Mar 142012
 

My green conure, Babs

We all know the old adage that you are what you eat. We also know that the same is true for our pets; the better quality the food we feed to our cats and dogs, the fewer health problems, fewer vet visits, and the happier the pet. And yet we still have a tendency to continue to feed our pet birds the same old diet that we always have.

While seed has long been considered the standard for birds, there have been some major advances in diets and understanding a bird’s nutritional needs. Seeds are very high in fat and lacking in vitamins and minerals. Black sunflower seeds, found in many bird seed mixes, are not only lacking vitamin A but will drain this important nutrient from your bird’s body. Add to it that most birds are picky eaters and will pick out their favorite pieces and you have a recipe for a very unbalanced and unhealthy diet – and an unhealthy bird, too.

Nutritional deficiencies in birds are hard to diagnose  and build up until symptoms show. They can begin with nasal discharge, dull and lackluster feathers, and low energy levels. Over time, it can lead to respiratory infections, blindness, trembling, seizures, paralysis, and death. The high fat content of seeds can lead to a disorder called fatty liver disease.

Our favorite brands of pelleted bird food:

ZuPreem: Formulated with fresh ground fruit for a taste and aroma birds love.  ZuPreem has five fun shapes and colors to allow your bird to forage naturally while still getting a balanced diet with 21 vitamins and minerals. Uses natural preservatives.

Roudybush: Formulated by avian nutritionist Tom Roudybush, this great nutritionally balanced food is made with all natural ingredients and no artificial colors. It has a great apple scent to encourage your bird to eat.

Lafeber: 100% edible, highly digestible pellet food that’s virtually waste and mess free. Made from high quality ingredients like ground corn, soybean meal, oat groats, and human-grade whole egg, fortified with vitamins and minerals

Switching your bird’s diet can be tricky, and major dietary changes should be discussed with your avian vet. Birds can be quite addicted to their seeds, like kids can be addicted to chocolate. While birds can resist change, there are some tricks that you can to do transition them to a healthier diet.

  • Some birds can switch over when their owner mixes it in gradually increasing amounts with their seed.
  • Feed birds at their natural eating times: morning and afternoon. Smaller birds like cockatiels, budgies, and other small birds forage on the ground; take advantage of this by placing the need pellet on white paper in the bottom of the cage. Try putting the food on a mirror, as they’ll often eat more readily with a “flock mate”.
  • Larger birds eat high in the trees, so place the new food in a dish up high. Rearranging their cage can help, as it excites them with the sense of the new.
  • Mix pellets with shredded newspaper or very small toys, like wooden buttons. This may help mimic normal foraging behavior.
  • Offer the new food as a treat for a reward.
  • Grind the pelleted diet in a blender, add some water, and mix some millet (or other favorite food) into this mash. Your parrot will have to go through the mash to get his favored food. This works well with smaller species such as budgies, lovebirds and cockatiels. Remove the mash after several hours to prevent spoilage.
  • To switch my conure to a pelleted diet, I acted like I was eating her new food, enthusiastically pretending to enjoy it . This made her want it, I added it to her food dish, and she went right for it.

When changing a bird’s diet, monitoring their droppings  is important. Placing antibacterial bird cage liners on the bottom of the cage can allow you to see the form, composition, and size of droppings. Any decrease or imbalances can imply that your bird is not eating enough, and might mean that your bird needs to go back on seeds for a short time. Weighing a bird before and during a diet change will allow you to monitor their food intake, also.

The key to optimal parrot health is to provide a varied and balanced diet. Seeds can be offered, in small amounts, with pellets and fresh fruits and vegetables as the main part of the mix. Most things you eat can be given to a bird, but avoid avocados in all its forms, as it is very toxic. Learn what fruits your bird likes, as everyone has their favorites. My conure enjoys anything she can juice, like apples, grapes, and cherries. You can offer protein in small amounts in the form of scrambled eggs and cheese. Whole grain pastas and breads can be offered as treats. Keep the salts, fats, and sugars to a minimum, and avoid caffeine and alcohol; their bodies are small and their metabolism is fast, and they cannot handle these items.

Feeding a balanced diet for a healthy bird can be easy and fun. Sharing your food, seeing them get excited when you walk in with your plate knowing that dinner is coming is great. More importantly, feeding a balanced diet is vital to keeping your feathered friend happy, healthy, and with you for as long as possible.

Happy feeding!

