Caring for your hamster

hamster-01049

Female: Sow
Male: Boar
Young: Pups
Life span: 1-3 years
Litter size: 4-12 pups
Gestation period: 15-18 days
Average weight: 85-150 grams

Breeds:

There are over 20 different breeds of hamsters, each with their own individual markings and colours.

Housing:

Hamsters can be housed in a wire cage with a firm plastic base, a plastic hamster home or an adapted aquarium (viviarium) with a well ventilated cover. Wooden cages should not be used as hamsters can chew their way out. Hamsters love to explore, so a big cage with multiple levels is ideal. Your hamster must always have a place to rest and hide and another area to play and feed.

Your hamster needs warm, absorbent bedding. Do not use synthetic bedding as it could harm your hamster if eaten.

The temperature should be constant (out of direct sunlight or draughts) and should be away from loud noise (radios and tvs).

Feeding:

Hamsters should be fed every day, preferably in the evening as they are nocturnal. A metal bowl is ideal as they will chew plastic ones. Follow the recommended daily allowance on the food bag to ensure your hamster has enough food and make sure that fresh water is always available, preferably in a water bottle.

Treats should only be given occasionally and should be specially designed for hamsters as some human foods can be harmful to them.

Exercising:

Hamsters need daily exercise, either in a ball or a wheel. The wheel must be big enough that they don’t need to bend their back to fit in it, and must have a solid floor rather than rungs. Most hamsters will exercise for 3-4 hours a night. They will enjoy playing in tubes and boxes and having willow branches to chew on. You can also hide your hamsters food around the cage to encourage them to forage.

Handling:

Make sure that your hamster is awake before handling them, as they may bite if startled. If possible, let it approach you and sniff your hand first. Then slowly offer your palm. Some hamsters will crawl into your hand. Alternatively you can scoop your hamster up and cup it in both palms to make sure it’s safe. Lift it slowly and either place it into your lap or hold it close to your chest while carrying it.

Companionship:

Some dwarf hamsters can be sociable but hamsters like Russian, Syrian or Chinese, are solitary and therefore should be housed alone to avoid fighting. If you have more than one hamster than a larger cage will be needed.

Common illnesses:

Diarrhoea: Generally caused by feeding too much green food. Stop feeding green food and instead just give your hamster its dry food. If the problem persists, consult your vet.

Constipation: A lack of droppings or hunched appearance may be a sign of constipation. Feed your hamster a small amount of green vegetables and see a vet if the problem persists.

Wet tail: A bacterial infection that can cause extreme diarrhoea. The anus and tail area appear wet and sticky. The hamster may appear hunched up as if it is in pain. This condition is highly infectious so affected hamsters should be housed separately. Clean the cage with AntiBAC+ and seek advice from your vet immediately.

Overgrown teeth: Hamsters teeth grow continually and they therefore need to gnaw to keep them short. Make sure your hamster has lots of things to gnaw on and consult a vet if they are struggling to eat.

Overgrown nails: Nails should be trimmed regularly by a vet to ensure that your hamster is comfortable.

If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at www.tiptreevets.co.uk or www.willows-vets.co.uk

Caring for your guinea pig

8850638-guinea-pig-hd

Female: Sow
Male: Boar
Young: Piglets
Lifespan: 5-8 years
Litter size: 1-6 piglets
Gestation period: 59-72 days
Average weight: 750-1000gms

Housing

Guinea pigs should be housed in a hutch, with access to plenty of sunshine (though out of direct sunlight) and fresh air. The minimum size should be 91cm x 61cm x 45cm. It should be around 4-5 times the length of the guinea pig when stretched out. In the winter, guinea pigs should be housed indoors at a temperature between 18-26 degrees celsius.

Place the hutch on bricks to avoid it getting damp in wet weather. Ensure the roof is sloping, waterproof and overhangs slightly. Always ensure the doors are locked.

It’s important to have fresh safe bedding and to clean the hutch out regularly to avoid attracting flies. Flies can lay eggs, leading to an infestation of maggots. In the winter, bedding can become damp and mouldy.

