October 26, 2012

Where Do Parrots Live?

Filed under: parrot — Dr. Amber Reed @ 3:15 pm

Parrots in the United States

Believe it or not, there are wild parrots living in some parts of the United States, although these species originally came from somewhere else on the planet.

The wild parrots in the U.S. today are descendants of imported birds from generations ago. These were pet birds that escaped and managed to adapt to local climates in order to survive and reproduce in the wild.

Escaped parrots have been breeding in parts of Texas, Florida, and California at least since the 1950s. As one example, there is a thriving wild population of red-masked parakeets in the city of San Francisco. In these areas, wild parrots are now so numerous that they sometimes become pests to city dwellers or cause ecosystem imbalances.

Where Parrots Live Naturally

Natural populations of parrots are located throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Many species originally come from South America, Central America, Africa, Australia, Oceania, and parts of Asia.

  • The home of macaws, conures or parakeets, and Amazons ranges from southernmost South America to the Bahamas and northern Mexico.
  • Pygmy parrots come from New Guinea, and most cockatoos originate in New Guinea or Australia.
  • African greys originate from West and Central Africa, while lovebirds come from Madagascar or various parts of the African continent.
  • Cockatiels hail from the Australian outback.
  • Budgerigars, also commonly known as budgies or simply “pet parakeets,” are also found wild in Australia.

Where Pet Parrots Come From: Breeding and Importation

Many of the parrot species currently sold as pets in the U.S. have been bred in captivity to be sold as pets. Pet shops typically buy parrots that have been domestically raised by breeders, although some shops may actually do the breeding themselves. In many cases, parrots bred for domestic sale may even have been hand-fed in infancy, making them well-accustomed to human contact by the time they are brought to a new home as a pet.

Unfortunately, illegal capture and trading of wild parrots from other countries does happen. These birds have been removed from their wilderness homes and smuggled into other countries to be sold on the black market.

In addition to stealing parrots from their native habitats, this practice results in the death of many of the smuggled birds during transport—up to half, by some accounts.

Many countries have adopted the “Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species” (CITES) that was formulated in 1975.

It is illegal to import captured wild parrots into Europe or the U.S. In accord with the U. S. Wild Bird Conservation Act, which became law in 1993, exotic wild birds can only be purchased in special circumstances and in limited numbers, such as for scientific research or adoption by a zoo.

Unauthorized wild parrots are most likely to be brought into the U.S. from Mexico.

October 17, 2012

What Do Rabbits Eat?

Many of us have seen cartoon images of rabbits munching on carrots. But in reality, what do rabbits eat?

It depends on whether the rabbit is a tame pet or a wild creature.

Both wild and domestic rabbits are herbivores. They need to ingest high levels of fiber every day. As well, both tame and wild rabbits need a diverse diet to get the right nutrition.

Wild rabbits spend much of their time foraging for food. In general, they eat:

  • weeds
  • grass
  • hay
  • flowers
  • and other plants

When it’s available, wild rabbits will also eat fruit like apples that have fallen to the ground.

Any gardener will tell you that rabbits are fond of leafy vegetables and other garden treats. When wild rabbits can get into a garden, they will dig up carrots, sweet potatoes, and nibble the leafy tops of everything else.

Rabbit Digestion: Teeth and Droppings

Rabbit teeth grow rapidly. That’s why they like to chew on tough materials like tree branches or bark. This helps keep their teeth ground down to normal levels.

Although they may gain a little nutrition by chewing like this, it’s more an instinct that leads rabbits to spend a lot of time chewing on things.

Rabbit digestive systems are built to handle fiber in a special way. After all, rabbits eat a lot of fiber.

Rabbits produce two kinds of droppings. One is composed entirely of true waste material. The other contains soft semi-digested nutrients. Rabbits ingest the soft droppings as they are passed in order to further digest this nutritive material.

Rabbit Nutrition: What to Feed a Rabbit

For domestic rabbits, the key to good rabbit nutrition is variety.

The ideal diet for a pet rabbit includes unlimited access to hay. For convenience, most rabbit owners like to use a wall-mounted feeder.