Christopher Hall

Manager, Wilmette Pet

Jan 252012
 

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Nov 182011
 

Rabbits and guinea pigs are some of the most popular pets, and for good reason: They are gentle, companionable, and easy to care for. Their diet is one of the most vital part of having a healthy and happy rabbit or guinea pig, although it can be confusing for some. Their diet has three components:

Pellets: What most people to consider the staple of a rabbit or guinea pig’s diet is, in fact, the most minor part. Pellet food was first created for breeders, to save them time. Instead of a bowl full of pellets, they only need one to two tablespoons per day. Many veterinarians are even suggesting that they only be offered as treats.

Hay: Rabbits and guinea pigs absolutely must have hay. Offer unlimited amounts of hay for your pet. It is vital for their digestion; they must have the fiber to move their food through their digestive tract. Keep hay in the cage at all times, topping it up with fresh when they eat it down. Timothy hay is the main staple hay. Alfalfa hay should only be offered to young animals as it is high in the fat, protein, and minerals need for growth. For animals older than a year, it can be offered occasionally as a treat (they love the taste of it), but excessive alfalfa can cause obesity.

Greens: The bulk of a rabbit or guinea pig’s diet should be dark, leafy greens. Smaller rabbits and guinea pigs should get 1 – 2 cups per day, and larger rabbits should get 3-4 cups. Offer a wide variety, as no one vegetable has all the required nutrients. Besides, wouldn’t you get bored with the same diet day in and day out? Generally try to have 3-5 vegetables in each feeding. The basis of your mix should include: Romaine, red or green leaf lettuce, butter or Boston lettuce, or spring mix of greens. Add one or two other things: arugula, basil, beet greens—green leaves on the top, not beets themselves, carrot greens, cilantro, dandelion greens—not from the yard as it can be covered in pesticides or pollution, dill, endive, escarole, fennel, chopped finely, kale—use sparingly, if at all—high in calcium, mint, mustard or collard greens, parsley, radicchio, radish greens, sage, sorrel , and watercress. Small pieces of apple, oranges, bananas, or bell peppers are an added treat. Check out our article “Your Herbivore and You” here.

Offer spinach occasionally, as it contains compounds that inhibit the absorption of calcium into their bones. Offer carrots rarely (maybe one small peeled baby carrot a week); carrots are very high in sugar, something not easily digested by rabbits or guinea pigs (only Bugs Bunny eats carrots every day). Avoid cilantro, as it is thought to contribute to bacterial infections. Never feed your rabbit or guinea pig chocolate, cookies, crackers, bread or breadsticks, nuts, pasta or other human treats. Also don’t give them corn, potatoes or onions. And don’t feed them birdseed, yogurt or cat or dog food. These items can be poisonous or cause serious health problems
Guinea pigs have one special need that rabbits don’t: vitamin C. Most mammals, except for guinea pigs and humans, produce their own vitamin C, so we must supplement this. Vitamin C tablets are the easiest way to do this. It takes just one tablet a day, and many guinea pigs take it from their hand as if it’s a treat.

Try this recipe for homemade bunny biscuits. Offer these treats sparingly.

1 small carrot, pureed
1/2 banana, mashed until really creamy
1 tbsp honey
1/4 cup rabbit pellets, ground finely in a coffee grinder
1/4 cup ground oats, ground finely in a coffee grinder

Mix pureed carrot, banana and honey in a medium bowl. Add pellet powder and ground oats. Mix until blended. Knead in your hands for 1-2 minutes. Roll out the “dough” in 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick layers between sheets of plastic wrap. Cut into small cookies (about 3/4 inch across). Place cut shapes onto a parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes (check to make sure they are not browning too much). Turn off the heat and let the cookies sit in the warm oven for an hour or so.

Providing the proper diet for your new little pet is not hard. It can take a little bit of time to get into the swing of it, but it is well worth it. Keep in mind a few things: variety is important, and feed them the healthy greens that you’d eat. As people better understand the digestion and nutritional needs of rabbits and guinea pigs, they are living longer, much healthier and happier lives.

 

Download the care sheet (pdf)

Nov 172011
 

Rabbits and guinea pigs are some of the most popular pets, and for good reason: They are gentle, companionable, and easy to care for. Their diet is one of the most vital part of having a healthy and happy rabbit or guinea pig, although it can be confusing for some. Their diet has three components:

Pellets: What most people to consider the staple of a rabbit or guinea pig’s diet is, in fact, the most minor part. Pellet food was first created for breeders, to save them time. Instead of a bowl full of pellets, they only need one to two tablespoons per day. Many veterinarians are even suggesting that they only be offered as treats.