Feeding

Guinea pigs need a balanced diet of specially formulated guinea pig food and hay daily. The food must include vitamin C as guinea pigs cannot generate their own and will become ill without it. Hay provides fibre and helps wear down their continuously growing teeth. We recommend a mono-component diet (where all the ingredients are mixed into biscuits) to avoid selective feeding. A water bottle should also be provided to keep the water fresh.

Treats should only be given occasionally and should be specially designed for guinea pigs as some human foods can be poisonous for them.

Exercise

Guinea pigs are frightened in large open spaces and love to hide in tunnels and boxes. They also like to have access to wood, so they can keep their teeth in trim.

Handling Your Guinea Pig

Talk to your guinea pig and approach it at the same level. Let it come to you and sniff your hand. Gently place your hand across its shoulders and slowly lift it up, placing your other hand under its rump to support it. Either place it in your lap or hold it close to your chest while getting up.

Companionship

Guinea pigs are sociable and should be housed with other guinea pigs. Female pairs are fine. Males live happily together but may become agitated in the vicinity of females. If females and males are housed together they must be neutered to avoid litters.

 

If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at www.tiptreevets.co.uk or www.willows-vets.co.uk

Caring for your rabbit

Danielle and Soya

Male: Buck
Female: Doe
Young: Kittens
Lifespan: 5-10 years
Litter size: 4-12 kittensAverage weight: Male 1-5kg Female 1-8kg
Vaccinations: Myxomatosis (every 6-12 months)/VHD (annually)

Housing

The minimum size for a good hutch is 4ft x 2ft x 2ft high for a single, medium breed. It should be about 4-5 times the length of the rabbit when the rabbit is stretched out and tall enough that the rabbit can sit upright with its ears pricked up.

The hutch should be placed somewhere sheltered, where there won’t be direct sunlight and it is protected from wind and rain. You will need to provide safe absorbent bedding. Hutches should be cleaned on a regular basis, as flies can be attracted to the hutch in warm weather and bedding can become damp and mouldy in wet weather.

Feeding

Rabbits need a high fibre diet to keep their continually growing teeth in trim and ensure that they stay healthy. We recommend giving your rabbit fresh hay, grass and a small bowl of excel or supreme science pellets. Rabbits should always have access to water and hay, as restrictions can cause digestive problems.

Exercise

Rabbit love to play in boxes, tubes and other hiding places. They generally feel nervous in large open spaces.

Training

Rabbits can be litter trained fairly easily as they like to go in the same area each time. You can also train them to do tricks.

Handling your rabbit

Crouch and talk to your rabbit as you approach it. Let it sniff the back of your hand. Gently pick it up, making sure to support the rump in one hand. Place the rabbit on your lap or hold it against your chest and slowly stand up.

Companionship

Rabbits are social. It is best to house them with littermates to avoid fighting. Single sex groups are normally fine; however males may fight in the presence of females and females may be more temperamental in breeding season. Males and females should be neutered if housed together.

Common illnesses:

Dental problems: Rabbits teeth continually grow and can become too long if the rabbit doesn’t have something to chew on.

Flystrike: Flies are attracted to rabbit droppings and lay eggs. The hatching maggots will then eat the rabbits flesh. Keep the hutch clean and groom your rabbit regularly. Visit your vet immediately if you see any signs of maggots.

Snuffles/Pasteurella: Caused by bacteria and can be related to stress. The rabbit will develop cold-like symptoms like a runny nose, discharge from the eyes and breathing problems. It can lead to pneumonia, head tilt and tooth root abscesses. Keep the hutch clean, at a constant temperature (around 16 degrees c) and keep stress to a minimum.

Gastro-intestinal disorders: Caused by inappropriate diet, stress, parasites, etc. See your vet immediately if your rabbit shows signs of bloat, constipation or diarrhoea.

Myxomatosis: Disease transmitted by fleas or contact with other infected rabbits. Symptoms include swollen eyelids and thick discharge from the eyes and nose. Most rabbits become subdued and stop eating. It is usually fatal. Contact your vet immediately if you notice any signs of myxomatosis. Vaccinations are recommended to reduce the liklihood of your rabbit getting Myxomatosis.

