Making Veterinary Less Stressful for Your Dog

 

We have all seen owners and/or trainers who have taught their dog, bird, horse or cat to do amazing things. Birds with huge vocabularies, bike riding dogs and dancing horses. So how hard should it really be to teach our dog to tolerate a visit to the vet?? If you’re willing to invest a little time, you can train your dog to be a happier patient.

 

It’s all about practice, practice, practice.  The first place your new puppy should visit is the veterinary office. The very first visit should just be to say hello and get some treats. Use the second visit to make sure they are healthy…

Get your puppy used to having his/her feet handled at home. Start by holding a paw then move on to grasping a toenail. Even if you never plan on clipping nails at home, get your pup accustomed to the clipper around their feet. Remember to use lots of treats and praise!

 Teach your puppy how to take pills before they actually need to. Have your puppy sit sideways next to you or on your lap if they are small. Place one hand around the top jaw with your thumb and middle finger behind the canines. Use your other thumb and forefinger to gently open the lower jaw. Now just place a small treat or piece of cheese in the mouth on the tongue. Do this a few times and you shouldn’t have any trouble when the time to actually medicate comes along. Today there are even specially made products to hide pills in that most dogs love!

Handle your puppy’s ears, clean the area around their eyes, lift their tail and run your hands along their abdomen. Desensitizing your pup to handling is one of the kindest things you can do for them.

Teach your dog to stand quietly. Much of a veterinary exam is done with the pet standing. If your dog is accustomed to standing calmly beforehand the stress level will go way down. Again, use treats and gentle praise to let your dog know they are doing the correct thing.

Teach your dog to walk on a leash. If your dog is out of control in the waiting area things will only go downhill in the exam room.

Once your pet is protected by vaccines, schedule a puppy class and/or doggie daycare. A well socialized dog is a stable dog.  No kidding…our happiest patients are campers and Puppy Class alumni.

It’s OK to bring something from home. A toy or blanket work fine and pets find the familiar odor of home calming .

If you‘re nervous your dog will be too. Whatever you feel telegraphs directly to your pet. Some people can’t actually be in the room with their dog and that’s OK. Just don’t let your limitations make things more difficult for your pet.

Pet Economics vs. Pet Ownership

Pretty girl hugging a pet dog

Pet’s bring companionship, unconditional love and joy to our lives. However, it can be a shock to find out after that first trip to the veterinarian, that they bring bills as well. Sometimes we forget that pets are a long term commitment. Remember that  your furry (feathered or scaled) friend  can live anywhere from 2 to 50+ years.

Do we have your attention now?  Good. Let’s look at the real costs of pet ownership.

The first Year

  • The pet:

  • Exams, vaccines, worming and parasite control

    • average $350 +

  • Spay/Neuter surgery

    • $150 – $400.

  • Collar, leash, pet bed, dishes and crate

    • $200

  • Toys, treats and Chewy bones

    • $20 – $50 per month.

  • Food

    •  Premium pet foods $50 per 35 lb. bag.

    • Less expensive brands $35.

  • Training classes

  • Boarding

    • $20 and upwards per night.

  • Daycare

    • $17 and up per full day.

  • Grooming

  • Kitty litter pans and litter

    • run $200 a year.

Yearly Adult Maintenance Costs

How You Can Help Manage Costs

  • RESEARCH!!! Find out what breeds have health problems.

    • Do you have to have the flat, faced, bull legged dog with extra skin or would a mix from the pound who has lots of hybrid vigor be a better choice.

  • BUDGET before you buy. THINK before you spend.

    • Yes, feed good quality food but base your choices reading the ingredients not clever marketing. Does fluffy really need another toy or a new outfit or would your money be better spent on vaccines.

  • Consider PET INSURANCE. This is a great way to cover those unexpected emergencies.

  • Get REGULAR CHECK-UPS. Catch small problems before they become an emergency.

  • BRUSH THOSE TEETH. Good preventative dental care can save you lots of $$$.