Hay: Rabbits and guinea pigs absolutely must have hay. Offer unlimited amounts of hay for your pet. It is vital for their digestion; they must have the fiber to move their food through their digestive tract. Keep hay in the cage at all times, topping it up with fresh when they eat it down. Timothy hay is the main staple hay. Alfalfa hay should only be offered to young animals as it is high in the fat, protein, and minerals need for growth. For animals older than a year, it can be offered occasionally as a treat (they love the taste of it), but excessive alfalfa can cause obesity.

Greens: The bulk of a rabbit or guinea pig’s diet should be dark, leafy greens. Smaller rabbits and guinea pigs should get 1 – 2 cups per day, and larger rabbits should get 3-4 cups. Offer a wide variety, as no one vegetable has all the required nutrients. Besides, wouldn’t you get bored with the same diet day in and day out? Generally try to have 3-5 vegetables in each feeding. The basis of your mix should include: Romaine, red or green leaf lettuce, butter or Boston lettuce, or spring mix of greens.  Add one or two other things: arugula, basil, beet greens—green leaves on the top, not beets themselves, carrot greens, cilantro, dandelion greens—not from the yard as it can be covered in pesticides or pollution, dill, endive, escarole, fennel, chopped finely, kale—use sparingly, if at all—high in calcium, mint, mustard or collard greens, parsley, radicchio, radish greens, sage, sorrel , and watercress. Small pieces of apple, oranges, bananas, or bell peppers are an added treat. Check out our article “Your Herbivore and You” here.

Offer spinach occasionally, as it contains compounds that inhibit the absorption of calcium into their bones. Offer carrots rarely (maybe one small peeled baby carrot a week); carrots are very high in sugar, something not easily digested by rabbits or guinea pigs (only Bugs Bunny eats carrots every day). Avoid cilantro, as it is thought to contribute to bacterial infections. Never feed your rabbit or guinea pig chocolate, cookies, crackers, bread or breadsticks, nuts, pasta or other human treats. Also don’t give them corn, potatoes or onions. And don’t feed them birdseed, yogurt or cat or dog food. These items can be poisonous or cause serious health problems

Guinea pigs have one special need that rabbits don’t: vitamin C. Most mammals, except for guinea pigs and humans, produce their own vitamin C, so we must supplement this. Vitamin C tablets are the easiest way to do this. It takes just one tablet a day, and many guinea pigs take it from their hand as if it’s a treat.

Try this recipe for homemade bunny biscuits. Offer these treats sparingly.

1 small carrot, pureed
1/2 banana, mashed until really creamy
1 tbsp honey
1/4 cup rabbit pellets, ground finely in a coffee grinder
1/4 cup ground oats, ground finely in a coffee grinder

Mix pureed carrot, banana and honey in a medium bowl. Add pellet powder and ground oats. Mix until blended. Knead in your hands for 1-2 minutes. Roll out the “dough” in 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick layers between sheets of plastic wrap. Cut into small cookies (about 3/4 inch across). Place cut shapes onto a parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes (check to make sure they are not browning too much). Turn off the heat and let the cookies sit in the warm oven for an hour or so.

Providing the proper diet for your new little pet is not hard. It can take a little bit of time to get into the swing of it, but it is well worth it. Keep in mind a few things: variety is important, and feed them the healthy greens that you’d eat. As people better understand the digestion and nutritional needs of rabbits and guinea pigs, they are living longer, much healthier and happier lives.

Nov 162011
 
Betta, Siamese Fighting Fish

Betta, Siamese Fighting Fish

Download care sheet (pdf)

Origin
Southeast Asia

Size
2.5-3 inches

Life Span
2-3 years

Temperature
74°F-84°

Congratulations on your new pet! The following are some basic guidelines to help your fish live a long, healthy life. Bettas are known as the “Jewel of the Orient” due to their variety of bright and iridescent coloration. Bettas belong to the suborder Anabantoidei, whose defining characteristic is their labyrinth organ. This organ allows labyrinth fish to take in oxygen directly from the air, instead of through the water by use of gills. Labyrinth fish have evolved in such a way to cope with the hardships of their environment.

SETTING UP THE BOWL
Equipment – bowl, gravel, water conditioner, food, liquid biological bacteria, aquarium salt (optional), air pump (optional)

Rinse both the bowl and the gravel with regular tap water thoroughly. Do not use soap or any other chemicals. This is the last time the gravel will be cleaned.

1) Fill the bowl halfway with room temperature tap water; add the water conditioner, the liquid bacteria, and the aquarium salt. Aquarium salt, while optional, is a useful treatment for sores, infections, parasites, and functions as a precautionary measure against disease organisms as it stimulates the fish’s production of slime coating.
2) Float the bag within the bowl for about twenty minutes to acclimate the fish to room temperature.
3) After twenty minutes release the betta into the bowl and fill the bowl within two inches from the top.

