Rodents are herbivores, and it is important that their diet contains high amounts of fibre and their gut has a rich bacterial population and plenty of micro-organisms. It is important for the digestion of the animal that the microbes have stable conditions. Changes in the balance may cause an increase in the amount of harmful bacteria, which manifests typically as diarrhoea. Most diarrhoea cases in rodents are caused by sudden changes in the diet or poor quality of food.
Reasons for changes in the micro-organisms and bacterial population include sudden changes in the diet, antibiotics, poor quality hay, too much fresh food (e.g. too much fresh grass or dandelion in the summer) stress and unsanitary conditions. Several bacteria can also cause inflammation in the bowels. The bacteria may come from vegetables that have gone bad or poor quality water.
As a result of a diet too high in carbohydrates (e.g. too much seeds) rodents get full quickly. Therefore, they do not eat as much dry hay as the bowels require to function normally. Not enough fibre in the food decreases the function of the bowels. This, in turn, causes the bacteria to ferment abnormally in the colon and the food takes longer to digest.
Rodents eat large, moist pieces of excrement directly from the anus. These caecotrophes, or “night faeces”, are rich in proteins, vitamins, minerals and micro-organisms important to digestion. Eating the droppings is entirely normal and vital to the rodent’s digestion. Stress prevents caecotrophes from forming and therefore hinders the digestion.
The most important source of nutrition for a rodent suffering from diarrhoea is dry hay. The amount of fodder (e.g. bread, seeds) should be reduced under a few days and even removed from the diet entirely until diarrhoea is over. However, it is important to notice that quick changes in the diet are not recommended.
During diarrhoea, the animal loses a lot of fluids, which worsens the condition of the animal. Therefore, You must make sure that the animal drinks enough. If necessary, give the animal more water or electrolyte solution for pets (Nutri-plus gel, Nutrisal powder) with a syringe. The daily need for fluids is 100-120 ml/kg.
Rodents cannot endure fasting. If diarrhoea causes loss of appetite, the pet must be fed with a syringe. This prevents the bowels from shutting down and ensures the animal’s nutrition. You can also give excrement from a healthy fellow rodent to the patient in order to restore a healthy bacterial strain as quickly as possible. Probiotics may also help.
It is recommended to give multivitamins to improve the animal’s general condition. An ill rodent should get 50 mg of vitamin C every day.
Suitable food for a diarrhoea patient is, for example, this mixture:
This mixture will be given to the patient 2-5 ml at a time 3-5 times a day, depending on the size and condition of the patient.
The faeces-soiled back end and paws should be washed with warm water and dried carefully. The pet must have enough dry bedding in its cage, which is in a calm place without a draft. The faeces will usually return to normal in a few days after the pet starts to eat properly. The normal diet should be resumed gradually over several days only when the animal is fully healed from the diarrhoea.
Loss of appetite and diarrhoea from diet changes as well as stress are usually healed with home remedies and a hay diet. This is the case especially when the animal is treated in an early stage, when its condition is still good. With a bacterial diarrhoea, the prognosis is not as certain, especially if the condition of the animal is already weakened.
Preventive measures are always more effective than treating an illness. All rodents should avoid stress. Food must not be dirty or cold. Changes in the diet should be done gradually. You should be particularly careful at spring, when fresh grass and dandelion are available. Fresh grass should be given to the animal as soon as it is cut, and if the pet does not eat all of the fresh food, the excess should be taken away in a few hours. The right diet and the fibre in it has been proven to prevent diarrhoea as fibre promotes the function of the bowels. Therefore, the pet should always have good-quality hay. Food bowls and water bottle should be washed daily. The pet must always have fresh water.