  • Use PREVENTATIVES. Vaccines, worming, heartworm and external parasite prevention are a heck of a lot cheaper than $1000 Parvo or Heartworm treatment

The Truth About Cats

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Cats. Kot, Katt, Gato, Got, Kissa, Felis catus. They domesticated themselves, of course, 3500 years ago but have been around our periphery since prehistoric times. Whether you love them or hate them, cats maintain a kind of tolerant interdependence with mankind. They are neither master nor slave and though they may love us it is only on their own terms.

Our domestic relationship with cats evolved because it was mutually beneficial to us both. They were attracted to the rats and mice near human grain stores and we enjoyed the rodent control cats provided. They slowly became accustomed enough to us to grudgingly move inside our homes. Today while there are some fancier breeds of cats out there by and large they remain unchanged.

How amazing are cats? Check it out.

  • Cats are a true carnivore. That means that unlike humans or dogs they cannot survive on a vegetarian diet. They require active vitamin A, arachidonic acid and taurine all of which are derived from animal tissues. If cats could talk they would tell us they want meat baby meat.

  • Cats don’t have a fixed clavicle which means they can fit through any opening large enough for their head.

  • Cats are especially agile. Their highly flexible vertebrae allow them to rotate their spine up to 180 degrees. This and their righting reflex is what allows them to always land on their feet.

  • Cats have the same number of vertebrae as us until you add their tail which is comprised of 30 more.

  • Cats can jump! As in up to 5 – 6 times their own height.

  • If you are a cat lover or fancier you are an Ailurophile.

  • Speaking of Ailurophiles, the ancient Egyptians loved their cats so much that they dressed them in jewels. If a cat died, the grieving family would shave their eyebrows. Mourning continued until all the hair grew back.  Cats were also often mummified and placed in tombs alongside nobility.

  • Cats are smart too. They meow for our benefit alone. They use different vocalizations to communicate with each other. Cats have a surprisingly large vocabulary too, containing of up to 100 varied sounds.

  • Cats hearing is much better than humans or dogs. They also have superior night vision but people can see a wider variety of colors. At least we win at something.

  • A group of cats is called a clowder or a pounce. The first is probably just a variant on the word clutter.

  • A cat’s brain is more similar to a human’s than a dog.

  • Cat’s purr when they are happy but also when they are frightened or in pain. One researcher found that purring may actually promote healing and aid in pain relief.

  • A Bobcat can purr but not a lion.

  • According to legend, Noah was alarmed by the number of mice running around the ark and prayed for guidance. God told him to rub the lion’s nose. This produced a sneeze from the lion which contained two cats. Later legends would say that knowing he came from the lion is what made the cat so vain.

  • Cats have 30 adult teeth, humans have 32 and dogs have 42.

  • One unaltered queen can produce 100 or more kittens in her lifespan. Her kittens and their kittens can produce up to 400,000 kittens. Cats are wonderful but if they reproduce without control we can’t provide homes for them all. Please spay and neuter your cats.

Birds!!!! Totally Random and Amazing Facts You Need to Know

cockatoo 

 

  • Most birds are able to see ultraviolet light that is invisible to us. This allows berry eaters to see the UV bloom of berries and Kestrels to track voles via the UV light radiated by the prey’s urine.
  • A bird’s eye takes up more room compared to body size than any other animal. They don’t look that way to us because much of the eye is covered by feathers.
  • Bird’s which bob their head aren’t acting like “bird brains”. They are trying to stabilize the world they see. Bobbing allows them to fix motion.
  • Bird’s eyes are so important that each eye is used for different tasks. Not only that but many birds can in fact sleep with one eye open! They rest one hemisphere of the brain at a time.
  • Birds have air sacs instead of lungs and do not have a bladder.
  • There is actually a poisonous bird. The Hooded Pitohui of New Guinea has poisonous skin and feathers.
  • African Gray Parrots are the biggest talkers but Crows have the biggest brains.
  • Birds are very closely related to reptiles and even the dinosaurs.
  • Some birds sing in notes that are too high for humans to hear.
  • There are 40 million pet birds in the United States.
  • An Owl can turn its head over 200 degrees but cannot move its eyes. Most birds have little to no movement of their eyes.
  • Parrots will use one foot for handling food and another for to support their body. Just like people they tend to have a “hand” preference.
  • A bird’s feathers weigh more than their bones.
  • The largest bird that ever existed was the Elephant Bird which weighed up to 1000 pounds. Try having that guy step up on your finger!!
  • The world’s smallest bird is the Bee Hummingbird is not much bigger than a Bee.
  • Hummingbirds are the only bird that can fly backwards.
  • Your bird can sleep while he/she is perched because they grip with specialized tendons rather than muscles so they don’t fall off.
  • Orville Wright flew the world’s first plane but did you know that he also had the first bird strike in aviation history.
  • The world’s first domesticated bird was a goose or a chicken or a pigeon depending on the source.

