Ask the vet … are reptiles scary?

by Dr. Kristin Claricoates
Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital

Kristin C iguanaSome may call them cute
Others are a little wary.
Don’t be afraid, though,
Reptiles aren’t that scary! 

Happy October! Did you know that October 21 is Reptile Awareness Day? When considering a reptile as a pet, it can be a little daunting to determine exactly what they need—especially when they are growing. Some common pet reptiles include ball pythons, bearded dragons, and leopard geckos. 

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I myself have a ball python named Dorian (a fantastic reference to the lovely scales of my snake. Did you know Dorian is a type of musical scale? I digress …) who is my cuddle bug when I settle in for an evening of reading or watching a movie.

Contrary to what many people think, you have nothing to be scared of from these sweet-natured pets.  This is what makes them so popular. But which one may be right for you, and where do you begin? If you are a night owl, ball pythons and leopard geckos may be your pet of choice. If your free during the day, the bearded dragon may make a great addition to your family. For easy reference, here is a quick chart of pet reptile facts. This is just a summary of the basics. The folks at The Animal Store can answer your more detailed questions.

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If you are considering a reptile, please be sure to have him or her checked over by a veterinarian to make sure your new pet is healthy and so a vet can answer all the questions you have about your pet. 

We were not able to discuss all reptiles above, so I covered three of the pets most commonly owned in the reptile world.  Here are links to our snake and reptile care sheets, which include a good number of other common cold blooded critters we see.  The care sheets discuss the care and handling of each species listed, as well as food and enclosure requirements.

Finally, I would like to recognize two groups that appreciate reptiles everyday:


Welcome to Ask the Vet, a regular feature on The Animal Store Blog. We have teamed up with the great veterinarians at Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital, who will answer your most pressing pet questions right here! Do you want to see your question answered on the blog? Leave a comment below or submit it on our contact form.

Fall is for Ferret

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OK, we’re about a week early (fall officially starts Tuesday, September 22), but we’re really excited about ferrets. So excited, in fact, that for every ferret we sell between now and October 8, The Animal Store will donate $25 to the Greater Chicago Ferret Association.

On October 8, the Greater Chicago Ferret Association is sponsoring the Greatest Ferret Show on Earth. Held at the Kane County Fair Grounds (525 S. Randall Road, St. Charles), tickets are $7 for adults, $3 for children 12 and under, and $14 for the family. Proceeds go to the Greater Chicago Ferret Association’s no-kill shelter. Look for one of our favorite vets from Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital, who will be giving a speech about heart disease in ferrets in the late afternoon.

For every ferret we sell between now and October 8, The Animal Store will donate $25 to the Greater Chicago Ferret Association

Speaking of our favorite vets, here they are to offer answers to some of your most frequently asked ferret questions.

Ask the Vet … about ferrets

Q: What does a first time owner need to know about ferrets?

A: Ferrets are true carnivores. This means they need meat-based protein, such as Marshall ferret kibble or even whole prey. The majority of pet ferrets (including those at The Animal Store) come from a place called Marshall farms. These ferrets have already been spayed or neutered, and are de-scented (which means the glands that produce strong smells have been removed). Ferrets typically live 7-9 years, and both females and males reach maturity between 8-12 months.

Ferrets are very friendly and active, playing often, but they also love to sleep on and off throughout the day. Like cats, ferrets can be litter-box trained fairly easily. Simply keep the litter box tidy and empty it daily. If your ferret is not using the litter box, pick up the feces and place them in the litter box. This helps ferrets understand the idea of where to defecate. Be sure to empty the box at the end of every day.

Young ferrets are commonly rascals, getting into things or trying to eat things they should not, so always be aware of where your ferret is and what he or she is doing. Ferrets can get a gut upset that causes soft, slimy stool and is a serious illness. If you notice this, see a vet trained in exotic pet care as soon as possible. 

Q: What routine vet visits are needed for a ferret?

A: Plan on seeing an exotic pet vet twice a year with your ferret: once for an annual exam and a distemper booster, and once for a rabies vaccine. Young ferrets may also require more visits that initial year if any irregularities are noted. At the annual exam, we recommend a fecal assessment to check for bacterial upsets and parasites. If your ferret goes outdoors, we also strongly suggest heart-worm testing and prevention. Lastly, for ferrets three years and older, we highly recommend blood work to assess organ functions and signs of infections or other abnormalities.  