Also include a variety of fresh vegetables. Most pet rabbits should be offered about 2 cups of mixed vegetables each day. Some mixed vegetables that rabbits like to eat are:

  • kale
  • broccoli
  • dark lettuce
  • sprouts
  • parsley
  • mustard greens
  • celery
  • spinach

You can also give rabbits daily treats like fruit or root vegetables. Most rabbits enjoy apples, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Strawberries or raspberries also make a great rabbit treat.

Never feed a rabbit beans, nuts, seeds, bread, cereal, corn, rhubarb, peas, or sugary food.

Commercial rabbit foods work well too. Some experts say that providing fresh vegetables, fruits, and hay more closely mimics the wild experience of an untamed rabbit.

There may also be nutritional concerns about the fat or carbohydrate content of some types of commercial foods. However, a commercial pellet food may better provide all needed nutrients. When in doubt, ask your veterinarian.

October 11, 2012

How to Take Care of a Ferret: Beginner’s Guide

Filed under: Ferrets — Dr. Amber Reed @ 11:45 am

Anyone who has encountered a pet ferret knows that these creatures are smart, friendly, and very curious. However, unlike the cats and dogs that many of us had as children, how to care for a ferret is not something you’re likely to have learned from friends or neighbors.

This guide offers a brief overview of how to take care of a ferret properly.

Ferret Exercise and Attention

First, it’s important to recognize the commitment that you are making to your new pet. On average, ferrets tend to live between six and eight years when in good health.

Ferrets are extremely outgoing, curious, and playful creatures that require a great deal of attention from their owners. Many ferret owners keep a pair of ferrets in order to provide a constant companion for these sociable animals.

Ferrets have very active metabolisms, so although they spend about 18 hours a day asleep, they wake up briefly every three to four hours to eat.

Due to the insatiable curiosity of ferrets, you will need to closely supervise your pet to prevent any injuries. Make certain to check appliances, closets, and so on to ensure that the ferret does not become trapped accidentally. Your ferret needs to be able to roam free within your living quarters, and it should be caged only when this is required for immediate safety reasons.

Ferret Sleep and Litter Training

Your ferret will need a quiet, dark place where it can sleep. Ferrets enjoy burying themselves in bedding materials such as old sweaters or towels.

Your ferret will also require a litter box to be placed in a sheltered corner near its nest. Just like cats or dogs, ferrets need to be litter trained in order to know what to do. This is a process that can take several days. Ideally, you can build up to the point where your ferret has a small litter pan available in each room.

All litter materials will need to be refreshed every day.

Feeding a Ferret

Ferrets enjoy playing with their food and are likely to attempt to tip over their water and food bowls. It is best to buy bowls that cannot be tipped. If this is not possible, another alternative is to place a mat beneath the bowls to catch spills.

Your ferret will need an open water bowl rather than a water bottle. Water bottles can damage their teeth for one, and does not let the ferret wash its own face.

Make sure that you keep plenty of fresh water and food available to your ferret, whose quick metabolism requires feeding at least every four hours. Ferrets should be fed a quality dry food for ferrets or kittens, avoiding foods that contain high amounts of oil or fish meal (which can make your ferret smell bad).

As a treat, you can offer your ferret many types of fresh vegetables or fruit, such as cucumber, bananas, grapes, carrots, or apples. Ferrets also appreciate dog biscuits.

Keeping a Ferret Healthy

To maintain your ferret’s health, regular veterinarian visits are a must.

You will need to take your ferret for annual vaccinations, including canine distemper, as well as frequent checkups. Although dental cavities are a rarity for ferrets, it is possible for them to break a tooth during rough play, so a dental exam is also a good idea.

Your veterinarian will also encourage you to have your ferret spayed or neutered to protect its health and avoid a musky pheromone odor. An occasional bath with baby shampoo will take care of normal odor build-up after the animal has been fixed.

Some owners choose to have their ferrets de-scented, which involves the removal of an odor gland similar to that of a skunk, although this procedure is optional.

October 5, 2012

Do Hamsters Hibernate?