 

 

 

The Amazing Truth About Rabbits

Bunny Collage

 

 

  1. Rabbits belong to the order Lagomorph along with hares and pikas (looks like a big mouse).

  2. However, rabbits are the most similar to horses in that they have continually growing teeth, almost 360 degree vision, one way digestion (they can’t throw up) and a similar diet. However, at an average of 11oo pounds, horses are a little larger.

  3. Rabbits come in many different sizes. The largest rabbit recorded is Darius. He weighed 50 pounds and is 4 feet, 3 inches tall. Columbia River Pygmy rabbits are some of the smallest, barely reaching a pound at adulthood.

  4. Rabbits are very quiet animals which makes them great pets for apartment dwellers but a happy rabbit will sometimes make a lovely humming sound.

  5. A REALLY happy rabbit will “binky”. This behavior involves lots of running, jumping and spinning.

  6. Rabbits generally live 6 – 10 years but we have seen a few 12 year olds at Animal Family. The oldest rabbit recorded according to Guinness was “Do” a Mini-lop who reached the ripe old age of 17.

  7. Did you know that it was rabbits legendary ability to reproduce (in a single year one rabbit can produce over 800 children, grandchildren and great grandchildren) is how they became associated with fertility and spring. Yep, that’s where the idea of the Easter Bunny came from.

  8. Rabbits have very fragile skeletons and must be handled gently

  9. Rabbits have two different kinds of poop. The hard little pellets you see in the cage and the softer cecotropes. Cecotropes are rich in nutrients so rabbits actually eat them to capture all the nutrients. Gross but efficient. The regular poop is a great fertilizer for your garden.

  10. Rabbit pregnancies last from 28 – 31 days. The average litter size is 6 – 10 kits

  11. Girl rabbits are called does. Boy rabbits are called Bucks. Just like dogs and cats, rabbits can be spayed and neutered.

  12. Rabbits prefer a companion.

  13. Rabbits are very trainable. Not only can they learn to use a litter pan but they can also do other tricks. Some people have rabbit races where bunny athletes compete over jumps.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qM9YWm6T_hc

  14. Rabbits like to dig. Even pet rabbits enjoy a safe area to dig and a place to hide.

  15. Rabbits can jump up to 36 inches. Hares can jump even further.

  16. Rabbits have 28 teeth 

  17. Rabbits are scary fast. They can reach up to 30-40 mph.

  18. Rabbits also have very fast heart rates. Most we record at Animal family are in the 200-300 range.

  19. Rabbits require grooming. 

  20. Rabbits make AWESOME pets. They can be found at shelters, pet stores and from private breeders. Remember, just as you should with any other pet, do your research before you get a bunny.

The Ugly Truth About Heartworm Disease

heartworm 2
We talk a lot about Heartworm infection. We urge to you keep your pet on preventives and to test for evidence of heartworm infection year after year after year. The problem is, what we really need to talk about is Heartworm Disease. It is the shadow in the room that both frightens and motivates us. Continue…

National Kid and Pet Day

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It’s National Kid and Pet Day on April 26th! We thought we should celebrate by sharing some of the wonderful things pets do for all of. If you have had a special pet in your life, please feel free to share your stories and photos on our Facebook page.

They keep us healthy!!

caption thisPets help lower blood pressure, ease loneliness and get us out and exercising. They increase self-esteem, elevate mood and reduce stress. They reduce Cholesterol, decrease the development of allergies and extend lifespan after a heart attack. They are a powerful drug with no side effects.