 

If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at www.tiptreevets.co.uk or www.willows-vets.co.uk

Kitten behaviour

Kittens

Make sure your kitten is handled daily and has lots of contact with you. Teach them from an early age to allow you to look in their mouths and ears, feel their paws and examine their entire body for problems.

Keep them confined until they are litter trained and then allow them access to the rest of the house under supervision at first. Make sure you have a litter tray available for them to use at all times, including at night.

Most cats will become quite territorial and enjoy having their own space or ‘isolation field’ where they feel safe, so make sure you give your kitten a private place to go to when it doesn’t want to be disturbed. Cats will also leave scent marks around pathways in the house to act as familiar landmarks, so make sure you don’t remove all of your kitten’s scent marks as this will leave them feeling anxious.

Cats love to play hunt and you can join in with this to teach your kitten to control its biting and scratching. A lack of stimulation and play can cause your kitten to show aggression to any moving object, including your feet, so make sure you have lots of things to keep them entertained. We have lots of cat toys available in our waiting room for you to try.

If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets.

Caring for your Chameleon

Chameleon

Life-span

Males 5-10 years
Females 2-5 years

Housing

Chameleons require an enclosure made from strong plastic or wire mesh, at least 3 foot wide and deep and 4 foot high. The bigger the better. Aquariums are not suitable since they trap too much moisture, particularly at the bottom, they do not allow enough movement of air and the reflection of the chameleon in the glass can be very distressing to them.

Furniture

A good supply of climbing frames are necessary and need to be made from non-toxic material such as plastic. They must be strong enough to prevent bits breaking off since chameleons will sometimes ingest foreign objects and die as a result. Natural plants are a good idea. A list of useful plants and a second list of toxic plants can be found on www.chameleonsonline.com.  Artificial plants are sometimes ingested by chameleons and can cause death from intestinal obstruction.

Floor covering

Beware of small particles such as sand, grit, etc since chameleons will eat them and their intestinal tract becomes blocked up. Also be careful not to allow mould to grow on any of the substrate since many moulds are very toxic to chameleons. Plain newspaper or bark chips are a good idea.

Temperature

Heat should be provided by positioning several normal light bulbs at various points in the cage. Make sure the chameleons cannot come into contact with the bulbs and burn themselves.

It is important to have a max / min thermometer to record the extremes of temperature over 24 hours. During the day, keep the temperature at 80-90 degrees (27-32 degrees Celsius) and allow it to drop to 70 degrees (20-21 degrees Celsius) at night. Temperatures should never go out of the range of 60-90 degrees (16-33 degrees Celsius)

Ultraviolet Light

Chameleons need both UVA and UVB light (At least 5% UVB). Glass and plastic stop all UV light so it cannot be separated from the chameleons. The best source is a UV tube, but take note that many of them are only effective for 3-6 months, even if the still look violet to our eyes. The manufacturers will usually be able to tell you how long they last.

Feeding

Insects such as crickets, locusts, wax worms and meal worms are suitable. Never feed an insect larger than the width of the chameleon’s mouth and never give biting or stinging insects or any that could have been exposed to toxins.

Insects purchased from pet shops are often just empty skeletons and have little food value. It is essential to feed them up and ‘gut-load’ them by providing insect food such as potato, carrots, cabbage, fish flakes, kitten food, potato flakes and bee pollen. Baby chick crumbs with a slice of vegetables to provide moisture can be used. Commercial ‘Bug Grub’ is also a good idea.

Do not overfeed meal worms or wax worms since they contain a lot of fat.

The insects should also be fed a vitamin/mineral ix such as Nutrobal and before giving them to the chameleon, dust them with the powder as well. Chameleons will eat up to 15-20 crickets / locusts per day in the very active season (Spring) whereas their appetites drop considerably in winter.

Drinking

Chameleons will not drink from a bowl. They need a daily misting, either with a fine spray bottle or mister.  Fresh water (preferably rain water) at 20-30 degrees celsius) must be used. It is a good idea to add a water conditioner to get rid of the chlorine, chloramines and ammonia, adjust the pH, provide electrolytes and help support the slime layer on the skin.

Less effective ways of providing water are by putting a plant in the shower to get wet and then putting it back into the chameleon enclosure, using a humidifier, or providing a rodent drinking bottle.