Filed under: Hamster Health,hamster hibernation,hamster nutrition — Dr. Amber Reed @ 12:20 pm

Imagine hibernation.

You might be thinking of a large mammal, like a bear, being drowsy and inactive in cold months to conserve its body fuel.

This is the definition of true hibernation.

But, when people talk about hamsters hibernating, they are actually describing a temporary state called “torpor.” When this happens, a hamster’s body temperature drops and it seems to lose consciousness. Some species of hamsters might fall into torpor if the animal becomes too cold (typically under 40 degrees Fahrenheit) or does not have enough food and water.

Hamsters hibernate for the same reason bears do—to conserve body fuel and survive hard times. But, bear hibernation is a cycle that happens every year.

Torpor in a hamster happens as a last resort under emergency conditions. If a hamster stays in the torpor state for too long, it may die of hypothermia or starvation.

What to Do if Your Hamster ‘Torpor’ Hibernates

If your pet hamster falls into a torpor state, it may look dead at first glance. Its body will be limp (but not stiff) and unresponsive. Its breathing may be very slow. However, the hamster’s whiskers may still twitch in response to a touch.

In most cases, if the hamster is still breathing, it can be safely brought back from torpor. The easiest way to help your hamster come back is with your hands. Warm the hamster with the heat of your hands, gently rubbing its fur for a few minutes, or up to an hour, until the hamster begins to come back.

Using your hands works, but results depend on your own hand warmth. If you’re a cooler-handed person, you might try a different way.

Place the hamster on a towel over a warm heating pad. Don’t make it too hot. Go for hand-warmth.

When the hamster first regains awareness, it may be trembling or attempt to walk unsteadily. Offer the hamster water to help rehydrate it. You might consider offering the hamster an electrolyte drink.

When the hamster has begun to recover, place it in the cage in a warm room with plenty of water and food. Check on the hamster frequently for a few hours, but let it recover on its own.

Most of the time, hamsters can recover from torpor within a few hours.

September 25, 2012

Are Hamsters Nocturnal?

Filed under: Hamster Health,hamster nutrition,nocturnal hamster — Dr. Amber Reed @ 10:20 am

Some of the most commonly asked questions about pet hamsters are about the hamster sleep cycle.

“Are hamsters nocturnal?”

“Will a hamster keep me up at night?”

“Do hamsters sleep only during the day?”

These are important questions to ask when thinking about buying a hamster.

Hamsters are Nocturnal

Nocturnal. Active at night.

Hamsters are indeed nocturnal creatures. In the wild, hamsters forage for food at night and sleep during the day.

They do this for better protection from predators. Although your pet hamster does not have to worry about predators (unless you own an ambitious cat), it will still follow its natural instincts and go about its hamster business all night.

Your hamster’s individual sleep cycle may vary, but most domestic hamsters have a brief active period during the day. Usually this happens right around mid-day. After that, most hamsters will sleep until the late evening.

Anyone who has placed a hamster cage too close to their own beds knows first-hand that night time is a pet hamster’s favorite time to eat, dig, and run on its wheel.

Take care to protect your own natural sleep cycle! Try not to put your hamster’s cage in the same room you sleep in. It’s tempting to put a hamster in a bedroom, but a better place would be somewhere uninhabited at night. For example, the living room or a spare room.

Can Hamsters Be Trained Out of Day Sleeping?

Some owners claim that they can train their hamsters out of their nocturnal ways. In reality, however, this goes against a hamster’s wild nature. It may be harmful to your hamster’s health.

Think about it this way. Human beings can shift their sleep cycles to be nocturnal. People who work consistent night shifts do this regularly. However, people also tend to suffer health concerns when they don’t see the sun for long periods. A person may suffer a vitamin D deficiency or depression.

People are built to be active during the day. Hamsters are built for the night.

Instead of trying to make a hamster sleep cycle conform to your own, hamster owners should take advantage of a hamster’s natural daytime wake periods for play and companionship.

This way, you still get to interact with your hamster, but you won’t be kept up all night.

September 19, 2012

Is a Raw Food Diet Good for Your Dog?

