Great British Small Animal Census reveals health concern - Veterinary Practice
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Great British Small Animal Census reveals health concern

Small animal owners are calling for a bigger focus on their pets, as key health issues have been highlighted by the first Great British Small Animal Census

Gut stasis, dental and respiratory problems are the leading causes of concern, identified through the first Burgess Pet Care’s Great British Small Animal Census. 

More than 6,500 owners were polled in the in-depth study into ownership. The vital data covered the five welfare needs of companionship, health, environment, diet and behaviour. As well as providing a detailed snapshot into the UK’s small animal care trends, the Great British Small Animal Census has also highlighted key learnings and given a clear indication of issues to address.  

Health issues remain the primary reason for vet visits for rabbits and guinea pigs in the UK, with gut stasis seen the most common issue, where the digestive system slows or stops, and is often linked to improper diets, due to an imbalance in carbohydrates (from pellets and vegetables), and fibre (from hay).  

A total of 35 percent of visits were reactive. For the top species, rabbits, 65.9 percent had at least one appointment a year, whereas less than a quarter of the second most popular species, guinea pigs, went to the vets annually.  

The census found 76 percent of owners did not have pet insurance, though 34 percent of rabbit owners held it, compared to less than 9 percent of those with guinea pigs.  

Importantly, almost 88 percent of rabbits and ferrets are vaccinated, with 83 percent of rabbits neutered.  

Dr Suzanne Moyes, Burgess Pet Care’s in-house vet, said: “The incredible data delivered by the Great British Small Animal Census will really help us to shape the key messages owners need to hear. We’re very excited by the findings of the study; we know so very many loving homes are provided for up and down the country, and greater awareness of the biggest health issues that can affect small species is to be encouraged. We now have the opportunity to further tailor the support we offer, alongside the right products and advice on the ideal living environments.”   

Responses to the Great British Small Animal Census were collated over a 12-week period between September and November 2023, with 6,517 participants, invited via releases and social content, covering over 20,915 small animal pets. 

Rabbit ownership topped the list, at 64.3 per cent, with 47.4 per cent providing homes to guinea pigs. Hamsters, rats and gerbils completed the top five species. 

The top five most common health issue identified by small animal owners in the Great British Small Animal Census were: 

  1. Gut stasis 
  2. Dental problems 
  3. Digestive issues 
  4. Respiratory 
  5. Infections 

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