Hoogland Dierekliniek February 2016
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Secretive exotics!

Many of you may have heard of pet birds and other small exotic pets that are either found dead in their cages with little apparent warning of illness, or taken to a vet because the pet seems off only to be informed that the pet is already mortally ill.  It is often difficult for the owners of the pet to understand how the pet could be so sick as it is not behaving all that abnormally.

The first thing you need to remember is that while exotic animals are common pets these days, we have not domesticated their instincts out of them. All pets that are preyed upon in the wild will continue to behave as if something may try and eat them even if they are born in captivity. For example, a guinea pig will usually not stroll across an open room with no cover, but rather scurry along the walls or dash from one hiding place to the next. They will also scramble for cover if outdoors and a shadow passes over them – to them this shadow could be a circling bird of prey! This is why many small exotics are rather jumpy, and catch fright easily.
Now that we have established that prey animals retain instinctive behaviours for self-preservation, consider this: Predators single out the easiest animal to catch, usually the young, the old or the sickly. For this reason, prey animals try to keep up the appearance of a strong and healthy animal as long as their body will allow them. When they eventually show signs of illness, it is because they simply do not have the energy or resources to keep up the act anymore. This behaviour pattern is one of the main reasons why so many exotics are diagnosed with severe and advanced ailments that seem to have developed overnight. While exotic pets have become popular, their behaviours and norms are not as well understood by their owners as dogs and cats. If one is not sure of what is normal, it is very hard to pick up slight abnormalities – this is another major reason that ailments are not detected as easily in the feathered, scaled and non-predatorial fluffy critters.
How can you compensate for your exotic pets instinct to cover up illness? Firstly, know what is normal for a particular species, preferably before you acquire one. Secondly, make sure you do not ignore any abnormalities your pet displays, from a drop in vocalisation in parrots to lower appetite in a lizard. These are the first (and maybe the only) signs that you see of illness – TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY!!!

Routine health checks can also help detect issues that are not currently symptomatic, or that are causing subtle changes. You see your pet every day, and just like watching grass grow, you may not be able to pick up slow changes that may be noticed by an outsider who is trained to look for them. 

PVC Foraging Toy 
for dogs and cats!!!

You will need: 
  • 30cm of 5cm pipe (or 20cm of 3.5cm pipe) – Depends on pet size
  • 2 FIPT fittings to match pipe
  • 2 cleanout plugs to fit the above materials
  • 1.5cm (5/8 in) drill bit + drill
  • Sandpaper
Drill about 5 holes in different areas  (not too close to the ends )
Attach (if necessary, glue on) FIPT fittings to both ends.
Use sandpaper to smooth the edges of all the drilled holes and test with your finger for sharp areas.
Screw the cleanout plugs into the FIPT fittings to close the tube.
Add treats small enough to pass through the drilled holes.

You can also modify this idea for chinchillas, rabbits and parrots!

And for those who are handy and enjoy a good DIY project, here are some more PVC ideas: 

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Hoogland Dierekliniek
6 Panorama rd Rooihuiskraal Centurion
Centurion, Gauteng 1058
South Africa

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