Illustrated Articles

Care & Wellness

  • Chinchillas can make fun, enjoyable pets. The chinchilla is a rodent closely related to the guinea pig. They originate from South America where they live in the Andes Mountains.

  • Generally speaking, chinchillas are fairly hardy animals. However, they do have several unique problems, and understanding these problems will allow you to better care for your pet and minimize future health care problems. These include fur slip, antibiotic sensitivity, teeth problems, heat stroke, skin problems, and dust bathing for normal grooming.

  • The cage should allow the chinchilla to move around a lot, as they are very active, agile, and acrobatic animals. Multilevel cages, similar to those designed for ferrets, work well, as long as there are no areas where a chinchilla could get its limbs or feet caught. Most owners house one or two pets in a cage; often the two pets are mates. Chinchillas require a dust bath for normal grooming. Cages should be emptied and cleaned at least weekly with soap and water.

  • Before acquiring a reptile, thoroughly research all aspects of reptile ownership including not only which reptile is appropriate for your lifestyle, but also how to provide it with proper diet, suitable housing, and a healthy, stimulating environment. As a rule, if you want a pet to snuggle with, a reptile is not for you! If, on the other hand, you want an animal you can display in a well-designed, natural habitat, marvel in its natural behaviors, and enjoy learning about it, owning a reptile might be for you. Most reptiles must be fed and watered daily, and often their cages need to be cleaned daily as well. All reptiles need to be examined by a reptile-savvy veterinarian immediately after purchase or adoption (within 48 hours), and then at least annually after that. Since many exotic animals are prey species that hide illness to avoid being captured by predators, these pets usually do not act sick (or show any indication of illness) until they are very sick and need immediate veterinary attention. Regular veterinary care, plus an informed, knowledgeable pet owner, greatly reduces the likelihood of illness and death in these pets.

  • Cockatiels make excellent first birds for families. Larger than budgies and smaller than larger parrots, these entertaining birds are easy to maintain and provide endless hours of entertainment and companionship. They are beautiful flyers and enjoy lots of activity and play. Cockatiels love to chew; therefore, providing bird-safe toys will easily distract them from unwanted destructive chewing. They may be adopted from shelters or purchased from a pet store or a reputable breeder. They require annual, routine veterinary health check-ups to help prevent disease and aid in the maintenance of a long-lasting, healthy relationship between you and your bird.

  • Cockatoos are a suitable family pet for families with elementary school-aged and older children. Their jumpy nature and strong bite make them inappropriate for families with young children. Owning a cockatoo can be like having a small child. These birds are high maintenance both physically and emotionally, as they demand a lot of attention and a great deal of time outside their cages. Without adequate attention, cockatoos sometimes become excessively boisterous and are potentially destructive. Cockatoos need to chew; therefore, providing a continuous supply of non-toxic wood or cardboard bird-safe toys will afford it many hours of entertainment and likely save household items from being destroyed. Cockatoos may be adopted from shelters or purchased from pet stores or reputable breeders. They require annual, routine veterinary health check-ups to help prevent disease and aid in the maintenance of a long-lasting, healthy relationship between you and your bird.

  • Pet birds often become ill when they are not cared for or fed appropriately. Birds can develop infections with bacteria such as Chlamydia psittaci and parasites such as Giardia. They also commonly suffer from reproductive problems, such as egg binding and reproductive tumors. Many feather-pick when psychologically stressed or sexually frustrated. Birds on all-seed, high-fat diets may become obese and develop fatty liver syndrome. Older birds may develop cloacal papillomas or cancer. Your veterinarian familiar with birds will formulate an appropriate diagnostic and treatment plan if your pet bird becomes ill.

  • There are several problems that can occur in aquatic turtles. Cystic calculi occur in turtles when minerals from the diet form crystals in the urine, which stick together and form stones, often resulting from improper nutrition and/or dehydration. A prolapse occurs when an organ protrudes from the vent. Regardless of the tissue or organ prolapsed, all can become traumatized, become dried out, or suffer from compromised blood flow and should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. If you notice that your turtle's shell is growing irregularly, it may be a sign of malnutrition or metabolic bone disease. Any turtle whose shell is abnormal should be checked by a veterinarian so that appropriate treatment can be initiated. Although shell fractures can be serious, the shell is bone and often can be repaired. Any trauma to the shell should be brought to the attention of a veterinarian immediately. Green algae growing on the outside of the shell occurs commonly and can be cleaned off with periodic brushing of the shell with disinfectant cleaners. The skin of turtles periodically sheds off in pieces. In the water, shed skin appears as a whitish, "fuzzy" substance. Although turtles are certainly not the only reptiles that can carry Salmonella, most turtles carry the infection asymptomatically. Wash your hands thoroughly with disinfectant soap every time after handling, cleaning, or feeding your reptile or its cage items to help minimize risks of contracting salmonellosis. Most veterinarians feel it is best to try to prevent captive red-eared sliders from hibernating. Dystocia occurs the female turtle is unable to pass her eggs, is a common problem in reptiles, and can be life-threatening. A turtle with dystocia typically does not eat and rapidly becomes sick, lethargic, or unresponsive and should be seen by a veterinarian familiar with reptiles immediately.

  • Anorexia means lack of appetite or refusal to eat. Anorexia can be a normal condition associated with the breeding season, egg bearing, or shedding. Anorexia can also be a symptom of an underlying environmental problem or diseases including infectious stomatitis, internal parasites, gastrointestinal blockage, intestinal infections, respiratory disease, kidney or liver failure, tumors, or gout. Salmonella can cause severe gastrointestinal disease or life-threatening septicemia. Many animals and people carry these bacteria without showing any clinical signs, yet they shed the bacteria in their feces and serve as a source of infection for others. Snakes commonly develop lumps and bumps either on their skin or within their bodies. External lumps may be caused by abscesses, tumors, or parasites. Internal swellings can be caused by organ enlargement, retained eggs in species of snakes that lay eggs, tumors, or even constipation. A healthy, well-maintained snake will shed its skin in one piece. Some snakes experience difficult or improper shedding. Burns occur with pet snakes when the animal, naturally seeking a warm place to rest, either finds a place that is too hot or stays in that hot spot too long. Offering live prey to a snake should be avoided, as live prey can cause severe bites and life-threatening injuries to the snake. Dystocia occurs when a female snake is unable to pass eggs and may require medical or surgical procedures.

  • Conures are considered small- to medium-sized birds and are characterized by long slender bodies, long tapered tails, and large beaks. Tame conures can be very affectionate, social birds that demand a moderate amount of daily attention. Conures are not well known for their capacity to speak but often scream loudly. Some conures commonly kept as pets include the jenday conure, blue-crowned conure, nanday conure, mitred conure, sun conure, green-cheeked conure, and maroon-bellied conure. Young birds may be easier to tame and train than older, wild-caught, or colony- or parent-raised birds. New birds should be exposed early to different events to help them become calmer, more well-adjusted pets. After bringing your new bird home, you should have it examined by a veterinarian familiar with birds to help ensure that it is healthy. Like all other pet birds, conures require annual, routine veterinary health check-ups.