen in the species under question, taking into account whether they are captive or free-ranging, is useful to guide the clinical examination. 
    • However this should not encourage the examiner to forget to perform a full clinical examination in every case, encompassing all systems and areas of the body.
  • When examining an individual of an unfamiliar species, every effort should be made to gain information of its anatomy, physiology and common clinical conditions in advance through literature or expert contacts. First principles should then be used, as for examination of all mammals, to gain maximum information from the procedure and to guide further investigations as necessary.
  • The physical examination should be performed in a systematic manner, progressing from head to tail or on a body system basis, dependent on the preference of the operator. It is important to develop a methodical approach to avoid omitting examination of any body parts or systems.
    • Bilateral structures should always be compared with one another for asymmetry.
    • It is advisable not to focus on the area or system where the problem is perceived to be from the outset. This reduces the risk of not recognising important problems, and encourages identification of any concurrent problems. 
  • Detection of abnormalities should not distract the examiner from completing the full clinical examination unless this may complicate the disease process, cause undue pain, or unacceptably increase the likelihood of risk to the examiner. (B280.1.w1)
  • Leaving examination of the perceived area or system of concern until the end of the examination may be preferable.
    • This is particularly important for clinical examination of conscious patients where the problem area or system may be painful or uncomfortable to check, as patient tolerance of further examination may be reduced after checking any painful areas.
  • For casualty animals, except when a life-threatening condition is present (e.g. haemorrhage, obstruction of breathing), a full physical examination should not be undertaken until the animal has had a chance to rest quietly and its condition stabilise after transport. (B118.18.w18)
  • The results of the clinical examination should be used to prepare the diagnostic plan for the mammal. The acronym 'SOAP' can be used as a guideline for the examination.
    • S = SUBJECTIVE assessment. Comment on the demeanour of the animal (bright, alert responsive; quiet, alert, responsive; collapsed; comatose). Note any subjective changes since the last examination.
    • O = OBJECTIVE assessment. Make notes of the findings of the clinical examination in a standard format.
    • A = ASSESSMENT. Comment on conclusions drawn from the subjective and objective examinations, detailing the clinical problems in order of priority.
    • P = PLAN. Formulate a diagnostic and treatment plan for case management.
    • Review as above on a regular basis.

(B118.18.w18, B280.1.w1, B433, V.w26)

West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations

 

  • Physical examination of a casualty or orphan hedgehog should be performed shortly after its arrival at a wildlife hospital or veterinary practice.
    • Except when a life-threatening condition is present (e.g. haemorrhage, obstruction of breathing) a full physical examination should not be undertaken until the casualty hedgehog has had a chance to rest quietly and its condition stabilise after transport. (B118.18.w18)
  • Physical examination of the hedgehog may also be performed as part of a pre-release assessment process, in research or translocation studies.
  • Physical examination of the hedgehog, as for all wild animal casualties, is particularly important since the history of the animal is usually limited.
  • Knowledge of the natural history, particularly the anatomy and physiology of the hedgehog, is recommended. 
  • Understanding of the diseases affecting the hedgehog, how commonly they occur, whether they typically affect single or groups of animals, and what age of hedgehog they affect, is particularly useful.
  • A thorough examination soon after the hedgehog has been brought into care allows an early decision to euthanase those with severe injuries for which this is the most humane option, such as individuals with:
    • More than one limb amputated or requiring amputation; (B337.3.w3)
    • Loss of the nose (and therefore the ability to find food); (B337.3.w3)
    • Severe damage to the nose, with maxillopalatine fractures which cannot be stabilised. (B284.6.w6)
    • Severe evisceration, with the intestines or other internal organs pulled out of the abdomen.(B337.3.w3)
    • Severe maggot infestation involving deep, not just surface, tissues. (V.w5)

(B118.18.w18, B284.6.w6, B337.3.w3, V.w5, V.w26)

Elephant Considerations (B455.w1)
Bear Considerations
  • A thorough history should always be taken before proceeding to the physical exam.
  • Physical examination of a bear should follow the same routine as for physical examination of other mammals such as dogs or cats.
Lagomorph Considerations
  • A thorough history should always be taken before proceeding to the physical exam.
    • Signs may be described by the owner but not be present when the rabbit is being examined, for example:
      • Tooth grinding. (B600.3.w3)
      • Changes in general demeanour. (B600.3.w3)
      • Head-nodding while relaxed. (B600.3.w3)
      • Lack of apparent awareness of loud noises. (B600.3.w3)
    • See: History & Documentation 
  • Physical examination of a lagomorph should follow the same routine as for physical examination of other mammals such as dogs or cats. As with other species, a systematic approach is important to ensure the whole patient is assessed, such as starting at the nose and working towards the tail. (B602.14.w14, J213.2.w2)
  • A thorough examination is essential since rabbits rarely show overt signs of illness. (B601.2.w2)

Critically ill rabbits

  • When dealing with a critically ill rabbit, it is particularly important to observe the rabbit before it is taken from its carrying box, and to auscultate the thorax, palpate the pulse (femoral) and get a heart rate and temperature first. Always palpate the stomach. Examine the teeth last. (J213.1.w1)

Groups of lagomorphs

  • In a large group, it may only be possible to examine closely a percentage of the individual animals. (B601.2.w2)
  • History taking will be extremely important. (B601.2.w2) See: History & Documentation
Ferret Considerations A thorough history should always be taken before proceeding to the physical examination. See: History & Documentation
  • In an emergency, stabilise the ferret first. (B631.18.w18)
  • Generally, the physical examination of the ferret is similar to that of other small mammals. As with other species, a systematic approach (set order of examination) and a thorough examination are recommended. (B602.2.w2, J29.19.w1, J213.2.w6)

Note: If any member of staff has a severe respiratory tract infection they should avoid treating or being in contact with any ferret, because ferrets are very susceptible to human influenza (see Influenza in Ferrets ), particularly if they are already weak. If a person with severe respiratory disease must handle a ferret, they should wear a mask and gloves. (B631.18.w18)

Bonobo Considerations Note: There is very little published information available on veterinary care specifically in bonobos. In general, treatment and care of bonobos is the same as treatment and care of Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee in particular and of the other great apes and other primates. Great ape treatment and health care is commonly based on the treatment for their close relatives, Homo sapiens - Humans.
  • In Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee, both visual assessment and systematic palpation is recommended. (D409.6.w6)
  • Full physical examination of primates such as chimpanzees requires a general anaesthetic. Everything required for the examination, including all equipment that may be needed for sampling etc. should be prepared before the animal is anaesthetised, to ensure that the anaesthetic lasts for as short a time as possible.
  • Health checks can be carried out for example when a primate is being moved, as well as during quarantine. (D425.3.5.w3e)
Published Guidelines linked in Wildpro

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Evaluation of the Mammal's Immediate Surroundings

Much information may be gained by examining the immediate surroundings of the mammal(s) See also: Environmental Assessment

  • The ability to examine the immediate surroundings of the mammal will vary greatly according to whether the individual is free-ranging (wildlife casualty, translocation or field study) or captive (zoological garden, private collection, companion animal).
  • Wild mammal casualties are frequently presented at a wildlife hospital or veterinary surgery. In this instance the examiner must take as full a history as possible from the finder, including description of the local environment where the mammal was found. 
    • In these cases it is vital to record the exact location where the casualty was found, including local recognition points and grid reference numbers if available, along with the contact details of the finders.
      • Enables the examiner to visit the local habitat if necessary, particularly if investigating a problem affecting multiple individuals.
      • Ensures that the mammal can be released back into its familiar home range or territory after treatment, aiming to maximise its chances of survival.
  • Where examination of the local habitat and immediate surroundings is possible for free-ranging mammals, note:
    • Evidence of piles of urine and faeces around the rear of the animal which may indicate prolonged recumbency.
    • Evidence of disturbed vegetation around the animal which may suggest that the animal has suffered from convulsions.
    • Recent application of agrochemicals and likelihood of persecution (poisons, traps, snares).
    • Local land use, proximity to roads, environmental disruption (e.g. construction / demolition work).
    • Climate and recent weather (rainfall, temperature, lightning, wind chill).
  • For group problems in particular, examination of the cage, enclosure or local environment where the problem is occurring may be vital.
  • For examination of wild mammals in a captive environment, observation of the enclosure should note:
    • Physical factors including the temperature, relative humidity, ventilation, drainage and condensation within the enclosure and their suitability for the species.
      • A strong smell of ammonia within the enclosure may indicate substrate contaminated with urine and faeces in need of cleaning, also inadequate ventilation.
      • The irritant nature of ammonia may increase the likelihood of respiratory disease.
    • Appearance, volume and distribution (latrines and territory marking) of urine and faeces. 
    • Presence of vomit or regurgitated food material.
    • Methods of food and water provision; height and number of sites in relation to the size of the group, suitability of containers and methods of provision for the species, risk of water supply freezing, presence of food caches, etc.
    • The volume and type of foodstuffs within the diet; whether all foods are taken with similar preference (preferential selection of some foodstuffs may lead to nutritional disorders, selection of soft foodstuffs alone may indicate a dental or oral problem interfering with chewing); suitability of the diet for the species (nutritional diet analyses may be required. See: Website Ref - W7 - ZOOTRITION - Dietary Management Software for zoo and wildlife professionals).
    • Plant species present within the enclosure, particularly potentially toxic species.
    • Enclosure boundary construction and potential physical dangers present e.g. sharp wire, toxic wood preservatives, fencing in which limbs could become caught.
    • Relate the size of the enclosure to the number of individuals present; assess potential overcrowding.
    • Assess the areas of refuge and shelter present within the enclosure so that subordinate animals can escape from dominant individuals, reducing stress levels and risks of physical aggression and trauma.
    • Access by wild birds and mammals and the risks of disease introduction which this poses.
  • Where practical for caged individuals (i.e. cage-size permitting), if a mammal is brought to a veterinarian for examination the cage should be brought as well, complete with the paper or other cage floor covering, and the urine and faeces produced by the mammal.
  • If the normal cage cannot be brought, or the enclosure/environment visited, details of these should form part of the history, and the carer/owner urged to bring a sample of typical droppings.
  • Droppings should be examined visually, noting their quantity, colour and consistency. 
    • If blood is present, an assessment of the amount of blood should be made, allowing for the ability of a small volume of blood to cover a large area, and an assessment as to whether it is fresh or dark in appearance. 
    • If in doubt, faecal occult (hidden) blood tests may be of use.
    • The presence of undigested or foreign material within the faeces should be noted. 
    • Volumes and appearance of diarrhoea may suggest small or large intestinal problems e.g. presence of mucus or blood, consistency, volume, steatorrheoa.

(V.w26)

West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations

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  • Hedgehogs presented for physical examination are most commonly free-ranging animals which have been found and identified as casualties or orphans in need of care. The diseases and conditions affecting them are those which have developed, on the whole, prior to captivity.
    • Observation of the immediate surroundings for free-ranging hedgehog casualties by the examiner may not be possible.
    • Hedgehog casualties are frequently presented by members of the public at a wildlife hospital or veterinary surgery. In this instance the examiner must take as full a history as possible from the finder, including description of the local environment where the mammal was found. 
    • Additional information which may be obtained from the finder includes the time of day when the hedgehog was found - healthy hedgehogs are not usually out in the daytime.
      • Hedgehogs found out in the daytime and lying down, making no effort to hide, are likely to be in need of care. (B337.3.w3)
      • Hedgehogs which may be out in daytime but are healthy include blind individuals, autumn juveniles trying to reach hibernation weight, females collecting extra nesting material just before giving birth, and individuals which have been disturbed, e.g. by gardening activity. These individuals are likely to be active when seen. (B337.3.w3)
  • Details of the local surroundings, habitat and circumstances in which the hedgehog was found, including the time of day at which it was found, can be very useful in suggesting potential problems present (e.g. found near road, close to bonfire, recent application of pesticides, out during the day in autumn, following nest disturbance).
  • Evaluation of the immediate surroundings should be possible when hedgehogs are in captivity (i.e. under treatment and rehabilitation or long term care sheltered accommodation).
  • In captivity, casualty hedgehogs which are active overnight will typically disturb their bedding and food, produce faeces around the enclosure and create quite a 'mess'. If the cage appears relatively undisturbed in the morning, this is an indication that the hedgehog has not been active through the night and should prompt the examiner to assess the individual further.(V.w44)
  • Observation of the urine and faeces is particularly important for hedgehog casualties.
  • Details of the substrate (e.g. concrete, mud, grass) and other environmental features in which the hedgehog has been kept or found may be very important in disease diagnosis.

(B22.27.w3, B156.7.w7, B151, B291.12.w12, B337.3.w3, J15.21.w1, V.w26)

Elephant Considerations

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Bear Considerations In bears with diarrhoea, a variety of diseases must be considered, including inappropriate diet and:

Lack of faeces may be noted with:

Vomiting has been noted associated with:

Urinary problems:

Lagomorph Considerations Rabbit faeces. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit caecotrophs. Click here for full page view with caption Normal rabbit hard and soft faeces. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit producing only a few faeces. Click here for full page view with caption For rabbits brought to be examined, any urine or droppings in the carrying cage should be examined. (B601.2.w2)
Faeces

A healthy rabbit ingests its own caecotrophs and produces large quantities of hard faeces. (B600.3.w3)

Urine
Ferret Considerations

Vomiting or regurgitation may be seen with:

Diarrhoea can be a sign of

Melaena or tarry stools may occur with

Haematuria may indicate:

Bonobo Considerations Note: There is very little published information available on veterinary care specifically in bonobos. In general, treatment and care of bonobos is the same as treatment and care of Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee in particular and of the other great apes and other primates. Great ape treatment and health care is commonly based on the treatment for their close relatives, Homo sapiens - Humans.
  • Note the substrate and its condition, including when it was cleaned out. Check for the presence or absence of faeces and look for any evidence of diarrhoea. (B670.5.w5)
    • The presence of diarrhoea is commonly the first indication of a gastrointestinal disease, but can also be a sign of other conditions such as hepatic disease or right-sided heart failure. (B644.10.w10)
    • Vomit is a rarer sign of gastrointestinal disease, particularly gastric disease, but can also indicate other problems such as renal failure, hepatic failure or pancreatitis. (B644.10.w10)
    • Lack of faeces (constipation) may indicate gastrointestinal disease or an abdominal mass. (B644.10.w10)
  • Check for evidence of urinary output. (B670.5.w5)
  • Do the substrate and enrichment items show signs of exploration, or have they been ignored? (B670.5.w5)
    • [Note: these are simpler to assess regarding an individual housed alone. In group-housed primates (and primates should usually be housed in groups), it is more difficult to determine individual urinary and faecal output, use of enrichment items etc. without direct observation. CCTV or a one-way viewing window facilitates observation without the primates knowing that they are being watched.]
Associated techniques linked from Wildpro

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Observation

The first stage in the physical examination of a mammal is observation of the individual(s), preferably without it knowing it is being observed.

Observation is particularly valuable for wild mammals where conscious physical examination is not possible and chemical restraint is essential in order to carry out a full physical examination.

  • Note: Non-predatory mammals may attempt to hide their illness; this is a survival tactic, as predators may be more likely to target an obviously unfit individual.
    • A mammal which appears bright and alert when being watched may appear increasingly weak when it thinks it is unobserved.
    • Careful attention should be paid to reports of problems from experienced management staff and others familiar with the individual; this may allow early recognition of problems which would not other wise be apparent at this stage.
    • If the animal's daily caretaker has noted that the animal is "not right" they are probably correct, even if no problem is apparent when the animal is observed by veterinary personnel. (P108.12.w2)
  • Describe the animal's general demeanour (bright, alert responsive; quiet, alert, responsive; collapsed; comatose).
  • Note any changes in behaviour.
    • Cessation of normal behaviours should be noted as well as the occurrence of abnormal behaviours.
    • Observe any abnormal behaviour patterns e.g. circling, head pressing, repetitive stereotyped movements.
  • Note the interaction between the individual and others in the group, bearing in mind what is normal for that species and management system.
    • Changes in social interactions may indicate illness.
  • General signs of illness include poor coat quality, a hunched appearance, partially closed eyes, the head held downwards, prolonged recumbency, straining, shivering, etc. Some vocalisations may indicate pain.
  • Repeated attention of an animal directed towards one area of its body (for example repeated licking of the area) may indicate an injury or other localised problem.
  • Evidence of effort to control an abnormally high or low body temperature should be noted.
    • Overheating (Sunstroke - Heatstroke, pyrexia) may be associated with signs such as open-mouth breathing, flared nostrils, sweating, resting as far away from artificial heat sources as possible, resting in shade. 
    • Chilling/hypothermia (Chilling/Hypothermia) may be associated with signs such as huddling in groups, shivering, piloerection ("hairs standing on end"), resting close to artificial heat sources.
  • Foot or leg problems may cause a mammal to shift its weight from one leg to the other repeatedly, weight-bear on only one side constantly, or rest on the ground rather than stand.
  • Describe any abnormalities of posture of the head, body and tail.
  • Examine the animal's gait at a number of paces and activities where possible (e.g. walking, trotting, cantering, climbing).
    • Lameness should be characterised as shifting or continual, single or multiple limb (noting the limbs affected), and graded according to a system from barely visible to non-weight bearing lame.
  • Note the respiratory rate, effort and character.
    • Increased respiratory effort may be seen as excessive chest movement, mouth-breathing with the neck outstretched, gasping, double expiratory effort in extreme cases, expiratory grunt.
  • A variety of nervous signs may be seen, including ataxia, paresis, paralysis, torticollis, circling, convulsions, etc.
  • Assess the reactivity of the mammal to stimuli (e.g. sound, visual) towards the end of the examination when the inevitable disturbance will not be too disruptive.
  • Observation of behaviour and ability to navigate obstacles in a novel environment is useful for assessment of vision.
  • For group problems, observation may give an indication of the proportion of animals which are sick, and whether the affected individuals are of a particular type (e.g. species, food type, sex, age class).

(B280.1.w1, B429.32.w32, P108.12.w2, V.w5, V.w26)

Assessment of pain

  • Note: it can be difficult to assess pain in animals, particularly prey species. (J213.9.w4, J213.10.w2, J290.21.w1, J303.7.w1)
  • Observer experience is important for accurate assessment of pain. (P54.2.w16)
  • An understanding of the normal behaviour for the species is required in order to properly interpret behavioural signs of pain. (B322.4.w4)
  • Wild animals, particularly of prey species, are very likely to hide signs of pain even when presenting with severe injuries. (J34.24.w2, J213.9.w4)

For further information on recognition of pain, see: Assessment of Pain in Ruminants

West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations

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(B22.27.w3, B228.6.w6, B254.2.w2, J15.21.w1, V.w26)

Elephant Considerations

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Bear Considerations
  • Changes in the bear's normal activity level and behaviour may indicate illness. Sick or injured bears may show dramatic changes in behaviour or temperament. (D247.8.w8, P106.2007.w5)
General depression or lethargy may be noted in bears with:

Depression and cough may be noted with:

Anorexia may be noted with: 

Scratching or other signs of pruritis may be noted with:

Reluctance to enter the water has been noted in bears with:

Respiratory:

Pain may or may not be evident with:

Abdominal pain is evident with:

Vomiting may be associated with gastritis, toxicity, or neoplasia:

Paralysis and/or aggression may be seen associated with Rabies)

Nervousness and agitation has been noted in Pseudorabies in Bears

Excessive salivation has been noted in Pseudorabies in Bears

Ataxia may be seen with

Cessation of urination was seen in a bear with Urolithiasis in Bears (Miscellaneous Disease Summary)

Seizures may be seen in bears with:

Lagomorph ConsiderationsFarcture-dislocation lumbar spine. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit in pain. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit in pain. Click here for full page view with caption Floppy rabbit syndrome. Click here for full page view with caption. Lagomorphs are timid prey species. If possible they should be observed from a distance before being handled, to improve the chances of observing signs of illness which will be hidden when the rabbit knows it is being observed by a potential predator. (B601.2.w2, J72.48.w1, J213.2.w2)
  • It is particularly important to observe critically ill rabbits before they are handled. (J213.1.w1)

The following should be observed:

Signs of pain in rabbits
Note:
  • Rabbits, which are prey animals, may not show pain-related behaviours when they know they are being observed, since expressing pain might attract predators. (B601.16.w16)
  • It can be difficult to distinguish signs of apprehension (common in a rabbit in an unfamiliar environment) from signs of pain. (J213.1.w1)

The following behaviours may indicate pain:

  • Abdominal muscle contractions. (B601.16.w16)
  • Pressing the abdomen to the ground. (B601.16.w16)
  • Keeping at the back of the cage/pen, facing away from any observers. (B615.7.w7)
  • Hiding. (B601.3.w3)
  • Apprehension. (J213.1.w1)
  • Worried or anxious facial expression (J213.1.w1)
  • Abnormal posture. (B615.7.w7)
  • Hunched, immobile posture. (B600.3.w3, B601.3.w3, B615.7.w7, J213.1.w1)
    • Or the rabbit may be stretched out in response to abdominal or foot pain. (J213.1.w1)
  • Abnormal gait when encouraged to move. (B615.7.w7)
  • Inactivity. (B602.22.w22) Reluctance to move or to keep moving. (B615.7.w7, J213.1.w1)
  • Reduced reactivity to external stimuli. (B602.22.w22)
  • Vocalisation in response to approach or handling. (B615.7.w7)
    • Rabbits in severe pain/distress may vocalise with a high pitched scream. (V.w26)
  • Uncharacteristic aggressive response to approach or handling. (B601.3.w3, B615.7.w7, J213.1.w1)
  • Coat unkempt or ruffled (due to lack of normal grooming). (B601.3.w3, B615.7.w7)
    • Sometimes overgrooming is a sign of pain. (B601.3.w3)
  • Anorexia or reduced food intake. (B602.22.w22, B615.7.w7)
  • Reduced water intake. (B601.3.w3, B615.7.w7)
  • Tooth grinding. (B600.3.w3, B601.3.w3, B602.22.w22)
    • With severe, usually visceral pain e.g. intestinal impaction. (B600.3.w3, J213.1.w1)
  • Dyspnoea. (B601.App2.w20)
  • Self-trauma. (B601.3.w3)
  • Pushing the abdomen to the floor. (B601.3.w3
  • Extension/elevation of the head. (B601.3.w3)
  • Piloerection. (B601.3.w3)
  • Change in respiration. (J213.1.w1)
  • Increased respiratory rate. (B601.3.w3)

Neurological signs may indicate: (B601.App2.w20)

Ferret Considerations

The ferret should be observed in its travelling cage (carrier) or on the examination table before it is restrained for physical examination. (J29.6.w1) 

Observe the ferret while it is in a carrying basket (if you can get a good view through the wire from a distance) or with the ferret free on the floor of the consulting room. (B631.18.w18) The history can be taken at the same time (History & Documentation). (B631.18.w18)

  • The ferret should be alert and responsive to its surroundings; if it has been asleep in its travelling cage, it should be alert and active once it is awake. (B602.2.w2, B631.18.w18, B339.9.w9, J15.24.w5, J213.2.w6)

    • If the ferret remains lethargic, this is a sign of ill health. (J15.24.w5)

  • If the ferret is moving very fast, with very bright eyes, vocalisation and a "bottle brush tail", it is excited and/or fearful and is more likely to bite. (B631.18.w18)

  • Check the ferret's gait. (J213.2.w6)

    • It is normal for the ferret's back to be arched when it is walking or running. (B339.9.w9, J213.2.w6)

    • Hopping, shuffling and moving backwards are all normal in playful ferrets. (J213.2.w6)

  • Does the ferret's coat look bright and shiny or dull and staring? Is there any loss of fur (alopecia)? (B631.18.w18)

  • Note any scratching, rubbing the body on the ground, or abnormal grooming which may be associated with skin disease. (J16.30.w1)

  • Look for obvious signs of disease or abnormal behaviour. (J29.6.w1)

  • Note the breathing rate and whether there is any associated noise. (B631.18.w18, J213.2.w6)

  • If ferrets can be observed with their usual ferret companion(s), note any aggression or behaviours indicating excess dominance. (J16.30.w1)

  • A ferret clawing at its mouth with its front paws indicates nausea or sometimes an oral problem. (J213.4.w7)

Bonobo Considerations Note: There is very little published information available on veterinary care specifically in bonobos. In general, treatment and care of bonobos is the same as treatment and care of Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee in particular and of the other great apes and other primates. Great ape treatment and health care is commonly based on the treatment for their close relatives, Homo sapiens - Humans.
  • In primates in general, observation of the general attitude, activity and food consumption are important. The person caring for the animals on a day to day basis may notice subtle changes which otherwise might not be seen. (B10.44.w44f)
  • In order to properly assess a primate's appearance, behaviour and general demeanour, it is important for the observer to be familiar with the species and the individual animal: to know what is and is not normal. (B670.5.w5)
    • The primate's response to the observer is part of the assessment. This may be a positive response, or staying very still but being very aware of the observer, or appearing non-responsive. (B670.5.w5)
    • Sufficient time should be allowed for the visual assessment. (B670.5.w5)
  • In Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee, lethargy, reduced social activity and lack of appetite are common general indicators of illness, as are other signs which, if seen in a human, would indicate ill health. (D409.6.w6)

In addition to behaviour, assessment of primates before any handling should include:

  • The respiratory rate and effort while the individual is resting. (B10.44.w44b, B644.7.w7)
  • Respiratory effort:
    • Open mouth breathing at rest suggests bilateral nasal obstruction, nasopharyngeal obstruction or severe disease of the lower respiratory tract. (B644.7.w7)
    • Dyspnoea may be worst when the individual lies down; the affected individual may avoid lying down.  (B644.7.w7)
  • Cyanosis, which indicates severe disease. (B644.7.w7)
  • Any coughing or sneezing. (B644.7.w7)
  • The condition of the skin and hair coat. Fur loss may indicate bacterial or parasitic infection of the skin, or hair pulling (overgrooming) by the individual or by cage mates, suggesting psychological problems such as boredom, or stress due to bullying. (B670.5.w5)
  • General assessment of body condition. (B670.5.w5)
  • Head and eye movements, nostrils, front teeth, and discharges, swellings or unevenness. (B670.5.w5)
    • Facial swelling or a draining tract on the face may suggest dental infection. (B644.10.w10)
  • Locomotion, including any signs of imbalance or lameness; whether all four limbs are used normally. (B670.5.w5)
  • External genitalia, if the primate posterior presents or otherwise shows these. (B670.5.w5)
  • Any straining to defecate, which may indicate gastrointestinal disease. (B644.10.w10)
  • Whether the abdomen appears distended (may indicate gastrointestinal disease). (B644.10.w10)

Signs of pain

  • Overt signs of pain in a non-human primate may be minimal. (B670.5.w5)
  • A primate with pain may appear miserable, have a hunched posture, or crouch with its head forward and arms across its body. Further signs include cessation of grooming, a "sad" expression, glassy eyes, avoidance of companions, moaning and grunting, refusal of food and drink. (B670.5.w5)
  • With acute abdominal pain, signs include facial contortions, tooth clenching, restlessness and shaking. (B670.5.w5)
  • Note: companions may show increased affiliative behaviours such as grooming, or increased aggressive behaviour (attacking the ill individual). (B670.5.w5)
  • If the whole group is affected by a painful condition, all may be showing similar signs. (B670.5.w5)
  • Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee, like other wild animals, generally mask signs of pain and illness, therefore visible signs suggest high discomfort levels. (D409.6.w6)
Associated techniques linked from Wildpro

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Handling for Physical Examination

Advance planning should be made of the likely equipment and resources needed for physical examination and for ancillary tests which may be required. Adequate preparation will mean that the period of physical or chemical restraint can be kept to a minimum.
  • In order to carry out a proper physical examination, the animal must be appropriately restrained. Restraint should avoid injury to the mammal, the handler or the person carrying out the examination. 
    • Covering the head may assist in keeping many mammals quiet during the examination and also reduces their ability to direct attacks at the catchers.
  • Human safety should be of paramount importance when considering handling for physical examination. (See Human Health Considerations section on this page).
  • Before starting the examination, consider what potential weapons the mammal may use in defence, such as horns, antlers, spurs, hooves, teeth and claws.
    • Larger carnivores are particularly dangerous; they are capable of inflicting severe bites and claw wounds.
  • Minimise the time for which the animal must be restrained:
    • Before catching for treatment, make sure that a list has been prepared of all procedures which need to be carried out, and that all equipment and medications required are ready. This will minimise handling time. 
  • When dealing with wild mammals, whether free-ranging or captive, consideration must be given to the stress which the animal is likely to experience during a physical examination and whether it should therefore be performed on the animal conscious, or whether safe chemical restraint, possibly remote, should be used instead.
    • The decision as to whether the wild mammal should be examined conscious or under chemical restraint may also depend on the expected duration of the procedure, whether any diagnostic tests may be required following examination, and whether the examination or tests are likely to be painful.
  • Where safe conscious physical examination of mammals with minimal stress is possible (e.g. many domestic mammals, tame individuals and neonates), this may be preferable to chemical restraint.
    • Potential risks associated with the use of anaesthetic drugs can be avoided. 
    • The condition of the animal can be judged and samples taken for assessment (e.g. blood). Where progression to the use of chemical restraint (sedation or general anaesthesia) is necessary, the animal can be first be stabilised and drug protocols associated with least risk selected.
  • Note: Some animals are trained to allow physical examination without restraint. See: Mammal Handling & Movement - Husbandry Training 
  • Physical restraint for examination of wild mammals requires experience; advice should be taken from experienced management staff if the examiner is insufficiently familiar with the species.
  • Devices to aid with physical restraint may be useful and available in some instances e.g. raceways, crushes.
  • The risk of Capture Myopathy varies between species of mammals but should be noted when planning whether to use conscious handling for clinical examination or alternatively to sedate the animal by remote injection (i.e. darting).
    • Prolonged physical restraint increases the risk of the development of Capture Myopathy.
  • In some situations, particularly where an animal can be easily targeted, the use of darting techniques may greatly reduce the stress of capture and handling when compared with physical capture combined with hand-injection. In using darting techniques, the following points must be remembered:
    • The size of needle, volume and viscosity of the fluid, and the amount of power used to project the dart should be appropriate to the size of the muscle mass and thickness of the skin. The use of inappropriate equipment and materials can cause serious damage to the animal.
    • Licences are required for the use of darting equipment in the UK; darting should only be undertaken by experienced personnel holding the requisite UK firearms licences.. (See: Law Reference LUK24 - Firearms Acts 1968-1997)
    (V.w6)
  • Particular care should be taken when handling small, quickly moving mammals, to prevent their escape or accidental damage inflicted by the operator.
  • Particular care should be taken with the handling of long-legged species (e.g. deer) to avoid any accidental injury caused by man. This is particularly important if nets (including "walk-towards" nets) are used, which can involve a considerable risk of limb fractures.
  • The anatomy of certain species and ability to curl up making areas of their body inaccessible may make general anaesthesia essential for complete or prolonged examination, e.g. armadillos (Dasypodidae - Armadillos (Family)), hedgehogs (Erinaceidae - Hedgehogs (Family)).
  • See: Wildlife Casualty Handling and Transport; Wildlife Casualty Assessment (with special reference to UK Wildlife) - Handling for Physical Examination

(B123, J213.9.w4, V.w5, V.w6, V.w26)

West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations

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  • Safety of the examiner should be of paramount importance at all stages.
  • Risks to human health, both physical and risks of zoonotic illness, must be considered. (Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974)
  • When first disturbed, hedgehogs may make huffing noises or cough and move suddenly in jerky motions.(J15.21.w1, V.w26)
  • The natural defence strategy of the hedgehog is to roll into a ball, which although inconvenient to the examiner, does not increase the person's risks of injury.
  • It is recommended that gloves such as latex gloves are worn whilst handling hedgehogs to reduce the chances of transmission of zoonotic infections (e.g. Salmonellosis and Hedgehog ringworm)
  • Although it is rare, hedgehogs may bite occasionally and bite wounds can become infected.(J15.21.w1, B123)
    • If a hedgehog bites it may repeat the bite several times rapidly. The best response to a bite is to wait until the hedgehog has let go before trying to withdraw the hand quickly. (B291.12.w12)
  • Physical examination of the hedgehog is complicated by their ability to curl into a tight ball and remain in that position for prolonged periods of time.(B16.13.w13)
  • (For further details on curling and uncurling behaviours See: West European hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus - Social Behaviour - Territoriality - Predation - Learning (Literature Reports) - Defensive behaviour)
  • Hedgehogs which present as casualties which are not sufficiently strong to roll into a ball are seriously ill and in need of urgent treatment. (J60.1.w2)
  • Except when a life-threatening condition is present (e.g. haemorrhage, obstruction of breathing) a full physical examination should not be undertaken until the casualty hedgehog has had a chance to rest quietly and its condition stabilise after transport. (B118.18.w18) Hedgehogs will be more likely to unroll after a quiet period of stabilisation.
  • Brief physical examination is often possible using techniques to encourage unrolling in the hedgehog.
    • See: Catching and Handling of Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog
    • Conscious examination with the hedgehog unrolled is usually limited to visual inspection of the limbs and undercarriage. Palpation of the hedgehog will usually cause it to roll up into a tight ball.
    • Pain will often cause the hedgehog to roll up into a ball.(J15.21.w1)
    • Brief examination is desirable, wherever possible, since it allows the examiner to more accurately assess the animals condition. Initial treatment including fluid therapy can be given and an educated decision made as to whether and when to progress to physical examination under general anaesthesia.
    • A mirror may be used to inspect the underside of a hedgehog without needing to turn it over.(B337.3.w3)
  • General anaesthesia is necessary for all but the briefest of physical examinations.(B228.11.w11)
  • Progression to complete physical examination under general anaesthesia is often required for hedgehogs which are unwilling to unroll and where prolonged examination is required.(B150.w1, J34.24.w1, B291.12.w12)
    • This is essential if there is evidence to suggest a serious medical condition may be present e.g. foul smell, burnt spines, haemorrhage, entangling in netting, maggots, distressed vocalisation, history of trauma. 
  • As with all wild mammal casualties, the degree of stress which the hedgehog will experience as a result of physical examination should be considered. Where prolonged examination is likely to be required, general anaesthesia may be preferable to attempts at conscious examination.
  • Hedgehogs are very sensitive to high frequency sounds and noises such as chirping and hissing, as well as clattering of instruments, should be avoided when hedgehogs are being handled. (B291.12.w12)

(B16.13.w13, B118.18.w18, B123, B150.w1, B228.11.w11, B291.12.w12, J15.21.w1, J34.24.w1, J60.1.w2, V.w26)

Elephant Considerations When working with elephants, it is important always to remember that their size and weight means that they can injure people easily, whether intentionally or unintentionally. The potential risks to all personnel involved must be considered before any hands-on procedure is initiated, and remembered during the procedure. It is critical that all personnel are highly trained and understand their respective roles and responsibilities during the procedure, that one person has overall command responsibility, and that no unnecessary people are present within the contact area. (V.w6, V.w72, V.w84, V.w86, V.w88)
  • Elephants are very large, heavy and strong, highly intelligent, can move surprisingly quickly and can be highly strung at times: 
    • Depending on the management system (free contact / no contact / protected contact), and the character and training of the individual elephant, it may be necessary to carry out any hands-on procedure with the elephant under sedation and/or in an elephant restraint device.
    • There is always some risk to personnel involved when carrying out hands-on procedures on a conscious elephant.
    • There is always some risk to the elephant when sedation is used, especially if full anesthesia is required.

    (V.w6, V.w72, V.w84, V.w86, V.w88)

  • Care must be taken to ensure that personnel working nearby are aware that a hands-on procedure is being carried out. Both personnel directly involved with the procedure, and those working nearby, need to ensure that movements and noise (from telephones, bleepers, shutting doors, heavy machinery etc.) that might disturb the elephant, both inside and outside the elephant area, are minimized during the procedure. This includes activities at nearby enclosures that might be audible to the elephant and could startle it. (V.w6, V.w72, V.w84, V.w86, V.w88)
  • Expertise and experience of the elephant handler(s) are critical when carrying out hands-on procedures on a conscious elephant. (V.w6, V.w72, V.w84, V.w86, V.w88)
  • Before starting a physical examination, always ask the keeper about the elephants temperament.
  • A bull in musth should never be approached by a stranger. To determine if the bull is in musth, the perineum should be observed for obvious swelling and the temporal gland openings for swelling and/or discharges. (B455.w1)
  • It has been recommended that the examiner verbally communicate to the elephant before actually touching him, however some elephant keepers in the U.S. prefer that the examiner do not speak directly to the elephant. (B455.w1)
  • The physical examination should be performed in a consistent manner that will include all the body systems. (B455.w1)
  • The examiner should be familiar with the vitals and signs of health and disease in elephants.
  • If the tuberculosis (TB) status is unknown, or TB or other potentially zoonotic diseases are suspected, the examiner should consider wearing protective clothing and using protective equipment, including gloves and a hepa-filter mask. (B455.w1)
  • It has been recommended to first observe the elephant from a distance and from multiple directions then conduct a close examination starting at the left side of the head and proceed along the left side of the body to the rear of the elephant and then to the right side, ending at the head. All body areas are observed or palpated. (B455.w1)
Bear Considerations

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Physical restraint has very limited applicability in bears. Cubs may be examined while under physical restraint, and a superficial examination of older bears may be possible with the bear held in a crush cage. In recent years, positive reinforcement training has been used to allow examination of bears without physical restraint.
  • Chemical restraint is required for handling, examining and treating adult bears. (B64.26.w5, B16.9.w9, B429.3.w3)

    • However, positive reinforcement training can be used to allow physical examination of long-term captive bears without the need for physical or chemical restraint, in a protected-contact situation. (N19.15.w2) For further information see: Mammal Handling & Movement - Husbandry Training

For Ursus americanus - American black bear cubs during rearing and rehabilitation:

  • Use manual restraint if possible; sedation should be used only if required for the safety of those performing the physical assessment. (B338.23.w23)
  • Small cubs can be scruffed (picked up by the skin over the shoulders). (J417.20.w1)
  • Cubs under 7.2 kg (16 lb) (J417.20.w1); or under 9 kg, (P62.9.w1) can be handled and restrained using heavy gloves or blankets to protect the handler.
  • Young cubs should be masked down with isoflurane while hand-held (gloves and blanket) to allow blood sampling and e.g. removal of ticks. (P62.13.w2)
  • Cubs over 9 kg, anaesthetise with 4 mg/kg Tiletamine-Zolazepam, intramuscularly, given by pole-syringe or dart pistol. (P62.13.w2)
  • From about 7.2-18 kg, restrain with a strong net then inject with immobilising drugs using a pole syringe. (J417.20.w1)
  • Juveniles weighing more than about 18 kg need to be chemically restrained for handling, as with adults. (J417.20.w1)

For wild bears in rehabilitation

  • Usually chemical restraint is required except for young cubs. (J417.20.w1)

  • A juvenile Ursus americanus - American black bear which is unconscious due to impact with a vehicle may be examined without chemical restraint but with great care, considering the risks to the handler(s) if the bear suddenly regains consciousness. Examination should be carried out in a secure, enclosed area, and preparations should be in place to provide chemical immobilisation if it is needed. (J417.20.w1)

For information on chemical restraint see:

Lagomorph ConsiderationsSlippery table top. Click here for full page view with caption Non-slip mat for handling rabbits. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a front-opening cage 1. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a front-opening cage 2. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a front-opening cage 3. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a front-opening cage 4. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit in a top-opeing wire mesh cage. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a top-opening cage 1. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a top-opening cage 2. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a top-opening cage 3. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a top-opening cage 4. Click here for full page view with caption Lifting a rabbit onto a handling mat.. Click here for full page view with caption Restraining a rabbit on a mat. Click here for full page view with caption Lifting and turning a rabbit 1. Click here for full page view with caption Lifting and turning a rabbit 2. Click here for full page view with caption Lifting and turning a rabbit 3. Click here for full page view with caption Lifting and turinng a rabbit 1. Click here for full page view with caption Handling a rabbit within a bag. Click here for full page view with caption Holding rabbit for abdominal exam. Click here for full page view with caption Holding rabbit for abdominal exam. Click here for full page view with caption Notes 
  • Lagomorphs can both scratch and bite.
  • Rabbits have a relatively delicate skeleton (8% of total body weight, compared to 12-13% in domestic cats) and are prone to fractures of the long bones or skull during struggling. (B602.14.w14, J213.2.w2)
  • Rabbits have a very powerful kick; a single kick with the hind legs when a rabbit is being restrained can be enough to subluxate or fracture lumbar or lumbosacral vertebrae, with permanent paralysis resulting. (B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2)
Handling
  • Lagomorphs should be approached calmly and quietly; avoid sudden movements while approaching and handling lagomorphs. (B601.2.w2, J72.48.w1, J213.2.w2)
    • Talking quietly may be helpful while approaching domestic rabbits. (J72.48.w1)
  • Always keep control over the rabbit. (B602.14.w14)
  • A lagomorph which struggles excessively when restrained should be placed back in a suitable carrying box or onto a solid surface. (J213.2.w2)
    • Note: Stress of handling can result in excessive release of catecholamines and endogenous steroids; these can cause tachycardia, hypertension, hyperglycaemia and reduced renal perfusion - changes which are likely to further compromise an already ill individual. (B601.2.w2)
    • Excessive sympathetic nervous system stimulation can lead to fatal cardiac arrest. (B601.2.w2)
  • Ensure that any surface the animal is being held on is non-slip; rubber mats, large towels etc. can be used on a stainless-steel examining table to provide a less slippery surface. (B602.14.w14, J213.1.w1, J213.2.w2)
    • A small towel is not adequate; it can be kicked off the table. (B602.14.w14)
  • Do not obstruct the nostrils: lagomorphs are obligate nasal breathers. (B601.2.w2)
  • Remember that a sudden movement by the animal during a clinical procedure such as venipuncture could result in iatrogenic injury to tissues (laceration, formation of haematoma). (B601.2.w2)
  • Wrapping a rabbit in a towel may be helpful if the rabbit is panicking. (J213.1.w1)
Handling of Oryctolagus cuniculus domesticus - Domestic rabbit
  • Place the rabbit on a non-slip surface (e.g. a rubber mat on a table). (B601.2.w2, B602.14.w14, J72.48.w1, J213.1.w1)
  • The handler grasps the scruff with one hand and places the other hand behind the rabbit's rump. (B601.2.w2)
    • Or the handler places one hand over the face and the other behind the rump. (B601.2.w2)
    • Keep mild downward pressure on the rabbit. (J15.29.w2)
    • This restraint is generally sufficient for examination of most of the rabbit (dorsum, ears, abdominal palpation etc.) and for giving subcutaneous, intramuscular, intradermal and intravenous (marginal ear vein) injections. (J15.29.w2)
  • If one person has to both examine and hold the rabbit, place the rabbit facing away from the examiner, with its hindquarters at the edge of the table so the examiner's body can support it behind, preventing backward movement or kicking, while one hand presses gently down on the shoulders for restraint. (B601.2.w2)
    • The owner may be asked to stand in front of the rabbit and place one hand on each of its shoulders for further restraint while the posterior part of the rabbit is being examined. (B601.2.w2)
    • Both hands can be used to simultaneously palpate and restrain the rabbit. (B602.14.w14)
    • Or hold the rabbit sideways against your body with one arm, at the edge of the table, and use the other hand to examine the free side, then turn the rabbit around to examine the other side. (B602.14.w14)
    • Or sit on the floor with the rabbit between your legs. (J213.1.w1)
  • For examination of the ventral surface, the assistant holds the rabbit in a vertical position, with one hand holding the hindlegs and pelvis against the assistant's body while the other arm is around the rabbit's body just below the forelimbs, supporting those. (B601.2.w2)
    • To increase access to the whole ventral surface, the hand supporting the hind limbs can be placed against the rabbit's lower abdomen, with the first to third fingers restraining the rabbit's hind legs extended against the handler's abdomen, while the hand supporting the cranial part of the rabbit lifts the forelegs upwards. At all times, the rabbit's back is supported against the handler's body (J15.29.w2)
    • If the examiner is also restraining the rabbit, the rabbit should be supported with one hand under the thorax, the other on the rump, and the rabbit lifted so it rests with its rump on the table, back supported by the examiner and thorax and forelegs supported in one hand. (B601.2.w2)
    • Alternatively, the rabbit may be cradled on its back in its owner's arms, or held by the scruff and placed on its back; many rabbits will become immobile when placed in dorsal recumbency. (B600.3.w3)
  • Additional restraint can be provided during examination of the head, or administration of oral medication, by wrapping the rabbit in a towel: (B601.2.w2, B602.14.w14, J213.2.w2) place the rabbit on the towel so that its front feet are near the front edge in the middle of the towel and lift one side of the towel firmly up and over the rabbit, including over its forepaws, but leaving the head free. Lift the back edge of the towel up over the rabbit's rump, then wrap the other side of the towel over the rabbit as before and tuck it in ventrally on the other side of the rabbit. (B601.2.w2)
    • Or place it diagonally on the towel, and wrap, with the front corner then tucked in under the chin to ensure the front feet are restrained. (J213.2.w2)
    • One limb at a time can be freed from the towel for examination or venipuncture. (J213.2.w2)
    • For administering oral medication, the wrapped rabbit can be held between the knees on the floor, or tucked under one arm. (J213.2.w2)
  • To approach a particularly aggressive or timid rabbit, a large towel can be thrown over it. (B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2)
    • The rabbit can be wrapped up in the towel and its head kept covered until it is placed on an appropriate surface
  • A rabbit can be restrained in a cat-bag; these have zippers placed to allow access to different parts of the body. (B602.14.w14)
  • A quiet, well-behaved rabbit can often be placed in lateral recumbency. Once the rabbit is on a solid surface and held by scruff and rump support, cover the rabbit's head (e.g. with a towel), position the forearm of the hand holding the scuff along the rabbit's back and gently tip the rabbit onto its side. (B601.2.w2)
    • Care should be taken not to twist the rabbit's body while moving it from ventral to lateral recumbency. (J213.2.w2)
    • If the rabbit struggles, return it to ventral recumbency. (J213.2.w2)
    • Note: most rabbits need chemical restraint for lateral recumbency. (B601.2.w2)
  • To place a rabbit in dorsal recumbency (e.g. for examination of the soles of the feet), reach over the animal with one hand and cup round the rabbit's rump, while holding the scruff with the other hand. Scoop up under the rump while lifting the rabbit by the scruff, turning it over so the rabbit lies in dorsal recumbency with its back supported along the forearm of the hand holding the scruff. The hind legs and lower back can then be restrained between the handler's upper arm and body, leaving one hand free. (J15.29.w2, J72.48.w1) 
  • For very nervous, aggressive or stressed individuals, examination under chemical restraint may be preferable. (B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2)
    • Chemical restraint may be needed for proper oral examination, collection of samples, or radiography. (B602.14.w14)
    • Induction with isoflurane in an anaesthetic chamber is safest. (J213.2.w2)
  • Use of tonic immobility ("trancing"): this may be useful to allow minor non-painful procedures such as examination of the mouth, nail clipping or abdominal radiography as an alternative to the stress of firm physical restraint or the physiological stress of sedation or anaesthesia. It should be remembered that the rabbit is probably in a fearful, not relaxed, state, also that the rabbit may revert to an active state at any time. Further description and discussion is provided in Mammal Handling & Movement - Restraint, Holding and Carrying
Handling of wild lagomorphs
  • Minimise physical restraint of wild (free-living) lagomorphs. (B538.59.w59)
    • Use chemical immobilisation to restrain free-living lagomorphs for examination and collection of samples. (B538.59.w59)
  • In general, wild lagomorphs are best handled inside an appropriately-sized bag. The animal is kept in the bag at all times, with only the part being examined (ear, foot etc.) being exposed. (V.w123, V.w137)
  • It may be useful to wrap the lagomorph in a towel for restraint. (B284.10.w10)
  • If a conscious wild lagomorph becomes excessively stressed during a physical examination, return it to its cage and give it time to calm down. (J213.9.w4)
  • Careful restraint is needed. It is important to remember that wild lagomorphs will either freeze or jump and flee in response to danger, and may switch from freezing to fleeing rapidly. (B284.10.w10)
  • Wild rabbits and hares may scratch with the front feet and rake with the hind feet if not properly restrained. (J204.47.w1)
  • "Trancing" may be effective. (B284.10.w10)
    • It should be remembered that this is a response of a prey species caught by a predator.
  • See:
Ferret Considerations Domestic ferrets generally are not difficult to restrain for physical examination. (B602.2.w2, J29.6.w1)
  • Juveniles (under six months) may be more difficult simply because they are very lively, so that it is more of a challenge to keep them still enough for examination. (J29.6.w1)
  • An assistant may be needed when giving oral medication, or injections. (B602.2.w2)
  • An assistant may be needed to insert a rectal thermometer. (B602.2.w2)
  • Note: Leather gloves are not recommended: they reduce dexterity, they are difficult to disinfect, and a ferret can bite through them anyway (B602.2.w2) unless they are very thick (J15.24.w5) [which excessively reduces dexterity]. (V.w5)

Biting by ferrets

Ferrets usually do not bite. (J29.6.w1)

  • Ask the owner if the ferret tends to nip or bite. (B602.2.w2)
  • Juveniles may nip; ferrets handled infrequently, or a nursing female, might bite. (B602.2.w2)
  • A very frightened ferret may bite an unfamiliar hand which invades its cage. (J29.6.w1)
  • Certain odours on the hands might encourage biting. (J29.6.w1)
  • If a ferret bites and holds on, a drop of isopropyl alcohol on its gums will make it let go. (J29.6.w1)
  • Note: in some localities with rabies, even if the ferret has been properly vaccinated against rabies, it may be mandatory to euthanase the ferret and submit its head for rabies testing. In such areas it is particularly important to ensure that safe handling techniques are practiced. (J29.6.w1) In other locations, the decision to quarantine or euthanase may be dependent on the vaccination status of the ferret. (J213.2.w6)

(J29.6.w1)

Removal from the travelling cage (carrier).

  • Preferably allow the ferret to walk out of its travelling cage onto the examination table, rather than reaching into the cage. (J29.6.w1)
    • If it does not want to exit the cage, tilt the cage a little to encourage it to come out. (J29.6.w1)
    • Once it emerges, it can easily be grasped around the shoulders. (B631.18.w18)
    • Do not pick the ferret up out of its carrying cage/box. (B631.18.w18)
    • If it still will not exit, place a small towel over the ferret, then grasp the ferret through the towel. (J29.6.w1)
      • Once it is out of the cage, remove the towel so you can hold the ferret more easily. (J29.6.w1)

Holding the ferret

  • Ferrets have excellent hearing and sense of smell, while their visual acuity is best for close-range vision. To avoid startling a ferret, talk to it before picking it up. (J29.6.w1)
  • Preferably allow the ferret to explore the examination table for a few minutes before picking it up. (J15.24.w5)
  • Once the ferret is on the table, talk to it (so it knows you are there), than grasp it around the neck and shoulders with one hand. (J15.24.w5, J29.6.w1)
    • It is possible to wave a cloth in front of the ferret to distract it before grasping it with the other hand. (J15.24.w5)
  • Just a light hold restraining the ferret on the table may be all that is needed with some ferrets while the head, skin and moth are examined. Then the ferret can be lifted with one hand underneath it while the abdomen is palpated and the chest auscultated. (B602.2.w2)
  • Many ferrets can be held around the shoulders with one hand and will remain relaxed with the hind legs dangling. (B631.18.w18)
  • Alternatively, the ferret may be scruffed, grasping as much as possible of the loose skin over the neck and shoulders. The hind end does not need to be supported, but the ferret should be kept only a short distance above the surface of the table (in case it gets loose). (B602.2.w2, J29.6.w1)
    • This is a good method for both very active ferrets and those which tend to bite. (B602.2.w2)
    • Most ferrets relax while held by the scruff. (B602.2.w2, J29.6.w1)
    • Some kits and some adult females object to this hold. (J29.6.w1)
    • To improve the ferret's relaxation, stroke downwards over the abdomen. (J29.6.w1) Ferrets can become very relaxed if stroked. (J29.8.w2)
    • Ferrets often yawn widely while scruffed, which can allow examination of the inside of the mouth (teeth etc.) and the back of the throat. (J29.6.w1)
  • If the ferret is likely to bite, it can be held with one hand coming from ventrally, with the index and middle finger on either side of the neck, the thumb behind one front leg and the ring finger and little finger behind the other front leg. While this hold is maintained, most parts of the examination can be carried out. (J29.6.w1)
  • Do not try to hold a ferret by grasping the neck in one hand and stretching its hind legs caudally with the other; a ferret often reacts badly to this and may injure its back while struggling. (J29.6.w1)
  • It is possible to hold a ferret on the table in lateral recumbency, scruffing the ferret with one hand, placing the other just cranial to the pelvis/around the hips (not grasping the legs), and slightly stretching the body out. (B602.2.w2, J29.6.w1)
  • To distract a ferret and improve relaxation, offer a treat (e.g. a fatty acid supplement, cat hairball laxative paste, a sweet nutritional supplement, Nutri-Cal or A/D) from a syringe or on the end of a tongue depressor (use of the syringe or tongue depressor avoids the risk of injury to the person offering the treat). (B602.2.w2, J29.6.w1, J29.8.w2)
  • Check whether the ferret appears to be distressed, fearful, or uncomfortable (i.e. shows pain) on being handled. (B631.18.w18)
  • Do not lift a ferret by the tail. (J15.24.w5)
Bonobo Considerations

Note: There is very little published information available on veterinary care specifically in bonobos. In general, treatment and care of bonobos is the same as treatment and care of Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee in particular and of the other great apes and other primates. Great ape treatment and health care is commonly based on the treatment for their close relatives, Homo sapiens - Humans.

Physical restraint has very limited applicability for bonobos. Positive reinforcement training can enable a wide variety of procedures in adult bonobos without the need for physical or chemical restraint, including, but not limited to: (P1.2002.w10)

  • Visual examination and physical examination of parts of the body.
  • Examination of the eyes, the ears and the inside of the mouth.
  • Swabbing of e.g. the mouth, throat, vagina and anus.
  • Examination of wounds.
  • Blood sampling and intravenous injections.
  • Measurement of blood pressure using an arm cuff.
  • Radiography of limbs.
  • Ultrasonographic examination of the heart and of any fetus.
  • Urine sampling (production of a sample on request).
  • Collection of ejaculate for examination.

(P1.2002.w10)

  • Bonobos have been trained for cardiac ultrasound examination. For females previously trained for uterine ultrasound, this simply required them to accept the probe on the chest rather than the abdomen. Males (with more barrel-shaped chests) have to be trained to lie sternally then twist the left hip down while extending the left arm, thereby spreading the ribs. (P1.2002.w10, P129.1.w2)
  • A bonobo with a severe heart condition was trained to permit electrocardiogram pads to be placed on his chest. (P129.1.w2)
  • Bonobos have been trained to place an arm into a PVC "blood sleeve", six inches (15 cm) in diameter, which is attached to the front of the bonobos' holding area. This allows not only blood sampling and injections, but also tuberculin testing and blood pressure measurement using a cuff. It has been used to allow physical therapy on a bonobo's wrist and thumb, and for radiography of arms and legs without chemical restraint. (P1.2002.w10, P129.1.w2, P129.1.w3)

As for Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzees (D409.6.w6), thorough physical examination requires full sedation/anaesthesia.

  • Sedation reduces the stress to the primate as well as the risk of injury to the handler, and enables a full examination to be carried out, maximising information gained from the examination. (B670.5.w5)
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Weight & Body Condition

  • Changes in weight (usually weight loss) are common in sick mammals.
    • Normal weight and body condition may be seen with peracute or acute-onset illness.
    • Loss of body weight and condition may be more likely with chronic illness.
    • Increase of weight or body condition, possibly with abnormal tissue distribution, may also occur with certain diseases e.g. endocrine disease, neoplasia.
  • Determination of lost weight requires knowledge of normal weight for the mammal/species, taking into account variations with age, sex, season, geographical region and whether the individual is captive or free-ranging.
  • The accuracy of the measuring scales should be appropriate for the body weight of the species under examination (i.e. very accurate scales are required for weighing small mammals).
  • Normal weight may vary greatly with season, particularly in hibernating mammals.
  • Considerable weight loss may be seen naturally in lactating females where foraging or hunting time may be reduced or a period of fasting occurs.
  • Normal weights for individuals are unlikely to be known in the majority of cases, particularly where mammals are free-ranging. 
    • However, if the mammal is captive, and can be clearly identified if group housed, comparison with a past weight may be possible (e.g. that recorded as part of a regular health check).
  • A subjective scoring system should be used to assess body condition. 
    • Standard classifications should be developed to increase the ease of 'in house' comparison (e.g. emaciated, thin, moderate, obese).
    • Assessment can be made using a combination of the prominence of bones and on the basis of muscle belly palpation (e.g. thigh).
    • Recognition should be made of the expected body condition for the mammal/species, taking into account variation with age, sex, season, region and whether it is captive or free-ranging.
    • When a subjective system is used it must be remembered that data recorded may vary between examiners.

(J213.9.w4, V.w26)

West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations

Click Photo for full-page view

  • Measurement of body weight is an important part of the physical examination. 
    • Accurate digital scales are best used for measuring where available.
    • Place the hedgehog within a tall sided container during weighing to prevent its escape or accidental injury falling from the scales; subsequently subtract the weight of the container from the value recorded to determine the actual weight of the animal.
  • As a general guide, adult hedgehogs weigh approximately 600-700g body weight early in the active season after they emerge from hibernation and increase to 900-1000g by autumn in preparation for the following winter. Boars may reach a slightly higher body weight than sows in the autumn of 1100-1200g. (B228.1.w1)
  • (For further information See: West European hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus - Appearance-Morphology- Measurement and Weight (Literature Reports))
  • Late born hedgehogs commonly present underweight in the autumn. They require supplementary food in situ, or care in captivity if weak or emaciated, to gain sufficient body weight and fat deposits to be able to survive hibernation.(J15.21.w1)
    • It has been suggested that juvenile hedgehogs weighing more than 600g do not need to be taken in to care for the winter. (B291.12.w12)
  • Body condition can be assessed subjectively during the examination by palpating the muscle bulk in the limbs, etc.
    • Emaciated hedgehogs may have sunken eyes because they have lost the normal periorbital fat deposits.
  • Marked loss of weight and body condition is seen in association with some common chronic diseases (e.g. Lungworm Infection of Hedgehogs)
  • Individuals with long-term weight loss may look thin and pinched at their hind end. (B337.3.w3)
  • Individuals with recent weight loss may have the skin in folds, indicating that it was fatter until recently. (B337.3.w3)
  • Persistent weight loss may be seen with salmonellosis.(J15.21.w1)
  • Obesity can develop in captive hedgehogs, exceptionally with body weight in excess of 2kg. (B142)
    • Captive hedgehogs often have a body weight of over 50% more than their wild counterparts of a similar age.(B262.2.w2)
    • Obesity in captive hedgehogs can be associated with a number of conditions, including fatty liver.(B150.w1)

(B228.1.w1, B262.2.w2, B142, B150.w1, J15.21.w1,V.w26)

Elephant Considerations

(B455.w1)

Several systems for estimating the body weight of elephants from body measurements are provided in: Medicating Elephants - Estimating Body Weight

Bear Considerations

Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption

Significant change in weight may indicate illness. (P106.2007.w5)
  • It is difficult to accurately estimate the body weight of bears, due to their thick coats. (B407.w18) 
    • Weights of bears are often overestimated when they have a thick coat, resulting in relative over-dosing with anaesthetic agents. (J59.24.w1)
  • A weighing platform incorporated into a passageway or onto a shelf used by the bears is advantageous to allow regular monitoring of weight. (B407.w18)
  • Bears can be trained to sit on a weighing platform. See: Mammal Handling & Movement - Husbandry Training
  • In the field, bears can be hoisted in a net or tarpaulin and weighed on a 500 lb (250 kg) scale; a 100 lb (50 kg) scale should be used for bears under 100 lb (50 kg). (D249.w10)
    • Hoisting the bear by slip-loops attached to all four feet may cause less restriction of breathing than hoisting in a net. (D249.w10)
    • For bears too heavy for the scales, the bear can be hoisted slung under a long, stout pole. One end of the pole is held (e.g. on a tree limb at an appropriate height. the other end is attached to the scales then hoisted until the suspending pole is horizontal. The weight read on the scales is half the weight of the bear. (D249.w10)
Body condition
  • Body condition in bears can be described as follows:
    • Poor condition: It is easy to feel the bear's hip bones, shoulder blades, spine and ribs; the bear looks unhealthy, like a skeleton with skin stretched over it;
    • Fair condition: The bear appears thin but not unhealthy; the bear's hip bones, shoulder blades, spine and ribs are easily palpable, but not prominent;
    • Good condition: The bear appears healthy but not extremely fat; it is difficult to feel the bear's hips, shoulder blades, spine and ribs;
    • Excellent condition: The bear appears extremely fat and healthy; the bones of the bear's hips, shoulder blades, spine and ribs cannot be palpated.

    (D249.w10)

  • A five-point scoring system for polar bears (provided by the Polar Bear Specialist Group) is: (D251.5.w5)
    • 1: pelvis and scapulae protruding, ribs easily palpated, a deep hollow notable between the pelvis and last rib, showing virtually no fat.
    • 2: pelvis easily palpable, ribs palpable but with some muscle covering; an obvious hollow is present between the pelvis and the last rib, but this is softer than in (1).
    • 3: Body fully fleshed out, with obvious fat present over the pelvis and shoulders, the ribs are less obvious and there is no hollow between the pelvis and the last rib.
    • 4: the bear has a rounded or blocky appearance and is well fleshed over all bony areas, with obvious fat over the rump and shoulders.
    • 5: the bear's legs appear too short for the body; there are rolls of fat on the neck and lower shoulders.

    (D251.5.w5)

Weight loss may be associated with a variety of conditions.