Breeding

It is very important to provide a place for female chameleons to lay their eggs or they become ‘egg-bound’ and die as a result. A deep bucket of fresh potting compost mixed with equal amounts of coarse builders sand is ideal. Allow the chameleons to dig around and rearrange the nursery to her liking. Unless kept with a male, the eggs will be infertile and can be removed and discarded at a later stage.

Interaction

Most chameleons will tame very rapidly and become good pets. Always allow them to climb onto your hand by sliding it under them, rather than picking them up, which can be uncomfortable for them. Reward them with food and they will get used to coming to you. Some species never tame but will tolerate your presence.

If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at www.tiptreevets.co.uk or www.willows-vets.co.uk

Caring for your bearded dragon

Bearded_Dragon

Data:

Life-span: 7-10 years
Adult size: 18-22 inches

Housing:

Bearded Dragons require a glass or plexiglass aquarium or terrarium, at least 36 by 18 by 18 inches, with a screen top.  The bigger the better.  Wire and mesh enclosures are unsuitable as they lose too much heat.  If your bearded dragon appears to be distressed by its own reflection, a background can be used.

Furniture:

A variety of rocks and branches can be used to create hides, basking sites and climbing structures.  The basking site should be wide for comfort, and raised to create a temperature gradient.  Climbing furniture should be wider and longer than your pet’s body.  If pieces of wood found outside are used, they should first either be baked for half an hour at approximately 150 degrees Celsius or washed in a 10% bleach 90% water mixture (rinsed clean after) to ensure it is safe.  Artificial plants may be used for decoration, but be on the lookout for signs of them being eaten since they can cause fatal blockage of the gut.

Floor Covering:

Textured slate, porcelain or ceramic tiles, reptile carpet, paper towels and newspaper are all suitable substrates.  Washed and sifted silicone-free play sand may also be used if your bearded dragon is at least 16 inches long and 1 year old.  All sand should be scooped thoroughly, and replaced entirely every 3-4 months.

Temperature:

Reptile daylight bulbs or heat emitters are required.  Ensure the bearded dragon cannot come into contact with the bulbs and burn itself.  A maximum-minimum thermometer should be kept in the enclosure to monitor temperature.  If a simple thermometer is used and read in the morning and the evening, then it is possible that the temperature is falling to dangerously low levels in the middle of the night or becoming excessively hot in the middle of the day. The temperature in the enclosure should range from 77-95 degrees (25-35 degrees Celsius), with a basking area at 100-108 degrees (38-42 degrees Celsius).  The basking light should be off to one side so that the dragon can move closer if cold and retreat if too hot. Heat rocks are not a good idea as they can burn your reptile.  The relative humidity should be 30-40%.

Lighting:

A UVB light (e.g. ZooMed Reptisun 5.0) is required for the metabolism of vitamin D3.  Fluorescent tubes are also appropriate for this, and should be kept 6 inches from your reptile and replaced approximately every 5 months.  For UVA light, bearded dragons do best with a bright white light (a typical household bulb or Halogen flood can be used for this).  This light should be on for 12-14 hours and off for 12-10 hours to simulate day-night cycles.

Feeding:

Bearded dragons are omnivores, so require both insects and vegetables/fruit.  For a bearded dragon less than a year old, the diet should be 70% insects and 30% vegetables, with a young bearded dragon getting 30-80 appropriately-sized crickets (smaller than the space between the eyes) each day.  For bearded dragons over one year of age, the diet should be 70% vegetables and 30% insects, with a bearded dragon consuming approximately 50 crickets or 30 worms in a week.

Before the age of 2-3 months, bearded dragons should be fed 3-5 times each day, twice a day at 3-8 months and once a day after eight months.  To help avoid obesity in dragons over one year of age, a three day feeding rota may be used, with one day salad, one day insects and one day nothing.

Crickets, silkworms, calci-worms, superworms and locusts are appropriate insects for feeding, but should themselves be fed first (at least 24 hours before being fed off). When purchased from the supplier, most of these insects are just shells with very little inside, since they have often not been fed by the wholesaler, the distributor or the retailer.  Feed them up first.  Insects caught in the wild can be fed, but there is a danger that they may have been poisoned. Never feed insects that can sting and never any insect larger than the width of your bearded dragon’s mouth. Aim for 2-3 types of greens and 2-3 types of vegetables in the salad.