 

 

They bring us joy!

cute bulldog puppyIs there anything better than unconditional love? The whole world may be upset with us but not our dog or cat or bunny. They are always there ready to provide love and the reassurance that at least they still think we are awesome.

 

 

They make us laugh!

summertimeThere is a reason why silly cat and puppy videos are ubiquitous on the internet. They make us laugh. They make us smile. They even make us more human.

 

 

They give us a sense of purpose.

SAM_0185We all need something to give us purpose. Pets perform that function in many people’s lives. They teach the young what it means to have responsibility for the wellbeing of another living being. As we age they keep us company and give us purpose.

 

 

They are a social magnet!!

kids and dogThey give us common ground and ease the awkwardness of meeting new people. It can be hard to come up with small talk when we are one on but add a pet to the mix and we’re instant chatter boxes. This goes double for children with social anxiety. Animals are the ultimate ice breaker.

 

They serve and protect.

Open House Photos 025 They guide the blind, help the hearing disabled and predict seizures. They sniff out bombs and drugs and tasty mushrooms. They work as soldiers and peace officers. They love us and protect our home and family. They do it all.   Yet all they ask in return is just a small place in our hearts and shelter.

 

 

Canine Influenza

 

SAM_0082

 

There has been a large outbreak of Canine Influenza in the Chicago area. However, there are no reported cases in the Quad Cities at this time. That said we do need to educate ourselves about the virus and understand that it could possibly spread to our area.

Canine Influenza H3N8 is a virus that was previously seen only in horses. The first cases in dogs appeared in 2004. In 2005, H3N8 was officially identified as a new and emerging pathogen in canines. It does not affect humans.

Canine Influenza is spread through the air and on contaminated surfaces such as kennels or clothing. It can survive on surfaces for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours and on hands for 12 hours. Incubation is generally 2-4 days. Unfortunately it is during this period, when the dog is not showing any clinical signs, that the virus is most infectious.

Because this is a new virus around 80% of the dogs who are exposed will develop the disease. About 20% will not show any clinical signs at all but still be contagious. A small number of symptomatic animals will develop a more severe form of influenza and pneumonia. Overall the mortality rate is low when compared to the rate of infection.

Signs of Canine Influenza can be similar to Canine Kennel Cough but are generally more severe in nature. You may see:

  • Nasal and Ocular (eyes) discharge

  • Sneezing

  • Moist or dry cough

  • Low grade fever

  • Anorexia ( lack of appetite)

  • More severe cases may develop (green/yellow and thick) discharge, a high fever and/or pneumonia.

 

Canine Influenza is a virus and as such treatment is primarily supportive in nature. Fluids, nutrition, rest and isolation will help the dog mount its own immune response. This is particularly important in those animals with a severe form of the virus. When pneumonia or purulent nasal discharge is present antibiotics may also be used to treat the secondary bacterial infection. Most dogs will recover within 2 – 3 weeks.

Canine Influenza cannot be diagnosed on clinical signs alone.   Laboratory testing is the only way to confirm an infection with H3N8. This may be done by nasal/throat swab or blood testing.

You can protect your dog by:

  • Canine Influenza vaccine. Vaccination may prevent or most certainly decrease the severity of the disease. It requires 2 vaccinations 2 – 4 weeks apart. Maximum protection can be expected 10 days after the second shot.

  • If the virus is in your community, keep your dog from group situations where you do not know the vaccination status of other pets.

  • At this time, use considerable caution if you travel with your pet to the Chicago area.

  • Remember to wash your hands after coming into contact with other dogs.

  • If your dog develops clinical signs, please isolate them from other pets and call your veterinarian.

Spring Pet Safety Checklist

camp canine 05-07-11 004

  • Dispose of antifreeze safely:

    • Even so-called pet safe antifreeze can be toxic to your pet.

    • Ethylene Glycol ingestion causes incoordination, disorientation and lethargy progressing to vomiting, kidney failure and death.