Filed under: dangerous foods for your dog,home made dog food — Dr. Amber Reed @ 2:00 pm

Some pet owners have recently embraced getting the best ingredients for their dog’s pet food. As a result, the high-end prepared dog food industry has seen a boom.

But some owners are looking at nother new option: raw dog food.

The trend has particularly taken off in New York City.  It consists of specially prepared foods like uncooked lamb livers, bison, alfalfa sprouts, and kale.  Yet, raw food diets are not a new initiative; many dogs were fed uncooked meat before kibble was introduced in the 1950’s.

The advocates of the raw food diet give multiple anecdotes as evidence of raw food diet benefits. Below is a list of the pros and cons of the raw food diet.

Be an informed pet owner and make a decision on whether the raw food diet is right for your pet.

Pros:

  • Raw food acts a natural tooth brush.
  • The time it takes a dog to chew a raw meaty bone gives their stomach adequate time to get the acids moving. This is meant to help proper digestion.
  • Advocates argue that sluggish dogs become completely new dogs once they have begun the new raw food diet.
  • Raw bones are safer than cooked bones because they don’t splinter.
  • Your dog will have better breath.
  • Raw food diets are ideal for dogs that need to lose weight – they contain fewer calories and more energy than regular kibble – or for dogs with other diet related diseases like diabetes
  • No chemicals, preservatives, sweeteners, fillers and additives.

Cons:

  • Sanitary concerns: raw food carries microbes that could harm the pet and the household.
  • Modern dogs have been domesticated for centuries, or even thousands of years. They may not be able to properly digest raw food.
  • Some dogs with allergies can’t stomach raw food diets.
  • The benefits aren’t proven; they’re anecdotal.
  • Raw meat can contain harmful bacteria like E. coli and salmonella.
  • They are time-intensive: as an owner, you will have to take the time to figure out what raw meat is the best for your dog, and this will take time.  Additionally, you need to be present when the dog is eating they’re bone – you don’t want them to swallow a bone whole!
  • Raw food diets are more expensive.

Warning to all: before starting a raw food diet, you should consult with your vet. He or she will know what to watch for in future visits.

If a raw food diet isn’t right for your dog, but you are looking to increase the nutritional value of your dog’s meals, consider a nutritional supplement

September 13, 2012

Are Ferrets Good Pets?

Filed under: Ferrets — Dr. Amber Reed @ 11:50 am

Ferrets are active and curious creatures. Their loving and playful nature makes it easy to bond with them. They are very adorable and have mischievous eyes. Previously, they gained negative publicity and are still banned in some states due to injury concerns by ferret bites.

The American Veterinary Medical Association stated “It is also recommended that no ferret be left unattended with any individual incapable of removing himself or herself from the ferret.”

Is a Ferret Right for You?
Ferrets are expensive, high-maintenance pets. Do not go for a ferret as a pet if you think you cannot afford one. Giving them adequate time and attention is essential as their physical and mental health depends on it.

They like playing with their owners. They are very energetic at certain times of the day and would like to come out of their cages and play. You should have the time to supervise them. They are intelligent and make interesting companions.

It is not advisable to have ferrets as pets around small children. Ferrets might harm them in their playfulness.

How Much Does a Ferret Cost?
Ferrets can be bought from a pet store for up to $200 but you can adopt them for less than $100. Make sure the ferret you buy looks healthy and active. It is advisable to purchase a ferret that is between eight to sixteen weeks old, though it is better to wait until the ferret is at least twelve weeks old.

Ferrets release a musky odor. It is better to find a de-scented and neutered ferret to avoid the smell.

For best health, ferrets need to have a large cage so they can freely climb and play. A ferret cage can cost about $500. Their other needs include a litter tray and scoop, food dish, and water bottle. Some old blankets, or specially made sleeping bags, are also needed to give them comfort. Ferret-safe toys and tunnels are also necessary to keep them busy.

What to Feed a Ferret
Ferrets require lots of fresh water. Their diet should be high in protein and fat.

Many ferret owners feed cat food to their pets because ferret food is not widely available. Dog food is not recommended for your pet as it may fill up your pet without fulfilling its nutritional requirements.