Bearded dragons should have both multivitamin and calcium supplements added to their food.  For dragons under one year of age, feed the multivitamin twice a week and calcium supplement 5 times a week.  For dragons over one year of age, feed both twice a week.

Drinking:

Water can be provided in a variety of ways.  One method is to mist them 2-4 times a day, and the dragon will drink the falling/fallen water.  Another method is to drip water on its nose until it has finished.  Bearded dragons will not recognize standing water as drinkable, so will not drink from a bowl unless trained to.

A fairly large water bowl may still be provided to allow the bearded dragon to bathe.  This water should be approximately 5 degrees Celsius lower than the air temperature.

Breeding:

The female will display obsessive, frantic and constant digging behavior, and may go off her food when she is ready to lay.  A laying box should be provided for the female containing sand, soil, or a sand-soil mix.  This should be moist enough to keep its shape, so that when she digs a burrow it doesn’t collapse on her.  It should be 12 inches deep at the deepest end, gradually becoming shallower.  This should also be kept warm.  After laying, the female should be allowed to bury her eggs uninterrupted.

Interaction:

Bearded dragons are largely docile and willing to be handled.  You should wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling due to bacteria found in the skin around their claws and in the gaps between scales.  Babies and hatchlings should be handled with great care, and allow them to walk onto your open palm.  Bearded dragons should not be forcibly removed from their enclosure.  Never hold the bearded dragon by the tail, and take care handling around this area as it can easily break off.

Further information:

For more information, visit http://beardeddragoncaresheet.weebly.com

If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at www.tiptreevets.co.uk or www.willows-vets.co.uk.

Caring for your corn snake

corn snake

Data:

Life-span:  15-20 years
Adult size:  4-5 feet long

Housing:

Corn snakes should be kept in a vivarium, allowing a minimum of one square foot of floor space for every foot of the snake’s length, and should be at least one third of the snake’s length in height.  Tight-fitting lids which can be clamped down are essential.  Hatchlings should be kept in an appropriately sized vivarium, as they may become stressed and stop feeding in an oversized one.  With regular spot cleaning, a full clean of the vivarium should only be necessary every 3-5 weeks.

Furniture:

A hide box is essential, as your corn snake may become stressed if it is not.  This should be just large enough for the corn snake to curl up inside.  Too large and the snake will feel insecure.  There should ideally be one hide spot in the warm side of the vivarium, and one in the cold side.  Branches, rocks and plastic plants should be provided for climbing and resting.  They can also aid in shedding.  Branches and rocks found outside should first be washed in a chlorine/water solution, rinsed and soaked in clean water and left to dry in the sun before use.  Alternatively bake in the oven for an hour at 100 degrees Celsius.  Change the layout of the furniture occasionally for enrichment.

Floor covering:

Suitable floor coverings include aspen shavings (Cedar or redwood should not be used, as they are toxic), layers of newspaper or artificial grass.  Coco/orchid bark should be avoided for corn snakes, as it retains too much humidity.  Dirty bedding should be cleaned or removed and replaced as quickly as possible.  All shavings should be removed and replaced at least once a month.

Temperature:

The vivarium should provide a temperature gradient ranging from 70-86 degrees (21-30 degrees Celsius).  A heat mat with a thermostat may be placed under one third to one half of the vivarium to provide this.  Alternatively a light bulb attached to the roof of the vivarium with a dimming stat.  Make sure the corn snake is unable to come into come into contact with the bulb or it may burn itself.  A heat mat is better, as a bulb should only be left on for normal daylight time.  A maximum – minimum thermometer should be kept at the height of the snake. If a simple thermometer is used and read in the mornings and evenings, then it is possible that the temperature in the vivarium is dropping to dangerous lows in the middle of the night or getting excessively hot in the middle of the day, despite normal readins when the thermometer is checked.  Relative humidity should be between 30-70% (towards the higher end during shedding).

