How to care for your small furry pet

Alpha Vets’ team are experienced in caring for a number of small furry pets – these include hamsters, guinea pigs, ferrets, rats and chinchillas. Have a look at the sections below where our vets have put together some important information for small furry pet owners.

Contact us to or book an appointment online for your pet or use the button below to register them with our practice.

Register your pet


Also, don’t forget to collect your Alpha Card – our free loyalty card which gives you 1% back on everything you spend with us! The Alpha Card lets you collect points that can be redeemed against our services. We even give you 500 points (=£5) to get you started! Remember, it’s completely free to join, so ask at reception for more details when you arrive – learn more.

Hamsters: There are currently no vaccinations available for hamsters. They are most at risk from disease when kept with a large number of other hamsters – such as in pet shops.

Guinea pigs: We do not currently recommend vaccinations for guinea pigs.

Ferrets: Ferrets are susceptible to distemper, a viral disease which can be fatal. It causes severe respiratory distress, fever and skin issues so we recommend vaccinating your ferret against distemper to help protect them. Due to the risk of reaction to this vaccine, our vet will advise you beforehand of the associated risks and will encourage you to wait at the clinic 30 minutes after they administer the vaccination to monitor your ferret for signs of a reaction.

Ferrets can also contract the influenza virus, however there is no vaccination available for this yet. We just advise you avoid handling your ferret if you are suffering from the flu.

Rats: We do not currently recommend vaccinations for rats.

Chinchillas: At this time we do not recommend vaccinations for chinchillas.


As is the case with any pet, we strongly advise you book your pet an appointment with our team of vets shortly after you bring them home. This is so we can perform a full clinical examination on them and make sure they are healthy enough to be introduced to family members and other pets.

In this examination, we will pay close attention to their eyes, ears, teeth, mouth, skin – particularly looking for parasites, hydration levels, muscle and fat deposits. We feel their lymph nodes, check their scent glands, palpate their abdomen for any abnormalities and listen to their heart and lungs. We also like to know about your small furry pet’s diet and cage setup – bring along some pictures so we can help to advise you if needed.

Following this initial consult, we then recommend your book your pet to see one of our experienced vets every 6 months for check-ups. This will help to identify any underlying health conditions and keep your pet in top condition.



We recommend feeding your hamster pelleted complete foods and avoid the seed/nuts/pellet mixtures you can get from pet shops. This is because too many seeds containing high fat levels is bad for your hamster’s health.

Use fresh food to supplement their diet everyday but only use a very small amount: 3-5 different types of fruit and vegetables is the perfect mix and remove any uneaten fresh food at the end of everyday. Choose from spinach, lettuce, broccoli, pumpkin, tomato, carrot, corn, strawberry, blueberry, grapes, apples and choi sum.

They should have access to a sipper bottle that is changed daily with fresh water.

Guinea Pigs

Your guinea pig’s teeth constantly grow and a diet high in fibre will help to file them down and keep your pet comfortable. They need a high fibre, no fat, restricted protein and carbohydrate diet. This can be achieved by providing them with first cut, high quality loose hay for them to forage at continuously and a small amount of guinea pig pellets.

Use fresh vegetables daily to provide an extremely important source of vitamins: 1 – 2 bowls of at least 3 different types of fresh food a day, choose from the following: Choi Sum, pak choi, yau mak choi, romaine lettuce, bell peppers, broccoli leaves, chinese lettuce, carrots, spinach and parsley. Fruit can be used as a bi-weekly treat, but only a very small amount. Half a teaspoon is the perfect portion size.

Similarly to humans, guinea pigs cannot make their own vitamin C so we must supplement this into their diet. Chat to our vets about the best products to use with your pet guinea pig.


Ferrets are carnivores and must have a diet that consists almost entirely of meat and animal products. Any diets that are high in vegetable proteins, fibre or carbohydrates must be avoided as this can cause poor pancreatic health and may cause intestinal blockages.

We always recommend you chat to a vet about your ferret’s diet to ensure you are providing them with the correct nutrition as it can be quite tricky to get right. Contact us now to discuss your pet ferret’s nutritional needs.


In the wild, rats live on whatever they can find. However, we recommend domesticated rats are fed a seed & cereal mix twice a day (a large teaspoon morning and evening should be fine), supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables. Try to mix up what they eat and offer 5 different types where possible.

Any changes in your rat’s diet must be done gradually as the gut bacteria can become unbalanced. Make sure you are not over-feeding and under-exercising your rat as obesity can be a real concern for these pets.


A chinchilla’s natural diet is bark, grasses and leaves. Similarly to guinea pigs, their teeth constantly grow and a diet high in fibre will help to file them down and keep your pet comfortable. They need a high fibre, no fat, restricted protein and carbohydrate diet. This can be achieved by providing them with first cut, high quality loose hay for them to forage at continuously and a very small amount of chinchilla pellets.

Fruit is a good treat for chinchillas and should be given in tiny amounts up to twice a week. Although fresh vegetables are a good source of vitamins and water, many do not like them and they can upset their stomachs. Introduce any new foods extremely slowly as any bacterial imbalance in your chinchilla’s gut can be fatal.


Hamsters: unless recommended by a vet, we do not believe hamsters should be neutered. Hamsters should be kept individually so there should be no need to have them neutered.