FEEDING
Proper nutrition is important for the long-term health of the fish and to bring out their full, vibrant colors. Wild bettas feed exclusively on zooplankton, insects, and insect larvae; their captive diet should attempt to replicate this as much as possible. They can be fed a diverse diet consisting of high-protein flakes/pellets, bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, tubifex, and glass worms. They should be fed a pinch of food once a day. If any food remains after thirty seconds, they are being overfed; cut the amount of food in half.

BOWL MAINTENANCE
Unfortunately, the volume of water is so small that toxic levels of fish/plant waste: ammonia and nitrite can quickly accumulate and become fatal. For this reason 25% water changes every other day are recommended. The following procedure is suggested.
1) Leave out a one-gallon container of water overnight, treated with water conditioner and salt.
2) Wipe down the inside of the bowl with an algae pad, if necessary.
3) Stir the gravel gently and carefully pour out 25% of the water.
4) Refill the bowl with the preconditioned, room temperature water.

Fortunately, there are microorganisms at work that convert ammonia into nitrite, and then nitrite into nitrate; each gas being less harmful than the one preceding it. However these organisms can only help the ecosystem; if water changes are neglected, the beneficial bacteria can easily become overwhelmed and the ecosystem is liable to crash.

Nov 162011
 
Hamster

Hamster, Mesocricetus auratus

Download care sheet (pdf)

Adult Size
4 to 5 inches long

Life Span
2 to 3 years

Male/Female Differences
Sexing hamsters is done by eyeing the distance between the urethra and the anus; the distance is further apart in males. Both are equally handleable. Females may be more defensive while trying to nest or raise young.

Compatibility
Adult hamsters are solitary. Never keep more than one in the same cage. Hamsters are territorial and will aggressively stress each other out until the other leaves. This rule still applies if they are raised together from the same litter.

Origin
Europe, Asia, Australia.

Climate
Desert and arid grassy plains.

Day Cycle
Nocturnal. Hamsters play at night and sleep during the day.

Temperature
Hamsters do well at average household temperatures. Make sure the cage is well ventilated, out of direct sunlight and drafts.

Lighting
Being nocturnal, bright lights can be harsh for their eyes.

Humidity
Hamsters do well in most indoor humidity. Keep their bedding dry at all times.

Habitat/Territory
Hamsters are burrowing animals.

Substrate/Bedding
Provide a safe and soft bedding, the less dusty the better. Cedar bedding can be toxic and pine too dusty. Good litters are shredded or pelleted aspen or recycled paper products. Supply nesting materials and dry hays.

Hiding Place/Den
Offer chew safe and non-toxic hamster huts, tubes, and wooden hamster toys. Glue on empty paper towel or toilette paper rolls is toxic. Offer nesting materials that will not bind around limbs or cause intestinal damage.

Cage Type
Aquariums, plastic cages with tube accessories, or wire. All should be escape proof, ventilated, and easy to clean. Hamsters love to wander at night. Supply the largest cage that’s possible.

Diet
A few critter cubes and 1-2 tbls of high quality hamster seed mix is given as a staple. Supply a variety of leafy greens and vegetables in small quantities. Avoid spoilage. Fruits should be given to avoid diarrhea. Timothy hay should be given at all times to aid in digestion. Try not to focus on one thing, give good variety. A tiny bit of yoghurt is good for intestinal health.

Supplements
Vitamins in water help supply nutrients missing from captive diets. Hamsters are natural insect eaters. Offer occasional meal worms, crickets, cat or dog kibble, or small dog biscuits. Bland proteins like boiled egg are good.

Diet Precautions
Do not give chocolate, candy, or anything with caffeine. Giving too many greens can cause impacted pouches or
intestinal disorders.

Feeding
Placing food in a bowl will help prevent over feeding. Hamsters will move most of their food into their nest and bury it for later.

Water Source
Water bottles are best. Wash the bottle in between refills. Supply fresh filtered, non-chlorinated water at all times.

Grooming
Hamsters generally lick themselves clean. Grooming your hamster will help socialize it and prevent skin ailments. Using a cat wipe twice a week will help keep the fur healthy. Use a soft bristle brush often to stimulate the hair follicles and remove debris. Keep an eye on the teeth. If the have an overshot, they may need to be clipped. We can do that for you.