    • Treatment must begin as soon as possible. Call your veterinarian. Early intervention and treatment is imperative to a good outcome.

    • For more information:

  • Check your yard for hazards hidden in the snow over the winter:e-collar dog

    • As the snow melts do a safety walk through your yard. You never know what may have been dropped or thrown over the fence. This small precaution can keep your pet safe from injury and poisoning.

  • Spring cleaning products:

    • Spring clean-up often involves chemicals that can be caustic to the sensitive tissues of the eyes, mouth and paw pads. Others may be toxic if ingested. Remember to keep cleaning materials and rags safely out of the way.

  • Fleas and ticks and spiders and bees – Oh My!!!tick

    • With spring so come all of Mother Nature’s creeping, crawling and flying creatures. Make sure your pets are up to date on both flea and tick preventatives.

    • A sudden swelling of the face and muzzle and/or bumps under the hair can be an indicator of an allergic reaction to bee or spider bites. These can become severe and require treatment by a veterinarian.

  • Parasites like spring too:

    • Parasites of all types appear with increasing temperatures. Make sure your pet is current on their intestinal and heartworm tests.flea-1

    • Remember the mosquitos that carry heartworm become active in temperatures as low as 50 degrees. It’s just one pill a month and parasites are so much easier to prevent than treat.

  • Protect against diseases such as Lyme, Leptospirosis , Canine Parvovirus and others

    • Lyme disease is carried by ticks so small they often go unnoticed. The larger Brown Dog Ticks can spread the disease as well. Lyme disease can cause inflammation of joints, lameness, lethargy, loss of appetite as well as damage to the kidneys and other organs.Rooms

    • Leptospirosis is transmitted through urine and is spread through the water and other warm, moist environments. The disease can cause joint pain, lethargy, loss of appetite, jaundice, vomiting and other symptoms. Most importantly, Leptospirosis can be shared with you.

    • Canine Parvovirus is incredibly hardy and able to survive long periods in the environment. Parvovirus causes, lethargy, severe vomiting, bloody diarrhea, rapid dehydration and if left untreated death.

    • They are all preventable. VACCINATE.

  • The doors we open to let spring in also let pets out:

    • Get your pet microchipped. You will be happy you did because unlike collars, microchips can’t be lost. They have helped reunite many pets and owners over great distances and time.

  • Spring is gardening time.Kemo and Pyra Phaedra jones Mcnamara Wlochal

    • Many of the spring bulbs we plant in our gardens are toxic to pets.

    • The same goes for fertilizers and herbicides. Please use care around children and pets.

    • For a complete list of Toxic plants go to:

      • http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants

 

Caring For Niabi’s Older Animals – reprinted from the Quad City Times

The following is a reprint from a Quad City Times article written by Barb Ickes.  Doctor Lauren Hughes of Animal Family Veterinary Care Center also cares for The Niabi Zoo animals.  Most of our clients have an active interest in the zoo so we wanted to make sure you all had a chance to read the article.

 

COAL VALLEY — The zookeepers at Niabi hope to soften the blow.

Death may not be imminent, but it will come. And it is time to prepare.

Several of Niabi Zoo’s residents would be in nursing homes by now if such an option existed. It doesn’t, so the keepers are doing their best to make their seniors comfortable and content as age and nature conspire against them.

Growing old is not much different for animals from the way it is for humans. The process spares no breed.mufasa

Mufasa, a lion born at Niabi, will be 21 years old this year. His life expectancy in the wild would have expired six or seven years ago. His large, keen eyes are fogging with cataracts, and his appetite is waning. He moves more slowly than before, and he shows little interest in going outdoors.

Carnivore keeper Jessica Lench Porter is Mufasa’s primary keeper, but her position requires more than doling out doses of high-protein horse meat and daily medications.

One of the most valuable skills Porter and the other keepers have to offer their geriatric menagerie is knowing them well enough to recognize a natural decline.

For Mufasa and several others, the decline has begun.

‘Mufasa is an icon here’

Niabi’s two female lions, Savanna and Nala, are about half Mufasa’s age.

