Monthly Archives January 2015

Want a Pet Hedgehog? Here’s What You Need to Know

The popularity of the hedgehog — a small, spiny-looking mammal in the insectivore family — appears to be increasing. When they are handled often and socialized, hedgehogs can make adorable, loving pets who can learn to recognize and bond closely with their owners. At first, it may be easiest to handle your hedgehog with a towel (as we do in the video below) to protect your hands from his sharp spines. Once he gets used to being held, a towel may not be necessary.

But hedgehogs are not right for everyone; they need to be cared for appropriately. Before you consider bringing home a hedgehog, here’s what Dr. Laurie Hess says you need to know about this unique creature.
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Video Source: http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/video-want-a-pet-hedgehog-heres-what-you-need-to-know#1_xtl8flz8

How to Keep Your Pet Reptile Safe in Winter

When cold weather comes, especially in areas that experience significant climate changes with the seasons, there are some steps reptile owners should take to help ensure their pets stay happy and healthy. With a few minor differences, the concerns for snakes, lizards, turtles and tortoises are the same.

Keep Them Warm

First, all of these coldblooded animals, whose body temperatures adjust to the environment around them, require supplemental heat for proper digestion, immune function and metabolism. This is especially true when temperatures drop.

A reptile who may not need additional heat from an over-the-tank heat bulb or an under-the-tank heating pad during the summer may need these added heat sources during winter. This is especially true for certain reptiles, such as tortoises, which require high temperatures to remain healthy. The best way to determine whether your reptile’s cage temperature is adequate is to use an infrared laser temperature gun to test areas in the tank where your pet hangs out. Different species require different optimal temperatures; with a temperature gun, you can get an accurate idea of what your pet’s tank temperature is and compare it to the recommended temperature range for the species. The best source for recommended temperature ranges for specific species is your veterinarian. If you do not have a temperature gun, at a minimum you should have thermometers that stick on the inside of the tank so that you can monitor the tank for temperature changes.

Any heat source should be plugged into a thermostat that is set to turn the source on and off in order to maintain temperatures within the prescribed range. This helps limit the risk of burning the pet as well as reduces the risk of setting an electrical fire. So-called hot rocks — fake rocks that contain a heating element — should not be used with reptiles. These items cannot adequately heat a tank, and many reptiles lack the necessary sensation in their abdomens to prevent a burn if they sit on them for too long. Reptiles who live in water, such as turtles, must also have their tank water temperatures reassessed when the air temperature drops in winter. If the water temperature drops too low for your pet’s particular species, you need to add additional water heaters.

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Exotic Pets in the Classroom: What’s Best for Kids?

Pets and kids — for many of us they go hand in hand. I can’t imagine growing up without a pet. Pets teach children so many important lessons: how to responsibly care for another living thing, how to love unconditionally, and how to deal with life and death. I am always saddened when I hear a child doesn’t or can’t have a pet. That’s where the classroom pet comes in. Although certain schools have rules about what kinds of pets can be housed in the classroom based on allergies, exposure to infection, local laws, etc., I am constantly asked what animals make the best classroom pets. Of course, the short answer depends on what type of animal — scaly, feathered or furred — the kids and teachers are most interested in. The long answer is that there are three types of pets I readily recommend for the classroom.

1. Classroom-Friendly Reptiles

Reptiles can make great classroom pets because they are quiet and interesting to watch and generally live a long time. The simplest reptiles to start with are leopard geckos, bearded dragons and corn snakes. All are fairly docile and remain relatively small. They are colorful and fairly simple to take care of as far as reptiles go. In comparison to small mammals or birds that have very high metabolisms and require daily feeding, these reptiles have slow metabolisms and can generally go a couple of days without eating. The benefit of that is, if they are healthy, they need not be fed over the typical two-day weekend when school is closed.

Like all reptiles, these kid-friendly species have specific light and heat requirements and must be fed specific diets in order to remain healthy. All should be provided with ultraviolet (UV) light for several hours a day. This allows them to make adequate vitamin D in their skin to help them absorb essential nutrients from their food. Leopard geckos are insectivores; they eat insects like mealworms and crickets. Bearded dragons are omnivores; they eat some vegetation, as well as insects. Corn snakes are carnivores; they eat mice. Diet, therefore, may be very important when selecting a species for the classroom.

All reptiles also require multivitamin supplementation and exposure to water so they can soak and stay hydrated for proper skin shedding. They also need paper-based, digestible bedding in their tanks so that they can bury, dig and hide without caregivers having to worry about their pets’ gastrointestinal tracts becoming obstructed if they ingest the material. These animals also need rocks and branches on which to climb and covered areas in which to hide.

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