Excessively high body weight may be noted in captive bears which have become obese. See: 

Lagomorph Considerations Weigh the rabbit. (B601.2.w2, J72.48.w1)

Assess body condition by palpating along the spine, over the ribs and along the limbs. (B601.2.w2, B614.14.w14)

  • The following simple body condition scoring system can be used: (B601.2.w2)
    • 1. Emaciated. The ribs, lumbar vertebrae and liial wings are visible from a distance, there is no detectable body fat and there is evident loss of muscle. (B601.2.w2)
    • 2. Underweight. There is minimal fat over the ribs, which are easily palpable, the lumbar vertebrae and pelvic bones are prominent; abdominal fat is minimal. (B601.2.w2)
    • 3. Ideal weight. There is a thin covering of fat over the ribs, which are palpable. Viewed from above, the abdomen does not appear distended. (B601.2.w2)
    • 4. Overweight. A moderate fat covering over the ribs means these are not easily palpable. Viewed from above, the abdomen is obviously rounds. In the lumbar area there are obvious fat deposits. (B601.2.w2)
    • 5. Obese. A heavy covering of fat makes the ribs not palpable; there are also heavy deposits of fat over the lumbar region, the neck and the upper limbs. Viewed from above, the abdomen appears grossly distended. On palpation, there are extensive deposits of abdominal fat. (B601.2.w2)

Weight loss may indicate: (B601.App2.w20)

Ferret Considerations Check the ferret's weight and its body condition. Ask the owner whether the weight and body condition are normal for this particular ferret. Consider the ferret's sex, breeding condition (entire versus neutered) and the time of year. (B631.18.w18)
  • Check the muscle over the forequarters and hindquarters, and the covering over the ribs and the spine. (B631.18.w18)
  • There should be a thin layer of fat over the ribs; in summer the ribs should just be visible, but not in winter. (B631.18.w18)
  • it should just be possible to palpate the lateral and dorsal processes of the lumbar vertebrae. (B631.18.w18, J213.2.w6)
  • Many ferrets on dry diets are overweight, particularly during winter (it is normal for ferrets to lay down more body fat over the winter). (B631.18.w18)
  • Seasonal weight variation is common. (J213.2.w6) Ferrets may appear thin in spring and summer when they have lost their winter fat reserves. (B631.18.w18)
    • Check the muscle condition as well as body fat to determine whether the ferret is a bit thin or is emaciated. (B631.18.w18)
    • If the ferret has normal condition except for muscle loss over the pelvis/hips, consider problems in this region. (B631.18.w18)
  • Hobs (male ferrets) if entire put on muscle over the neck and forequarters in spring as their testosterone rises. (B631.18.w18)
  • Males may weigh 1-2 kg and females 600 - 950 g. (J15.24.w5)
Bonobo Considerations Note: There is very little published information available on veterinary care specifically in bonobos. In general, treatment and care of bonobos is the same as treatment and care of Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee in particular and of the other great apes and other primates. Great ape treatment and health care is commonly based on the treatment for their close relatives, Homo sapiens - Humans.
  • Observation prior to handling allows a very approximate assessment of body condition. (B670.5.w5)
  • Each individual primate should be weighed as part of the physical examination. (B10.44.w44f) 
  • In addition to recording the weight, the body condition of the primate should be assessed and recorded. Assessment is carried out by palpating over the thorax and over the lumbar vertebrae at the level of the last rib to assess the muscle and fat over the bony prominences of the vertebrae. (B670.5.w5) A 0-5 scale can be used:
    • 0 - emaciated; no fat between skin and bone over the bony prominences. (B670.5.w5)
    • 1 - severely underweight; vertebrae are sharp and prominent, with a distinct gap between each vertebral spine; the fingers can easily pass under the ends of the vertebral processes and the lumber muscles are shallow. (B670.5.w5)
    • 2 - underweight; the vertebrae appear smooth and prominent with a gap just detectable between each vertebra; the fingers can just pass under the ends of the horizontal processes of the vertebrae and there is moderate lumbar muscle with little fat cover over these muscles. (B670.5.w5)
    • 3 - normal; the vertebrae appear slightly prominent, smooth and rounded; the horizontal processes are detectable with firm pressure and the lumbar muscles an=re deep and covered with some fat. (B670.5.w5)
    • 4 - overweight; the vertebrae can be detected with digital pressure, the horizontal processes cannot be felt even with firm digital pressure and there is thick fat covering the deep lumbar muscles. (B670.5.w5)
    • 5 - obese; the vertebrae cannot be detected by palpation, the horizontal processes cannot be felt even with firm digital pressure and there is thick fat covering the deep lumbar muscles. (B670.5.w5)
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Temperature, Pulse, Respiration 

BODY TEMPERATURE:

  • Normal body temperature for mammal species varies with their body size; in general the body temperature is higher in species with a low body weight and high basal metabolic rate.
  • Normal body temperature is typically lower for the metatherian (marsupial) mammals than the eutherian (placental) mammals.
  • Marked variation in body temperature exists for species which can undergo periods of torpor, hibernation or aestivation.
  • Mammals are typically homoeothermic.
  • The body temperature will be increased in an animal which has recently been exercising, compared with an individual at rest.
  • Increased body temperature may occur as a result of heat stroke (See: Sunstroke / Heatstroke), hyperthermia associated with Capture Myopathy, and fever (pyrexia) with inflammation or infection.
  • Reduced body temperature, or hypothermia, can occur in seriously ill or moribund animals and under certain environmental conditions (See: Chilling - Hypothermia)
  • It is important to remember that there may be significant diurnal variation in body temperature. 
  • It is important to remember that body temperature is likely to be increased due to handling, because of the increased activity and stress that the procedure may involve. 
  • Observation of the animal's behaviour can provide a useful guide as to whether the temperature may be increased (open-mouth breathing, flared nostrils, sweating, resting as far away from artificial heat sources as possible, resting in shade) or reduced (e.g. huddling in groups, shivering, piloerection ("hairs standing on end"), resting close to artificial heat sources). (See: Observation section on this page)
  • Approximate assessment of body temperature may be made through quick palpation of the body surface (e.g. sweating, cool extremities).
  • Accurate recording of body temperature is to be recommended wherever possible. 
    • Temperatures can be recorded using a mercury or digital, plastic or glass thermometer.
    • Use of a waterproof unbreakable digital thermometer may be safest and advisable particularly during conscious physical examinations. 
    • The length of the probe should be appropriate to the species in question. Every effort should be made to record core temperature, which in larger species will require a long probe length.
    • The diameter of the probe should be appropriate for the species in question.
  • Rectal or cloacal temperatures are usually recorded for mammals during physical examination.
    • In some instances, other routes may be used e.g. armpit, inguinal areas.

PULSE, HEART & RESPIRATORY RATE

  • Respiratory rate, character and depth are best measured with the mammal undisturbed before the physical examination begins. (See: Observation section on this page)
  • Heart rate may be measured by auscultation using a stethoscope.
    • Palpation of the apex beat can be used to identify the optimal area for auscultation of the heart in unfamiliar species.
  • Pulse rate may be measured by placing the fingers over an artery e.g. carotid (neck), brachial (medial or inner side of the foreleg, in the axilla/armpit), femoral (inner side of the hind leg, on the thigh), coccygeal (under the tail), facial (under the mandible).
  • The pulse rate and the heart rate should be the same if the heart is functioning correctly to pump blood around the body.
  • The heart/pulse rate is typically higher in smaller animals than in larger species, and can be very rapid in small mammals.
  • The heart/pulse rate is likely to be elevated in conscious mammals under restraint for physical examination, due to stress.
  • The quality and character of the pulse should be assessed in conjunction with the cardio-vascular system assessment (See: Chest section on this page) 
    • Abnormalities such as pulse deficits and variable quality should be noted.

(B277.1.w1, B278.1.w1, B280.1.w1, V.w26)

West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations
BODY TEMPERATURE:

PULSE, HEART & RESPIRATORY RATE:

  • Check the heart rate and pulse of the hedgehog as necessary. Detection of a peripheral pulse may be difficult. The femoral pulse can be palpated in the inner thigh. Alternatively the chest may be carefully palpated and the heart beat detected.
  • Normal heart rates of the hedgehog are fast and may be impossible to count accurately. Instead an approximate guide should be taken, as required.
  • Hedgehogs heart rates are highly variable and respond quickly to disturbance during the active season or hibernation.(B228.6.w6)
  • Hedgehog heart rates at normal body temperature during the active season when awake are reported to be between 200-280 beats per minute (B228.6.w6)
  • Respiratory rates for the hedgehog are highly variable. (B228.6.w6)
  • Average respiratory rates in resting hedgehogs during the active season are reported to be 25 breaths per minute, although values increase to approximately 50 breaths per minute at exercise.(B228.6.w6)
  • Respiratory rates during hibernation are reduced to levels of 13 breaths per minute or less. (B228.6.w6) 
  • For further information on respiratory character see above - Observation and below - Chest.

(B142, B228.6.w6, B262.8.w8, B260.5.w5, V.w26)

Elephant Considerations BODY TEMPERATURE:

PULSE, HEART & RESPIRATORY RATE:

(B16.18.w18, B214.3.7.w3)

Bear Considerations

BODY TEMPERATURE:

  • The normal body temperature of adult bears is 37.5 - 38.3 C (99.6 - 101.0 F). (B16.9.w9)
  • Immobilized (anaesthetised) wild Ursus americanus - American black bear were found to start panting at a rectal temperature of 42.0 C; one bear whose temperature reached 43 C died while another died which had been recorded panting but whose temperature had not been recorded. (J1.25.w6)

Raised temperature has been noted with:

PULSE, HEART & RESPIRATORY RATE:

  • The normal heart rate of ursids is between 60 - 90 beats per minute (bpm). (B16.9.w9)
  • Heart rates may be as low as 8 - 12 bpm during hibernation, 33 bpm during normal sleep, 46 - 60 bpm when awake but inactive, 58 - 110 bpm when sitting and 80 - 148 bpm while walking. (B16.9.w9)
  • The normal respiratory rate of ursids is 15 - 30 per minute; the higher rates were recorded in hot weather. (B16.9.w9)
  • Pale mucous membranes and increased capillary refill time were noted with Intestinal Perforation in Bears

Respiratory rate and character:

Lagomorph Considerations BODY TEMPERATURE

Take the rabbit's temperature as soon as possible in the examination, (B601.2.w2, J213.1.w1, J213.2.w2) preferably with the rabbit held vertically or on its back. (J213.2.w2)

PULSE AND HEART RATE

  • Normal heart rate is 130-325 bpm (B600.3.w3, J213.1.w1, J213.2.w2) 180 - 240 bpm. (J213.11.w2)
    • Usually over 200 bpm, therefore an accurate rate may be difficult to measure. (B601.2.w2)
    • Higher in smaller than in larger rabbits, e.g. 280 bpm in a 2 kg rabbit. (J213.1.w1)
  • The pulse rate (femoral or central auricular artery) and heart rate should be assessed as soon as possible in the examination. (J213.2.w2)
  • Heart rate may be increased due to stress. (B601.2.w2)
  • Normal systolic blood pressure is 90 - 120 mm Hg. (J213.11.w2)
  • A Doppler blood-flow monitor can be used to assess a faint or irregular pulse. Place over the central auricular (ear) artery, radial artery or the planar artery. (J213.1.w1)
  • Indirect blood pressure measurement is possible using a cuff placed proximal to a Dopler blood-flow monitor (e.g. on the front leg). (J213.1.w1)

RESPIRATORY RATE AND CHARACTER

Ferret Considerations
  • Normal heart rate is 160-320 bpm (B232.20.w20); 180-240 bpm (J213.11.w2); 180 - 250 bpm. (J15.24.w5)
  • Normal respiratory rate is 33-36 per minute. (B232.20.w20, J15.24.w5
  • The body temperature should be collected early in the examination, to avoid temperature rises associated with any struggling which may occur. (B602.2.w2)
  • A digital thermometer is preferable: it is non-breakable and gives a reading quickly. (B602.2.w2)
  • Normal systolic blood pressure is 90-120 mm Hg).(J213.11.w2) systolic 140 +/- 35 mmHG; distolic 110 +/- 31 mmHg. (J15.24.w5)
  • Normal body temperature is 100-104 F (37.8 - 40 C), average 101.9 F (38.8 C). (B232.20.w20, B602.2.w2, B631.18.w18) 39 C. (J15.24.w5)
    • Usually it is below 103 F in a healthy ferret unless the ambient temperature is high or the ferret is very excited. (B602.2.w2)
    • It may be a little higher in a very fearful or stressed individual. (B631.18.w18)
  • In hypovolaemic shock, the temperature is usually below 98 F (36 C), heart rate normal or low (less than 180 bpm), pulses weak, with low blood pressure (systolic BP under 90 mm Hg; normal 90-120 mm Hg).(J213.11.w2)
Bonobo Considerations Note: There is very little published information available on veterinary care specifically in bonobos. In general, treatment and care of bonobos is the same as treatment and care of Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee in particular and of the other great apes and other primates. Great ape treatment and health care is commonly based on the treatment for their close relatives, Homo sapiens - Humans.
  • Measurement of temperature, pulse and respiration in a restrained primate is of minimal value. (B10.44.w44b)
  • The respiratory rate should be noted by observation of the individual while it is resting; an increased respiratory rate may indicate respiratory disease. (B10.44.w44b)
  • Normal values for Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee have been recorded as: (B538.33.w33)
    • Heart rate 60-200 bpm.
    • Respiratory rate 20-60 breaths per minute.
    • Temperature mean 36.8 C.
    • Mean arterial blood pressure 73-213 mm Hg.
  • Normal body temperature of chimpanzees: 37.2.  (B214.3.1.w18)
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Head and Neck

General:

  • Carefully examine the head and face for evidence of pain, swelling or asymmetry.
  • Note the presence of any wounds (punctures, lacerations, scalping. See: Lacerations & Punctures including Bite Wounds), masses (neoplasia), lesions, scars, external parasites, etc.
  • Check for fractures.
  • Examine the skin over the head as part of the general examination of the coat and skin over all areas of the body.
    • Flaky white thickened skin and hair loss on the face may indicate ringworm infection (fungal infection of the skin).
    • Areas of hair loss in a particular area may indicate a disease problem causing the mammal to lick or scratch at the area. This should direct the examiner to a closer inspection of the area. 
  • Percussion over the sinuses (maxillary, frontal) appropriate to the mammal species can be performed for detection of fluid within the cavities. (B278.1.w1)

Eye & Periorbital Area:

  • Closely examine the eyes for evidence of asymmetry in terms of eye position (strabismus), eye size, eyelid drooping (ptosis), pupil size (anisocoria), pupil shape, or local swelling.
    • Swelling around the eye can be caused by a number of problems (abscess, tumour, tissue infection (cellulitis), eye infection (panophthalmitis), dental or salivary gland disease). 
    • Abnormalities in eyelid position, eye position or pupil size will require a full neurological examination including assessment of all cranial nerves. See: Neurological System section on this page.
    • In mammals the normal shape of the iris and pupil vary with the species.
    • The eye may appear dull and sunken in dehydrated animals.
  • Check for any evidence of abnormal eye movement at rest (nystagmus).
  • Note whether the shape and degree of protrusion of the eyeball is similar for the two eyes. 
    • Eyeball (globe) rupture commonly occurs following concussive trauma. 
    • Eyeball prolapse (proptosis) is particularly common in small mammals e.g. hedgehogs.
  • Check both eyes for evidence of cloudiness or opacity which may be due to trauma, ulcers, infection, etc.
    • Normal eyes should appear clear, shiny and moist, but without epiphora
    • Check for the presence of surface lesions. Corneal scratches and ulcers can be identified using fluorescein dye. 
  • Note and describe any ocular discharges present and whether both eyes or a single eye is affected.
    • Matting of pelage around the eyes may indicate increased ocular discharge (epiphora) caused by irritation, trauma or infection.
  • Carefully examine the sclera, eyelids (including the third or nictitating membrane) and conjunctival membranes in both eyes and note their colour and appearance.
    • Gently apply digital pressure to the eyeball over the upper eyelid to facilitate examination of the third eyelid. (B278.1.w1)
    • Increased reddening of the conjunctiva may indicate local inflammation or infection.
    • Yellow discolouration may indicate jaundice (icterus).
    • Check for the presence of parasites or foreign bodies.
    • Check for the presence of fly eggs/maggots. (See: Myiasis (Fly strike))
  • Note any difference in size and in reaction to light between the pupils (direct and consensual) using a light source e.g. pen torch. (B277.1.w1)
    • Abnormalities should be investigated with a full neurological examination including assessment of all cranial nerves. (See: Neurological System section on this page)
    • Carefully assess the palpebral reflex in both eyes.
  • Gently apply slight pressure to both globes to assess whether there is any mass or fluid behind the eyeballs. (J213.9.w4)
  • An assessment of vision should be performed.
    • Basic menace response may be helpful.
    • Fixation and following objects may be useful.
    • Observation of behaviour and ability to navigate obstacles in a novel environment may be most useful. (See: Observation section on this page)
  • Complete ophthalmic examination may be carried out.

Ear:

  • Carefully examine and palpate around each ear noting any heat, discomfort or swelling present as well as checking for injuries to the external ear (e.g. bite wounds, haematoma).
  • Note any abnormal odours or discharge from the ear and describe the appearance, quantity and volume (waxy, pus, brown, black, etc.)
  • Look at the conformation of the ear canal and whether there are any signs of local tissue thickening which might suggest a chronic condition.
  • Otoscopic examination of the ear canal and tympanic membrane should be performed where an abnormality is detected. Note: close or prolonged examination may require sedation in wild, fractious mammals or for those where the examination would be painful.
    • Otoscopic examination is particularly important for mammals showing a head tilt or ataxia.
    • Check for mite infections within the ear canal (external auditory meatus).
    • Check for polyps, neoplastic lesions, infection.
    • Check for the presence of fly eggs/maggots (fly strike). (See: Myiasis)
  • Assessment of hearing should be performed.
    • Response to sound (e.g. a clap) and ability to detect the direction of the source of the sound should be used.

Nose:

  • Examine the nostrils (external nares) for evidence of wounds, discharges (note whether unilateral or bilateral), masses or discolouration.
  • The nares should be clean and open.
  • Check the nostrils for symmetry and equal air flow and check for abnormal odours. (B278.1.w1)
  • Palpate over the muzzle area checking for evidence of swelling or pain.

Mouth:

  • The mouth and teeth should be examined every time a mammal is presented for physical examination. (B10.34.w41)
  • Care should be taken when examining the mouth of all mammals to avoid bite wounds to the examiner. 
    • Human health and safety should be of paramount consideration.
    • Sedation or general anaesthesia may be required for detailed or prolonged examination of the mouth.
  • The jaw should appear symmetrical, with teeth meeting evenly. 
    • Asymmetry or unevenness of bite may be indicative of jaw fracture or dislocation.
  • Check the tongue.
  • Examine the mucous membranes in the mouth, checking their colour and the capillary refill time (measure of local blood supply using the time taken for the colour to return to an area of mucous membrane after blanching with a finger). Normal capillary refill time is approximately one to two seconds. (B277.1.w1,  B278.1.w1, J213.9.w4)
    • General pallor of the mucous membranes, and increased capillary refill time, may be seen with blood loss, anaemia, shock.
    • Yellow discolouration may indicate jaundice (icterus).
  • Examine the dentition noting the dental formula present and any abnormalities.
    • Look for any evidence of malocclusion of the incisors and molars. (B278.1.w1)
    • Check for dental fractures.
      • In wild animals these commonly occur following a road traffic accident;
      • In zoo animals, fractures are associated with accidents during catching; biting at hard objects in enclosures; and fighting.
        • Stereotypic chewing at bars, wire or other hard objects may weaken the teeth and predispose to fractures. (B10.34.w41)
    • Assess dental condition for signs of excessive wear/attrition
      • This occurs e.g. due to stereotypical chewing at bars or wire. 
    • Look for evidence of caries or periodontal disease (gingivitis, tartar).
  • Check for the presence of fly eggs/maggots. (See: Myiasis (Fly strike))
  • Halitosis or abnormal breath odours should be noted (e.g. sweet smelling ketones).
  • Signs of excessive salivation or drooling may indicate oral pain or discomfort.
  • Carefully, and without undue force, open the mouth fully allowing a brief visual inspection of the hard and soft palate and the back of the throat as possible.
  • Note jaw tone, tongue movement and position.(B277.1.w1) 
    • Abnormalities should be investigated with a full neurological examination including assessment of all cranial nerves. (See: Neurological System section on this page)
    • Check below the tongue for evidence of linear foreign bodies.
  • Palpate over the areas of the salivary glands noting any swellings or asymmetry present.(B280.1.w1)

Neck:

  • Palpate carefully along the length of the neck for evidence of swelling, asymmetry, pain, rigidity, muscle spasm, subcutaneous emphysema, etc.(B277.1.w1)
  • Palpate carefully for any generalised or localised swelling of the oesophagus.
  • Note the range of movement in the neck possible e.g. flexion. (B278.1.w1)
  • Palpate over the trachea and hyoid bones and along the length of the trachea, noting whether coughing or gagging occurs. (B280.1.w1, J213.9.w4)
  • Check carefully for hidden injuries due to e.g. snares (see: Foreign Body Entanglement & Snaring) as well as for the presence of lacerations and puncture wounds (see: Lacerations & Punctures, including bite wounds).
  • Examination of the jugular pulse may form part of the cardio-vascular examination, particularly in artiodactyls (See: Artiodactyla - Even toed ungulates (Order)) and perissodactyls (See: Perissodactyla - Odd-toed ungulates (Order)). (See: Chest section on this page)
  • Auscultate over the trachea for detection of noises from the upper respiratory tract which must be differentiated from those of the lungs.
  • Palpate the thyroid glands to determine whether there is any evidence of unilateral or bilateral enlargement, particularly if the clinical history is suggestive of a endocrine problem.(B280.1.w1)

(B10.34.w41, B277.1.w1, B278.1.w1, B280.1.w1, D93, J213.9.w4, V.w26)

West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations

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  • Closely examine the eyes, ears, mouth, and any wounds for evidence of fly eggs or maggots, particularly in the summer. (See: Myiasis)(B156.7.w7)
    • The presence of maggots at a particular site on the body may indicate a wound or discharge at that site. (B337.3.w3)
  • The eyes should be shiny and appear slightly protruding. (B291.12.w12)
    • Injuries to the eyes leading to their prolapse (proptosis) are not uncommon in the hedgehog (e.g. road traffic accident).(B151, P8.3.w2)
    • Sunken eyes may be seen in a moribund hedgehog. (B291.12.w12)
    • Swellings (abscesses) associated with dental problems may push the eye closed on the affected side. (B337.3.w3)
  • Check the jaw and hard palate for fractures and trauma which occur fairly frequently in hedgehogs, e.g. road traffic accident victims, dog bite victims.(B151, V.w26)
  • Amputation wounds to the tip of the nose, and skin flap injuries, can be caused by garden strimmers. (See Garden Management for Hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) - Tools and machinery)
  • The hedgehog's nostrils are normally quite wet and moist.
    • A mild serous discharge may be normal. (B284.6.w6)
    • Abnormal green mucopurulent discharge may be seen in hedgehogs with Lungworm Infection of Hedgehogs with a secondary bacterial infection.
    • Nose bleeds (epistaxis) can be seen in association with secondary bacterial pneumonia caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica (Bordetella (Bacteria Genera)).(J15.21.w1)
    • Abnormal nasal discharges may be collected with a sterile swab and submitted for bacteriological examination. (B291.12.w12)
  • Injuries to the nose which could interfere with the ability to smell may be more important than damage to the eyes because the hedgehog relies principally on the sense of smell and hearing for food acquisition. (See: West European hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus - Detailed Physiology Notes (Literature Reports) - Special Senses)
    • Consideration should be given as to whether release may be possible when dealing with injuries to the snout which could interfere with the sense of smell and therefore foraging success.(J15.21.w1)
  • Examine the external ear canals for evidence of mite infection. (See: Notoedres Mange in Hedgehogs, Otodectes cynotis Ear Mite Infection in Hedgehogs)
  • Check for evidence of crusts or scales over the ears (external pinnae) which can occur with ringworm (See: Ringworm in Hedgehogs).
  • Full dental formula for the hedgehog is 3.1.3.3/2.1.2.3 (I3/2, C1/1, P3/2. M3/3).(B142)
  • Dental problems are common in hedgehogs:
    • Carefully examine the teeth for evidence of gingivitis, tooth loss, periodontal disease, tartar accumulation. These findings may be more common in animals that have been in captivity on an artificial diet for some time but are also seen in wild hedgehogs. (See: Hedgehog Dental Disease)(B151, B22.27.w3, B150.w1, B16.13.w13, J15.21.w1, V.w26)
    • Excessive salivation, pawing at the mouth, nasal discharge and coughing may be seen associated with tooth problems. (B337.3.w3)
    • A swelling may be seen on the side of the face if an abscess forms under an infected tooth. (B337.3.w3)
  • Tooth wear is not a useful indicator of age as it is affected by the abrasiveness of the diet. (B291.12.w12)
  • Palpate around the neck for abnormal masses. Hedgehogs have been reported with tumours, especially around the neck.(B151) See: Neoplasia in Hedgehogs.

