Friday, September 26, 2014

EXOTICS #2 bird care

These are great pets and are ideal for children over ten years old. They are trusting and lively creatures and can become very tame and can live up to 25years! They live in large groups and are social birds, so I recommend at least two together for their well-being. A lone bird that is meant to be social can acquire behaviour problems if made to live on its own. A mirror or plastic bird is not a suitable replacement for a live partner and can also stimulate unnatural behaviours.
Parrots, Macaws, African Grey’s and other bigger birds are a lot more demanding attention-wise and to house. These birds are attention seekers and extremely social and should not be bought or considered if there is not a lot of time to be spent with these pets. Saying this they have huge personalities and can make lifelong pets.


The bigger the aviary the better as birds love their space and like to spread their wings without hitting off the bars of the cage. Birds are used to so much wide space naturally you should get as large a cage as you can accommodate – there is no “too large”. Trying to re-create their natural environment will keep them happy and healthy and prevent behaviour issues from forming.
It is ideal to keep the cage in a peaceful area of natural light so the bird can wake and sleep as naturally as possible. Don’t have them in a location that has false light 24/7. The area should be well ventilated with fresh air but draught free. If beside a window it must have shelter from direct sunlight and birds do not have a great tolerance to changes in temperature so a stable environment should be maintained. It must be protected from unhealthy fumes such as cigarette smoke, cooking fumes and any nauseating gases.
These birds are all quite active and need stimulation to keep them occupied or they can begin to self-mutilate; this is over grooming and can be caused by boredom and lack of stimulation. The bird will also need to fly around freely for several hours a day – it is cruel to keep them ignored or locked up without free flight. This will keep your pet happy and stimulate its natural behaviours. This should be done in a sheltered room or garden which is made safe – close all windows or doors and hide any cables or poisonous plants.
These are great pets and are ideal for children over ten years old. They are trusting and lively creatures and can become very tame and can live up to 25years! They live in large groups and are social birds, so I recommend at least two together for their well-being. A lone bird that is meant to be social can acquire behaviour problems if made to live on its own. A mirror or plastic bird is not a suitable replacement for a live partner and can also stimulate unnatural behaviours.
Parrots, Macaws, African Grey’s and other bigger birds are a lot more demanding attention-wise and to house. These birds are attention seekers and extremely social and should not be bought or considered if there is not a lot of time to be spent with these pets. Saying this they have huge personalities and can make lifelong pets.

Chew Toys;

Birds have a natural tendency to want to chew, as this action keeps their beaks in great condition and relieves stress and anxiety. Without a toy to chew, birds can resort to feather-plucking and other unhealthy behaviours. To keep your bird healthy and entertained, provide chew-toys, like cuttlebone and chew sticks
Plenty of perches should be provided – natural wood is fine as it prevents calluses. These birds are very inquisitive and need a lot of play things – such as ladders, ropes balls chew toys etc.
Birds do like to bathe several times a week. A suitable container to do this is essential and should be changed regularly. Some birds also enjoy spraying themselves with warm water.
Naturally the cage should be kept as clean as possible and droppings removed daily. Most problems with these creatures stem from poor husbandry and poor hygiene. It should be disinfected regularly with a suitable product and rinsed well afterward. Birds can be allergic to strong chemicals so a good rinsing is important.


Trust is very important for any new pet and especially so your new pet bird. They are timid creatures and so patience shall be required. At the start keep your new pet in its house (up to 3 weeks) until they can settle quietly into their new home and get used to the surroundings, smells, sights and faces. During this period you may spend some time each day talking to them and feeding tasty little treats from your hand.
After establishing a bond you may let the bird out for free flight providing you have made it safe to do so. Draw the curtains the first few times so it can recognize where the window panes are. Do it when the bird is hungry and will return to the cage or your hand for its favourite tasty treat. If the bird is willing it may perch on your hand. Don’t startle it and make sudden movements , be calm and gentle.


Your bird will need a healthy and well balanced diet. There are different feeding requirements for each bird so pay particular attention to your species needs. Most will enjoy an approprieate feed mix from the petshop and to ensure a varied natural diet you may supplement it with fresh fruits, veg and maybe certain nuts. This will also keep the pet entertained and interested. Dandelions and lettuce are usually safe choice and fresh fruits. Birds can also require a grit which helps them digest foor- enquire which suits your bird best. Mineral mixtures and limestone can be obtained from your local vet or petshop.

How do I pick a healthy bird?

The bird should look healthy at first sight. It should have a clean shiny coat with no bare patches or lumps or bumps. No parasites should be visible and no weepy crusty lesions around eyes, ears, beak or bum. The beak should not be too long. It should be bright lively and interested in its surroundings, with a good appetite.  Be aware that most species of bird will moult a couple of times a year and that this is completely natural. A bird may find it difficult to fly at this time and can be helped by lots of peace and quiet, multi-vitamins and high quality protein food depending on your bird. Best of luck!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Exotics #1 - Rabbit Care

Owning a pet rabbit.

