How To – Pet Purchase

I am wondering how to decide how to choose the best pet store to purchase a pet for my child? Do you have a preference?

Choosing the right pet store can be as important as choosing the right pet.  The management of the store will greatly impact the health of the pets that they sell.  A

good store management team will select higher quality pet sources (the pet suppliers to the store), implement sound quarantine protocols (to prevent spreading any infectious diseases), and house the pets in an appropriate way.  Typically these store protocols are designed with the help of a knowledgeable veterinarian.  Additionally, I expect to see high quality and appropriate diets, toys, and other pet gear sold at a good pet store.

How can you determine this on your own?  First, research the pet that you are interested in.  The internet has a wealth of information, some current and some way out-of-date.  As a general rule, if you are seeing the same information on several reputable sites, it is likely to be accurate.  Books and magazines also contain reams of information on specific species’ care, but it is still important to corroborate your research and make sure the source is not outdated.  Many other sources, from pet breeders to pet shop employees may also provide a wealth of experience, but again, this should never take the place of a good literature search.  Finally, your local veterinarian should be able to provide you with current information, or point you in the direction of a colleague who can help.  Once you understand how a particular pet species should be kept, it will be easier for you to evaluate any particular store on how they manage that species.

Here are some signs of a quality pet store:

  • The cages/pet environments are clean, hygienic and easy to clean.
  • The pets look alert, responsive and energetic.
  • Healthy and appropriate diets, toys and other care necessities are sold within the store.
  • The store employees a knowledgeable staff.
  • The store has a working relationship with a veterinarian who can help with preventative medicine as well as emergency situations for all of the species that they sell.
  • Sick pets are isolated from healthy pets.
  • A quarantine program exists to prevent the introduction of illness from newly arriving pets.
  • Multiple species are not housed together.
  • The pets are being fed appropriate diets.

One of my employees recently entered a pet store and observed many sickly pets, including two dead birds at the bottom of a cage.  If you encounter this type of situation, your altruistic instinct may be to “rescue” the sick animals by purchasing them from the store.  Giving your business to a store such as this rewards their neglect and allows them to stay in business and continue with their poor management.  You will make more of an impact by reporting the problem to the local animal services department so that the conduct will be investigated and hopefully rectified.  Instead of benefiting a single pet, your actions may save many.

If you have a veterinary question that you would like to propose for an upcoming edition, please send it to email@catandexoticcare.com with “ask the vet” in the subject line.

 

Disclaimer: The informational handouts and website links above are for informational purposes only, they are not intended to replace veterinary care.

My Guinea Pig Has a Bald Spot

When my sisters recently gave me a guinea pig, Millie, she had a bald spot on her back but no other bald spots. It’s almost in the shape of a heart. There are some short hairs and some flakey yellow skin when you scratch at it. She doesn’t seem to mind it.  I’ve attached some pictures if that helps.  Thank you.

Probably 90% of the young guinea pigs that I see in my practice with these signs test positive for lice, mites, fleas, or ringworm.  It is always important to practice good hygiene when handling a small mammal, however, these parasites are species-specific, and so they typically do not remain on humans or other animals that come in contact with the affected guinea pig.   Less common causes include dermatitis caused by vitamin C deficiency, allergies, over-productive glandular tissue (typically males), and other primary skin disorders.  Examination and some basic testing is recommended to identify and treat the cause.

Identification of the parasite usually requires a test called a skin scraping.  A sample of skin is gently scraped and the collected material is examined under a microscope.  In the case of lice, sometimes it is possible to see the parasites or their eggs with the naked eye or by using a piece of scotch tape to pull some hairs for microscopic examination.  Fleas can be found using a special “flea comb,” which has fine teeth that catch the fleas as you run the comb deeply through the pet’s fur.