(B16.13.w13, B22.27.w3, B156.7.w7, B142, B151B150.w1, B291.12.w12, J15.21.w1,P8.3.w2, V.w26)

Elephant Considerations
Bear Considerations

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In addition to visual examination, the head and neck should be palpated for lesions which may be obscured by the fur, the teeth should be evaluated and cranial radiographs taken, and the ears and eyes should be examined. (D315.3.w3)
Facial skin & general
Ears
Eyes
  • Various ocular lesions have been noted in bears: See: Ocular Disease in Bears
    • Ocular nematodes have been detected in bears. See: Eyeworms in Bears
    • An inactive hyperpigmented chorioretinal scar in the tapetal region of the left eye, compatible with a healed blastomycotic chorioretinal granuloma, was noted in a bear with blastomycosis (Blastomycosis in Bears)
    • Temporary unilateral corneal opacity has been seen following canine adenovirus 1 infection (Infectious Canine Hepatitis (with special reference to Bears))
    • Ocular neoplasms reported in bears include squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma of the eyelid and myxoma of the palpebral conjunctiva. (B16.9.w9, P1.2002.w5) See: Neoplasia in Bears
    • One case of a grass awn penetrating the cornea of a bear cub has been observed. (J417.20.w1, V.w93)
Mouth

Nose

Lagomorph Considerations

Ear of a rabbit - blood vessels visible. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit with a Psoroptes ear infection: click here for full page view with caption. Otoscopic examination of the ear. Click here for full page view with caption. Rabbit incisors and peg teeth. Click here for full page view with caption Otoscopic examination of the mouth. Click here for full page view with captionRabbit skull. Click here for full page view with caption Normal rabbit eye. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit fundus, pigmented. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit fundus, albino. Click here for full page view with caption Aberrant conjunctival overgrowth. Click here for full page view with caption Dacrocystitis. Click here for full page view with caption

  • Check the head carefully in casualty lagomorphs. (B284.10.w10)
When examining the head, take particular note of the ears (ear mites) and the mouth (malocclusion, overgrown molars). (B602.14.w14)
Mouth
  • Check around the mouth and chin for saliva staining, usually indicating dental disease. (B600.3.w3)
  • In breeds with deep skin folds under the chin, check for moist dermatitis in the folds. (B600.3.w3)
  • Gently separate the upper lips at the philtrum to see the colour of the oral membranes (pink, but paler than in cats or dogs), check capillary refill time (CRT) and assess occlusion of the incisors. (B600.3.w3, B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2)
  • Note any discolouration, tooth fractures, loose teeth, abnormal tooth wear, malocclusion or infection. (B601.2.w2)
    • Normal incisors should be shiny and symmetrical, with a longitudinal groove down the centre of each of the maxillary incisors. The mandibular incisors should occlude with the peg teeth, just behind the primary maxillary incisors. 
    • Dullness and horizontal ribbing are early signs of incisor problems (poor tooth quality); later, aberrant growth is more obvious. (Th16.1.w1, J3.137.w8, J15.19.w3)
    • With mandibular prognaithism, the lower incisors may initially occlude with the primary incisors, rather than the peg teeth.
  • Note whether soft tissue trauma is present in association with tooth lesions. (B601.2.w2)
  • Use an otoscope to examine the cheek teeth. (J3.137.w8, J29.16.w5, J72.48.w1, J213.2.w2)
    • A large metal or plastic cone is attached to the otoscope to aid visualisation in the mouth. (B601.2.w2)
    • Metal is preferable, since the rabbit is likely to chew on the cone. (B601.2.w2)
    • Alternatively, a vaginal speculum may be used. (B600.3.w3)
  • Normal incisors are short and smooth, clean and parallel to one another. (J29.16.w5, J72.48.w1)
  • If the cheek teeth are normal, the lower cheek teeth should be in a straight line, and the upper teeth also in a line except for the first and last teeth which are further medially. There should be a series of upright points along the lingual edge of the teeth, formed by enamel. (J29.16.w5) 
  • Look for and record any:
  • Note any soft tissue trauma or haemorrhage. (B601.2.w2)
  • Note:
    • The presence of normal-looking incisors does not rule out abnormalities of the cheek teeth (premolars and molars). (J3.137.w8)
    • Rabbits with cheek tooth problems are more likely to object to examination of this area. (B600.3.w3)
    • Chemical restraint is required for a thorough examination of the mouth structures. (B600.3.w3, B601.2.w2, J3.137.w8, J72.48.w1)
Nose
  • The nares should be equal in size. (B601.2.w2)
  • Check for scabs, crusts and injuries. (J72.48.w1)
  • Check for nasal discharge; note whether any discharge is unilateral or bilateral, and the type of discharge. (B600.3.w3, B601.2.w2, J72.48.w1, J213.2.w2)
  • Note any sneezing or dyspnoea. (B601.2.w2)
  • Increased respiratory effort, together with snuffles, whistles and squeaks may occur if the nasal passages are blocked. (B600.3.w3)
    • Some rabbits from short-nosed breeds always have noisy breathing. (B600.3.w3)
  • Upper respiratory disease is common. (B600.3.w3)
  • Upper respiratory tract signs occur with: (B601.App2.w20)
Eyes
  • The eyes should be clean and bright, without any discharge or epiphora. (J72.48.w1)
  • Check the eyelids for asymmetry, swelling, oedema, marginal irregularities, meibomian cysts, entropion, ectropion or aberrant eyelashes. (B601.2.w2, J72.48.w1)
  • Examination of the conjunctiva and nictitating membrane can be used to assess mucous membrane colour (usually paler than in cats or dogs). (J213.2.w2)
  • Note the position of the eyes - sunken, exophthalmos, nystagmus. (B601.2.w2)
  • Check for ocular discharge particularly at the medial canthus; discharges may collect here. (B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2)
    • Note any wetness or crusting. (B601.2.w2)
    • Record if any discharge is unilateral or bilateral, and the type of discharge. (B601.2.w2)
    • Persistent epiphora can result in localised alopecia and moist dermatitis with superficial pyoderma. (B600.3.w3, J72.48.w1, J213.2.w2) (Epiphora in Rabbits)
      • Occasionally, superficial pyoderma in this area is due to tooth spurs digging into the buccal mucosa so that grooming over the area is painful. (B600.3.w3)
    • In lop-eared breeds, large ears falling over the eye can cause periocular irritation and trauma. (B600.3.w3)
  • Gently lift the lower eyelid near the medial canthus to visualise the lacrimal duct opening (punctum); put gentle pressure on the face ventromedial to the eye and note any discharge from the duct. (B601.2.w2, J72.48.w1)
    • With purulent dacrocystitis (Dacrocystitis in Rabbits), pus will appear. (B600.3.w3)
    • Note: the single punctum is deeper than might be expected. (J72.48.w1)
  • Watch the eyes for nystagmus. (B600.3.w3)
  • Check the cornea. This should be clear. Note the location of any lesions. (B601.2.w2)
  • Check the conjunctiva, sclera, nictitating membrane and iris. (B601.2.w2)
    • It is easier to examine the cornea and nictitating membrane after application of topical proxymetacaine drops to give local anaesthesia. (B600.3.w3)
  • Examine the anterior chamber and lens. (B601.2.w2)
  • Signs of previous lens rupture and cataracts may be associated with Encephalitozoonosis in Lagomorphs. (B600.3.w3)
  • A Schirmer tear test can be carried out. (B600.3.w3)
    • In a study of 142 apparently normal rabbit eyes, this test gave an average of 5.3 +/- 2.9 mm/min, range 0 - 155 mm/min. A range of 0 - 11.2 mm/min (covering mean +/- 2 SD) was suggested as "normal (this would cover 95% of the normal population). (J13.51.w5)
    • Lack of tear production can indicate dysautonomia (Leporine dysautonomia). (B600.3.w3)
  • Perform a complete ophthalmological examination if indicated by any abnormalities. (B601.2.w2)
    • Mydriasis is required for full ophthalmological examination. (B600.3.w3)
      • Tropicamide, 0.5% or 1.0% can be used, or alternatively 1% atropine (one drop) plus 10% phenylephrine - this may need to be given three or four times during a 15-minute examination. (B600.3.w3)
      • To view the optic disc, which is above the horizontal midline, look upwards in the eye. Note that the optic disc normally has a deep depression, and the retina is normally partially vascularized. (B600.3.w3)
  • Note: rabbits have a diminished or absent menace response. (P113.2005.w1)
Ears
  • "The ears should be clean and be without encrustations, inflammation or injury." (J72.48.w1)
  • Examine the pinna for any trauma or alopecia. (B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2)
  • Examine the ear canal of both ears on both sides of the tragus - the blind-ending section as well as the main section. (B601.2.w2)
  • Examine the ears with an otoscope; it should be possible to see the tympanic membrane (white and translucent if healthy) easily. (B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2)
Neck
  • Palpate the trachea and larynx for any abnormalities. (B601.2.w2)
  • Auscultate over the trachea. (B601.2.w2)
  • Check the skin of the ventral neck and any dewlap for wetness. (B601.2.w2)
Ferret Considerations

Albino ferret with bright eyes and clean ears. Click here for full-page view with caption Fitch ferret with bright eyes and clean ears. Click here for full-page view with caption

To assess hydration status, check the moistness of the mucous membranes, and test for tenting of the skin on the neck. (B602.2.w2)

  • Tenting of the skin when held and released may indicate dehydration or protein loss/deficiency. (B631.18.w18)

  • If the gingiva is nicely damp and saliva is present, it is unlikely that the ferret is dehydrated. (B631.18.w18)

Look for any facial asymmetry. (B602.2.w2)

  • Salivary Mucocoele in Ferrets may be observed as a unilateral swelling, usually on the cheek or in the temporal area (depending on the salivary gland involved). (B602.2.w2)

  • Swellings over the cheeks may indicate abscesses. (B631.18.w18)

Check the eyes. (B602.2.w2)

Check the nose for any discharge. (B602.2.w2)

  • The nose should be slightly moist. It may be dry with dehydration or fever, or if the ferret has covered its nose with a paw while sleeping. (J213.2.w6)

Check the ears. (B602.2.w2)

  • Look for any hair loss, excoriation or excess discharge. (B631.18.w18)

    • It should be possible to take a sample of cerumen for parasitological and cytological examination. (B631.18.w18)

    • Gentle examination using an auroscope with a small cone is tolerated by many ferrets. (B631.18.w18)

      • A videotoscope is suggested for optimum examination. (J29.19.w1)

    • Anaesthesia may be needed to allow full examination of the ears if there are signs of disease. (B631.18.w18)

  • A small amount of brown waxy discharge is normal. Increased exudate (wax) suggests Otodectes cynotis Ear Mite Infection). (B602.2.w2, D404 - full text included)

    • The normal wax is brown or reddish; with ear mites it tends to become blackish and like old coffee-grounds. (J213.2.w6)

  • Debris such as lint may be found in the ears if the ferret burrows in cloth or dusty environments. (J213.2.w6)

  • Check particularly on the head and around the ears for ticks (Tick Infection). (J16.30.w1)
  • Consider the possibility of:

Check the mouth. (B602.2.w2)

Bonobo Considerations Note: There is very little published information available on veterinary care specifically in bonobos. In general, treatment and care of bonobos is the same as treatment and care of Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee in particular and of the other great apes and other primates. Great ape treatment and health care is commonly based on the treatment for their close relatives, Homo sapiens - Humans.
  • Initial examination of the head and face, including eye movement, any discharges, and any lumps or asymmetry should be made before the primate is immobilised. (B670.5.w5)
  • The eyes, ears, nose and teeth of primates should all be examined. (D425.3.5.w3e)
    • Check that the eyes are straight with even-sized pupils and no discharge. (B670.5.w5)
    • Facial swelling or a draining tract on the face may suggest dental infection. (B644.10.w10)
      • Swelling or a tract below the eye, sometimes with periorbital swelling and conjunctivitis, is seen with maxillary canine tooth infection, while with infection of a mandibular canine, more generalised swelling may occur. (B644.10.w10)
    • Check the ears for any discharge and for swelling of the pinnae. (B670.5.w5)
    • Check the nostrils are even in size; look for any discharge. (B670.5.w5)
      • Note whether any discharge is unilateral or bilateral, and whether it is serous, mucoid, mucopurulent, purulent, is blood tinged or frank blood (epistaxis), and/or contains food particles. (B644.7.w7)
        • Unilateral discharge may indicate upper arcade dental disease, a nasal foreign body or tumour, parasites or mycotic infection. Bilateral presentation suggests viral or bacterial infection, environmental exposure to irritants or allergens, lower respiratory tract disease or e.g. oesophageal problems. (B644.7.w7)
    • Check for airflow through each nostril e.g. by close auscultation, use of a mirror held to each nostril in turn, or occlusion of each nostril in turn. (B644.7.w7)
    • Palpate around the jaw, throat, nasal and sinus regions for any unusual swelling. (B644.7.w7, B670.5.w5)
    • Palpate the local lymph nodes for any swelling. (B644.7.w7)
  • Oral examination should include examination of the hard palate for defects or swellings, the soft palate for ventral depression indicating nasopharyngeal swelling, the oral mucosa for signs of trauma, erosions, ulcers, plaques, petechiae or larger haemorrhages, and the tonsils, teeth and peridontal areas. (B644.7.w7)
    • Do not put your fingers inside the mouth of a conscious primate. To examine inside the mouth, use a disposable tongue depressor or illuminated instrument. (B670.5.w5)
    • Note the colour of the gums and the condition of the teeth. Check the premolars and molars, and the back of the throat.  (B670.5.w5)
    • Jaundice suggests liver disease, extrahepatic biliary obstruction. or haemolysis. (B644.10.w10)
    • Oral lesions have been seen with  Candidiasis
  • In Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee, use of appropriate instruments for examination of the eyes, ears and nasal passages is recommended. (D409.6.w6)
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Skin and Fur

  • Note the general appearance of the coat (fur, spines, vibrissae) - e.g. condition, wet, muddy, oiled, clean, bloody, moulting
    • Appearance of the fur will provide a useful guide as to whether the animal is in good condition or a debilitated state.
    • If in moult, note the extent and take into account the season.
    • If contaminated, note extent and areas affected.
    • Missing patches of fur should be correlated with wounds, parasites, evidence of pruritus (itching), entanglement etc.
  • Note any wounds present and characterise them in terms of age, size, location, degree of infection.
    • Matted fur (pelage) may indicate an underlying wound - this is not always directly under the matted area (B118.5.w5).
    • The distribution of skin wounds may give an indication as to their cause e.g. territorial wounds in the badger (Meles meles - Eurasian badger) are typically distributed around on the rump, neck and ears whilst conspecific bite wounds in the otter (Lutra lutra - European otter) occur around the head and genital area.
    • Careful examination for puncture wounds should be made in all mammal casualties with a history of possible cat attack.
    • Check the skin around the neck and abdomen of all animals with a history of possible release from a snare or other ligature. Injuries may appear slight at the time of presentation, but wound breakdown caused by pressure necrosis can occur in the few days following snare removal, and the animal should be kept in care during this period. (See: Foreign Body Entanglement & Snaring).
  • Check for the presence of external parasites - fleas, lice, ticks, maggots etc. 
    • Note the species, numbers (accurate or approximate indication), distribution.
    • Particular attention should be paid to checking the predilection sites for external parasites e.g. armpits (axillae), groin, perineum, hoof clefts, eyes, ears etc.
    • Large numbers of parasites such as lice may be indicative of general debility. (See: Lice Infection)
    • The presence of small numbers of external parasites may be incidental.
    • When maggots are present on the surface they may also be present under the skin and deep into the animal. If fly eggs or developed maggots are found on the skin of the animal it is critically important to check all the orifices (eyes, ears, mouth, perineum) and wounds for maggots. It is particularly important to check carefully for fly eggs/maggots in the warmer months as this is when fly-strike is most likely to be seen. (See: Myiasis (Fly strike).
  • Systematically part the hair over multiple areas of the body to examine the skin, looking for lesions including bite wounds, papules, macules, pustules, comedones, furuncles etc. 
  • Examine all body orifices, including the anus, vulva, prepuce, cloaca, pouch as appropriate, for evidence of haemorrhage, discharge, parasites, maggots (See: Myiasis), abnormal growths etc.
  • Examine the perineum and hindquarters for evidence of faecal scouring suggestive of diarrhoea (scour).
  • Assess "skin tenting" as a measure of the hydration status of the mammals.
    • Gently raise a fold of skin between the thumb and forefinger and release it, noting the time that it takes to regain its normal position which is normally only a few seconds.
    • Dehydrated animals will show evidence of prolonged 'skin tenting'.
    • Experience may be required with the species in question for adequate assessment. 

