Monthly Archives April 2013

More great reptiles!

Previously, I went over some common reptiles that make great pets. This week, I’d like to continue that discussion in part two of my reptile blog. Below are two more great options for anyone looking to add a reptile to their family.

1. Red eared slider turtle –  These are hardy turtles that spend some time swimming and some time basking out of water on rocks and logs. They live in aquariums containing water at least 1.5-2 times as deep as their body length. Water should not reach too close to the tank top, or the turtle may escape. Sliders must be moved to bigger tanks as they grow. Water in the tank should be heated with submersible heaters to 75-85°F and should be kept clean with an automatic filter in addition to weekly changes of 25-50% of the total water. Sliders also need an out-of-water basking spot that is heated with an over-the-tank heat light to 85-90°F. In addition, like many other reptiles, sliders should be exposed to UV-B light to enable them to properly absorb calcium from their food. While sliders eat both vegetables and animal protein, younger sliders require more animal protein, while adults eat more vegetables. Young turtles should be fed daily, while adults can eat every other day. Several good commercial pelleted diets are available for sliders, in addition to dark leafy greens such as collard, mustard, and dandelion greens, plus carrots, squash, green beans and limited amounts of fruit such as apple, melon, and berries. Occasional live feeder fish and worms can be offered occasionally to stimulate sliders’ predatory instincts. Raw or frozen meat, as well as cat and dog chow, should be avoided. A balanced vitamin supplement also should be fed a couple of times a week. When fed and housed properly, pet sliders can live 50 or more years.

2. Greek  tortoise – These gold to olive-colored tortoises tend to remain smaller (6-8” long) than other species of tortoise and therefore may be more manageable as pets. They are housed in glass aquariums or large plastic bins that must be increased in size as the animals grow. Shredded paper in which they can burrow and dig works well as bedding. Large flat rocks on which to climb, a cardboard or plastic box in which to hide, and a shallow bowl of water from which to drink and soak, should also be provided. Heat is essential for tortoises; the basking area should be kept at about 95°F, while the cool zone in the tank should not fall below about 75-80°F.  Overall night time tank temperatures should not be lower than 75°F. Exposure to UV-B light is key for proper calcium absorption from food and for proper bone development. If kept in a safe enclosure, these tortoises benefit from direct outdoor sunlight during warm months or in warm climates. These tortoises are herbivores that should be fed a variety of leafy greens including kale, dandelion greens, collards, parsley, clover, and endive, plus hay and a very limited amount of fruit including berries and apples. Vegetables should be dusted with calcium powder 2-3 times per week. Cat and dog food has too much protein and should not be fed to these tortoises. Greek tortoises can make great pets for families and can live 50 years or more when cared for properly.

Remember, if you’re considering a reptile as a pet, whichever one you choose, remember always to wash your hands after handling them, as all reptiles, in general, carry Salmonella bacteria plus other bacteria and parasites that may be transmittable to people. Also, supervise all small children when they handle these pets, as the quick movements of young children can startle and scare these animals. Finally, once you get your new reptile family member, be sure to visit a reptile-savvy vet to have him/her checked and to make sure you’re caring for him/her properly. Remember, many reptiles are so long-lived that if you take care of them right, they may outlive you!

Slithery, scaly, shiny creatures – what are they? Reptiles, of course!

Some people love them. Others fear them. Regardless, most of us would agree that they are at least very interesting to look at. Reptiles: they can make fascinating pets if you are a reptile fan. Whether they hop, climb, or crawl, have legs or not, there’s a reptile for everyone who is intrigued by these animals. With so many reptiles from which to choose, if you’re considering a reptile as a pet, where should you start? Here is part one of my blog on reptiles. Below are 3 different reptiles commonly kept as terrific pets. Stay tuned for part 2 of my blog on why reptiles make great pets, where I will discuss more terrific reptiles.

1. Bearded dragon lizard – These medium-sized (1-2 feet long), yellow/brown/orange to red-colored lizards get their name from their ability to puff up the skin over their throats when they are angry or stressed. They are housed in glass tanks heated with over-the-tank lights so that the temperature in the basking zone should be 90-105°F and in the cool zone in the mid-70s°F. They need a tree branch or log for climbing and full-spectrum lighting with a UV-B/UV-A bulb to help them synthesize vitamin D-3 in their skin so that they can properly absorb calcium from their food. They should be fed crickets, mealworms, pinkie or fuzzy mice (dusted with supplemental calcium powder at least twice a week), plus a variety of chopped vegetables such as collards, kale, mustard greens, yellow squash, zucchini and shredded carrots. They should be sprayed daily with water which they will absorb through their skin and lap up off of their noses. If handled often, captive bearded dragons can be tamed to be quite docile and can live, on average, about 7-10 years.