Guinea pigs: Alpha Vets do not recommend the routine neutering of female guinea pigs unless there is a health problem that requires this to be done. However, we do recommend neutering male guinea pigs to avoid uncontrolled breeding or fighting between males. This should be done around 6-8 months of age and is completed under general anaesthesia. Contact us to book your male guinea pig in to be neutered.

Ferrets: It is essential to have your ferret neutered for their ongoing health. Many breeders will have ferrets neutered prior to selling, this is due to the negative effect a female ferret’s hormones have on her throughout her cycles. Male ferrets become incredibly smelly if not neutered, making it difficult to have them living indoors.

Speak to one of our veterinary surgeons about neutering your ferret and what the associated risks are.

Rats: Alpha Vets recommend chemical de-sexing female rats rather than surgical neutering and are happy to discuss this in consultation. We would recommend neutering a male rat to allow a male and female to live together without breeding, although we do recommend keeping pairs of the same sex. Click here to book an appointment for your rat.

Chinchillas: Alpha Vets do not recommend routine neutering of female chinchillas unless the vet has diagnosed a health problem such as an infected uterus. If you want to keep two or more male chinchillas together, then we do recommend castration, as well as if you plan to keep a male and female together to prevent unwanted breeding.

Male chinchillas should be neutered between the ages of 6-8 months – chat about this with our experienced team of vets.


Hamsters: these pets do not need to be routinely de-wormed. However, skin parasites can cause skin disease – book an appointment with a vet if you’re concerned about your hamster.

Guinea pigs: some guinea pigs may need treatment for pinworms. These are white, 2-3mm long wriggly worms and can often be seen in their faeces or around their bottom. Skin parasites can affect your guinea pig so book an appointment for us to examine your pet if you are concerned.

Guinea pigs are at risk of fly strike, an almost always fatal condition that occurs when flies lay eggs on or near your rabbit and these hatch into flesh-eating maggots. Keeping your pet’s hutch hygienically clean and ensuring your pet is always clean and dry is essential for reducing the risk. You may want to use a fly net around the hutch in summer especially.

Ferrets: these pets may need a worm treatment to prevent intestinal worms and heartworm. Chat to our team to order the correct worming treatment for your ferret.

Rats: parasites are rare in rats so they do not need worming.

Chinchillas: it’s very rare for a chinchilla to need any de-worming treatment.


Due to constant growth of some teeth throughout your small furry pets lifetime, dental disease and tooth breakages are unfortunately very common.

At Alpha Vets our team have the facilities and equipment to be able to make your pet comfortable again, as dental disease can make it painful every time they eat.

Learn more about our dental services here and contact our reception team to make a booking.


Ensuring your pet has the correct living environment is especially important for their physical health and mental wellbeing.


Hamsters naturally love to burrow and dig out several chambers where they can go to the toilet, store food, sleep etc. Ensure their cage has enough space for these activities and encourage them to forage for food by putting it in different spaces around their cage. It is also worth providing them with a shelter and a running wheel to make sure they can get comfortable rest and plenty of exercise.

Guinea pigs

These pets are inquisitive and like exploring so letting them out of their cage every day to explore and also providing plenty of wooden chew toys will keep them happy. They enjoy foraging for their food and ensure they have a hide box in their cage to use for sleep or somewhere to relax.


Ferrets are natural hunters and are clever/inquisitive. Because of this they need lots of stimulation to stay happy! Provide them with companions, food-puzzle toys and a big running wheel to keep them entertained and to help them stay happy and healthy. They love exploring so when you let them out of the cage, ensure they have tubes, tunnels and a dig box to enjoy.


Rats will enjoy boxes, tunnels, tubes and a forage tray in their cage. They also love chew toys so invest in some rat-safe toys for them to enjoy!


As social animals, chinchillas spend a lot of time grooming their companions, searching for food and exploring. Add several layers to their cage to encourage exercise and ensure there are safe hiding places to keep their stress levels low. Alpha Vets recommends you provide your chinchillas with two hours of exercise every day outside of the cage and make them forage for food using a forage box or hiding their fruit treats.


Unfortunately, many of the small furry pets we see are classed as overweight. This is because owners are over-feeding and are not encouraging pets to exercise enough.

Book an appointment with our experienced vets who can help create a diet and exercise plan for your pet which will help to encourage healthy weight loss.

Should your pet visit us for a neutering procedure or they need veterinary treatment with constant monitoring, Alpha Vets has a comfortable hospital ward available for small furry pets. Along with our experienced team of veterinary nurses, our hospital ward also has special cages with bars designed to prevent any escapees!



To discuss your small furry pet with our team, contact Alpha Vets or book an appointment online with one of our vets. Alternatively, if you are new to the practice, register your pet using the button below and our team will be in touch!

Register your small furry pet


You might also like to read:

Strictly Necessary

These cookies are required for our website to operate and include items such as whether or not to display this pop-up box or your session when logging in to the website. These cookies cannot be disabled.


We use 3rd party services such as Google Analytics to measure the performance of our website. This helps us tailor the site content to our visitors needs.


From time to time, we may use cookies to store key pieces of information to make our site easier for you to use. Examples of this are remembering selected form options to speed up future uses of them. These cookies are not necessary for the site to work, but may enhance the browsing experience.


We may use advertising services that include tracking beacons to allow us to target our visitors with specific adverts on other platforms such as search or social media. These cookies are not required but may improve the services we offer and promote.

Change Settings

Welcome. You can control how we use cookies and 3rd party services below

Change Settings Accept
Learn how we use cookies