(B118.5.w5, B280.1.w1, J213.9.w4, V.w26)

West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations

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  • The spines should be bright and shiny in a healthy hedgehog. (B337.3.w3)
  • Closely examine the vulva, prepuce, perineum and any wounds for evidence of fly eggs or maggots, particularly in the summer. (See: Myiasis)(B156.7.w7)
  • Check all the spines and skin for evidence of wounds whose appearance may give an indication as to their cause:
  • Examine the spines for evidence of charring or burns, particularly in the autumn or if there is a history of garden fires in the area. The spines may be fused together over large areas. (See: Burns)
  • Look for presence of contaminants on the spines or fur e.g. oil. (P8.3.w2)
    • The presence of large amounts of debris and grass stuck to the spines may indicate that the hedgehog has been rolled about, for example by a dog. (B337.3.w3)
  • Examine between the spines for ectoparasites, particularly ticks (See: Tick Infection) and fleas. (See: Flea Infection in Mammals))(B156.7.w7, B16.13.w13)
    • Increased numbers of ectoparasites are often seen in debilitated hedgehogs under stress e.g. climate, food availability.(B22.27.w3)
  • Check for evidence of scurf, white powdery deposits, scale and hair loss around the face, muzzle, ears, belly and 'skirt' (margin between the haired and spined areas).
  • Spine loss, sometimes severe, may be seen associated with mite infections. (B337.3.w3)
  • Spine and hair loss without associated scale or other lesions has been suggested to be caused by zinc deficiency.(B151, P8.3.w2)
  • Check all over the body, particularly between the spines, for evidence of abscesses or infected pustules.(B16.13.w13, V.w26)
    • Abscesses may be seen and felt as a swelling under the skin, and may be quite firm. (B337.3.w3)
    • Clumps of spines which move together under the fingers, rather than independently, may indicate a scab or injury under those prickles. (B337.3.w3)
  • Stretched, taut skin with marked subcutaneous gas accumulation may be seen in hedgehogs with a condition known as "balloon syndrome". (See: Hedgehog Balloon Syndrome)(B151, B337.3.w3, D93, P8.3.w2)
  • Localised swelling due to subcutaneous gas may also be seen. (B337.3.w3)
  • If the spines are pulled up they should quickly return to their former position when released. In a moribund hedgehog they may stay in the pulled up position. (B291.12.w12)
  • Worn nails may indicate that the hedgehog has been trapped, for example down a drain or in a shed. (B337.3.w3)
  • A sticky white substance may be found on the belly of male hedgehogs as they may ejaculate, for example when hit by a car. (B337.3.w3)

(B16.13.w13, B22.27.w3, B156.7.w7, B150.w1, B151, B291.12.w12, B337.3.w3, P8.3.w2, V.w26)

Elephant Considerations
Bear Considerations

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Assess the condition of the skin and fur. (D315.3.w3)

Skin problems including alopecia and dermatitis are common in captive bears; skin diseases were reported in 11% of bears during one multi-institutional survey. (P1.2002.w6) Many skin problems in bears appear to be multifactorial in origin. Examination of skin scrapings and/or biopsies may assist in diagnosis of skin problems. (P85.1.w2) However, in a survey, it was noted that of all cases of alopecia, pruritis or dermatitis, alone or in combination, 29% remained undiagnosed. (P1.2002.w6)

Examination of the skin and fur of bears may reveal visible external parasites, including ticks, chiggers (visible as orange specks), fleas and lice.

Hair loss (alopecia) and/or crusting or scaling of the skin may be seen associated with various mange mite infections. Note: detection of mites other than chiggers requires examination of deep skin scrapings and/or skin biopsies. 

Other reported causes of skin or fur disease in bears include:

Note: in Ursus maritimus - Polar bear, survey data suggests that alopecia is most frequently related to seasonal allergies, ectoparasites, stress-related rubbing, water quality issues and imbalances in reproductive hormones, and that nutritional issues "were not documented as the primary factor." (D315.3.w3)

A rough, dry coat may also be seen in bears with gastro-intestinal parasites such as Baylisascaris Infection in Bears.

Check the length of the nails. See: Claw Overgrowth in Bears

Dehydration may be noted associated with:

Lagomorph Considerations

Moulting. Click here for full page view with caption Moulting. Click here for full page view with caption Dewlap dermatitis.  Click here for full page view with caption Facial Treponema cuniculi lesions. Click here for full page view with caption Cheyletiellosis in a rabbit. Click here for full page view with caption Myiasis. Click here for full page view with caption Myiasis in a rabbit: click here for a full page view with caption

The skin should be clean, with sleek, clean, well-groomed shiny fur. (J72.48.w1)
  • Check carefully for Myiasis in casualty lagomorphs, associated with open wounds or with Myxomatosis. (B284.10.w10)

Use skin tenting/elasticity to assess hydration status. (B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2)

  • Check the elasticity of skin in the inguinal region, scrotal skin (in males) and the inside of the pinna. (B601.2.w2)

Check the fur:

  • Fur should be clean, dry, soft and dense, without any matting. (B601.2.w2)
    • Matted, soiled fur may indicate dental disease, since rabbits pull out loose hair with their incisors and clean their fur with their tongue. (J29.16.w5)
  • Combing the fur will indicate how much loose fur and debris is present, and may show fleas, flea dirt, or mites. (B600.3.w3)
    • Good lighting is needed for detection of extoparasites; use of magnification may be helpful. (J72.48.w1)
    • Mites are just visible with the naked eye and can be seen easily under the microscope. (B600.3.w3)
    • Heavy external parasite burdens may indicate tooth problems preventing normal grooming. (J29.16.w5)
    • Note: matted hair, if ingested, can cause intestinal obstruction. (B600.3.w3) Felts of fur form on the bottom of the hind feet, particularly in long-haired rabbits. (B600.3.w3)
  • Alopecia may be seen with: (B601.App2.w20)
  • Note: it is normal for there to be thin, hairless skin over the point of the hock. (B600.3.w3)

Brush the fur backwards or part the fur in several places on the body to see the skin. (B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2)

  • Check the skin on the back, face, ventral neck and dewlap, also the perineum and the palmar feet and hocks. (B601.2.w2)
  • The skin should be clean and either pink or pigmented. (J213.2.w2)
  • Look for any bruising, erythema, scaling, ulceration, crusting, wetness, discolouration or unpleasant odours associated with the fur or skin. (B601.2.w2)
  • Record the position, size, texture, shape and colour of any lesions such as papules, pustules, cutaneous or subcutaneous masses etc. and of any alopecia. (B601.2.w2)
  • (B600.3.w3)
  • Dry, flaky skin may be seen with Cheyletiellosis. (J213.2.w2)
    • This is often seen first on the back of the neck and along the rabbit's back. (B600.3.w3)
  • Dermatitis may be seen with: (B601.App2.w20)
  • Superficial pyoderma is common under the dewlap. (B601.2.w2)
  • With excessive salivation (seen in dental disease), the upper surface of the dewlap becomes wet and is susceptible to bacterial infection. (B600.3.w3)
  • Saliva staining on the inside of the forepaws (used for grooming) may suggest dental disease. (B600.3.w3)
  • On the feet, check for chronic abrasions and Ulcerative Pododermatitis in Lagomorphs. (B600.3.w3, B602.14.w14)

Palpate over the skin and subcutaneous tissues for abscesses. (J213.2.w2)

Check the mammary area for discharges. (J72.48.w1)

Check carefully around the perineal region for caecotroph/faecal accumulation, wounds, crusting, discharges and myiasis. (J72.48.w1)

Caecotroph accumulation (Caecotroph Accumulation in Rabbits)

Urine scalding

Blood

Crusting

Ferret Considerations Check the general colour, density, cleanliness and sheen of the fur. (B631.18.w18)
  • Fur density varies seasonally and is lowest in summer. (B631.18.w18)
  • Pale-coated individuals may have their fur discoloured by newsprint off paper used for bedding. (B631.18.w18)
  • Blue Ferret Syndrome may be seen in a ferret recently clipped for surgery. (B631.24.w24) 

Note any alopecia: (B602.2.w2, B631.18.w18, J213.2.w6)

  • Tail-tip alopecia is common and may be transient (seasonal) or an early sign of adrenal disease (Adrenocortical Neoplasia in Ferrets). (B602.2.w2, J29.19.w1, P120.2006.w6)
    • Bilaterally symmetrical alopecia starting caudally and progressing cranially is common with adrenal disease. (B602.2.w2, P120.2006.w6)
      • Ask whether the ferret is drinking/urinating more: alopecia in combination with polyuria/polydipsia is suggestive of adrenal disease (Adrenocortical Neoplasia in Ferrets. (B631.18.w18)
      • Pruritis and comedomes (blackheads) may also be noted in ferrets with adrenal disease. (P120.2006.w6)
    • Check whether any hair loss is normal (seasonal) for the individual ferret. (J213.2.w6) For example, many entire male ferrets (hobs) lose tail fur every autumn for a month or so. (B631.18.w18) Female ferrets are more likely to lose fur during the breeding season. See Seasonal Alopecia in Ferrets

Check for signs of pruritis (scratches/excoriation). (B631.18.w18)

Check both visually and with the fingers all through the coat for any skin masses. (B631.18.w18, J213.2.w6)

Part the coat and look for external parasites, scabs, crusts, papules etc. (B631.18.w18, J213.2.w6) and for puncture wounds or lacerations

If hair appears to be broken, it should be examined microscopically to see if it has broken off or been bitten off. (B631.18.w18)

Check for petechiae or ecchymoses, particularly in shaved areas or where a needle has been inserted through the skin. (J213.2.w6)

Hydration/protein status

  • If the skin tents and does not spring back into place when released, this indicates either dehydration or protein loss/deficiency. (B631.18.w18)
    • Note: In elderly ferrets and emaciated ferrets skin elasticity is decreased. (J213.2.w6)
Bonobo Considerations Note: There is very little published information available on veterinary care specifically in bonobos. In general, treatment and care of bonobos is the same as treatment and care of Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee in particular and of the other great apes and other primates. Great ape treatment and health care is commonly based on the treatment for their close relatives, Homo sapiens - Humans.
  • Examination of the skin should always form part of the clinical examination of primates. (B644.9.w9)
  • Check the general condition of the fur and skin.  (B670.5.w5)
  • Note any fur loss which may indicate bacterial infection, parasites, or overgrooming by the individual primate or by companions. (B670.5.w5, B644.9.w9)
  • Note the presence or absence of pruritis. (B644.9.w9)
  • Check for external parasites such as lice (Lice Infection in Bonobos). (D425.3.5.w3e)
  • Note the presence and distribution pattern of any lesions such as vesicles or papules, pustules or ulcers. (B644.9.w9)
    • Vesicles or papules suggest early systemic infections and may develop to pustules or ulcers later. (B644.9.w9)
    • Pustules may develop in follicles without prior papule formation. (B644.9.w9)
    • Single ulcerated areas may indicate neoplasia, while multiple ulcerated nodules suggest infection. (B644.9.w9)
  • Further investigations may require skin scrapings for examination and culture, biopsies for histological examination (e.g. detection of viral inclusions, types and distribution of cellular infiltration), aspiration of the contents of vesicles or pustules for cytology, blood counts for indication of systemic disease, blood culture if septicaemia is suggested, serology if a specific viral infection is suspected. (B644.9.w9)
  • Pruritis (intense), alopecia and skin thickening and scaling develop with Sarcoptic Mange. (B336.39.w39, B644.3.w3)
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Lymph Nodes

  • Systematically check all superficial lymph nodes for evidence of enlargement or asymmetry which may indicate inflammation, infection or neoplasia.
  • Check the superficial lymph nodes, in turn, progressing from head to rear. 
    • The exact nodes which are checked may depend on the mammal species under examination e.g. submandibular, prescapular, axillary, inguinal, popliteal, retropharyngeal, cervical nodes.
    • Mammary lymph nodes should be checked, particularly in lactating mammals. 

(V.w26, B278.1.w1, B280.1.w1)

West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations
  • Check the submandibular, prescapular, inguinal and popliteal areas for lymph node enlargement. 

(V.w26)

Elephant Considerations --
Bear Considerations Enlarged lymph nodes may be present associated with local/regional infection, or with:
Lagomorph Considerations
  • Palpate for the peripheral lymph nodes in the same places as in other mammals; these are not normally palpable. (J213.2.w2)
    • The popliteal lymph node can often be palpated causal to the stifle. (B601.2.w2)
  • Lymphadenopathy is rare. (J213.2.w2)
    • Enlarged lymph nodes may occur with infection or injury. (B601.2.w2)
Ferret Considerations Palpate the submandibular, axillary, inguinal and popliteal lymph nodes. (B631.18.w18, J15.24.w5, J29.6.w1)
  • Become familiar with how these feel on palpation in a normal ferret. (J29.6.w1)
    • They should be soft. (B602.2.w2)
    • They are not easy to palpate when they are normal. (J213.2.w6)
  • Note: In an overweight ferret, fat pads form around the lymph nodes and this can be mistaken for enlargement of the lymph nodes. (B602.2.w2, J15.24.w5, J29.6.w1, P120.2006.w6)
    • Fatty lymph nodes are usually soft; it may be possible to detect the lymph node within its fatty covering. (J213.2.w6)
  • Firmness, irregularity or enlargement (asymmetry between the nodes on either side of the body) is suspicious. Consider a biopsy or a fine needle aspirate. If two or more nodes are firm/enlarged, a full diagnostic workup should be completed. (B602.2.w2, J213.2.w6, P120.2006.w6)
Bonobo Considerations Note: There is very little published information available on veterinary care specifically in bonobos. In general, treatment and care of bonobos is the same as treatment and care of Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee in particular and of the other great apes and other primates. Great ape treatment and health care is commonly based on the treatment for their close relatives, Homo sapiens - Humans.
  • Peripheral lymphadenopathy may occur in nonhuman primates with tuberculosis. (B644.2.w2, B680.w1)
  • Peripheral lymphadenopathy also may occur with other diseases, including e.g. Toxoplasmosis
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Chest

  • Gently palpate over all areas of the body looking for evidence of swelling, asymmetry, heat, pain, tumours, etc.
  • Check the rib cage for areas of pain, deformity, fractures, subcutaneous emphysema, etc. (B277.1.w1) 
  • Take great care when altering the position of mammals showing difficulties with breathing; in particular, never place these animals laying on their back.
Cardiovascular System:
  • Palpate both sides of the chest and detect the site where the heart beat is most strong (apex beat).
    • Given knowledge of the normal anatomy for the species under examination, abnormalities in heart position and size may be detected (e.g. as a result of a space-occupying mass inside the chest).
    • Note if severe cardiac murmurs are detectable on palpation.
  • Auscultation of the heart should be performed over both sides of the chest placing the stethoscope over several areas, ideally over the heart valves in turn.
  • Note any irregularities in heart rate and rhythm, particularly whether they are regular or irregular in nature. (B277.1.w1)
  • Note whether the heart sounds are clear and distinct as normal, muffled or split sounds. (B280.1.w1)
  • Note the presence of any heart murmurs and note their radiation, stage of the cardiac cycle (diastolic or systolic), grade or describe its severity. (B277.1.w1)
  • Combine examination of the chest with assessment of peripheral pulses. (See: Temperature, Pulse, Respiration section on this page) 
    • The heart should be auscultated for a brief period whilst simultaneously checking the pulse. (B277.1.w1)

Respiratory System:

  • Auscultate both sides of the chest in multiple areas and listen for abnormal (adventitious) sounds e.g. wheeze, crackles.
  • Auscultate over the trachea and thoracic inlet for detection of noises referred from the upper respiratory tract.(B280.1.w1)
  • Systematically percuss over the lung fields to detect areas of dullness which can indicate underlying tissue consolidation (e.g. pneumonia). (B277.1.w1)
  • Combine examination of the chest with observation of the respiratory rate, depth and character. (See: Observation section on this page)

(B277.1.w1, B278.1.w1, B280.1.w1, V.w26)

West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations
  • Palpation of the body of the hedgehog is complicated by their spines. Since the spined skin over the hedgehogs back is very loose in the anaesthetised hedgehog, it is possible to retract the spined skin dorsally, and carefully feel over the chest, rib cage and towards the back from the underside.
  • Auscultate the heart using a stethoscope checking for abnormalities of rate, rhythm or character in the beat.
  • Normal heart rates of the hedgehog are fast and may be impossible to count accurately. Instead an approximate guide should be taken, as required.
  • Hedgehogs heart rates are highly variable and respond quickly to disturbance during the active season or hibernation.(B228.6.w6)
  • Hedgehog heart rates at normal body temperature during the active season when awake are reported to be between 200-280 beats per minute (B228.6.w6)
Respiratory character:

(B151, B228.6.w6, B291.12.w12, V.w26)

Elephant Considerations

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  • Examine the chest on the right side of the elephant. (B455.w1)

Cardiovascular system:

  • Cardiac auscultation can be carried out in young animals. (B214.3.7.w3)
  • Cardiac auscultation is difficult in adult elephants. (B455.w1)
  • In a trained elephant, the handler could try to move the left forelimb forward or have the elephant lift the left forelimb, to facilitate the auscultation of the heart. (B455.w1)
  • An electronic stethoscope (Littmann electronic stethoscope model 4000, 3M Health Care, St. Paul, MN 55144, 1-800-228-3957) may be use to amplified the sound up to 18 times, and improve the heart auscultation in these animals. (B455.w1) However, interference is also magnifies and auscultation is still difficult in adults. (V.w72)
  • In adult animals, examination of the heart requires electrical methods, such as ECG. (B214.3.7.w3)

Respiratory system:

  • Record the character, depth and frequency of respiration by observing movements of the chest. (B455.w1)
  • Respiratory sounds cannot easily be heard by thoracic auscultation. (B455.w1)
  • A pulse oximeter may be used to record the oxygen saturation (normal is 96.2 1.55 %). (B455.w1)
  • Consider: Aspiration Pneumonia in Elephants
Bear Considerations
Lagomorph Considerations
Observation
  • Respiratory rate and rhythm (nose twitching is normal). (B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2)
    • The normal respiratory rate is 32-60 breaths per minute. (B600.3.w3); 30-60 breaths per minute. (J213.2.w2)
    • Dyspnoea (seen as cyanosis, mouth breathing, depression, distress and sometimes audible respiratory noise) (B600.3.w3), as well as postural changes including sternal recumbency, elbows held slightly away from the body, extension of the neck and possibly reluctance to move (J15.27.w1) may be seen with: (B601.App2.w20)
    • Increased respiratory rate may indicate: (B600.3.w3)
  • Note: rabbits are obligate nasal breathers; extending the head to allow mouth breathing, panting or open-mouth breathing are serious signs of severe respiratory distress and should be treated as an emergency. Provide a quiet, oxygen rich environment before continuing with the examination. (J15.27.w1, B601.10.w10)
Auscultation

Auscultate the heart and lungs as in other mammals. (J213.2.w2)

  • Preferably use a paediatric stethoscope. (B601.2.w2, B601.10.w10)
    • A bell-ended stethescope may produce less artefactural sounds than a diaphragm-ended stethescope rubbing against the fur. (J72.48.w1)
  • Auscultate over the whole thorax, covering all four quadrants. (B601.2.w2, B601.10.w10)
  • Note: the rabbit's thorax is rather small. (J15.27.w1)
  • Low-grade respiratory disease producing some respiratory noise is common in pet rabbits. (J72.48.w1)
Respiratory
Cardiac
  • Auscultate the heart on the left side and ventrally. (J213.2.w2)
  • Normal heart rate is 150-300 bpm. (B601.10.w10)
  • Compare heart rate and femoral pulse rate simultaneously to check for normal perfusion. (J213.2.w2)
    • The auricular pulse can be taken from the artery running up the centre of the ear (the intermediate ramus of the caudal auricular artery). (B600.3.w3)
    • The femoral pulse can be found in the middle of the femur, on the medial side. (J15.27.w1)
      • It may be less easy to find the femoral pulse than on a cat or dog. (B600.3.w3)
    • The metatarsal pulse can be found on the medial aspect of the metatarsus. (J15.27.w1)
  • Murmurs and arhythmias are not common. (B600.3.w3, J213.2.w2)
    • Sinus arrhythmia is abnormal in rabbits. (B601.10.w10))
    • If a murmur is found, record its location, timing, duration, character and grade. (B601.2.w2)
    • A murmur or gallop rhythm may be the most common abnormality. (B601.10.w10)
    • Along the sternum or just to either side of this is where abnormal heart sounds are usually most intense. (B601.10.w10)
    • Note: a murmur may be mimicked by the combination of heart sounds and overlying lower airway sounds. (B601.10.w10)
    • Any murmur, gallop or other arrhythmia noted on auscultation should be investigated further for evaluation of cardiac function. Radiography, echocardiography and electrocardiography are all useful in the diagnosis of cardiac disease. (P3.2000b.w2) See: Imaging in Lagomorph Diagnosis and Treatment
  • Use the gingival mucous membranes to assess capillary refill time. (B601.2.w2)
  • Cardiac disease is not common in rabbits. (B600.3.w3)
Ferret Considerations
  • Gently palpate the chest - it should feel springy rather than solid. (B631.18.w18)
  • Gently percuss the chest - it should sound air-filled not solid. (B631.18.w18)

Auscultate the heart and lungs. (B602.2.w2) A paediatric stethoscope is recommended. (B631.18.w18, P120.2006.w6)

Respiratory

Cardiac

  • The heart is positioned relatively caudally in the thorax. (B631.18.w18) between the 6th and 8th ribs (J15.24.w5) therefore auscultation must be carried out relatively caudally. (J15.24.w5)
  • The heart can be auscultated with the ferret standing (lightly restrained) on the examination table. (J213.2.w6)
  • Auscultate on both sides, at the apex and the base of the heart. (B631.18.w18) Murmurs may be focal. (J213.2.w6)
    • Place the stethoscope over the distal ribcage and the caudal sternum. (J29.19.w1)
  • Check the pulse rate and character at the same time as listening to the heart. (B631.18.w18)
  • The heart rate is fast (180-250 bpm). (B602.2.w2, J15.24.w5); 200 - 250 bpm. (B339.9.w9)
  • A sinus arrhthmia is common. (B602.2.w2, J15.24.w5, P120.2006.w6)
  • Describe any murmur: timing relative to the heart cycle,  acoustic characteristics. (J213.2.w6)
  • Investigate murmurs or abnormal rhythm. (B602.2.w2, J15.24.w5) Murmurs may be hard to detect in excited ferrets or if the heart beat is very rapid. (B602.2.w2) Consider the possibility of:
Bonobo Considerations Note: There is very little published information available on veterinary care specifically in bonobos. In general, treatment and care of bonobos is the same as treatment and care of Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee in particular and of the other great apes and other primates. Great ape treatment and health care is commonly based on the treatment for their close relatives, Homo sapiens - Humans.
  • The heart and lungs of primates should be auscultated. (D425.3.5.w3e)

Respiratory diseases is common in bonobos and can be severe and rapidly fatal.

