Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Winter Tips for Exotic Pets

 The long and brutal cold winters here in Winnipeg can take their toll not just on us, but on our pets as well. This blog will address how to help our small and exotic pets get through the winter happy and healthy. 

Temperature: Keep them warm! We tend to see a lot more sickness in our exotics pets in the winter months. Part of this is likely due to the fact that they are exposed to colder temperatures, drafts and dry air. Keep your cage or enclosure away from windows and exterior walls that may be prone to drafts. For birds you can cover the back of the cage with a blanket to help keep heat in and consider adding a heat lamp to provide a warmer area, especially for older or more tropical birds.  For reptiles this is a great time to do an over all evaluation of your enclosure. Make sure you have two working thermometers in the enclosure, one on the hot side and one on the cooler side. Also make sure you have changed your UV light within the last 6 months and have a hygrometer to measure humidity in your enclosure.  When it comes to small mammals you can add a bit of extra bedding to their enclosure so they have the option to snuggle up if they feel the need.

Humidity: In addition to the cold we tend to see humidity drop in the winter. This can have varying effects depending on what kind of exotic pet you have. In general the dry, colder air can make pets more susceptible to respiratory infections. Consider adding a humidifier to the room your pet is kept in if your humidity is reading low. If you aren't sure what the ideal humidity is for your pet give the clinic a call and we can advise you. Many species of birds enjoy being misted with a spray bottle and this can be done daily to help with dry skin.  Reptiles like geckos benefit from the addition of a moist hide box. This is a small container, think small margarine or sour cream  container size, with a hole cut in for a door and sphagnum moss inside. The moss creates a very moist environment inside and the gecko can decide when to go in depending on their needs. 
Nutrition: Our birds and small mammals burn more calories in colder temperatures as they try to maintain their body heat. It is essential to  have them on a balanced diet with the correct amount of calcium and vitamins, especially vitamin A.  Vitamin A is especially important in fighting off and preventing respiratory infections.  Keep in mind that an all seed diet will not have enough Vitamin A for a bird. If you are having trouble getting your bird to eat a well balanced pellet contact us for tips on how to transition from seeds to a pelleted food or for a list of human foods that are high in Vitamin A.  Reptiles and amphibians also need Vitamin A and calcium in their diets. If you aren't sure if you are feeding the ideal food contact us! Reptiles can also enter a state known as brumation during the winter if the temperatures drop too low. This is an adaptation they have developed for life in the wild but when they are living in a house with the ability to control the environment they should not be entering this state. Brumation can make them more prone to illness and if you are seeing a loss of appetite and activity levels you should bring them in for an exam.

Transport to the Clinic:  If your pet is showing signs of sickness in the winter you need to take extra precautions when transporting them to the clinic for their exam. First make sure you warm up your car well before you put your pet inside. Reptiles can be placed into an insultaed container, birds and mammals should have a towel or blanket covering their carriers to limit cold air getting in.  You can use a hot water bottle placed underneath the cage or carrier to provide additional warmth during transport. It is essential that you do not allow your pet to get too cold in transport as this can push an already sick animal into a crisis. 

Thanks for reading the blog today and remember to contact us if you have any concerns
Dr Ingrid