One has been spayed, and the other is on birth control. Although the nearly 21-year-old male remains capable of fathering their cubs, he lacks the paperwork to prove he would be a good candidate.

“Part of his genetics are unknown,” zoo Director Marc Heinzman said. “We don’t want to accidentally interbreed.”

Mufasa did, in fact, sire two cubs. One had to be put down after it was seriously injured in an enclosure-door malfunction, and the other died of natural causes. It is impossible, zoo officials said, to know whether genetics played a role in the latter fatality. Heinzman said the pregnancy occurred before he was zoo director, and he does not know why it was permitted.

But the point is moot now, anyway.

Mufasa lives separately from the two females that occupy Niabi’s main lion exhibit. He has been bunking for two years with the jaguar and leopards that live in the large cat area. All three lions were moved there in 2012, when work was being done on the lion exhibit. Although Savanna and Nala have been returned to the lion house, he is not going back.

Some controversy has surrounded the decision to keep Mufasa sequestered from the other lions. Members of the public have complained that he should remain with the pride because of lions’ social nature.

But it is best, keepers say, for Mufasa to live out his life right where he is. His eyesight is too poor to hope that he could manage the transition.

“He wouldn’t know his surroundings,” Porter said. “We’re not going to set him up to fail.”

As it is, Mufasa is experiencing enough failures. He has become increasingly stubborn and less motivated by food. His usual daily feeding of nine pounds of raw meat has been reduced to seven pounds, and he often leaves some behind.

All four of his thumb-sized canine teeth are chipped from wear, and the last time he was sedated for a medical procedure, it took him days to recover.

“In the wild, he’d have been kicked out of the pride because of his age,” Porter said. “The best thing we can do is look out for him.”

To give proper care, the keeper continues old training routines that keep Mufasa in a cooperative spirit. With daily reminders of what is expected of him, the old male usually complies when Porter makes her demands.

“If I can get him to stand up, I can see his underside,” she said. “He can present both sides, and he can follow the command to open his mouth, so we can see his teeth.

“But it’s also very important that I know what’s going on with him in other ways. I need to know, for instance, if he’s favoring one side when he chews his food. I need to spot any changes in him.”

Niabi’s house veterinarian, Dr. Lauren Hughes, said the keepers are her “eyes and ears” when she is not on the grounds.

“Because they work with the collection every day, they are able to see sudden changes in normal behavior, which can include a decreased appetite, loss of body condition or even something as simple as not coming out of their hiding places or dens as frequently,” she said. “Although these changes may all seem subtle, we have actually been able to catch illnesses very early in several animals in the collection due to their keen observations.”

Porter also can spot personality quirks.

In Mufasa’s case, he finds a bellowing territory call to be necessary throughout the day. A once-or-twice-a-day call is sufficient for most male lions, but Mufasa throws back his mane and produces a chest-vibrating series of roars at least once an hour.

The scale that he agreeably steps onto every two weeks shows he is down 38 pounds from his maximum weight of 410.

“He still has good body condition,” Porter said. “He’s giving us no reason to euthanize him. He’s just in that geriatric stage. Mufasa is an icon here. People come just to see him.

“The day will come when he isn’t here. In the meantime, he’s in the only place he’s ever known. He knows what to expect from me, and he is well fed and cared for. I’ve been here for 13 years, and you obviously form an attachment, but you also have to keep a distance.

“Old age comes to wild animals just like it does for people. You accept it.”

Jackson the jaguar

Although Mufasa has a good track record of cooperating in the care-critical task of bimonthly weigh-ins, one of his enclosure mates has his own ideas.jackson the jag

Sometimes, when Porter pushes the big-cat scale into his enclosure, Jackson the jaguar takes off with it. If someone told him the four-foot-long metal scale is not a toy, Jackson wasn’t listening.

Turning 20 this year, the jet-black jag also is well beyond his prime. Big cats in the wild are lucky to survive into their early-to-mid-teens, Porter said.

“At the end of December, tests showed he’s in early kidney failure,” she said. “His appetite also is diminishing. These are things we want people to know. Instead of reacting when we have a death, we want the public to know what’s going on.”