  • Observe the respiration. (B644.7.w7, B670.5.w5)
    • Assess the respiratory rate, rhythm and character. Simple tachypnoea may occur with excitement, anxiety, exertion or hyperthermia. Dyspnoea suggests a significant problem and may be exertational, paroxysmal (suddenly intensified or recurring) or continuous. Individuals may remain upright due to orthopnoea (dyspnoea when lying down). Tachypnoea or dyspnoea may be associated with airway restriction, lung parenchymal disease, or disease of the pleura, diaphragm or peritoneum, as well as cardiovascular disorders, anaemia, neurological and metabolic disorders (e.g. increased respiratory rate associated with compensation for metabolic acidosis). (B644.7.w7)
  • Radiography is important in the assessment of respiratory disease. (B644.7.w7)
  • See:

Cardiac disease is an important problem in captive great apes.

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Abdomen

  • Gently palpate over all areas of the body looking for evidence of swelling, asymmetry, heat, pain, tumours, etc.
  • Examine the abdomen for signs of generalised distension (e.g. ascites, obesity, haemorrhage) or localised masses (e.g. peritoneal effusion, neoplasm, abscess, pregnancy).
    • In orphaned infant mammals, the abdomen may be distended due to presence of retained urine/faeces.
    • Check for evidence of umbilical or inguinal hernia.(B280.1.w1)
  • Systematically percuss over the abdomen.
    • Useful for mapping of the liver margins and for detection of gas caps within the gastro-intestinal system. 
  • Gently and systematically palpate the abdomen.
    • In a normal mammal the kidneys may be palpable.
    • Enlarged liver (hepatomegaly) may be palpable and is an abnormal finding.
    • Palpate the bladder and note its size.(B277.1.w1)
    • Assess whether the abdomen/gastro-intestinal system feels empty, indicating that the animal has not fed for some time, or full, indicating that it has recently eaten.
    • Palpate the area of the large bowel to assess the volume and consistency of its contents (diarrhoea, constipation). 
  • Gently ballot the abdomen, checking for the presence of a 'fluid thrill' which may indicate an increased volume of free fluid.
  • Auscultate the abdomen listening for evidence of normal, increased or decreased bowel sounds.(B277.1.w1) 
    • Knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the gastro-intestinal tract for the species in question is required in order to predict the normal frequency of gut sounds, particularly with ruminants.
    • For example, bowel sounds are normally heard every 30-60 seconds over the right paralumbar fossa from the ileocaecal valve in the horse (Equus caballus - Domestic horse). (B278.1.w1)
  • Check all female mammals for evidence of late term pregnancy or lactation (milk expression), where consideration of the possibility of rapid release of the animal must be made to maximise the likelihood of the survival of any offspring.
  • Examine the mammary glands for evidence of swelling, local heat, pain, teat discharge or neoplasia.
  • Check around anus/vagina/prepuce for the presence of haemorrhage, discharge, tumours or parasites.
    • Check for fly eggs/maggots. (See: Myiasis (Fly strike)).
  • Palpate the testes in mammals where they descend to a scrotal position.
    • Check for asymmetry in size, shape, consistency, etc. 
  • Palpate the body of the penis and the penile bone (os penis) for evidence of swelling, pain, abnormal shape or growths, etc. 
  • Rectal digital examination may be required for examination of the anal sacs, prostate gland and rectum.

(B277.1.w1, B278.1.w1, B280.1.w1, J213.9.w4, V.w26)

West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations

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  • Palpation of the body of the hedgehog is complicated by their spines. Since the spined skin over the hedgehogs back is very loose in the anaesthetised hedgehog, it is possible to retract the spined skin dorsally, carefully feel over the abdomen and towards the back from the underside.
  • Check the abdominal wall for evidence of injury e.g. rupture or hernia, following concussive trauma.(B156.7.w7)
  • It may be possible to smell an abdominal wound before it is seen; maggots may be present also (see: Myiasis). (B337.3.w3)
  • The presence of a soft swelling in the abdominal area may indicate an abdominal muscle rupture with intestines of abdominal fat present in the subcutaneous space. (See: Crushing) (B337.3.w3)
  • A small swelling may be seen on the abdomen, generally in hoglets or juveniles, indicating the presence of an umbilical hernia (Umbilical Hernia in Hedgehogs). (B337.3.w3)
  • Percussion is not a particularly valuable technique for small mammals such as the hedgehog.
  • Check around anus/vagina/prepuce for the presence of haemorrhage, discharge, tumours or parasites.
    • Check for fly eggs/maggots. (See: Myiasis (Fly strike)).
  • Check all sows for evidence of late term pregnancy or lactation. Consideration should be given as to the possibility of quick release with these animals, particularly where return to the exact area where they were found may be possible within a 24 hour period.
  • Check the mammary glands for evidence of abnormal masses. Hedgehogs have been reported with tumours, especially around the mammary glands.(B151)
  • Palpate the intestinal tract and assess how recently it is since the animal may have eaten.
    • Emaciated and thin hedgehogs have a very empty abdomens on palpation.
  • Hedgehog testes are located in the abdomen and do not descend into the scrotum.(B228.2.w2, B142)
  • The hedgehog penis is large relative to its body size. Its glans (tip) is vulnerable to injury and trauma and should be checked during the examination.(B151)
  • Check for evidence of rectal prolapse which has been reported due to straining associated with Salmonellosis.(J15.21.w1)
  • The abdomen and genitalia may be observed without physical restraint (e.g. for sex determination) by placing the hedgehog on a transparent surface and viewing from beneath this.

(B156.7.w7, B142, B151, B228.2.w2, B291.12.w12, V.w26)

Elephant Considerations
Bear Considerations
  • Palpate the abdomen for lesions which may be obscured by the fur. (D315.3.w3)
  • Increased abdominal size may indicate ascites; this has been seen associated with neoplasia. (B214.3.4.w16) See:
  • Acute abdominal distention and tympany may indicate Acute Gastric Dilatation in Bears
  • Visual examination or palpation may reveal Abdominal Hernias in Bears
  • Check the naval area for localised swelling:
  • Check the external genitalia; reported abnormalities include:
  • In males, palpate the testes for any abnormalities in size, shape or firmness. (D315.3.w3)
    • Note: most species are seasonal breeders and undergo seasonal changes in testicular size and activity.
    • Ultrasonographic examination can be useful in reproductive assessment and may allow detection of early lesions. The testes can be scanned transcutaneously using a B-mode ultrasound scanning system with a 10 MHz linear array, and internal organs can be scanned using a 7.5 MHz curved linear probe with an adaptor. (P6.4.w6)
  • In females, the reproductive tract can be evaluated by transrectal ultrasonography for detection of pregnancy and abnormalities such as cysts of the cervix uteri. (D315.3.w3, J370.51.w1, P1.2006.w1, P6.4.w6)
    • The genital tract can be scanned using a real-time B-mode ultrasound scanning system with a 7.5 MHz curved linear probe and adaptors of 15, 25 and 30 cm, appropriate for the tight rectum and elongate genital tract of bears. Following digital removal of faeces, lubricated with ultrasound gel, the probe, fitted in the adaptor, is introduced into the rectum; ultrasound gel is used in the rectum for coupling. (J370.51.w1)
    • The vagina, within the bony pelvis, is found just below the rectal wall, 60 +/- 15 mm long and 4-6 mm thick, hypoechoic with a hyperechoic central line (attached mucosal surfaces). The cervix is elongated, 60-90 mm, width 7-10 mm, between the rectal wall and the caudal portion of the urinary bladder., with the cervical portico clearly distinguishable from the vagina and the cranial border detected by the change from the typically convoluted internal structure of the cervix. The uterus may be 200 +/- 55 mm long (specis and body size dependent), with the uterine body dorsal to the cranial bladder; the position of the uterus changes depending on the degree of bladder filling. and with pregnancy. The body is 30 +/- 10 mm long, 8 +/- 2 mm diameter, with the uterine horns 170 +/- 45 mm long, in the mid abdomen, surrounded by intestinal loops. The parametrium (hyperechoic), myometrium (hypoechoic) and endometrium may be distinguished. The lumen is visible as a central irregular hyperechoic line. The ovaries are visible 240 +/- 50 mm from the anus (Melursus ursinus - Sloth bear, Tremarctos ornatus - Spectacled bear) or at 290 +/- 60 mm (Ursus arctos - Brown bear), as spherical structures, with a mixed hypoechoic and hyperechoic stroma. Corpora lutea are found at the periphery of the ovary, homogeneously hypoechoic; regressing corpora lutea are smaller and hyperechoic compared to the stroma. In winter, visualisation may be impaired by fat deposits, but the corpora lutea are still visible. (J370.51.w1)
    • Pregnancy can be detected e.g. in early December, with localised three-fold uterine enlargemeny, anechoic fetal fluid and local endometrial proliferation (implantation site); the placenta is a discoid hypoechoic structure and the fetus within the fetal fluid is hyperechoic, with head, thorax, abdomen and extremities visible at this stage; the fetus was 24 +/- 4 mm crown-rump length at this stage; the fetal heart beat can be detected. With careful searching it is possible to count the number of fetuses. (J370.51.w1)
      • Abnormalities of pregnancy can be detected, e.g. fetal structures lacking a heart beat and with free-floating fetal membranes. (J370.51.w1)
  • Ultrasonography can also be used to examine other organs such as the urinary bladder, ureters and kidneys. (P6.4.w6)
    • The bladder is pear-shaped in female bears, with its wall 3-7 mm thick (depending on degree of filling). The wall is hyperechoic; in the dorsal wall it is possible to distinguish two smooth muscle layers and the mucosa (the ventral wall may be beyond the focus of the US beam). Urine may appear hypoechoic or slightly cloudy. In pregnant females it may not be possible to visualize the bladder. The urethra, just below the vagina, appears tubular, hypoechoic with a central hyperechoic line (collapsed urethral lumen). The ureters are not detectable. The kidneys are 350-450 mm from the anus, dorsolateral from the rectum. They have a lobulated structure with a hyperechoic irregular capsule about 1 mm thick. The medulla is hypoechoic, may appear heterogenous, and is subdivided by renal blood vessels. It is clearly demarcated from the echogenic, more uniform cortex; perirenal fat has a similar echogenicity to the cortex, but may contain irregular hyperechoic septae. (J370.51.w1)
  • For urine collection for urinalysis, cystocentesis is preferred. It is possible, but difficult, to catheterise the urethra; this may be used if cystocentesis is not possible. It is dangerous to try to get a urine sample by capture of midstream urine. While urine can be recovered from the floor of the cage, the diagnostic usefulness of such a sample is much reduced. (B185.37.w37)
  • Rectal swabbing should be carried out as a routine part of physical examination, for microbiological culture. (B185.37.w37)
  • A faecal sample may be collected for parasitological examination. 
  • Faeces can be used to detect pregnancy, or at least the presence of active corpora lutea, by testing for progesterone equivalents: in two pregnant Ursus arctos - Brown bear, progesterone-equivalent concentrations in faeces were 50-800 ng/g both pre-implantation (September-October) and post-implantation (November-December), compared with about 10 ng/g in the nonbreeding season February-April). (J370.51.w1)
Lagomorph Considerations

 Holding rabbit for abdominal exam. Click here for full page view with caption Percussing the abdomen. Click here for full page view with caption Holding rabbit for abdominal exam. Click here for full page view with caption Auscultation for gut sounds. Click here for full page view with caption Bloody vaginal discharge. Click here for full page view with caption Sexing - female genitalia. Click here for full page view with caption Treponema cuniculi lesions on the penis. Click here for full page view with caption Treponema cuniculi lesions on the vulva. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit with a testicular tumour. Click here for full page view with caption.

It is easiest to palpate the abdomen if the rabbit is restrained in an upright position; this brings the viscera caudal to the rib cage.
  • Palpate gently, with the hands flat on the body wall, one on each side of the rabbit. (B601.2.w2)
General
  • The abdomen can be auscultated: "tinkling" suggests a gas-fluid interface. (B601.2.w2)
  • A large fat pad may be palpable either side of the midline, especially in adult females. (J213.2.w2)
    • This may be very large in an obese rabbit.
  • Large amounts of fat may reduce the value of abdominal palpation. (J72.48.w1)
  • Note any abnormalities or irregular structures. (B601.2.w2)
  • Note if one area is consistently painful; this is usually indicated by the rabbit struggling. (B601.2.w2)
  • Following palpation, the abdomen can be percussed: with the rabbit held upright, limbs extended, flick gently over the abdomen. (J72.48.w1)
    • In the normal rabbit, there should be resonance over the right epigastric quadrant and dull sounds elsewhere. (J72.48.w1)
    • Increased resonance indicates gas. (J72.48.w1)
    • Reduced resonance suggests ascites. (J72.48.w1)

Abdominal distension may indicate: (B601.App2.w20)

Abdominal organs
Gastro-intestinal
  • The stomach should be palpable as a soft, C-shaped structure just to the right of the midline, just caudal to the rib cage. It should not be firm or typanic, and it should be compressible with gentle palpation. (B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2)
  • The caecum should be found just right of the midline, ventrally; as with the stomach, it should be soft. (B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2)
    • The degree of fill affects whether the caecum is palpable; this is variable. If full it is palpable as a doughy mass. (B600.3.w3)
    • If the caecum is impacted, it is palpated as a "hard sausage-like structure". (B600.3.w3)
    • If gas distended (gastrointestinal hypomotility) a gas-filled structure may be palpable and a sloshing sound may be audible when it is palpated. (B600.3.w3)
    • When the rabbit is held upright, in the normal rabbit resonance may be audible in the "10 o'clock to 2 'o clock" position of the cranial abdomen; if this area is enlarged or displaced, further investigation is required. (J15.29.w2)
  • It may be possible to palpate fecal pellets in the colon, dorsal to the caecum. (B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2)
Liver and spleen
  • The spleen is not normally palpable.(B600.3.w3, B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2)
  • The liver is not normally palpable. (B600.3.w3, B601.2.w2)
    • This may be palpable if enlarged. (J72.48.w1)

Urogenital

  • The kidneys are very mobile and found in a more cranial and ventral position than is usual for other species: on the right, just caudal to the stomach, and on the left in a midabdominal position. (B600.3.w3, B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2)
    • Careful palpation should reveal if the size, contour or texture of one or both kidneys is abnormal. (B602.18.w18)
    • The ureters are not normally palpable, but may be palpable if enlarged (e.g. with a uretal calculus and associated hydroureter). (B602.18.w18)
  • The bladder is found in the caudal abdomen (B600.3.w3, J213.2.w2); it cannot always be palpated. (J213.2.w2)
    • Handle the bladder gently; it has a thin wall and may rupture if handled roughly, particularly if the urethra is partially obstructed. (B600.3.w3,B601.2.w2)
    • Rabbits with cystitis may strain and urinate when the bladder is palpated. (B600.3.w3)
    • Uroliths may be palpable. (B602.18.w18)
    • The bladder may feel doughy with hypercalciuria, or turgid if the urethra is blocked. (B602.18.w18)
    • The bladder can become greatly distended. (J4.217.w4)
  • In female rabbits, the uterus may be palpable in the caudal third of the abdomen, as a small, C-shaped midline structure. (J213.2.w2)
External genitalia

Assess the external genitalia, mammary glands and scent glands. (J213.2.w2)

  • Confirm the sex of any rabbit presenting for its first examination. (B601.2.w2)
    • Have the rabbit held firmly in dorsal recumbency.
    • Part the fur around the genitalia: in bucks (males), there should be a pointed, protruding opening, compared with the slit-like opening seen in does (females).
    • Apply gentle pressure to both sides of the genital opening: 
      • in bucks the penis should extrude.
      • in does the mucosal surfaces of the vulva should become visible. This can look lika a short penis, but it is less round and has a slit-like opening, as well as being shorter.

      (B600.3.w3, B540.12.w12, J72.49.w1)

    • In bucks (older than about 10 - 12 weeks) there should also be scrotal sacs, containing the testes either side and just anterior to the penis. (B601.2.w2, J72.49.w1)

  • In both sexes there are scent glands in the skin folds on either side of the genitalia. A small amount of glandular secretion (brown waxy, odiferous) may be found; this is normal. (B600.3.w3, B601.2.w2)
  • In males older than about 10 - 12 weeks, the testes should be seen in the scrotal sacs on either side just cranial to the penis; they should be symmetrical, smooth and non-painful. (B601.2.w2)
    • The testes may be retracted into the abdomen if the rabbit is stressed or ill.(B600.3.w3, B601.2.w2)
    • Holding the buck vertically and applying gentle, firm pressure over the inguinal area may encourage the testes to descend back into the scrotum. (J72.49.w1)
  • Testicular swelling may indicate: (B601.App2.w20) 
  • The prepuce may show signs of trauma and/or secondary infection following bites (See: Lacerations & Punctures, including bite wounds)). (B601.9.w9)
  • The prepuce may be inflamed, with papules, ulcers or hyperkeratosis with Treponematosis in Lagomorphs. (B601.9.w9)
  • In females, note any vulval inflammation or discharge. (B601.2.w2)
  • Note whether any mammary glands are swollen, hot or discharging. (B601.2.w2)
Pregnancy diagnosis
  • Gently grasp the abdomen between the hind legs to palpate the uterus. (J72.49.w1)
  • A pregnant uterus should be palpable from day 12 of pregnancy. (B601.2.w2, J72.49.w1)
    • Fetuses at 12-14 days of gestation are olive-sized masses in the caudal abdomen. (B600.3.w3)
    • Later in gestation, the uterus can be found further forward in the abdomen. (B600.3.w3)
  • To confirm pregnancy, examine by ultrasonography, which can detect pregnancy from the eighth day after mating. (J72.49.w1)
Ferret Considerations

With a relaxed ferret held as described above, it should be possible to palpate all the major abdominal organs. (J29.6.w1, J29.19.w1) including the kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, spleen, bladder and mesenteric root. (J29.19.w1) Palpation is easiest with the ferret scruffed or supported with one hand such that the abdominal organs fall caudally (downwards). (B602.2.w2, J29.6.w1, J213.2.w6) Hold the ferret in a semi-vertical position. (J15.24.w5)

  • If the history (History & Documentation) indicates a possible gastrointestinal foreign body or a urinary blockage, palpate very gently to minimise the risk of causing iatrogenic injury. (B602.2.w2, B631.18.w18)

  • The kidneys, spleen and gastrointestinal tract should be palpated. (B631.18.w18)

  • The abdomen should be relaxed, without the ferret showing signs of pain on palpation, and without palpable fluid. (J213.2.w6)

Kidneys & urinary tract

Liver

Gastro-intestinal tract

Spleen

Abdominal distension

Abdominal distension may indicate:

Abdominal mass

Check the external genitalia and anal region (B602.2.w2, J213.2.w6)

  • In a female (jill), note the size of the vulva. If this is normal, show the owner so they can look for enlargement in the future. (B602.2.w2)
  • The vulva normally becomes enlarged during the breeding season (oestrus). (J15.24.w5, J213.2.w6)
  •  Enlargement of the vulva in a spayed (neutered, ovariohysterectomised)) female may indicate adrenal disease (Adrenocortical Neoplasia in Ferrets) (common) or an ovarian remnant (rare). (B602.2.w2, J213.2.w6)
  • In intact jills, check the mucous membranes for petechiae which may indicate bone marrow suppression due to Hyperoestrogenism in Ferrets. (J15.24.w5)
  • In males (hobs), check the testes; asymmetry in size may indicate testicular neoplasia (Neoplasia in Ferrets). (B602.2.w2)
    • Note: the testes are in the scrotum only December to July (northern hemisphere). (J15.24.w5)
  • Check the prepuce. Note that ferrets have a J-shaped os penis. If the prepuce is swollen or inflamed, consider a urinary tract obstruction from either Urolithiasis or Prostatic Cysts in Ferrets (which occurs secondary to adrenal disease (Adrenocortical Neoplasia in Ferrets)). (P120.2006.w6)
  • Check that the anal glands are not impacted or abscessed. (J213.2.w6)
  • Check there is no diarrhoea or melaena around the anus, and no rectal prolapse. (J213.2.w6)

Uterine:

In female ferrets consider:

(Note: infection can occur in uterine remnants in spayed females).