Oral and Foot Care
Hamsters have incisors that need to constantly be filed down. Keep soft wood chews, pumice stone, and treat sticks in the cage. Rotate different types to keep the hamster’s interest. Older hamsters may need to have their nails clipped. Use safe ramps and running wheels that will prevent leg injury.

Proper Handling
If the hamster is sleeping, wake gently and always let them smell your hand first. Gently shoo the hamster into one of its hiding places. Pick up the hiding place with the hamster still in it. Holding still with hiding place in hand, offer the other hand to climb out on to of its own free will. Stay close to the ground in case it falls. Offer treats for acceptance and reward.

Habitat Maintenance
Hamsters tend to eliminate in the same area of the cage. Place a litter pan in that area with a little soiled litter for scent. Spot clean the cage daily. Change the litter once a week and wash cage thoroughly with warm soapy water.

Health Concerns
Diarrhea due to poor diet, stress, and/or cage cleanliness. Respiratory distress can be due to poor ventilation, drafts, noxious odors, and dusty litter. Overgrown teeth due to poor chewing stimulation. Congenital cancers are a slight risk. Maintain a healthy environment and diet to

Nov 162011
 

Download the care sheet (pdf)

A guide to choosing the right vegetables for your pet

So you’ve recently acquired an herbivore, like a tortoise or a rabbit? Or maybe you’ve taken home an omnivore, like a bearded dragon? In any case the clerk at the pet store told you that you would have to formulate some, if not all of this animals food on your own.

This means going to the grocery store and stepping away from comfortable, tried and true section of the produce department and sniffing out something that may be a bit more exotic. This means unlike your dog, who gets the same bowl full of the same kibble every morning and night, your new pet’s health and well being depends on feeding one thing today and something entirely different tomorrow.

But what vegetables are the best? What can you feed too much? Are there any that should be avoided altogether? Contained herein is a simple, informative, and concise guide to formulating an herbivorous diet.

Nutrients: Macro v. Micro

Macronutrients are the basic building blocks of nutrition. Protein, fat, carbohydrates, and water are all macronutrients. In general an herbivore’s diet should be low in protein and fat, and high in water, fiber, and plant proteins. Animal protein is almost always accompanied by a high fat content and can be dangerous if fed to strict herbivores, whose digestive systems have evolved to extract maximum nutrition from nutrient-poor plant matter. Avocado, because it is high in fat, should not be fed to herbivores.

Commercial pelleted diets may contain all the proper vitamins and minerals in the proper amounts, but lack water. Animals fed exclusively on pelleted diets often become dehydrated.

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals, the catalysts that allow body processes to take place. Most strict herbivores are browsers, which means that they graze in one field one day, then amble over to another field the next. Over the course of a year a browser will eat dozens of different kinds of plants, as well as small amounts of soil. This makes a deficiency in any one micronutrient unlikely. In captivity it is important to rotate your pets diet to ensure that no nutrient is deficient or fed in excess.

Again, pelleted diets contain what the manufacturer thinks is the right balance of micronutrients, but vitamins and minerals from fresh vegetables have a much greater bioavailability. That means that your pet’s body is able to absorb and use that vitamin much more efficiently. Raw fresh vegetables also contain digestive enzymes, which precludes the body’s need to produce its own enzymes, allowing more nutrition to be be gleaned from the food.

Secondary Plant Compounds

All plants contain certain chemicals that can affect their digestion. Plants evolved with these chemicals the same way your hedgehog evolved with spines or your tortoise with a shell, as natural defense mechanisms. Some plants may want to repel certain herbivores, which destroy the plant, and attract others, which pollinate it.

Our concern with the plants available at the grocery store will be with two major categories of secondary compounds: oxalates and goitregens. Oxalates and oxalic acid bind with calcium and inhibit its absorbtion by the body. Goitregens affect thyroid function by inhibiting iodine uptake and cause goiters.

Plants high in oxalates include: spinach, beet greens, kale, collard greens, parsley, chard, and okra

Plants high in goitregens include: all cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts)

Does this mean that you should avoid these veggies altogether? NO. ALL plants contain secondary compounds. Variety is the key! Care must be taken not to over feed vegetables from these categories, or make them the basis for any diet, but they are an excellent addition to any well varied meal plan.

Frozen Vegetables

Frozen vegetables are a great convenience, and can provide a great back up for when you run out of greens and can’t get to the store. However, frozen veggies should not comprise a regular part of your pet’s diet. Freezing destroys thiamin (vitamin B1), an essential nutrient.

