Posts from January, 2012
We have a variety of educational pets at Animal Family Veterinary Care Center. Miracle, our turtle was hatched in 1999. That makes her young by Box Turtle standards. They can live up to 75 years or more. It may surprise you to learn that turtles have very distinct personalities. Miracle is very social and loves interacting with people. Even though Miracle is quite social, many box turtles are not. Fortunately, Box turtles rarely bite and then it’s only when they mistake a finger for food.
Box turtles get their name from the hinged portion of their shell. It allows them to pull their legs and head into their shell and close the doors. This is how they try to protect themselves from predators. Unfortunately, it’s not fool proof. Crafty birds have learned to drop the turtles from on high to break shells and dogs and raccoons can chew through them.
Box turtles are terrestrial or land based. That means they spend the bulk of their time on dry land but are usually never too far from a pond. Pet turtles like a swimming area too. Unfortunately they aren’t very good at keeping their water clean so it will require daily changing.
Box turtles enjoy a variety of food. To stay healthy they need a mix of meat, fruits and veggies. Our Miracle is quite fond of earthworms. She also likes dog food and meal worms. We mix in a large variety of greens and fruits as well. You can buy a commercial turtle food but it should never be the sole source of any turtle’s diet.
Miracle’s home is a glass terrarium that is appointed with rocks, water and cob bedding. Bark or alfalfa pellets may also be used. Never use sand or cat litter. A minimum size of 36” X 12” is recommended.
Heating is a very important part of maintaining a pet turtle’s health. The ideal is around 85 to 88 degrees F. Place a heat lamp in one area of the enclosure so your turtle is able to get away from the heat source when they want. Too much heat can be just as deadly as not enough. Floor heaters and heat rocks are also available but make certain to use them properly.
Turtles can develop a variety of health problems Beaks and nails can become overgrown due to lack of foraging and other activities which would wear them down naturally in the wild. Metabolic bone disease and soft shells can develop from either under feeding or a lack of variety in diet. Remember, a turtle that is fed properly will never develop this problem. Shell rot is another health issue with turtles. It is caused when bacteria gets between the shell layers either because of damage to the shell or wet, unsanitary conditions. Turtles can also have internal parasites just like other pets so be sure to have a stool check. Upper respiratory infections are also common. They may present with nasal discharge, puffy eyes or both. With severe respiratory distress a turtle may extend its neck and gape. Obviously any respiratory problems require a visit to the vet as well as a close look at your husbandry. Finally, wounds can occur on the face and legs of your turtle. If these become infected they will require a trip to the Vet.
Do turtles carry salmonella? Yes, some do but not all. Either way, you can greatly minimize your risk by following CDC guidelines.
- The kitchen sink is for people. Don’t wash turtle dishes or turtles in it.
- Clean and disinfect your turtles enclosure regularly
- Wash your hands after handling your pet
- No kissing turtles or touching them to your face.
- Quarantine any new turtles for 6 weeks
- and, yes, you can have your vet test to see if your turtle is carrying salmonella.
Please visit the CDC site for more complete guidelines.
Hopefully this has wetted your appetite to learn more about turtles. Remember if you have any more questions, call us or check out our website.
We recently added a new pet to our educational animals at the Animal Family. “Gnomeo” is an African Pygmy Hedgehog. In spite of his prickly nature, he is not related to porcupines. Even though Hedgehogs spines are quite sharp, unlike porcupines, their spines do not shed and will not become lodged in the skin. If frightened, a hedgehog will defend itself by rolling into a tiny, prickly ball. In the wild, they are generally solitary in nature. They seem to prefer solitude in captivity as well. Although Hedgehogs can be handled with bare hands, gloves are recommended.
As a pet, Hedgehogs are a small, reasonably clean, relatively odor free and non-aggressive. They will vocalize through quiet snorting, whistling or huffing sounds. If handled on a routine basis from a young age most will become quite friendly. It is easy to see why we are seeing more of them in practice
The average pet hedgehog can be expected to live from 3-8 years. In captivity Hedgehogs are nocturnal but will emerge during the day. They hibernate in the wild but this is not necessary in captivity and will not occur as long as temperatures are maintained at 75 to 80 F.
Hedgehogs have some unique qualities. They have a unique protein which inhibits the activity of snake venom. This allows them to attack and eat snakes in the wild. Another unusual hedgehog trait is “anointing”. If a hedgehog is exposed to a strong smelling substance, they will produce large amounts of saliva which they use to coat their spines. Nobody knows why they do this but if you find your hedgehog covered in the cat’s fishy food, don’t become alarmed.
Hedgehogs require smooth walled, enclosure with a minimum floor space of 2’ X2’. They can climb so make any enclosure tall enough so that the animal can’t reach the top with its front feet. Do not put your Hedgehog in a wire enclosure. Regular cleaning is important if you wish to keep your pet healthy. Newspaper, about 3” in depth, either shredded or pelleted makes good bedding. Corn cob or alfalfa pellets can also be used. Do not use any bedding that clumps or any aromatic wood product such as cedar or pine. Give your hedgehog has a place to hide that is not much larger than he is and easy to disinfect. Plants or rocks can be added as well but should be non toxic and easy to clean. Provide a shallow pan of water for bathing as well as a sipper bottle. Make sure your hedgehog understands how to drink from his bottle.
Hedgehogs require regular exercise. Either a commercial exercise ball that is suitable for Guinea Pigs or an exercise wheel will work. If you choose to let your Hedgehog run loose, be careful of carpets and other cloth material which can get caught up in feet as well as anal/genital areas causing injury.
Your hedgehog can be maintained on either low calorie dog or cat food or commercial hedgehog diet (2 -3 Tsp /day). Make sure to add in small amounts of fruits, veggies (1 tsp) and insects (1 tsp). Do not feed nuts and grains or milk. Like so many of our exotic pets, low calcium is always a concern as is obesity. Clean and refill food and water on a daily basis. To prevent your Hedgehog from becoming overweight make sure to check its weight frequently.
Like all exotics, Hedgehogs will mask illness. Therefore it is important for you to remain vigilant. In general, Hedgehogs are prone to dental disease including oral cancers, Ringworm, obesity and overgrown nails. They can also acquire Leptospirosis, Rabies and Distemper like virus although there are no vaccines available at this time. Mites are the most common external parasite we see in Hedgehogs. A regular health check with a fecal examination is important to maintaining your hedgehog’s health.
This is not meant to be an all inclusive guide to Hedgehogs. We do hope it has answered some questions for you. Feel free to ask us questions and to come in and meet Mr. Gnomeo.
We really do understand that sometimes you wonder what motivates the people who care for your pets. Is it just a business? Do they really care as much as they appear to? What really goes on behind the scenes?
The truth is that although we wish we could help every animal regardless of the circumstances. Sometimes we can’t. It is frustrating for us too. So, instead, we try to work with rescue organizations, shelters and others. Of course, we do try to do our best by all our clients and to us…they often, really do become family.
But…sometimes, a case comes along where we can do something really special. That is what makes the story of the “Faceless Kitten” aka Jax, important to Animal Family.
Jax came in terribly injured but we didn’t have to put him to sleep. Doctor Rob donated his time and medical skills, the clinic donated the supplies, the technicians and assistants fostered and provided care while he recovered and Lacey welcomed him into her family.
Faris, one of our technicians, made the video that comprises our blog this week. It can be a little graphic because Jax had a severe injury but he healed perfectly so the ending is wonderful.
Are we blowing our own horn? Yeah…a little but mostly, we just wanted to share one of our happier stories with some of our favorite people.
Just click on the link below to see the story of the Faceless Kitten.