Prairie Dog Health Page 1 of 2


Prairie Dog Health "Exchange and Forum"

This section has been updated on our Prairie Dog Pets "book" on CD-Rom.
Here is some interesting recent correspondence relating to prairie tooth and respiratory problems:

I recently had some interesting and thought provoking correspondence with a prairie dog owner who is also a medical doctor.

Here is a portion of that, edited to condense.

I think that the osteochondromas mentioned in some of the (following) letters are actually odentomas. They usually grow from the base of the incisor teeth and can grow up into the nasal passage and obstruct breathing, and therefore eating. It is a bony tumor. Chondromas originate from cartilage. I have lost two prairie dogs to odentoma, one of which had them in the upper incisors only and the other had them in both upper and lower incisors. I have included a scanned x-ray here of the second prairie dog--unfortunately a lot is lost in the scan-- and I have marked three ot the tumors. One had extended through the bone of the upper jaw and could be felt under the skin. Initial symptoms of both PDs were respiratory problems and poor eating. My vet recently asked me to look at x-rays of a pet squirrel he was taking care of that he had euthanized. It also had four odentomas. He has sent the head of my last PD and that of the squirrel to Texas A&M where they are going to clean and decalcify the skulls and section them for microscopic study. W E Barnes MD

I asked if I could include his correspondence and the radiograph.

His answer in part:

I will be happy for you to include any of this information in your newsletter and page. I belong to the prairie dog list and have told all of this to them before and have included the scan of the x-rays. The vet mentioned is Dr. Harry Miller at the Pet and Bird Hospital in Westgate Center in Austin, TX. He has close contacts with the vets at Texas A&M. He has seen both of my PDs that had odentoma plus the squirrel that I mentioned, and has talked with the vets in Washington state who have treated a few of these tumors successfully. He likes prairie dogs and seems to be very concerned about them. I have talked with Dr. Ramsey who runs a wildlife rehabilitation center just outside of Los Alamos NM because they have some PDs there. She has never seen one with this tumor but has lost a couple of PDs from renal failure. I'm afraid that odentomas may be more prevalent than we think because very few vets know much about PDs and don't look for them. They frequently try to treat them for respiratory problems but have not x-rayed the skull. I have talked to a pathologist here in Austin and he has seen odentomas in humans but they are rare, and of course they don't produce the same symptoms because our teeth are so different.

Radiograph of odentoma.

Prior to the above, we had the following posted:

Osteochondroma has been diagnosed in Pd's. If your veterinarian needs to contact the Dr. who is researching it, ask him/her to e-mail me with their clinic name and license number and I will give them the Dr.'s name and phone number. No private individuals!!!

I receive many e-mail and calls from people having trouble with their prairie dogs. In an effort to get to the bottom of some of these problems, I am going to show their e-mail for your veterinarians to peruse. If anyone has any input, please feel free to e-mail me. For the time being, I will just print the incoming and outgoing correspondence. When I have time, I will try to condense it somewhat. The current problem seems to be some sort of respiratory problem on the US East coast.

This forum is not meant to be a home guide for taking care of your prairie dog. It is meant to be copied and taken to your veterinarian who can look it over for similarities with your prairie dog's symptoms.

Well my 3 year old male woke me up 5 days ago with a stuffed up nose. I was alarmed as I had done "all the right things" with litter, diet (except his first year) etc. I rushed him to the vet which found his lungs clear, his energy and appetite fine. The only thing that was wrong is his nose had a clear discharge and he was stopped up like a "head cold". She has him on an antibotic and I give him Orange Triaminic to help him breathe.
The Triaminic has helped him and his nose doesn't appear as "runny", however I am concerned. I let him romp around on my bed when he is loose and sometimes he zooms along the carpet. Could he have picked up a foreign substance while loose? I am assuming so. I think that is more his problem than any kind of illness from bacteria, etc.
I take him in Friday for a followup. If he is still stuffy and if a foriegn substance could be in his nose, do you know if any vets have been able to successfully clear the nose and sinuses with sterile saline irrigation? I even wondered if Yellow Triaminc (the kind with an expectorant) would help.
It saddens me that with all my care, he still ran across something he inhaled. My female is fine and she has the same environment. Tumbleweed was put to sleep the last week of June to have his incisors clipped and at that time he was checked and given a clean bill of health and he handled the anesthesia well. That is why I ruled out heart disease (from his first year of bad diet) since he is playful and energetic even with this nasal problem.
If you know of any other suggestions on what me or the vet could do, please let me know.
One other thing about my Tumbleweed, his top and bottom teeth were clipped by the vet end of June and it seems to me his top teeth are NOT growing as fast to meet his bottom teeth. I am wondering if he has a dental root problem and I am going to have that checked Friday.
Have you heard of problems with clipping both top and bottom incisors and them not catching up with each other?