It is best to purchase specially formulated ferret food.

Moreover, treating them once in a while is a good idea. It brings a variety to their diet and you can enjoy the amusing show they put up to get their treat.

Rolling over, begging and other such tricks are quite a sight when you treat your ferret.

Can You Train a Ferret?
Yes, actually.

Ferrets are intelligent creatures and can be easily trained. You can litter-train them using reinforcement techniques like verbal praises or little treats.

Also, they must be trained not to bite or nip. Young ferrets as pets will not be able to distinguish between aggressiveness and playfulness. It is your responsibility to gradually train and tame them. The more attention and care you put into training, the more effective it will be.

They also need exercise to release their energy, taking them to a walk in the park with a ferret-sized leash and a bit of training can help you both enjoy a leisurely evening stroll!

September 4, 2012

Names for Hamsters

Filed under: hamster names — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:20 am

After getting a pet hamster for your little one, naming them is the next important step.

The name should be easy to pronounce. Determine the gender of your hamster before deciding on a name or else you might end up calling your female hamster ‘Alex’.

It is very important to pick a proper hamster name. It’s not a good idea to change it later. Changing your hamster’s name once it has grown used to it can confuse the little creature and it may not respond to your calling. Your hamster will learn its name with some training and will respond to it.

Hamsters have a lifespan of two to three years but they can live longer than that. Try keeping a name that your child can recall when cherishing the memory of his/her beloved pet. Below are a few ideas of hamster names that you can keep.

General Names for Hamsters

There are a few names which can be used for both girl and boy hamsters:

  • Fluffy
  • Cuppy
  • Marshmallow
  • Dimples
  • Coco
  • Almond
  • Cinnamon
  • Crackers
  • Pistachio

Hamster Names for Boys

There are many unique and cute names for male hamsters. The list is long but here I will mention a few common ones that most people like to keep. Some good hamster names for boys include:

  • Coconut
  • Cookie
  • Henry
  • Angel
  • Biscuit
  • Tom
  • Zippy
  • Scruffy
  • Rufus
  • Shaggy

Hamster Names for Girls
A charming and attractive name is a nice choice for girl hamsters. A few of the hamster names for girls are:

  • Nina
  • Dolly
  • Daisy
  • Jasmine
  • Rosie
  • Crimson
  • Emily
  • Caramel
  • Penelope
  • Amber

Funny/Weird Names
You can also come up with your own unique names. Some people like keeping funny and weird names for their hamsters. A few of them include:

  • Barbie
  • Goblin
  • Tequila
  • Fudge
  • Butler
  • Beethoven
  • Meatloaf
  • Peggy
  • Snoopy
  • Goldilocks

So, what will you name your little pet?

August 30, 2012

Small Pets for Kids

Filed under: Children and Pets — Dr. Amber Reed @ 4:30 pm

Allowing small children to have pets is a great way to teach them responsibility. The love and care they develop towards their pets will help them become more patient and kind.

But kids are sometimes too immature to properly take care of some small animals. Some pets may not be able to suffer the stress of over-handling.

Children need proper guidance to care for their pets. It is important that the personality of the child matches with the pet for them to play together. Here are some of the best small pets for kids:

Hermit Crab
This can prove to be a very interesting pet for a calm child. They are social, active little creatures.

Their five sets of legs allow them to quickly crawl about. They are especially active in the evenings and watching them burrow in the sand, crawl on top of rocks or investigate their surroundings is a delight for many kids.

They are not a very ‘handled’ pet as they stay in their terrariums. Just feeding them and spending a little time with them is enough. Some kids are especially amused by the chirping sound a hermit crab makes sometimes.

Fish
A fish is a great choice as a pet for small kids. Since they stay in the water, your kids will not need to handle it and can watch the fish through the glass of the tank or bowl. Having a tank full of fishes is also not a problem but care should be taken that the fish are regularly fed and the tank is kept clean.

Betta fish are particularly easy to manage. Their vibrant colors make them very appealing to small children. Betta fish come in shades of red, green, orange and violet. However, only one Betta fish per tank. They are known to fight.

Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs are a great starter pet for children ranging from five to ten years old.