Fat Soluble Vitamins

Vitamins A and D are both fat soluble vitamins, so when fed in excess they accumulate in the fatty tissues of the body and cause health problems. This is known as hypervitaminosis, and can manifest similarly to vitamin deficiencies or metabolic bone disease.

The easiest way to protect against over vitaminizing is to provide vitamin A in the form of beta carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A as it needs to. Foods high in beta carotene are often bright orange, such as: carrots, sweet potatoes, and hard-shell squash. Provide vitamin D by giving natural sunlight, or simulated UVB light from special reptile bulbs, and your animal will synthesize its own.

A Basic List

Here is a basic list of acceptable veggies:

  • Staple Veggies: Hardshell or winter squash, dandelion greens, mustard greens, cactus pads (prickly pear), green beans, snap peas, parsnip, turnip tops, and others.
  • Avoid feeding in excess: Spinach, kale, collard greens, okra, asparagus, summer squash, carrots and carrot tops, beets and beet greens, broccoli, parsley, sweet potato, and others.
  • Avoid: Iceberg lettuce (nutrient poor – but won’t harm your animal), avocado, cabbage, cilantro.
Nov 162011
 

Download the care sheet (pdf)

Adult Size
Males range from 6 to 9 inches long while females range from 9 to 12 inches.

Lifespan
20-40 years with proper care.

Male/Female Differences
Females are larger and have a smaller tail. Males have longer, thicker tails and longer front claws with the cloaca closer to the tip of the tail.

Compatibility
Interacting with red-eared sliders and socialization are important in the development of a young turtle to eliminate behavioral problems later. These turtles are best kept alone because of the space, water quality issues, and aggression. If cohabitation is preferred make sure they have a large aquarium (75 gallons for two 5 inch turtles), a powerful internal and biological filter, appropriate lighting, and that both turtles are of equal size.

Origin
Southern United States.

Climate
Ponds, lakes, marshes, creeks, and streams.

Day Cycle
Diurnal (awake during the day)

Temperature
The proper temperature allows the turtle to regulate body temperature. As such the water temperature should be of 76-80°F, while their basking area should be 86-90°F.

Lighting
Appropriate lighting is important since wild red-eared sliders enjoy the full power of the sun; their captive habitat must attempt to replicate their natural environment as much as possible. The lighting should provide three things – UVB, UVA, and heat. UVB rays help the turtle by providing D3, a vitamin which allows for the metabolization and absorption of calcium. Heat and UVA rays help regulate the turtle’s feeding, activity, and mating. Lighting should be on for 10-12 hours a day with an emphasis on a consistent day/night cycle. Heat can also be provided with a submersible heater; make sure it is shatterproof since turtles tend to break them.

Humidity
Moderate; lightly mist the tank every couple of days to simulate rain.

Habitat/Territory
Red-eared sliders reside in areas with calm, fresh, and warm waters

Substrate/Bedding
River rocks, sand or no substrate, all make good choices for the aquatic part of the habitat. Small aquarium gravel poses a health risk as the turtle could easily mistake it for food and an impaction could occur. 70% of the habitat should consist of water and the rest should comprise of land. The water level should be no deeper than the total length of the turtle. For example, if the turtle is six inches, the maximum height of the water level is also six inches. Make sure the turtle can gain access to the land by using rocks that are not steep, like slate. Wood chips, river rocks, and sand are all good choices for the terrestrial area.

Hiding Place/Den
Non-toxic hiding places will provide a spot where the turtle can retreat to if they feel threatened or uncomfortable. This is especially important for younger turtles that may not always want attention.

Cage Type
Aquariums, plastic storage containers, and ponds all make excellent habitats. Since red-eared sliders can grow up to a foot, buy the biggest enclosure possible. A 36” x 13” enclosure is a good size to start with, and should house the turtle adequately for the next three years, but a fully-grown turtle should live in something no smaller than a 48” x 18” enclosure. Make sure the area is escape-proof.

Diet
A varied and balanced diet is important for the long-term health of the turtle. Simply put, an exclusive diet of commercial pellets will not meet the turtle’s dietary needs and may cause deficiencies, disorders, or even premature death. Their captive diet should be close match their natural diet which can include earthworms, small fish, shrimp, dandelion leaves, anacharis, duckweed, etc. Young turtles (1-5 years) should have a 60-40% ratio of protein and vegetable matter. Older turtles should have a 25-75% ratio of protein and vegetable matter.

Supplements
Calcium and phosphorus supplements are recommended since red-eared sliders often suffer from shell and bone inadequacies and the phosphorus will help to control their metabolism. Since these supplements are usually in powder form, simply sprinkle over their food.