2. Leopard Gecko lizard – These large geckos (8-9 inches long) get their name from their yellow skin covered with brown stripes initially that fade to spots as they age. They live in heated glass aquariums with rocks on which to climb. Temperatures should range from 90°F in the basking zone to the low 70s°F in the cooler area of the tank. Although they are nocturnal, captive leopard geckos living indoors that are never exposed to direct sunlight fare better when exposed to some UV-A/UV-B rays from an ultraviolet bulb. They should be fed crickets regularly, along with occasional mealworms and wax worms (plus a pinkie mouse, if they are large enough to eat it). To provide better nutrition for the gecko, insects they are offered should be fed a diet containing vitamins (“gut-loaded”) and dusted with calcium powder before being fed to the gecko. Leopard geckos need a shallow water dish in which to soak and should be provided with a hide box containing moss or vermiculite that can be misted to provide a high enough humidity to allow normal shedding of skin. These gentle lizards live 8-10 years, on average, in captivity and make great pets for families.

3. Ball python snake –  These snakes get their name because they curl themselves up into tight balls when they are nervous, with their heads pulled into the center. They are curious, gentle snakes that generally grow to 4-5 feet long. In the wild, they eat amphibians, other snakes, birds, and small mammals and do not typically eat the mice that fed to captive pythons. Thus, many ball pythons can be picky eaters that resist eating for weeks to months, at times. They can be housed initially in 10-20 gallon glass tanks with tightly fitting screen lids to prevent escape and with branches on which to climb. Shredded paper products are best used for bedding. They need a log or upside-down cardboard box in which to hide. Tanks must be heated to provide a 90°F basking zone, an 80-85°F cooler zone, and a 70-75°F overall temperature at night. While ball pythons are nocturnal, many captive ball pythons are healthier when exposed daily to full-spectrum light. They must have a shallow bowl of water in which to soak and should be sprayed daily so that tank humidity is 60-70% to shed properly. Ball pythons should be fed only pre-killed rodents (never live, or they may be bitten by their prey). Young snakes may be fed fuzzy mice, and adults may eat full-grown mice or small rats. Ball pythons may be tamed by frequent handling but should not be touched just after eating or in the middle of a shed, as these are times when snakes may be cranky. If maintained properly, ball pythons can make great pets that can live 20-30 years. If you’re considering a reptile as a pet, whichever one you choose, remember always to wash your hands after handling them, as all reptiles, in general, carry Salmonella bacteria plus other bacteria and parasites that may be transmittable to people. Also, supervise all small children when they handle these pets, as the quick movements of young children can startle and scare these animals. Finally, once you get your new reptile family member, be sure to visit a reptile-savvy vet to have him/her checked and to make sure you’re caring for him/her properly. Remember, many reptiles are so long-lived that if you take care of them right, they may outlive you!

Taking exotic pets outdoors: precautions & cautions

It’s spring! Time to bring your pets outside to get fresh air and sunshine – But wait! Things to remember before bringing your exotic pet outdoors:

– Furry mammals, like rabbits and ferrets, are susceptible to flea and tick infection, just like cats and dogs. So, if you plan on taking your bunny or ferret outside, you should make sure it has a flea and tick preventative on it first. Not all flea and tick preventatives used on cats and dogs are safe on exotic animals. Check with us at the Veterinary Center before using any medication on your exotic pet so we can be sure to prescribe only the preventatives appropriate for exotics.

– When out pets go outside in spring, all those lush green leaves and buds look so yummy. But many outdoor plants can be toxic to your pet. It’s better to be safe than sorry. If you bring your bird, ferret, rabbit, rodent, reptile, or other exotic animal outside, be sure to prevent access to all outdoor plants. Even safe plants can have chemicals on them from fertilizers or pesticides that are potentially toxic. When you bring your pet outside, better to bring a snack from home!

– While most pets enjoy an outdoor time, it’s very important that before you take your animals outside, you take proper precautions so that they don’t escape or get injured. Mammals such as rabbits and guinea pigs should be kept in enclosures with sides high enough to prevent them from getting out or from predators from getting in. They should never be left unsupervised outside, even in enclosures, as it takes just one swipe from a wild animal (even through a cage) to kill these vulnerable pets. Also, since these pets are very susceptible to overheating, it’s essential that they be given shade and plenty of water. Even reptiles that thrive at warmer temperatures should never be left in direct sunlight for long periods of time, as they can overheat and become dehydrated, too. In addition, if you’re thinking of bringing your birds outside, be sure to clip his wings first; just one gust of wind, and he could sail away forever. Don’t rely on “flight suits” made to tether birds on a leash; they can easily slip out of these and fly away. Finally, regardless of what kind of exotic pet you have, if you’re going to take him outside, you should really have him microchipped. Microchipping is a simple procedure in which we place a small chip containing a code under the animal’s skin that can be read by a universal scanner kept by most vets and shelters. Microchips help assure that if your pet does get away, you’ll get him back home safe and sound.