If parasites are diagnosed, there are many treatment options including powders, medicated baths and dips, topical pesticides (such as Revolution®), and injectable pesticides.  My preference for mite and lice infestations is Revolution® because it is easy to apply and relatively safe and easy for the patient to tolerate.  Treatments of the cage, frequent bedding changes, and follow-up doses of the pesticide are usually required depending on the parasite in question.  All in-contact guinea pigs must be simultaneously treated to prevent reinfection.  Ringworm and other causes require different therapy.

One last comment.  Guinea pigs are one of the few species that cannot manufacture their own vitamin C from other nutrients, and therefore have an absolute vitamin C requirement in their diet (about 50mg/day).  This can be achieved with high vitamin C  fresh foods (for a list, see my guinea pig care sheet at www.catandexoticcare.com under the references section), or vitamin C supplementation in the way of fortified pellets or tablets.  The vitamin C that is administered in water is not recommended since it rapidly degrades and may even prevent a guinea pig from drinking enough.  Most commercial guinea pig diets have vitamin C built in, but it degrades within 90 days after the food is milled, so it is best not to rely on the pellets alone.

guinea pig bald spot, yellow flaky skin, short hair
Bald Spot, Yellow Flaky Skin, Short Hair

bald spot

 

Max Conn, DVM is the owner of Cat & Exotic Care of the Central Coast, a full-service veterinary hospital, open Monday through Saturday 8 a.m. – 5:30 p.m, dedicated to the special needs of cats, birds, reptiles and small mammals.  Cat & Exotic Care is located in Pismo Coast Plaza, 565 Five Cities Drive, 805-773-0228.  More information can be found at www.catandexoticcare.com.

If you have a veterinary question that you would like to propose for an upcoming edition, please send it to email@catandexoticcare.com with “ask the vet” in the subject line.

Holiday Hazards Tips – 2

Holiday pet hazards and tips.

  1. If you get a real Christmas tree, be sure our pet doesn’t drink the water. It likely contains chemicals to preserve the tree that are toxic to your pet.  Make sure your tree is well anchored so that your dog or cat does not knock it down and get injured or tangled up in the process.
  2. Conceal electrical cords to all holiday lights under rugs, in cord coverings, or taped to the floor to prevent chewing and potential electrocution.
  3. Mistletoe, holly, poinsettias, many lilies, and pine boughs are common holiday plants which can all be harmful if ingested.  Vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, stumbling, muscle tremors, depression and seizures are symptoms of plant toxicity. If any of these plants are ingested or signs of poisoning are noticed, please seek immediate veterinary care.
  4. Candles can be a fire hazard or cause burns (we have all seen one or two cats with singed whiskers).  When used, make sure they are out of your pet’s reach, and don’t leave candles burning unattended.
  5. Ribbons and bows are very enticing to your pet, especially kittens.  When presents are placed under the tree, strategically place them to hide the bows as much as possible.  If ingested, they can cause an intestinal blockage which may require surgical correction.  If you must use ribbons, avoid longer ones and ones with wire.  Tinsel is also quite tempting, and can cause major problems if ingested.
  6. We all like to eat a lot over the holidays, but try not to extend this to your pet(s).  Table scraps, garbage raiding, and counter surfing can all lead to stomach upset. Too much rich food can cause serious inflammation of the pancreas, which is life-threatening.  Remember, chocolate is toxic to pets.
  7. Visitors can be very stressful to your pet(s) leading to over-excitement, confusion, and fear.  Keep pets in a quiet part of the house and make sure they have a safe retreat from children and other guests.
  8. To the sensitive ears of cats and dogs, fireworks, horns, bells and whistles can be extremely frightening. Make sure pets are in a safe place away from the noise and that they can’t escape the house or yard. If your pet is particularly sensitive and/or fireworks are a particular problem in your neighborhood, talk to a veterinarian about getting some tranquilizers to help your pet remain calm.
  9. There’s no worse time than the holidays (see items above) to bring a new pet into the home.  Unfortunately, this is a common scenario, as many people surprise a loved one with a new puppy or kitten.  Adjusting to a new environment coupled with the holiday excitement can increase anxiety and lead to trouble adapting to a new home.  It is best to wait a few weeks after the holidays and plan to kitten/puppy-proof the house ahead of time.  In this way the pet can be introduced into a quiet, safe environment, and the transition will be much gentler.  Don’t forget to ask your veterinarian for advice on selecting a new pet prior to purchase.