Q. Is it a suitable pet?

Rabbits are good first pets. Recommended for children over 7, with adult supervision until the owner can care properly for their pet. They can scratch, bite or kick so due care is necessary. Decide if you want a short haired or long haired variety, taking into account if they will be indoor or outdoor pets. There are plenty of breeds to choose from. Bear in mind long haired will need a little extra grooming.

Q. How do i choose a healthy rabbit?

The rabbit should have a healthy soft coat with no fur patches missing; There should be no parasites anywhere on the skin. The eyes and ears should be clean and pink with no weeping and/or crusty lesions or bad smells. The rabbit should be able to chew normally. It should have a dry nose and the anus should be clean. The soles of its paws should be clean and soft and not stained with urine. The claws on the feet should be of average length and there should be no funny swellings. The rabbit should look lively and bright and take notice of its surroundings and have a healthy appetite.

Q. Where will they live?

Rabbits live in dens in the wild that they dig out themselves with plenty of hidey-holes to escape predators. They are very active and so naturally the biggest cage/hutch you can accommodate would be best. These animals are prey animals and so are given to flight - this means they should always have a couple of hiding spots that they feel safe in such as a closed nest box.

The floor of the hutch should be lined with such material as planed wood shavings or straw pellets. Sawdust may cause breathing problems and may be best avoided. Cat litter is also inappropriate. A heavy food bowl is ideal and fresh water should always be available ideally from a rodent upside down feeding bottle.

Choose weather they are to be indoor or outdoor. Indoor rabbits should be placed in a well ventilated (fresh air) area without droughts and out of direct sunlight. A relatively quiet area without too much excitement or loud noises. Outdoor rabbits will need shelter and adequate protection from the elements such as rain wind heat and cold. In winter the outdoor hutch and nest box should be insulated so they can stay warm. 

Rabbits love nibbling on grass and it is a good idea to let them do so or run around the house to prevent them getting stressed, fat or unwell. First you must ''rabbit-proof'' the house to prevent them chewing on cables or other dangers eg. poisonous plants. If  they are allowed on the grass you must check they cannot dig out of the garden! The outside hutch must also be protected from foxes and predators. Children can have great fun making adventurous runs for their pet out of loo rolls and other empty boxes etc.

The cage must be cleaned daily to prevent faeces and odours building up, which may also damage their lungs if not cleaned regularly. Smells and dirt will attract flies which can lay eggs and cause health problems. A triangular rabbit toilet can make this easier to clean. The hutch should be disinfected regularly to kill any bacteria and should be rinsed well afterward.

Q. What should you feed them?

Rabbits are naturally herbivores meaning they eat plant material and no meat. Fresh hay and herbs can form the most part of the diet. Pet food rabbit pellets are good but quite rich and one tablespoon per day is enough. Fresh water should always be available and changed daily. This main diet can be supplemented with foods such as lettuce, carrots, dandelions, and even some fruits such as apples.

Cabbage leaves should be avoided and starchy sugary foods also. Sudden changes in diet can lead to constipation and problems in the gut. When bringing your new rabbit home changes in his diet should be done very gradually (over 3 weeks) to avoid gut problems and it is a good idea to feed him what he is used to for a few days until gradually changing his diet to your own. If he is to nibble on fresh grass it is to be introduced very slowly.

Branches (willow, hazel and fruit trees), or special rabbit chew toys can be given so the rabbit can gnaw and wear down his teeth which grow continuously. Rabbits are one species which eat their own droppings and do not be alarmed. It is a normal trait for this animal.

Handling and restraint 

Always approach the animal from the front /side where they can see you. Talk to it and for a few days after purchasing your rabbit let it get to know your face and voice. Don't overload the rabbit at once and earn its trust by offering it a treat or two from your hand. This will just need patience and calmness so the rabbit knows you are not a threat. Every animal is different and it could take days to weeks for the animal to progress to feeding from your hand, to gentle stroking, to eventually be comfortable to pick up and let run around. Some are more aggressive than others and less socialised to human contact. You will tell from watching your pet, and how comfortable he is with your touch and presence. Don't try and do it all at once. You want to see him coming over to your hand, taking the treat, not running away or acting in a scared manner.

To move or pick him up stretch out your hand that he can see your intention (don't pick from behind where you could startle him) and grab the fur at the top of his back, gently but firmly. The other hand should be used to support its hindquarters. If the rabbit is at ease his body should relax in your arms.

Veterinary needs 

Rabbits don't need huge veterinary attention apart from a vaccination against myxomatosis and a yearly booster, and the unavoidable neutering. 

Most problems stem from poor husbandry and so shouldn't be taken lightly. Rabbits should be neutered as they are prolific breeders and they live a lot longer if de-sexed. 85% of female rabbits develop uterine cancer by age 4/5 and it greatly reduces the males fighting between each other and causing injuries. The procedure will not change their personality but if anything they will be more sociable an better company. It eliminates spraying urine and neutered rabbits can be friends as they are not fighting over each other. The last reason is overpopulation and there are already so many rescue rabbits needing loving homes that breeding pets prevents homeless rabbits getting another chance. Males can be neutered at 5 months when their testicles descend and females can be done at 6 months old.