Diet Precautions
Excess amount of protein in young turtles cause rapid, unhealthy growth that could lead to permanent shell deformity. Avoid a uniform diet. Inadequate amounts of calcium and phosphorus are also issues with feeding the same foods.

Feeding
Small amounts of vegetables and plants should be offered every day while the protein part of their diet – be it pellets, feeder fish, or worms – should be given every other day. Be careful not to overfeed.

Water Source
Red-eared sliders drink and absorb water while they swim so it is vital that a high water quality is maintained. 50% percent water changes should be performed every three days.

Grooming
Make sure the turtle is spending enough time out of the water because most illnesses aquatic turtles are prone to are due to their lack of drying off on land. Red-eared sliders should spend at least six hours on land daily.

Oral and Foot Care
The turtle’s nails may need to be clipped every couple of months depending on the level of their activity. Use cat safe nail clippers.

Proper Handling
Pick them up with both hands and make sure to support their body. Be careful to keep your fingers away from its face as it may mistake them for worms. Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling a turtle with antibacterial soap.

Habitat Maintenance
Healthy turtles will relieve themselves a lot, so cleaning their habitat is very important. Turtles tend to defecate right after they eat, so it is advised to feed them in a small container filled with water. Large water changes should be done every three days to maintain clean water. The terrestrial part of the habitat should be cleaned out and replaced every week.

Health Concerns
Red-eared sliders are prone to metabolic bone disease/soft shell (MBD), dystocia (egg binding), shell rot, respiratory infections, fungal infections, ear infections, accidental drowning and obesity. MBD is a serious, but preventable condition brought on about by lack of calcium or vitamin D3. Appropriate UVB lighting and a differentiated diet will help counteract this disease. Dystocia affects female turtles when eggs are abnormally held within the body. Constructing a nesting area (consisting of moist soil, leaves, and sand) and meeting their calcium needs should prevent this anomaly. Shell rot develops when an injury to the shell becomes infected because of the turtle spending too much time within the water. Symptoms are discoloration, exposed tissue, and softening of the shell. Keeping the aquarium clean, antibiotics, and a lot of rest will help remedy this ailment. Improper temperatures cause respiratory infections, which may become fatal. Irregular swimming, breathing difficulties, and lethargy are all symptoms of infection. Consult your veterinarian immediately. Ear infections are caused by the poor water quality and the symptoms are erratic swimming and a swollen head. Consult your veterinarian immediately as he/she will need to prescribe antibiotics. Poor water quality and insufficient UVB lighting cause fungal infections. Cleaning the water, soaking the turtle in saltwater, and using sulfa blocks should help clear up the fungus. Aquatic turtles frequently drown by accidentally wedging themselves between the terrestrial part of the habitat. Lowering the water level and making sure the land mass is situated underneath rocks or bricks that are impenetrable, that is the turtle cannot jam itself between them. The causes for obesity are obvious, not enough exercise and bad nutrition. Feed less, focusing more on vegetables and make sure the turtle gets a decent amount of activity, be it by buying a bigger enclosure or letting them play outside under close supervision.

Nov 162011
 
Pacman Frog

Pacman Frog, Ceratophrys ornata

Download the care sheet (pdf)

Adult Size
6 to 9 inches

Life Span
About 6 years, but up to 12.

Male/Female Differences
Females are larger – 9 inches – than the 6 inch males. Males croak, especially when grabbed from behind.

Compatibility
Pacman frogs will eat anything smaller than themselves, so keep these large animals by themselves.

Origin
Argentina

Climate
Tropical jungles.

Day Cycle
Eats during the day.

Temperature
Keep at about 80 degrees to maintain good digestion.

Lighting
Use a small heat lamp to prevent drying the cage out. An under-tank heater works well. Full spectrum lighting helps in the proper absorption of calcium.

Humidity
High humidity can be maintained by daily misting and a large water dish. Moss and shredded coconut bark help by holding moisture.

Habitat/Territory
Hidden in the leaf litter of forest and jungle floors.

Substrate/Bedding
Gravel makes a great base for the substrate as it is not as messy as soil and provides drainage. Moss and/or coconut fibers on top of the gravel to maintain humidity and to allow the frog to bury themselves.

Hiding Place/Den
Moss will offer plenty of humidity and places for them to hide. Real or artificial plants also offer plenty of hiding places.

Cage Type
Aquariums work well as they hold humidity. A 20 inch critter cage is fine for a home as these frogs are largely sedentary.

Diet
Large crickets, earthworks, superworms, and goldfish up to pinkies, fuzzies, and adult mice.