For now, Jackson is holding his own.

“He’s definitely still got it,” Porter said. “He’s still agile. He’s not one to pace. He’s a stalker. He sits there and thinks things through.”

He also has his quirks, including a fascination with his medicine-ball-like toy, which is made of tightly wound fire hose.

“That’s one of his favorite things,” she said. “He drags it everywhere.”

He also sucks on his tail.

“I’m not alarmed by it, because he’s done it for at least 10 years,” she said. “I have no idea why.

“We can’t convey enough how important it is that we know their behaviors, so they don’t suffer in any way. I think of it this way: If you’re getting older, and your eyesight is going, kidneys failing and appetite diminishing, don’t you want care?

“We have all these bottles with different scents — even some spices and extracts. We hide these things in their enclosures, changing up smells and toys. Mental stimulation is hugely important to quality of life, and people forget to apply that to animals, too.

“We want the end of their lives to be comfortable.”

Two tamarins

Even though their enclosure is small, cotton-top tamarins Eddie and Goose are not easy to spot.

Among the smallest of all primates, the two are similar in size to squirrels. Frequently spending their time side-by-size in their new exhibit in the zoo’s main entrance, they are easily dwarfed by their roommate, a two-toed sloth.

Now in their golden years, the tamarins are empty-nesters.

The life expectancy for tamarins in the wild is 13. Eddie will be 14 this year, and Goose will turn 13.

“They’ve had many babies,” Porter said. “They’ve been here most of their lives.”

The tiny primates are new charges for Porter, who is learning to care for and train the pair.

“I’m not 100 percent confident with primates, so I don’t hand-feed them,” she said as she slipped through a small door and into their enclosure last week. “Training them to go into a crate is important, so they don’t have to be captured.

“Also, with these guys being geriatric, we need them to get on a scale.”

The two, especially Eddie, are showing no signs of letting up on their food motivation.

As Porter entered their enclosure with a plastic cup of meal worms, Eddie made his move. The tamarins have been trained to expect their food after touching a “target.” In their case, the target is a wand-sized stick with a green bulb at one end. When they touch the bulb, Porter blows on a small whistle, and they are permitted to reach in for a meal worm.

In his excitement, Eddie emits frequent bird-like chirps and reaches repeatedly for the target.

“They really like insects,” Porter said. “They’re easy for them to eat, too. We have to cook some of their food to make it easier. We soften the potatoes that are added to their Primate Diet food.”

After spending decades with big cats and Niabi’s now-relocated elephants, Porter said she is enjoying the challenge of learning more about the petite primates.

“You definitely get their personalities,” she said. “They have a very complex vocalization system. They have an ear-piercing alarm call. I was doing an educational tour in this room recently, and I got out one of the snakes. The tamarins screamed their heads off.”

The ongoing training with Eddie and Goose, along with close and frequent observation, make it possible for them to survive several more years. But their continued longevity is not guaranteed.

“If you come one day and enjoy seeing them, and they’re not here on the next visit, you have to understand: They’re getting up there,” Porter said. “We have to face it

From the zoo’s vet

Dr. Lauren Hughes is the house veterinarian at Niabi Zoo. She explained:Lauren BIO pic 2

“In regards to the senior animals in our collection: It is a testament to the hard work and care of the zoo staff that their longevity is even an issue, and as frustrating as this may be, it is a great issue to have.

“Due to the high quality of care for these animals, they are well outliving their expected survival rates in the wild. That being said, this presents a new series of challenges similar to those that people face with their domestic pets.

“For example, renal disease is one of the most common diseases of geriatric felines. The same holds true for exotic felines in zoo collections.

“In a domestic setting, we can manage these animals by changing their diets, modifying their care plans to include extra means of hydration like fluids under the skin, and monitoring their blood pressure. In a zoo collection, all of these options are not always possible due to safety reasons with these large, apex predators.

“Their diets are already optimized to the highest protein possible, and there isn’t always an ability to administer fluids or monitor blood pressure without compromising staff safety or using sedatives, which isn’t always the safest option for the animal in question or their underlying illnesses.