Rabbits are very social as naturally they live in large families and hence it is much better for them to live in groups rather than on their own. I would always recommend to have at least two to keep each other company, and it is easier to keep rabbits together that have known each other from a young age.

It is vital that you neuter them at 5 months to prevent fights and accidents. It can be difficult to integrate an old rabbit with young and so ideally start both at a young age so they get on. With other pets supervision is essential and a young age also helps. There have been incidences of strange friendships - these are usually animals that have grown up with each other. Be very careful if introducing your rabbit and keep dogs and cats on a leash and make sure the rabbit has an escape. It is also not recommended for rabbits and guinea pigs to be housed together.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Common diseases of Dogs and Cats’ EARS.

Common diseases of Dogs and Cats’ EARS.

I would like to talk about ear care and some common misconceptions regarding treatments. 

The ear is a delicate organ and very important especially in our pet animals. A dog’s hearing is about 40 times greater than that of our own. The main function of the ear is hearing but it also plays a vital role in balance.

Recently we have had a lot of ear cases (some severe) needing treatment and in some circumstances the owner of the dog was wrongly treating an ear problem and had incorrect advice. Fingers crossed it is something superficial and easily treatable – but in more and more cases resistance occurs and so it is vital we treat correctly at the start.

Chronic ear infections are ones which come on slowly and stay for a long time.
The three most common products you can buy for otitis in a vet clinic after veterinary advice are;
 1. Surolan
 2. Canaural
 3. Otomax
 4. Ubavet

While these are great medicines, they do not cover every ear problem or infection. Talk to us if you are worried about your pet’s ears and we will point you in the right direction. One of the most common nasty bacteria is Clostridium. This is caused by dirty stagnant water and/or livestock. It is extremely resistant to all three medicines listed above and also worryingly to most anti-biotics. Another worrying bacteria called Pseudomonas is resistant to most antibiotics, is diagnosed only after tests and like clostridium will need antibiotic tablets as part of the cure. It is also usually resistant to the 4 ear drop medicines listed above.

A recent severe case of otitis Externa in an Irish Red Setter which we investigated by sample ear swabs proved to be a Clostridium perfringens infection and which we treated at our clinic. Our Swab results showed up Only two anti-biotics out of twelve having the desired killing effect on this nasty bug.

The crucial advice is to come in for a check-up and so we can do an ear swab. This means with lab results we can immediately start to treat it accordingly with the correct drugs and anti-biotics, and will save you time and money in the long run. An ear swab is a very simple procedure in which we take some ear cells on a cotton bud and send it to the laboratory for a culture test – to see what bacteria lies in the murky depths.

This is necessary as certain drugs kill certain bacteria. Hence there is no point giving drugs or anti-biotics if you are not attacking the appropriate strain of germs. This is worse than doing nothing, as effectively what you are doing is offering the bug higher levels of resistance and your poor dog’s immunity may suffer.

 Don’t assume any medicine from the chemist will be effective! We are seeing more people coming in with hastily bought products; For example Bingo our case study;

 Case Study: Bingo, 5yo female golden Labrador
(with a great appetite for getting into trouble.) She came in with a two extremely swollen ears and a barely visible ear canal. She had been treated with ear cleaner, canaural, surolan, and others. None of these had any improving effect on poor Bingo and her hearing and balance was also impaired not to mention very sore. We all know how excruciating a bad ear infection is. If we had of seen Bingo at the beginning she could have saved two whole years of trying inappropriate treatments. In some severe cases and in hers, surgery may be unavoidable. She had to undergo ‘Zepp’s procedure’ which is partial ear canal resection as a result of chronic scarring to the ear tissue due to two years’ worth of painful infections. Don’t let this be you!

Common ailments of the ear; 
1. Ear mites
2. Infections
3. Otitis
4. Swollen ear/s

 1-Ear mites can be treated with canaural or surolan. Stronghold spot on will also kill this nasty mite. Clean the ear first with damp (not soaked) cotton wool. Remove excess dirt then apply a few drops of liquid and then squish the dog’s ear around before letting the dog shake. They are indicated by dark brown crumbly material in the ear and head shaking and scratching. Careful the dog doesn't scratch at the ear or he may create a wound and introduce infection.
 2-Infections will need to be seen by the vet to diagnose which the best drugs to treat are and if an ear swab culture is necessary. These can be smelly and dirty looking. The dog might also shake its head. Your pet may tilt its head.
 3- Otitis / inflammation – inner ear will look red, inflamed and hot, and may have infection also. This may lead to swelling.
 4- Swollen ear is a common ailment that may be caused by ear mites, which leads to the dog shaking its head which eventually becomes swollen. This may need an aural haematoma, a procedure in which the fluid in the ear is drained. Careful the dog doesn’t scratch at the ear or he may create a wound and introduce infection.