By Dr. Vanessa Vandersande
At Copper Hill Animal Clinic we see exotic pets every day. Reptiles, birds, small mammals, and amphibians all have very particular needs. The most common illnesses we see in these interesting pets are almost always related to errors in husbandry. The best place to ask questions about your exotic pets’ husbandry is at your neighborhood veterinarian! The following covers some quick points in caring for your exotics.
Guinea pigs make for a charming small mammal pet. These cheerful pocket pets require a particular diet to stay healthy. Just like humans, guinea pigs must have vitamin C in their diet regularly to avoid scurvy. The best way to get vitamin C is through their diet, in foods such as guava, kale, broccoli and red peppers. Many guinea pigs enjoy these foods but if yours does not our hospital also carries a high quality vitamin C supplement that is very palatable to guinea pigs. Most eat them like a treat!
Desert tortoises are well suited to life in Santa Clarita and have smart, stoic personalities. However, they are subject to upper respiratory infections when stressed and an unbalanced diet can worsen their constitution. The following plants make for excellent sources of food: grass, weeds, dandelions, alfalfa (in moderation), nopales (Opuntia cactus), mulberry tree leaves, grape leaves, common cheese mallow and other mallows, chickweed, and nut grass.
Supplements include endive, escarole, squash (such as zucchini), chopped carrots, small amounts of kale, romaine and other dark-green leafy vegetables. Rose petals, nasturtium and hibiscus flowers can occasionally be given as extra treats. Additional calcium should be dusted on the food as well to properly balance their diet.
This is only a small sampling of the many varied needs of exotic pets. Make an appointment today if you need further information about your scaly, shelled or feathered friend!