Reply: Orange Triaminic has been found to be pretty good for pd's to relieve these symptoms, providing they have not become fat and developed an enlarged heart. I would suggest giving him lots of fresh vegetables along with his regular diet including the good lettuces, endive, etc., sweet potatoes, carrots, etc. Bell peppers will be great if he will eat them because they are so high in Vit. C. and one of the few non-sweet Vit. C foods that are 'legal.'. As far as an expectorant, - check w/your vet about that first.

Becca: Thanks for the advice. The Orange T is helping him but I read some of my past PD emails from people and discovered an owner whose PD had the same symptoms as my PD. She finally got in touch with a vet in Oregon who is writing a book on them and he found that another common upper respritory problem is teeth roots growing into the sinuses.
I am concerned as I had Tumbleweeds teeth clipped last week of June. The vet clipped both top and bottom almost to the gums and what bothers me is that the top don't seem to be "catching up" to the bottom as far as growth. I am going to have him xrayed Friday when we return for a checkup to see if this is his problem. If so, I am told that he may have to have his incisors permanately removed and for the rest of his life I will have to chop up his rodent blocks in bite size pieces for his back teeth.
I honestly hope this is his problem. He breathes quietly most of the time but if you get up close you hear his nose stuffy and if he sleeps sometimes he will "cough or gag" as if he can't breathe. He will lay on his back for belly rubs however and doesn't seem to have any worse problems breathing that way than in a normal position. He is very active and loves the taste of the Orange T! He takes it like a good boy!

Reply: I am going to check on this and will let you know.
I'd like to know the name of the vet (just for reference) who is 'writing a book' on them. Especially since Oregon has 'banned' them, it is interesting to find that a vet in that state is writing a book on them.
I'll see what I can find out. I also wonder if - when the teeth were clipped - they fractured and a crack occured all the way to the base and maybe was a pathway for the introduction of bacteria and subsequently - an infection!!! Just a thought! Clipping must be done carefully with the proper instruments to prevent fracturing. It is my understanding that the teeth are actually considered 'rootless' and this is why they continually grow, quite unlike ours that are one size for life, - if we eat abrasive stuff they will wear down- and stay that way.. Did you ever hear about the problem with lots of people in the days of the Pharohs ? There was so much grit ( 'sand') in their food that their teeth wore down, became infected and voilia! Lots of the mummies show this surprizing feature. .
Anyway, with rodents, if they have normal gnawing materials and normal occlusion in their incisors, the top and bottom have reciprocal abrasion and keep them worn down properly. That is why I STRESS chewing materials such as non-toxic branches, etc.

Becca: Thanks for the reply. Actually I give them rodent blocks and stuff like dried pig ears, branches, etc, to gnaw on but my male is less of a gnawer than my female. I actually find it wierd behavior for him. My female is 2 years old with no sign of teeth problems (I figure since she loves to chew).
His bottom teeth had overgrown some and I took him to have them clipped. The top teeth were fine, however my vet took both teeth off to the gums! I was shocked when I picked him up!
Due to the possibility of a tooth fracture, I will bring that up with my vet Friday.
I realized I forgot to give you the Oregons vet's name:
It is Dr. Frickie at McKenzie Animal Clinic at 541-747-3859.
As I am pondering what is wrong with my Tumbleweed, I have to ask this what may be a dumb question.
How was it discovered that foreign objects such as lint, etc, got in a PD's system and killed them? Was an autopsy done and foreign matter found? If we find it isn't teeth related tomorrow than we may try something drastic like irrigating the upper passages with sterile saline.
I am also curious as why Dr. Frickie said the incisors entered the nasal sinuses. I was thinking like you, they have no roots so how can they have roots that enter the sinuses, but he says they can and he has treated many PDs with the same problem. Some don't survive surgery since it is a slow surgery and PDs are under for a long time and he says PD wieght has a lot to do with surgery survival. Some of the PDs he has treated are so thin from not being able to eat, they are weak to begin with. He has totally removed incisors and successfully treated PDs who survived surgery and who are able to eat with their remaining 18 teeth as long as their owners chop up their rodent block in bite size pieces. I am told the problem and treatment are very similar to a common problem rabbits sometimes have. If this is true, I am wondering if some deaths attributed to lint, etc may be teeth related instead and noone knew.