Lighting:

Corn snakes do not require special lighting, but any lights should mimic normal daylight patterns to prevent the snake becoming stressed.

Feeding:

Corn snakes feed on mice appropriate to their size.  Each mouse should be approximately the same width as one and a half times the size of the corn snake’s head.  Hatchlings should be fed one pink mouse every 5-6 days, gradually increasing to one adult mouse every 7-14 days for an adult.  Large corn snakes may require 2 mice.  Chicks and fertilized quail eggs may also be fed, but are not recommended as a staple diet.  Never feed live prey as it may bite your snake.  It is best to feed your corn snake outside the vivarium to ensure no flooring is ingested.

Drinking:

Corn snakes require fresh water each day.  This should be provided in a heavy bowl to prevent the snake tipping it over.  The snake may also bathe in the water to aid with shedding.  If your corn snake defecates in the water bowl, clean and disinfect it immediately.

Shedding:

Corn snakes shed the outer layer of their skin on a regular basis. Often they will not eat while doing so. The first sign will be areas of skin that are lighter than the rest and peel off if rubbed. The skin comes off from areas of friction first and often the smaller tips of toes and tail-end are the last to loose their skin. If the humidity is too low or their is nothing against which the snake can rub, the skin may not be fully shed. Retained skin can cut off the blood supply to toes or tail and retained ‘spectacles’ of skin over the eyes can cause problems. If necessary, help your snake by bathing it in a bowl of tepid water daily and gently easing the retained skin off with an ear-bud.

 

Caring for your Chinchilla

Chinchilla

Data:

Life-span:  15-20 years
Adult size:  Up to 1 foot
Adult weight:  1-1.5 pounds (500 – 800g)

Housing:

Chinchillas are very active, so the bigger the cage the better.  The minimum size for a single chinchilla should be 16 by 20 by 16 inches.  A wire mesh cage is the most appropriate, to ensure the chinchilla does not chew its way out.  There should be solid flooring as wire flooring can damage their feet.  Glass tanks should not be used due to poor ventilation.  The cage should have several levels for enrichment.  Keep the cage out of direct sunlight, and away from heat sources, drafts, and areas of high humidity.

Furniture:

A hide area is essential, and may consist of a nest box, tunnel, or any other chew-proof place it can hide.  Exercise wheels are an essential, and must have a solid floor.  Chew-proof toys may be provided for further enrichment, with wooden blocks and chew-sticks to help keep teeth worn down.  Provide ledges and branches for climbing.  Avoid using wood found outside as it may be toxic.  Dust baths are essential for your chinchilla at least twice a week to maintain their soft, plush fur.  Commercial dusting powders and bins are available.

Floor covering:

Pelleted or shredded paper makes a good bedding as it is safe to chew and absorbs liquid well.  Pine or cedar bedding should be avoided as they can damage your pets feet, and the dust may cause respiratory problems.  Dirty bedding should be removed daily, with all bedding being replaced at least once a week.

Temperature:

Chinchillas are sensitive to heat, humidity, and drafts.  Temperatures above 78 degrees (25 degrees Celsius) should be avoided, and may cause heat stroke.

Lighting:

Avoid direct sunlight and brightly lit areas as Chinchillas sleep a lot during the day.

Feeding:

Chinchilla pellets should be fed, as they are manufactured to contain the correct amounts of protein, fat and roughage.  Use a heavy bowl to prevent spillage.  Clean, fresh hay should also be provided for extra roughage, and help wear down teeth.  Ideally this should be provided in a hay rack.  Salt blocks and Vitamin C supplements may be beneficial.  Nuts, seeds and dried fruit should only be given occasionally as treats, as they are fattening.

Drinking:

Fresh water should always be available.  This is best provided in a stoppered water bottle.

Breeding:

Chinchillas mature sexually around 8 months of age.  Mating season is usually between November and May in the northern hemisphere.  Injury is possible, so mating chinchillas should be supervised for safety.  Gestation lasts around 110 days.  A usual litter is born in the morning and consists of 2 kits, but may be as many as 6.  Fathers may become aggressive, so regular supervision is advisable.  Kits will eat solid food after about a week, but are dependent upon their mother for up to 8 weeks.