Ask the Vet is a regular feature on The Animal Store Blog. We have teamed up with the great veterinarians at Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital, who will answer your most pressing pet questions right here! Do you want to see your question answered on the blog? Leave a comment below or submit it on our contact form.
Photo credit: GaborfromHungary via Morguefile.com

 

Wordless Wednesday #26: Green Cheek Conure

WW#26 Mikaela and dad Michael

It’s been a while since our last Wordless Wednesday, so here are some happy new pet owners to brighten your day: Mikaela and her dad Michael are ready to take their Green Cheek Conure home.

Photos from the Harry Potter Party with The Animal Store

 

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Here are some of our favorite photos from launch party of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, held in conjunction with the City of Evanston and Northwestern University on Saturday, July 30, 2016. Kenn had a blast as an American Hagrid, showing off such magical creatures as:

  • an umbrella cockatoo
  • Spur the giant Sulcata tortoise
  • a legless lizard
  • a tarantula
  • a hedgehog
  • a bearded dragon (everyone’s favorite kind of dragon)
  • a smooth-sided toad

Harry Potter, The Animal Store, and Magical Creatures

Harry Potter PartyDid you know that Kenn (that’s right, our own Kenn Bearman, owner of The Animal Store) leads a double life. By day—and to the Muggle World—he is a mild-mannered pet shop owner. But to the wizarding world, he is the American equivalent of Hagrid—gameskeeper and professor of Magizoology—the care and keeping of magical creatures.

Tonight, as part of a day-long celebration of the launch of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Kenn will be showing off his Magizoological knowledge with a very special Animal Show. All are welcome to the steps of the Deering Library on Northwestern’s campus, where you will get to see a whole variety of fascinating creatures. And here’s a little secret we learned from Kenn—all creatures are magical.

Saturday, July 30, 2016
Steps of the Deering Library
Northwestern University
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston, IL

Click here or here for more information

Ask the Vet … about Hamsters

Russian Dwarf hamster

Russian Dwarf hamster*

You asked: What should I know about adopting a hamster?

Answer: Dwarf hamsters are solitary or social; Syrian hamsters are solitary 

Syrian hamsters and Chinese hamsters, unlike chinchillas, are solitary pets. Syrian hamsters include:

  • golden hamsters
  • teddy bear hamsters
  • black bear hamsters
  • panda bear hamsters
  • polar bear hamsters

Except for mating or raising young, these hamsters should not share a cage as they will fight and can cause serious injuries to each other.

Dwarf hamsters, on the other hand, can be kept in same sex pairs or small groups, but make sure you allow enough space if you have several hamsters in one enclosure. If you see any signs of aggression in these same sex pairs or small groups, be prepared to separate them permanently.

Hamsters are most active in the evening and nighttime. They may not appreciate being handled in the daytime hours and can possibly bite. Poor vision paired with the disorienting and scary experience of getting scooped up by an owner during the daytime (when previously asleep) can lead to the potential for a hamster bite. We recommend that you go slow with your new pet and allow him or her to adjust to you. Spending a moderate amount of time with your pet is key to having a friendly and well-adjusted hamster. 

Have more questions about hamsters? Leave it in a comment below.


Welcome to Ask the Vet, a regular feature on The Animal Store Blog. We have teamed up with the great veterinarians at Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital, who will answer your most pressing pet questions right here! Do you want to see your question answered on the blog? Leave a comment below or submit it on our contact form.
*Photo credit: Russian Dwarf hamster by cdrussorusso via a Creative Commons license.

Ask the Vet … about Adopting Chinchillas

You asked: What should I know about adopting a chinchilla?

Answer: Chinchillas are social.

chinchillaAS2We highly recommend the book Behavior of Exotic Pets by Valarie V. Tynes as a way to begin to understand any exotic pet. Chinchillas, if it can be helped, should not be solitary animals; they should be housed in same sex pairs or in groups.

Although not ideal, chinchillas can live alone. If you plan to keep a solitary chinchilla for a pet, make sure to give your chinchilla plenty of attention. We recommend at least an hour of socialization with your chinchilla each and every day.

If you decide to keep a group of chinchillas, the group should consist of two males, two females, or one male and two or more females. The male(s) should already be neutered. If you are not purchasing chinchillas from the same litter or are adopting chinchillas that are not already familiar with one another, you need to introduce them carefully. Here are some suggestions we like from the book:

  • The initial meeting:
    •  should be in a neutral territory with a large space, like a room, and should include a dust bath.  
    • alternatively, have separate cages in the same vicinity. The cages should be new so there are no residual scents. If the cages are used, they should be cleaned well with a scent-reducing oxidizing agent.
    • or, place a smaller cage within a large cage—the large cage should not be the resident chinchilla’s cage.
  • Make sure the animals tolerate each other well in the large area before putting them in the same cage. If a female is being introduced to a male, do it in the male’s cage.