Reply: Orange T treats the symptoms but not the cause. When we have had a similar case, one vet prescribed and treated with Naxcel and Albon at the same time. If the problem has been going on for some time, it could now be chronic and the pd will have to be off and on antibiotics possibly for life. Also, we have not ever heard of the top teeth growing up into the sinus, only cases of fractured teeth with subsequent infections as I previous suggested.
Also, we do not believe that the incisors should ever be clipped all the way to the gums unless an incorrect bite is being treated. Then it will require reclipping at monthly intervals. The top teeth grow slower than the bottom so your pd is probably exhibiting normal growth pattern.
Hope this helps and let me know what you find out.
Don't forget to re-innoculate his gut with lactobacillus (yoghurt or benebac) when treating with antibiotics.

Becca: Well at the request of my local vet, I took Tumbleweed to an exotic specialist in Raleigh. He is actually being seen by more than one vet in Raleigh, one of which is a professor at NC State Vet School.
He was put under general anesthesia yesterday so they could xray and examine him. It appears he has some birth defects with his teeth which means they may never grow back, but that is to work on later. His main problem was that they found what looks like a sack of something near his lung which appears to be pressing in on one side of his bronchials and causing him to breathe hard. His heart is fine, his lungs are clear, but whatever this sack of something is, it appears to be in the lining between his heart and lungs. She switched him from the Tribrissen my local vet had him on to Baytril and Cefadrops as well as Predisone to help him breathe.
We go back tomorrow to have him put under again so an animal radiologist specialist can take a needle and extract from this "sack" and see exactly what this is. It could be a tumor, a bacterial infection or a fungal infection. She is also considering that it could be something from the wild (he was suppose to be breed in South Dakota but you never know) that is just now flaring up although he is 3 years old. She is also concerned about zoonose so I may have to take preventive treatment and I am taking Blossom in tomorrow in case they need to give Blossom preventive treatment.
She also saw a sore place if I remember right at the back of his throat, so she did a culture on that to see what that is.
I will know tomorrow exactly what his problem is after the additional tests. I am going to run fire up and down their cages if it is fungal or bacterial to make sure all the germs are killed. I have cloroxed and sun dried their cages every few months in addition to normal weekly cleaning but now that I am paranoid after this, I am going to do what one wildlife rehabber did and actually run fire up and down each area of the steel cage to make sure all the germs are gone.
He has been sick on his stomach ever since he woke up so I did the best I could to cram some yogurt with live culture down his throat this morning. Once I get his stomach settled he should be able to eat again. He wants to, but he picked up some Chex cereal (I gave him something soft) and he threw it back down. He didn't sleep all night. I crammed his antibiotic down this morning but he upchucked, so I am working with the yogurt.
What a nightmare! The positive point in all this is the vet told me of all the prairie dogs she sees, with the exception of this current problem, he was extremely healthy as far as everything else went. She said I was taking good care of him but I didn't feel like it with this latest episode.
I gave her a copy of your Vet Tips and I hope she contributes to it. I will ask her and the other vet to if they will. They seem extremely knowledgable about exotics and are extremely thorough.

Reply: Thanks for the update.
I think the suggestion that it is 'something from the wild' is grasping at straws. It will be interesting to find out the outcome of the Culture and Sensitivity test.
Baytril has proven to be grrrrrrreat and not a problem for our animal's who have reached maturity.
Please keep me posted.

Additional Notes from calls and e-mail:
Click for Page 2


R-Zu-2-U Home

R-Zu-2-U FAQs

R-Zu-2-U Animal "Terms"

Treasure Ranch Home