Guinea pigs can weigh up to 3 pounds and are available in many colors and patterns. They can be kept in a portable enclosure where they can sleep, hide or run about. It is better to supervise your child when he wants to hold the guinea pig in his/her hands so that neither of the two gets hurt.

Hamster
Hamsters are cute, furry and extremely friendly pets to keep. They are easily manageable and can be very amusing.

It is better to get a hamster if your child is eight years of age or older. Hamsters are noisy at night and spend most of their daytime sleeping. They can become grumpy and may even bite if awakened or disturbed by poking fingers. It is better if your child is old enough to understand not to annoy the little critter too much.

Rabbit
Rabbits are good pets for small kids. They can weigh between 2 to 13 pounds and are suitable for children that are eight years and older.

A specially made enclosure can be kept in your house. Rabbits are available in many colors and sizes and may have different ear lengths. They are very cuddly, but too much cuddling can scare your pet. As they need lots of exercise, you can train your pet outdoors to exercise using a leash and collar.

August 20, 2012

How to Keep Your Dog Cool in the Summer

Filed under: pet health,tips about summer for dogs — Dr. Amber Reed @ 12:45 pm

Summer is here and that means long days in the blistering hot sun. You know what to do when you get too hot and dehydrated, but do you know how to care for your beloved dog? Dogs don’t have the same cooling mechanism as you do. As a responsible owner, that means it falls to you to keep your dog comfortable and cool all summer.

Stay Hydrated

Bring fresh water with you everywhere. Get your dog a personal water bottle and fill it up just like your own. Stash a bowl in your car and pack a bottle of ice water on car rides and when out for a walk.

Minimize Sun Exposure

Dogs are most likely to suffer heat stroke between noon and 2pm. When possible, keep your dog inside during these hours. If you are out at the lake or the park, let her sit in a shady area to cool down and give her plenty of water. Let her hang out in the air conditioned car with you to lower her body temperature.

If your dog insists on frolicking in the water, bring her in every hour or so and feed her water under a shady tree. For shorter-haired dogs it’s a good idea to pick up some pet-safe sunscreen. There are products specifically formulated for dogs. Never use a human sunscreen as it may have chemicals that aren’t safe for dogs. Apply sunscreen to areas with less fur.

Don’t Leave Your Dog in the Car

Even if you are just popping into the store for a minute, a hot car can be very dangerous to a dog. Vets see it time and time again – dogs being rushed into their offices with critical signs of heat stroke due to being left in a car.

Hot car plus dog equals 1) needless suffering and 2) walking a thin line to dog heat stroke. Consider carrying two sets of keys with you to leave the air conditioning running with the door locked if you have to leave her in the car.

Or leave her at home if you know that you have errands to run!

How to Recognize Dog Heat Stroke

Being outside for too long, being left in a car, or not getting enough water can put any animal at risk for heat stroke. Here are the signs to watch for:

  1. Heavy panting or difficulty breathing
  2. Vomiting
  3. Unsteady gait
  4. Diarrhea
  5. Seizures or a coma

In the early panting stages, take action by getting your dog into a shaded area, preferably an air conditioned room. Give your dog water. If your dog shows no signs of relief, take him or her to a vet right away.

As a Last Resort…

If it’s blistering hot both outside and inside, and your air conditioner is on the fritz, try these last resort tricks to prevent dog heat stroke:

  • Feed your dog some ice cubes.
  • Spray your dog with cold water.
  • Place a wrapped ice pack around your dog’s neck.
  • If you have a long-haired dog, keep his or her hair short all summer long with regular trips to the groomer.
  • Limit her exercise to the coolest parts of day – early morning or late evening.

Keeping your dog cool and comfortable is key to an enjoyable summer. Pay close attention to the signs of over-heating and protect your dog from getting too much sun.

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Disclaimer: CritterCures is an educational resource, and all information herein is strictly for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure diseases, nor is it meant to replace the (prescribed) treatment or recommendations of your veterinarian or healthcare provider. Always inform your veterinarian or healthcare provider of any products that your pet are taking, including herbal remedies and supplements.