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August 2011

acupetsDon't Forget a Vet for Your Exotic Pet!

Did you know that reptiles need special UVB spectrum lighting for 10 hours in the winter and 12 hours in the summer? If you did not know this fun fact, you're not alone! Many exotic pet owners purchase an exotic pet thinking they are cared for just like the family cat or dog. According to Dr. Shawn Hook from Arbor Ridge Pet Clinic in Fitchburg, exotic pets require very different care from a cat or dog. Is your exotic pet receiving the care he or she needs?


Since exotic pets are all unique, it is important you seek veterinary medical advice before and after adding an exotic to your family. To become an expert on exotic pets, Dr. Hook attended many continuing education events, performed research, and read many articles and journals pertaining to exotic animals. Although their needs are different, exotics deserve the same level of care our cats and dogs receive which drives Dr. Hook's passion for exotic animal medicine and surgery.


Whether you have a ferret, rodent, rabbit, hedgehog, sugar glider, reptile, bird, amphibian, fish or invertebrate - they all require care from a licensed veterinarian. "Ninety percent of problems with exotic pets are due to husbandry issues," states Dr. Hook. If owners are properly educated by a veterinarian, this number one problem can be avoided.


There are no generic husbandry guidelines because every exotic species is different. Dr. Hook points out exotic animals, especially birds and reptiles, are good at hiding illnesses. It is crucial to discuss pet nutrition, care, humidity, temperature, lighting and cage requirements with your veterinarian. To ease this process, Dr. Hook creates home care sheets for each species he examines.


Veterinary medical care also differs for exotic animals. For a rats or small rodents, they should be seen by their veterinarian every six months. A tortoise or large bird may only require a yearly visit, depending on its age. Some exotic pets need vaccinations too, just like your cat or dog! Dr. Hook explains that ferrets need a rabies and canine distemper vaccination annually. Depending on the species, other vaccines may be suggested for your pet.


Looking to add an exotic pet to your family? Dr. Hook stresses contacting a veterinarian prior to the purchase to discuss husbandry and what to look for in a healthy pet. Scheduling a veterinary exam once you get your new pet is also an excellent idea! At that time, you can discuss how often your pet should be seen by its veterinarian and specific requirements for your new family member.


To learn more about exotic pets, contact your WVMA veterinarian! To find a WVMA veterinarian near you and your pet, visit


horseBeautiful Yet Deadly: Plants and Landscaping Materials Toxic to Livestock and Horses

Plants and greenery can certainly spruce up the lawn and fences around your farm or ranch, but some varieties of plants and landscaping materials are harmful to animals. Livestock and horses can be poisoned by many plants and trees. It is important to familiarize yourself with all vegetation on your property and be able to identify toxic plants.


According to Dr. Bill Nussdorfer from Sparta Veterinary Clinic, common plants capable of poisoning animals are many and include: maple leaves, alyssum, snakeroot, nightshade, yew, oak leaves and acorns, lupines, black walnut, bracken fern, cocklebur, milkweed, hemlock, some fruit tree leaves, sorghum, larkspur, pigweed, and sweet clover. Cocoa bean shell mulch adds a nice aroma to flower beds, but can sicken dogs if they eat it.


Susceptibility to plant poisons will vary by species of animal. Consult your veterinarian to determine specific plants dangerous to your animals.

Livestock and equine owners should also be aware of the dangers of algal blooms in water sources. Dr. Nussdorfer explains blue-green algae can be a problem in warm, sunny weather especially when there is enough nutrient content in the water to promote a "bloom" of algae growth. The toxins contained in the algae can be extremely poisonous to animals and humans, causing severe gastrointestinal and neurological disease, and in some cases rapid death.


The amount of toxins in pastures is affected by environment and location. Factors such as moisture, dryness, season and temperature all influence the rate of plant growth and toxin content. According to Dr. Nussdorfer, poisonous plant growth is frequently found along fence lines, in pastures, and in wetlands. Remember, any pasture is not the proper place to dispose of garden, shrub or tree trimmings!


Symptoms of plant related poisoning varies depending on the plant and toxin ingested. Dr. Nussdorfer states that neurological, respiratory, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, and cardiovascular diseases are all possible resulting effects in livestock and horses. To help your veterinarian effectively access the situation, Dr. Nussdorfer stresses that owners need to be knowledgeable about the plants and weeds in their pastures and be able to describe the symptoms shown by the animal.


Fencing, mowing and weed control should be performed to prevent and decrease availability of poisonous plants. Providing a clean water source and adequate diet will also help insure your animals are not searching for polluted water and potentially dangerous food sources, explains Dr. Nussdorfer.


Contact a WVMA member veterinarian to learn more about specific plants and landscaping materials that are toxic to animals.

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