A Squeaky Kiss-and-tell Situation

Dr. John Kaya
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Wednesday - May 20, 2009
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Most people think that bringing a mouse that cost $2 at the pet store to a veterinarian doesn’t make sense. Since appointments run between $40 and $60, why not just buy a new mouse for $2?

We veterinarians, however, beg to differ. To domesticate and acquire a living creature as a pet means to take responsibility for its care and well-being. Yes, there are limitations to our duty as a pet owner, but if the solution to a mouse’s health problem is simple and relatively affordable, do we not have an obligation to do what is right?

The following story is about a family that loved their mouse maybe a little too much, as you will see for yourself. As usual, the names and furry faces have been changed to protect the innocent.


Lauren and her daughter Kayla appeared one day at our hospital. They brought with them a small cage draped with a cute Mickey Mouse towel. You see, their mouse Squeaky was shy and afraid of large dogs and, of course, cats. Squeaky was a 1-year-old male mouse that was losing fur. As I asked numerous questions about Squeaky, I couldn’t help but notice his incessant scratching. I soon found myself scratching my hand for no apparent reason.

I hate when that happens. There must be a medical term for actions induced by observing an individual displaying the copied behavior. You know, yawning because someone else yawned or looking up at the sky because others are gazing upward. Thank goodness Squeaky wasn’t drooling. That might be embarrassing and difficult to explain to Lauren and her daughter.

“Dr. Kaya, we think Squeaky has a problem. He spends a large amount of his waking hours scratching and he’s losing fur because of it. We think he has mange.”

“Did you surf the Web to come to this conclusion?” I asked. Computers have a wealth of knowledge, and many times clients have diagnosed their pets even prior to coming in to our office.

“No, we just have a feeling that’s what it is.”

Curious, I sensed there was more to this story.

“Well, I think your feeling is right on the nose. I’ll just do a skin scraping and look under the microscope. If we’re lucky, we’ll see the critters that are causing Squeaky so much discomfort.”

A few minutes later I called Lauren and Kayla over to the microscope to view the dastardly creature. Although microscopically small, the sharp mouthparts viewed hinted at the pain and suffering inflicted by Myobius musculi (skin mite of mice). Mother and daughter seemed especially silenced by the viewing.

“Hundreds of these mites are wreaking havoc across Squeaky’s body. But don’t worry; I have medication that will take care of the situation.” They still seemed unnerved.

“Is there a problem?” I asked gingerly.

That’s when the whole story poured forth. Months before, Lauren and her daughter went to a dermatologist for a rash that encircled their mouth. The dermatologist suggested the rash came from exposure to an animal. Enter Squeaky. Since acquiring their furry friend, mother and daughter got into the habit of kissing their mouse before they put him to bed. Goodnight mouse ... hello rash.

Zoonotic diseases (medical conditions transferred from pet to human) are a real concern. As pet owners, we need to practice good hygiene and model that behavior to our children. Yes, Lauren and Kayla loved Squeaky, but boundaries must be set. This time it was only a rash, but it could have been a lot worse. Just check the CDC (Center for Disease Control) website and you’ll see what I mean.

Should you kiss and tell? It’s up to you, but I would, especially if you play on the Wild Side.

Pet tips: Always wash your hands after playing with your pets.

Speak with your veterinarian about zoonotic diseases specific to your pet to minimize your risk.

No problem is too small. Seek veterinary advice if you think your pet is suffering from a medical condition. We owe it to them.

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