Like any pet, you should learn as much as you can about chinchillas before you adopt one or more into your family.  Here are a few things to think about when considering chinchillas:

  • they are a long term responsibility; chinchillas can typically live for 10-15 years.
  • they are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. 

Have more questions about chinchillas? Leave it in a comment below.


Welcome to Ask the Vet, a regular feature on The Animal Store Blog. We have teamed up with the great veterinarians at Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital, who will answer your most pressing pet questions right here! Do you want to see your question answered on the blog? Leave a comment below or submit it on our contact form.

 

Ask the Vet … about Bunnies!

Welcome to Ask the Vet, a new regular feature here on The Animal Store Blog. We have teamed up with the great veterinarians at Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital, who will answer your most pressing pet questions right here! Do you want to see your question answered on the blog? Leave a comment below or submit it here on our contact form.


This edition of Ask the Vet is about bunnies.

Leila w/Netherland Dwarf Bunny 6/10You asked: This is my first pet rabbit. What should I feed it?

Answer

Excellent question!  Depending on your rabbit’s age, they may require different foods. A good rule of thumb is that rabbits under six months of age should be fed alfalfa hay and alfalfa hay-based pellets, and offered leafy greens only sparingly in small amounts, if at all (to prevent soft stool; the high water content of greens can cause diarrhea). As a rabbit ages beyond six months, we recommend feeding timothy hay freely for life, as well as leafy greens twice daily (the quantity depends on the size of the rabbit). Pellets are not needed for adult rabbits. Some breeds, especially larger rabbit breeds, may need pellets for a little while past six months of age. If you’re unsure, ask the staff at The Animal Store, Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital, or your veterinarian. NoCarrot-icon

Do not offer your rabbit:

  • carrots, broccoli (or any gas causing vegetables)
  • greens high in calcium (kale, collard greens, and swiss chard for example)
  • fruit to your rabbit

Despite what you might have learned from Bugs Bunny, carrots and the types of fruits and vegetables mentioned above can cause gut upset, which could become a serious problem in your rabbit.


You had more questions about rabbits, so tune in for the next edition of Ask the Vet for more answers. Enter your email address to the left so you don’t miss a single post. Stop in any time and our expert staff at The Animal Store is happy to answer questions in person and help you find the supplies you need to keep your pet happy and healthy. See you soon!

National Dog Bite Prevention Week

dogbiteinfographic-624x550May 15-21, 2016 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. As the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reminds us, no matter how nice they are, all dogs can bite. It’s up to people to do the best we can to help prevent dog bites—and education is our greatest tool.

The Yellow Dog Project is a movement for owners of dogs that need space. The idea is educate the public and dog owners to identify dogs needing space and to promote appropriate contact with dogs. A dog wearing a yellow tie or ribbon on its leash means don’t touch. Consider a yellow tie or neckerchief if your dog needs space.

Here a few tips more tips for preventing dog bites (click here for even more information from the AVMA):

  • Always walk your dog on a leash
  • Use a short leash
  • Always ask permission before approaching a strange dog
  • Teach children how to treat pets with respect, and to ask before petting
  • Spay or neuter your dog
  • Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog

The best way to prevent dog bites is to treat animals with respect. You are your pet’s guardian and advocate. When in public, be sure you pay attention to what’s happening around you and keep your pet safe from teasing and threats from strangers.

Now You Can Ask the Vet

Chicago Exotics ImageEvery pet owner has questions. Lots and lots of questions. And that’s a good thing. The more questions you ask, the better you will be able to care for your pet. Our expert staff is always happy to answer your pet-related questions.

Now you can get even more information at our Ask the Vet Event! Come meet Dr. Claricoates of Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital. She’ll be on hand for two hours to answer all your animal questions. Do birds see UV? Do bearded dragons really taste their food? What can you do to treat ferrets with insulinoma? Those are some of the questions we have for Dr. Claricoates. What do you want to ask?

Saturday, April 2, 2016
2-4 pm

Kristin C iguanaKristin Claricoates, DVM

Dr. Claricoates is a graduate of the University of Illinois Class of 2013. During school she was an active member of the wildlife clinic and was the exotic mammal representative of the non traditional species club. She also spent her summers and externships in veterinary school learning exotic animal medicine from the Belize Zoo, Decatur Zoo, Brookfield Zoo, the Bird Hospital at Mexico City’s UNAM, and the Carolina Raptor Center. She is the newest doctor to join Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital.

At home, Dr. Claricoates enjoys learning and practicing foreign languages and is proficient in Spanish.  She also enjoys playing guitar and holds a captive audience with her two chinchillas and pet cat.