Supplements
Dust crickets with a high quality vitamin/calcium powder for juveniles once a week. Adults need less supplementation – every three to four weeks – as they should get all of the vitamins from a varied and balanced diet.

Diet Precautions
Feed prey items no larger then half the size of the frog. Offer some variety to ensure proper nutrition, and avoid over supplementing.

Feeding
Feed juveniles two to three times a week, and adults every one to two weeks. Dead prey items, such as frozen pinkies, may need to be wiggled in front of toad with forceps to catch the attention of these ambush predators.

Water Source
Mist the cage and change the water bowl daily to keep the humidity high. These frogs are not strong swimmers so the water dish should not be deeper than half their body.

Grooming
Pacman frogs maintain their healthy skin through correct humidity and minimal handling. Provide fresh water to help prevent infections and dehydration.

Oral and Foot Care
Bacterial infection called red leg is always a risk for captive frogs.

Proper Handling
Even though they get used to being handled, this should be kept to a minimum. Dry hands will irritate their skin, and always wash your hands after handling.

Habitat Maintenance
Change the water daily. Spot clean the cage as needed, and change the substrate every one to two weeks.

Health Concerns
Dehydration, internal and external parasites are a health concern for these frogs. Bacterial infections like red leg can be due to unsanitary conditions.

Nov 162011
 
Mali Uromastyx

Mali Uromastyx

Download the care sheet (pdf)

Adult Size
Up to 16 inches

Life Span
About 35 years

Male/Female Differences
Females are smaller and less colorful. They are usually tan colored with black dorsal spots while males are bright yellow with black markings. Females also have shorter claws than males.

Compatibility
An Uromastyx is very territorial but may be kept in groups with only one male as long as there is adequate space.

Origin
The Mali Uromastyx comes from African regions.

Climate
It is necessary for the Mali Uromastyx to have a hot and dry climate.

Day Cycle
Diurnal, meaning they are active during the day and asleep during the night.

Temperature
During the day, it is ideal to keep the temperature between 85-110 degrees Fahrenheit. During the night, keep the temperature between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit. There should also be a basking area provided by a heat lamp that heats the area 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lighting
Full spectrum UVB bulbs as well as a basking light are necessary for proper absorption of calcium that benefit heart and kidney functions.

Humidity
The humidity level in their environment should be maintained at 20%. This may be monitored by a hygrometer.

Habitat/Territory
Rocks and branches are great for the Uromastyx. Placing a rock underneath the basking lamp allows the Uromastyx to feel the heat from both the top of its body as well as from the belly. Although they love it hot, branches and enclosures kept at cooler areas are recommended to help regulate body temperature.

Substrate/Bedding
A reptile carpet should be used as a substrate. Also provide a burrowing box filled with calcium sand to promote instinctual burrowing.

Hiding Place/Den
They love to have hiding places in order to feel secure so provide decorative rocks, logs, and plants that are stationary in order to prevent injury.

Cage Type
For the Mali, the larger the tank the better. A 36” glass terrarium with a screen top is recommended for proper ventilation. The size of the terrarium may vary with the size of the Mali.

Diet
Being herbivores, Mali’s should be mostly fed with nutritious leafy greens and vegetables. Fruits should also be provided as an occasional supplement. Good supplemental fruits can include red berries, melons, and plums in small quantities.

Supplements
A calcium supplement dusted on the food is necessary.

Diet Precautions
Malis should not be overfed. As a supplement, they can occasionally be fed insects however too much may become hard to digest.

Feeding
Mali Uromastyx must be fed every day with about one to two tablespoons of food.

Water Source
Provide a shallow and small bowl of fresh water. This should be changed out everyday.

Grooming
A very light misting of the terrarium as well as of the Mali is sufficient for their grooming.

Oral and Foot Care
It is vital to wash food and water dishes to prevent mouth infections. Provide safe climbing areas for healthy muscle development.

Proper Handling
The Mali should be allotted bout 3 to 4 days in order to adjust to its new home. After it becomes comfortable, careful handling for short periods of time is fine.

Habitat Maintenance
A proper cleaning of the entire terrarium is recommended to keep the Mali healthy. The tank and the fixtures inside should be completely washed out and disinfected every two to three weeks. Spot clean as necessary.

Health Concerns
Malis may be susceptible to parasites if the terrarium is not often cleaned. Egg binding could be a result from poor calcium levels and or from the first infertile egg cycle. Mali’s may face kidney problems, which can be due from protein rich diets or poor calcium and phosphorous levels. Trim nails when necessary. Respiratory problems may be caused by low heat conditions and excess moisture.