Bonobo Considerations Note: There is very little published information available on veterinary care specifically in bonobos. In general, treatment and care of bonobos is the same as treatment and care of Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee in particular and of the other great apes and other primates. Great ape treatment and health care is commonly based on the treatment for their close relatives, Homo sapiens - Humans.
  • Visually assess and deeply palpate the abdomen. Note: In male Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee, a common sign of cardiac disease is dependent scrotal oedema. (D409.6.w6)
  • The liver and spleen should be palpated for any enlargement. (B10.44.w44f)
  • Palpate the kidneys; note any asymmetry. (B644.8.w8)
  • Examine the external genitalia and the urethral and anal orifices. (B670.5.w5)
    • A sample of faeces and a rectal swab should be taken from primates during physical examination. (D425.3.5.w3e)
    • In female Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee, use of appropriate instruments for examination of the vaginal vault is recommended. (D409.6.w6)
  • Urine samples should be taken from primates as part of the physical examination, for evaluation by multistix or other analysis as required. (B644.8.w8, D425.3.5.w3e)
    • Note: often, urine samples can be collected from great apes by training individuals to urinate on cue into a specific urine collection area of their enclosure, or into a container. (B336.39.w39, B644.8.w8)
    • If necessary, the urinary bladder can be palpated and a urine sample collected by prepubic cystocentesis (in an anaesthetised individual). (B336.39.w39)
    • Urine should be tested for pH, presence of protein, glucose, ketones, bilirubin and occult blood. Note that a single positive test for protein does not necessarily indicate disease., but significant proteinuria suggests increased glomerular filtration of protein, reduced resorption of protein by the renal tubules, or addition of protein into the tubules. (B644.8.w8)
  • Ultrasonographic examination of the abdomen is extremely useful in assessment of the kidneys. (B644.8.w8)
  • Chronic renal disease has been seen in bonobos: Chronic Renal Failure in Lagomorphs with notes on Bonobos
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Musculoskeletal system

  • Examination of the musculoskeletal system should be combined with an assessment of gait, lameness and posture through observation. (see: Observation section on this page)
  • Examine the limbs for evidence of fracture, dislocation, swelling, crepitus (crunching / crackling), deformity, lacerations, instability, wounds (including snare wounds) etc.
  • In conscious mammals, limbs should be examined one at a time, whilst the other is kept restrained with the body.
  • Use the other limb as a comparison for reference to help identify pathology.
  • Palpate the muscle bulk over all limbs, checking muscle bellies are equal and symmetrical.
    • Muscle mass can be used as an indicator of body condition. 
    • Muscle wasting (atrophy) affecting a single limb, or muscles groups within a single limb, may indicate recent disuse, possibly due to a long-standing injury affecting the limb.
  • Manipulate each limb and joint through its range of movement, comparing each side with one another, and systematically working from the bottom (distal) to the top (proximal) of the limb. 
  • Palpation of the pelvis for evidence of fracture and dislocation is important. 
    • Palpate the wings of ilium and tuber ischii and compare symmetry to aid with detection of pelvic fractures.(B277.1.w1)
    • Following pelvic trauma, consideration must be given as to the subsequent likelihood that adult female mammals may have difficulties giving birth (dystocia).
    • Rectal examinations may also be useful for palpation and detection of pelvic fractures.(B277.1.w1)
  • Gentle palpation of the vertebral column for evidence of deformity or pain is important for casualties with a history of trauma and neurological signs.
  • Note any discoloured areas (pale and cold, reddened and swollen or dry and necrotic) which may indicate e.g. frostbite (Frostbite).
  • Radiographic examination may be indicated if an abnormality is detected on palpation.

(B277.1.w1, B278.1.w1, B280.1.w1 V.w26)

West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations

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  • Examine carefully to check than the hedgehog has all four limbs; it is difficult to see the legs when a hedgehog is tightly curled in a ball and easy to wrongly assume that all four legs are present. (B337.3.w3)
    • The hind legs may be well tucked into the "skirt" even when the hedgehog is only partially rolled up. (B337.3.w3)
  • Check all limbs for evidence of fractures, which are often compound in the hedgehog.(D93)
  • Limb amputations, sometimes bilateral, may occur as a result of garden strimmer injury.
  • Check all the digits for evidence of locally erosive abscesses and ulcers. 
    • These may occur as a result of fighting in group housed hedgehogs whilst in captivity, particularly affecting the outer digits.
  • Palpate the fore and hind feet for evidence of fractures which are often infected. This condition, most commonly affecting the hind feet, has been colloquially described as 'crushed foot disease' and is of uncertain aetiology.(D93)
  • Check the limbs for encircling wounds which may have resulted from being caught in netting or other foreign bodies. Consideration should be given as to the possibility of tissue breakdown at the site, since the netting may have compromised local blood supply leading to pressure necrosis.
  • Carefully palpate over the spine for evidence of fracture or swelling.
    • Wounds on the surface of the feet can occur as a result of dragging the hind limbs. 
    • Symmetrical wounds on the surface of the feet may suggest a spinal injury.
  • "Pop off" syndrome is seen in hedgehogs where the orbicularis muscle apparently slips above the pelvis. The hind limbs are left protruding at the rear giving an appearance similar to that seen following spinal trauma; the two conditions must be differentiated by radiography. (See: Hedgehog Pop-off Syndrome)(B151, D93, P8.3.w2, B337.3.w3)
  • Reduced use of the hind limbs in hedgehogs has been reported in association with spondylosis deformans, a condition in aged animals.(B151)
  • In individuals with limb injuries in which a fracture is suspected, as well as in apparently paralysed animals, physical examination should be supplemented by radiography (x-ray examination). (B291.12.w12)

(B156.7.w7, B151, B291.12.w12, B337.3.w3, J60.1.w2, D93, P8.3.w2, V.w26)

Elephant Considerations
Bear Considerations

Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption

Lagomorph Considerations
  • Palpate all four limbs for any abnormalities, check the bones and joints. (B600.3.w3, B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2)
    • Check for wounds, infection and fractures. (J72.48.w1)
  • Palpate along the neck and back; note any irregularities, deformities or pain. (B600.3.w3, B601.2.w2)
  • Normally the rabbit should be well-muscled, particularly on the hindlimbs and in the epaxial area. (J213.2.w2)
  • Manipulate each joint through its normal range of motion. (B601.2.w2)
  • With the rabbit held upright and well supported, or in dorsal recumbency, the plantar surface of the feet should be checked carefully for redness, abrasions, hair loss and callus formation. (J72.48.w1, J213.2.w2)
  • Check all digits for elongated nails (these should be short, with even wear) (J72.48.w1), nail avulsions and abscesses. (J213.2.w2)
  • Check the forefeet, on their medial aspects, for dampness/discolouration from nasal discharges rubbed on this area. (J72.48.w1)

Casualty lagomorphs

  • Check the limbs carefully in casualty lagomorphs. (B284.10.w10)
Ferret Considerations
Bonobo Considerations  Note: There is very little published information available on veterinary care specifically in bonobos. In general, treatment and care of bonobos is the same as treatment and care of Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee in particular and of the other great apes and other primates. Great ape treatment and health care is commonly based on the treatment for their close relatives, Homo sapiens - Humans.
  • The initial assessment of the musculoskeletal system should be made before a primate is immobilised, while it is free to move in its normal surroundings. This allows evaluation of its ability to use all four limbs, to locomote - walk, run, jump - normally, and whether there is any lameness or imbalance. (B670.5.w5)
  • By running hands down both arms of the primate at the same time then both legs at the same time, check for evenness of limb length, and thickness of joints. (B670.5.w5)
  • Check the fingers and the toes. (B670.5.w5)
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Neurological system

  • Assessment of the behaviour, demeanour and degree of alertness of the mammals should be made. (See: Observation section on this page)
  • Assess posture, locomotion and gait for evidence of neurological problems e.g. ataxiatorticollis, circling, fitting, etc. (See: Observation section on this page)
  • Assessment of the neurological system should be made at rest and at exercise. (B280.1.w1)
  • Systematic examination of the neurological system can be used to help localise the area of the central or peripheral nervous system affected.(B281.1.w1)
  • Perform a detailed examination of each of the cranial nerves in turn as required, particularly if a disease affecting the brain is suspected.
    • I - Olfactory 
      • Response to smell (non-irritant).
    • II - Optic
      • Menace response
      • Visual placing reaction
      • Visual fixation
      • Pupil light reflex
      • Obstacle course
    • III - Oculomotor
      • Eye position/ strabismus
      • Pupil light reflex
    • IV - Trochlea
      • Eye position/ strabismus
    • V - Trigeminal
      • Palpebral reflex
      • Corneal reflex
      • Facial sensation
      • Jaw tone
    • VI - Abducens
      • Eye position/ strabismus
    • VII - Facial
      • Palpebral reflex
      • Menace response
      • Corneal reflex
    • VIII - Vestibulocochlear
      • Abnormal eye movement / nystagmus
      • Response to sound
    • IX - Glossopharyngeal
      • Swallowing reflex
    • X - Vagu
      • Swallowing reflex
    • XI - Accessory spinal
      • Palpate shoulder and neck muscles for evidence of disuse atrophy (trapezius)
    • XII - Hypoglossal
      • Tongue withdrawal

(B281.1.w1, B277.3.w3)

  • Perform a detailed examination of postural reactions (e.g. 'hopping', 'wheel-barrowing'), paw position replacement (conscious proprioception) and reflexes (e.g. patellar, biceps) as required.
  • Assess muscle tone in each of the limbs and the tail looking for flaccidity, rigidity, paresis or paralysis.(B277.1.w1)
  • Assess the reflex and conscious component of the withdrawal reflex on pinching of the toes in each limb i.e. ability to feel pain. (B277.1.w1)
  • Check the panniculus reflex. (B281.2.w2)
  • Check for normal anal sphincter tone and bladder function. (B281.2.w2)

(B277.1.w1, B277.3.w3, B280.1.w1, B281.1.w1, B281.2.w2, V.w26)

West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations

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  • Neurological examination of the hedgehog is complicated by the ability of the hedgehog to roll into a ball making conscious examination difficult. However, when the animal is anaesthetised, assessment of the majority of the neurological examination is not possible.
  • Observation of the hedgehog's general demeanor and reactivity is important. 
    • The ability to roll into a tight ball provides an indication of muscle tone and strength.
    • Movement of all four limbs can be observed during successful unrolling of the hedgehog.
    • Observation of gait and locomotion provides a useful guide to placing reactions, strength, balance, etc.
    • Protrusion of the hindlimbs when the hedgehog is rolled into a ball is suggestive of spinal injury.(J15.21.w1)
  • Wounds on the surface of the feet can occur as a result of dragging the hind limbs. Symmetrical wounds on the surface of the feet may suggest a spinal injury.
  • Cases of apparent paralysis, with the hind limbs protruding from the "skirt" of the spines, must be differentiated from Hedgehog Pop-off Syndrome.
    • In animals which are apparently paralysed radiography (x-ray examination) should be used to supplement the findings of the physical examination. (B151, D93, P8.3.w2, B291.12.w12)

(B291.12.w12, J15.21.w1, V.w26)

Elephant Considerations
Bear Considerations
Lagomorph Considerations

Farcture-dislocation lumbar spine. Click here for full page view with caption Floppy rabbit syndrome. Click here for full page view with caption.

 

The nervous system and its examination is similar to that in other species. (P113.2005.w1)
  • Note: rabbits have a diminished or absent menace response. (P113.2005.w1)
Ferret Considerations Note: Weakness, including apparent posterior paresis, is commonly a sign of hypogycaemia associated with Insulinoma in Ferrets. The possibility of hypoglycaemia should be investigated first in such cases and neurological examination can take place once it is known that the blood glucose is in normal range. (P120.2008.w1)

Seizures also can be associated with hypoglycaemia; there are also other causes:

The neurological examination should follow the same pattern as for other species. (J213.2.w6, J213.10.w3)

  • Assess the level of consciousness. (J213.2.w6)
  • Assess the cranial nerves as in cats and dogs - check pupillary light reflexes, facial sensation and symmetry, swallowing and tongue movement. (J213.2.w6, J213.10.w3)
    • The darkly-pigmented iris and hidden sclera can make it difficult to assess vestibular eye movements. (J213.2.w6)
    • Note that the menace response is not always detected in normal ferrets. (J213.2.w6)
  • Check the vestibular system by looking for: strabismus, resting or positional nystagmus, head tilt, leaning/falling to one side. (J213.2.w6, J213.10.w3)
  • Observe the gait, particularly looking at symmetry and strength. (J213.2.w6)
  • Assess conscious proprioception: hopping reactions, placement reactions, knuckling reflex, (B631.18.w18, J213.2.w6, P120.2008.w1)
  • Evaluate tendon reflexes if myelopathy or peripheral neuropathy is suspected. (J213.2.w6)
    • The flexor reflex and the patellar ligament reflex are the spinal reflexes most commonly tested. (P120.2008.w1)
    • The handle of a haemostat is an appropriate instrument. (J213.2.w6)
  • Evaluate withdrawal reflexes and conscious pain perception (as in cats and dogs). (B631.18.w18, J213.2.w6, P120.2008.w1) 
  • CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) can be taken from between L5 and L6, for culture and sensitivity testing. (P120.2008.w1, J213.10.w3)
  • An electromyogram can be run to detect electrical impulses. (P120.2008.w1)

  • If signs are local to the spinal column (spinal reflexes absent or diminished), spinal radiographs should be taken under general anaesthetic (B232.8.w8, B602.11.w11, B631.18.w18, B631.28.w28)
    • The normal vertebral formula for ferrets is C7, T15, L5-7, S3, Cd18. (B631.19.w19)
    • Note: growth plates close in ferrets at seven months. (B631.19.w19)

Posterior paresis or paralysis may be seen with:

Bonobo Considerations Note: There is very little published information available on veterinary care specifically in bonobos. In general, treatment and care of bonobos is the same as treatment and care of Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee in particular and of the other great apes and other primates. Great ape treatment and health care is commonly based on the treatment for their close relatives, Homo sapiens - Humans.
  • The initial neurological examination is carried out by observation of the unrestrained primate in its normal surroundings: is locomotion normal and are all limbs being used? Are head and eye movements normal? (B670.5.w5)
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Human Health Consideration

  • Potential hazards to human health of ANY physical examination must be considered before undertaking examinations.
  • Personnel undertaking or attending physical examinations must be made aware of the potential hazards to human health.
Zoonoses and allergies
  • Consider the potential for transmission of zoonoses, particularly from mammals with respiratory, gastro-intestinal or skin disease, also diseases transmitted by arthropod vectors which may be present on the mammal.
  • Important zoonotic diseases to consider when dealing with mammals include, amongst others, Salmonellosis, Rabies, Mammalian Tuberculosis, Brucellosis.
  • Some people are allergic to mammal hair.
  • External parasites may be transferred from the mammal to the holder and/or person examining the mammal.
  • Appropriate protective clothing should be worn during the physical examination.
    • Disposable latex or other gloves (except in those with latex allergy) are recommended.
    • Overalls (material suitable for boil clean).
    • Use of face masks and protective eye wear may be indicated in some circumstances.
Physical hazards
  • Human safety should be of paramount importance when considering handling for physical examination.
  • Consideration of the potential areas of danger which the mammal may use in defence should be given before the examination is begun.
    • Examples vary with the mammal species under examination and include horns, antlers, spurs, hooves, teeth, claws.
    • Larger carnivores are particularly dangerous; they are capable of inflicting severe bites and claw wounds.
  • Assessment should be made as to the location where the physical examination is to be performed and potential risk factors should be taken into account (e.g. water courses, boundaries, electric fences).

(J213.9.w4, V.w5, V.w26)

West European hedgehog
Erinaceus europaeus Considerations
  • Consider human safety if called to catch and rescue a hedgehog in an unfamiliar location. Where possible travel with a companion, leave instruction of where you are travelling to and when you expect to return, take a mobile phone.(P35.3.w20)
  • Carers should recognise their time, facility and experience limitations; eat, rest and sleep properly.(P35.3.w20)

Zoonotic risks:

  • Hedgehogs potentially carry a number of infectious agents. As a safeguard, all hedgehogs should be treated as potentially infectious.(P35.3.w20, P35.4.17)
  • Consider the potential for transmission of tick-borne disease when handling hedgehogs which commonly carry a tick burden, e.g. Lyme disease.(P35.3.w20) (See: Tick Infection in Mammals and Lyme Disease)
  • Zoonotic infections reported to occur in the hedgehog include:
  • Optimal levels of hygiene should be maintained at all times when handling hedgehogs to reduce the risks to the carer.(P35.3.w20, P35.4.17)
  • Use a broad spectrum disinfectant effective against viruses, bacteria, fungi (spores) for cleaning of all surfaces and equipment between handling individuals and consult all COSHH documentation before use.(P35.3.w20)
  • Carers handling hedgehogs should ensure that their tetanus vaccination is up to date.(P35.3.w20)
  • Appropriate protective clothing should be worn during the physical examination.
    • Disposable latex , rubber or other gloves (except in those with latex allergy) are recommended.(J15.21.w1, P35.3.w20)
    • Overalls (material suitable for boil clean).
  • Although it is rare, hedgehogs may bite occasionally and bite wounds can become infected.(J15.21.w1, B123)
  • Hedgehog spines are often contaminated with material including faeces. Penetrating injuries from spines to the hands of the examiner should be cleaned carefully and may become infected. (J15.21.w1)

(B123, B150.w1, J15.21.w1, P23.199S.w8, P35.3.w20, P35.4.17, V.w5, V.w26

Elephant Considerations Documented zoonotic transmission in elephants:

Potential zoonosis:

Bear Considerations Care is required when physically examining conscious bears. Bears are large, strong carnivores. They have the potential to severely injure and even kill humans. Both the teeth and the claws are dangerous. Bears have well developed, extremely strong jaw muscles. The claws can rip and tear; their strength makes bears dangerous to handle. Despite their clumsy appearance, bears can move very fast and are extremely agile and a large bear can kill a human with a single paw swat. (B123.19.w19)

Zoonotic infections reported to occur in bears include:

Lagomorph Considerations Cheyletiellosis lesions on a human arm. Click here for full page view with caption
Domestic rabbits
  • There are negligible risks of transmission of serious zoonotic diseases from pet rabbits to healthy humans. (B600.3.w3)
  • Rabbits can give bites and scratches which can be painful and may become infected. (B600.3.w3)
    • Note: rabbits which are in pain (e.g. due to dental disease or arthritis) may be more aggressive than usual. (B600.3.w3)
    • Bites are rarely serious in themselves. (B601.2.w2)
    • The powerful hindlegs can deliver a hard kick. (B601.2.w2)
  • Appropriate protective clothing should be worn; when zoonotic disease is suspected, particularly if the handler is immunocompromised, extra hygienic precautions should be taken. (B601.2.w2)
  • Allergy to rabbit dander can develop. (B600.3.w3)
  • Ringworm may be transmitted. (B64.22.w8)
  • Parasites which may be transmitted from rabbits to humans include:
  • Note: while some protozoa such as Giardia (Giardia Infection in Mammals) can infect both rabbits and humans, there does not seem to be transmission from one species to the other. (B600.3.w3)
Wild lagomorphs
  • Wild lagomorphs may be more likely to scratch, kick and bite when handled than are domestic rabbits. (B538.59.w59, J213.9.w4)

Zoonotic diseases which are known to occur in wild lagomorphs include:

Ferret Considerations A variety of ferret diseases are potential zoonoses, and the risks of these should be considered. These include:

Viral

  • Influenza in Ferrets This may be passed from human to ferret and from ferret to human. (P120.2007.w1)
  • Rabies
    • See: Rabies - Editorial Overview of Disease Characteristics for specified SPECIES-TAXA

    • In areas where rabies occurs, consider rabies in any ferret with paralysis or sudden behavioural/personality change, particularly if they have access to outside, a rabies epizootic is occurring locally, or the ferret is unvaccinated. (J213.8.w3)

    • Rabies is not common in ferrets; during 1960 - 2000 in the US, 2,851 cases of rabies were diagnosed in carnivores other than raccoons, skunks (Mephitis, Spilogale and Putorius (Mustelidae - Weasels (Family))) and foxes (Vulpes, Urocyon and Alopex). Of these cases, only 23 were in ferrets. (J1.39.w3)

    • Ferrets with rabies often do not shed virus, but shedding in the saliva may vary depending on the rabies variant; shedding was more common in ferrets infected with the raccoon rabies variant. (B627.15.w15, J13.59.w1)

Bacterial Fungal Parasitic
Bonobo Considerations Note: There is very little published information available on veterinary care specifically in bonobos. In general, treatment and care of bonobos is the same as treatment and care of Pan troglodytes - Chimpanzee in particular and of the other great apes and other primates. Great ape treatment and health care is commonly based on the treatment for their close relatives, Homo sapiens - Humans.
  • Many diseases of great apes are zoonotic.
  • Disposable gloves and facemasks are recommended for personnel in contact with non-human primates, as well as clothing with long sleeves and trousers, which is laundered at the the workplace. (D410)
  • If a primate is known to have a zoonotic disease, double-gloving is recommended to minimise the risk of exposure to a pathogen through a tear in a glove. (D410)
  • Note: commonly, particularly for infants, the major disease risks are in the opposite direction i.e. from human to non-human primate. Individuals who are, or have recently, been ill should avoid working in close contact with non-human primates, particularly infants who are sick. (D410)
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Authors & Referees

Authors Becki Lawson MA MSc VetMB MRCVS (V.w26), Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5) & Gracia Vila-Garcia DVM MSc MRCVS (V.w67)
Referee Suzanne I. Boardman BVMS MRCVS (V.w6); Tiffany Blackett (V.w44); Frances Harcourt-Brown BVSc FRCVS (V.w140); Susan K. Mikota DVM (V.w72)

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