Interaction:

Regular time out of the cage is essential for exercise.  Ensure nothing potentially harmful is within reach of the chinchilla.  When your chinchilla first gets home, you should talk to it to allow it to become accustomed to your voice.  Then introduce your hand into the cage offering a treat.  Chinchillas should be held firmly but gently, close to your chest, with one hand on its back and one under its bottom.  Rough handling may cause your chinchilla to bite, and will shed its fur if it becomes distressed.  You should handle your chinchilla regularly.

Further information:

For further information, visit http://chinchillacare.org/

If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at www.tiptreevets.co.uk or www.willows-vets.co.uk

Caring for your gerbil

gerbils

Data:

Life-span: 3-3.5 years
Adult size: 4.5 inches long
Adult weight: 2-4 ounces

Housing:

A glass aquarium provides spacious, inexpensive, easy-to-clean housing.  A 10 gallon tank should be used to house 1-2 gerbils, 15 gallons for 3, 20 gallons for 4 and 30 gallons for 6.  Suitable lids are fine wire lids or lids provided at pet stores with fittings to allow ‘habitat’ tubes.  Ensure the lid is secured.  Wire mesh or plastic cages may also be used, but gnawing on wires may prove harmful, and plastic can easily be gnawed to ruins.

Furniture:

Tunnels and tubes can be provided for playing and exploration, along with play areas with sloping ramps and a climbing branch.  Cardboard tubes can be provided both for exploring and chewing.  A variety of toys can be purchased for further enrichment.  An exercise wheel may also be provided, but ensure there are no gaps where the gerbil will run.  If there are, masking tape can be placed round the circumference, and then lightly coat the inside with bedding.  A nesting box should be provided for privacy.  Wooden ones are best.

Floor Covering:

Aspen, Carefresh and corncob bedding is best.  The average 10 gallon tank with 2 gerbils will only need the bedding changed every 2-3 weeks.  A regularly cleaned tank should never smell.  Fill the tank 1/3 full with bedding.  Plain, shredded paper may also be used.

Temperature:

Gerbils should be housed at normal room temperature.

Lighting:

Gerbils have no special lighting requirements.

Feeding:

A good, pre-mixed gerbil food is recommended.  Sunflower seeds tend to be high in fat, and are therefore very fattening.  It is best to pick these out beforehand and hand feed them to the gerbils during the day.  Food should be provided in a heavy ceramic bowl, or placed on the bedding in the centre of the tank to allow for foraging.

Drinking:

Each tank will require its own water bottle.  If you are using a glass tank, a special bottle holder/shield will need to be purchased.  Ensure that the tip of the bottle is kept well above the bedding, or it will drain in a matter of hours.  Ensure the water is kept clean and fresh at all times.

Breeding:

For the best results, the gerbils should be three months old before mating.  Females can produce offspring until about 2 years of age.  Gestation is about 24 days, with a typical litter containing 6 pups.  The mother should be left alone whilst giving birth, and will usually stay alone in the nest with them for up to 48 hours.  Ensure all hands are washed before handling the pups to prevent rejection by the mother.

Interaction:

Most gerbils are easily tamed in a short space of time with frequent, gently handling.  They should first be allowed to become accustomed to your hand inside the tank, before letting them step onto your hand.  After this, they may gently be scooped out of the tank.  Do not lift your gerbil too high unless it jumps out of your hand.  Allow your gerbil to sit on your lap and investigate you.

Further information:

For further information, visit http://agsgerbils.org

If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at www.tiptreevets.co.uk or www.willows-vets.co.uk

Caring for your parrot

Grey_Parrot

Data:

Life-span: 25-50 years

Housing:

A variety of parrot cages are available with plastic bases and chromed or bronzed wire tops.  These pose no risk to the bird and are easily cleaned.  Commercially produced medium parrot cages tend to be 48 by 48 by 68cm or 60 by 40 by 65cm.  Cages for larger species should be more substantial.  There should be of sufficient height, breadth and width to allow the bird to stretch its wings freely.  Home-made cages should not have any sharp, unfinished edges.  Also avoid newly galvanized wire which can lead to zinc poisoning.