Have a safe and happy holiday.

If you have a veterinary question that you would like to propose for an upcoming edition, please send it to email@catandexoticcare.com with “ask the vet” in the subject line.

 

Disclaimer: The informational handouts and website links above are for informational purposes only, they are not intended to replace veterinary care.

Foods… What’s Safe/Dangerous

What people foods are dangerous to my pets?  What should I do if my pets eat one of these foods?

Well first it depends on what specific pet you are talking about (cat, dog, bird, etc).

The following is a list of the most common food-related toxicities that we see in private practice:

Dogs/Cats:  chocolate (the darker the chocolate the more toxic), onion, onion soup, garlic, grapes and raisins, sugar free candy and gum containing xylitol, coffee, tea, any alcoholic beverage, large quantities of salt, walnuts, tomato/potato/rhubarb leaves and stems, nutmeg, pork products, most pits from fruits, hops, mustard seeds, and yeast.

Birds: all of the above plus add avocado to the list.

Small mammals (ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs, etc): all of the above and avoid items high in sugars.

In the event that your pet should consume any of the above items, consult your veterinarian.  The treatment strategies vary depending on what and how much was consumed. If the ingestion is recent (within a few hours) an emetic may be used to cause vomiting and reduce absorption of the potential toxin.  This is best handled by a veterinarian.

Hotline numbers for pet toxicity include 1-800-548-2423 (have a credit card available), 888-426-4435 (ASPCA toxicity line, have a credit card available), and 1-900-680-0000 (toll call).  Typically, once a pet owner calls and opens a case with any of these lines, the veterinarian is allowed subsequent access to the consultation at no further charge.

If you have a veterinary question that you would like to propose for an upcoming edition, please send it to email@catandexoticcare.com with “ask the vet” in the subject line.

 

Disclaimer: The informational handouts and website links above are for informational purposes only, they are not intended to replace veterinary care.

Leopard Gecko – Dysecdysis (Skin Shedding)

QUESTION:

My leopard gecko has skin stuck to his feet and he seems lethargic.  What should I do?

Answer:

When a reptile has problems shedding its skin, the condition is called dysecdysis. We commonly see this problem in leopard geckos commonly caused by an environment that is too dry.  Proper provision of hiding areas filled with damp moss will help prevent the problem in the future by creating localized areas of higher humidity.  In addition, avoiding loose substrate or sand for bedding (opt for newspaper or paper towel instead) will help to keep things cleaner and less irritating to the skin.

If the gecko has not been able to shed for a while, the retained skin may be causing constriction of the underlying digits.  Sometimes entire toes or parts of toes become devitalized and end up falling off.  This is extremely painful and is often associated with infection.  The lizard may show signs of lethargy and decreased appetite.  If you are seeing these signs, it is imperative to get your gecko to a reptile vet.  The constricted bands of retained shed tissue will need to be carefully dissected off, antibiotics and pain control will be started and recommendations to improve the general care will be made.

If, on the other hand, the signs are mild, you may be able to remove the sheds after soaking the lizard in luke-warm water.  With several soaks to soften the skin you may be able to gently tease the retained tissue off with a q-tip.

 

If you have a veterinary question that you would like to propose for an upcoming edition, please send it to email@catandexoticcare.com with “ask the vet” in the subject line.

Max Conn, DVM is the owner of Cat & Exotic Care of the CentralCoast, a full service veterinary hospital dedicated to the special needs of cats, birds, reptiles and small mammals.  Cat & Exotic Care is located in PismoCoastPlaza, 565 Five Cities Drive, 805-773-0228.  More information can be found at www.catandexoticcare.com.

 

Disclaimer: The informational handouts and website links above are for informational purposes only, they are not intended to replace veterinary care.