Gastrointestinal Problems in Prairie Dogs
Diarrhea often occurs as a manifestation of several conditions that may upset the prairie dog’s digestive system. These may range from dietary to infectious causes. Diarrhea needs to be treated promptly as it can lead to dehydration and even death when left untreated.
- Loose stool
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of energy
- Abdominal pain
- Low body temperature
- Bacteria, viruses, and parasites -- all of which can upset a prairie dog's digestive system
- Overeating and rapid changes in the diet
- Feeding an improperly balanced diet
- Antibiotic use (which may cause an imbalance of bacteria, whereby the “good” bacteria is killed off)
A diarrhea diagnosis is made by observing the clinical signs exhibited by the prairie dog. Examination of blood samples or feces samples may be necessary to find out any infectious cause. Your veterinarian may also want a complete dietary history of your prairie dog to rule out any possible dietary causes of diarrhea.
It is important that your pet drink enough water. If your prairie dog will not voluntarily drink sufficient water, your veterinarian may provide additional fluids by injection as well as bismuth subsalicylate which is the active ingredient in some over-the-counter antidiarrheal medications.
Antibiotics may be used to treat infectious causes, but should only be used when absolutely necessary because their use can worsen the imbalance of bacteria in the digestive tract. To help remove any internal parasites your veterinarian will administer proper anthelminthic drugs. In cases of antibiotic-induced toxemia, your veterinarian may recommend giving Lactobacillus bacteria such as that contained in probiotics to help reestablish the natural balance of intestinal bacteria.
Living and Management
Dietary management is essential in treating diarrhea, especially when it comes to increasing the amount of fiber in the diet. One way to do this is by providing hay in addition to commercial prairie dog feed. Feeding your prairie dog plain yogurt with active cultures, or a commercial supplement called a probiotic with live cultures, may also help to restore the healthy balance of "good" bacteria in its digestive tract.
Diarrhea due to infectious causes can be prevented by keeping your prairie dog's feed and water bowls, bedding, and housing clean and sanitized. It is also important you add a sufficient amount of fiber in your pet’s diet to prevent diarrhea due to dietary causes. And promptly removing uneaten food may reduce the level of disease-causing organisms.