Furniture:

Perches should be made of wood, as it provides a good surface for the bird’s feet, and allows for chewing.  Oak, fruit wood and willow branches may be provided.  Natural perches provide a variety of shapes and diameters for the feet. Make sure there are no splinters or sharp points.  Toys should also be provided, with many purpose-built toys available from pet shops.  Alternatively pine cones, corn cobs or clean chop bones can be used.

Floor covering:

Floor coverings are not necessary for parrots. A layer of newspaper on the floor will help to catch the droppings and make cleaning easier.

Temperature:

The cage should be positioned to avoid severe fluctuations in temperature.  Constant high temperatures are unnecessary for healthy birds.  The low humidity of centrally heated environments may play a part in feather, behavioural and reproductive disorders.  Tropical parrots find it difficult to cope with the low temperatures in Europe and will require some heating, particularly in middle of the night.

Lighting:

Constant direct sunlight should be avoided.  Covering the cage at night is not required, but allows the owner to regulate the bird’s behavior and photoperiod to an extent.  Excessive artificial daylength may contribute to feather, behavioural and reproductive disorders.  It is just as important not to leave parrots without any light during the long European winter nights. Ideally provide adequate lighting for at least 10 hours in winter and no more than 14 hours in summer.

Feeding:

There are a variety of foods commercially available, many of which are unsuitable.  Seed diets do not meet the bird’s nutritional requirements, with many commonly fed grains deficient in at least 32 essential nutrients.  Birds should not be fed any leftovers or table food as they not only fail to meet the nutritional requirements, but may also be dangerous.  Colored pellets should be avoided as they are usually made up of little more than milled white flours and cereal by-products.

It is recommended that you feed your parrot Harrison’s bird foods.  This is because it is designed to have a balanced ratio of fat, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals and trace elements.  It can also be eaten entirely with little waste, as there are no seed hulls. Ideally, sixty percent of the diet should be made of the balanced, commercial pellets and forty percent comprising a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Mashed potato or butternut, peas, carrots, etc are a very good idea in moderation. Avoid large amounts of sugar containing fruits – limit it to half a grape at a time. Never feed anything with a bulb or corm (onions/garlic, etc). Avocado pear, green potatoes and many flowers (lillies) are toxic to parrots.

For further information on feeding, ask your vet for a leaflet or visit http://www.hbf-uk.co.uk/why.html

Treats:

Most commercially available treats are made from seeds and sweet substances such as sugar or honey. They can be particularly unhealthy. Parrots will often appreciate very small bit of carrot, peas, a cereal flake or cluster (only one per day) or a cooked chicken bone with most of the meat removed. Never give anything that has been in your mouth or bitten by a human since the gram- bacteria in  our mouths can cause lethal infections in birds.  A small amount of bioled or scrambled egg can be given once a month.

Drinking:

Fresh water should be provided daily.  This should be provided in a dish.  Do not put the dish under a perch and if you find faeces in it, move it to a different area.  Parrots may also be trained to use a water bottle, but should be observed closely the first couple of days to ensure they are drinking.  Avoid vitamin and mineral preparations in the water for extended periods.  For more information on suitable methods for providing drinking water, visit http://www.hagen.com/hari/docu/parrots_water.html .

Breeding:

Single sex pairs will often display very convincing homosexual behaviour, so sex diagnosis should be conducted by your veterinarian.  Almost all psittacines are hole nesters, so a vertical nest box with a suitably sized hole is advisable.  This should be made of wood, and be of sufficient thickness to allow the bird to chew much of it away for a woodchip lining.  Most small species lay eggs at daily intervals, and larger species lay at intervals of 2-3 days.  This leads to staggered hatching, with the total incubation period ranging from 18-30 days.

Handling:

All parrot species should be introduced to bathing from an early age.  Young parrots should be introduced to misting or bathing in stages.  This should start with a fine mist directed at the feet or in the general vicinity of the parrot.  Wing or tail flipping signals they are ready for more.  A silent, “pressurized” garden mister should be used.  It is best to wait for a day when you know the birds will dry quickly and safely.  Always ensure that the water used is clean.

Further information:

If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at www.tiptreevets.co.uk or www.willows-vets.co.uk