Category Archives: Exotics

Tech Talk with Sara: Red-eared Sliders

Hello readers!

Today I am going to be talking about Red-eared Sliders. These little guys are one of the most common type of aquatic turtles kept as pets. If you’re thinking of getting an aquatic turtle for a pet & have children, keep in mind that they are a high risk of carrying salmonella. Always remember to practice good hygiene when handling these animals. That being said, I can stop ranting and we can get to some fun facts!

  • The scientific name of the red-eared slider is Trachemys scrita elegans and they received their name from the red stripe behind their eyes.
  • Their life span ranges from 20 to 40 years, making them friends for life!
  • The average size of Red-eared sliders will range anywhere from 6 to 12” in length, and they can reach adult size around 12 to 18 months depending on the conditions in which they are raised.
  • Something you want to keep in mind as they grow is that you will need to upgrade his/her habitat so they remain comfortable throughout their life.
sarah
HOUSING NEEDS

Aquatic turtles are NOT a low maintenance pet. They need to have fresh clean water and plenty of space to swim.  A good rule of thumb is that the turtle must be able to turn around completely without an issue, and aim for about 10 gallons per inch of total turtle length. A deeper swimming area is nice to have since the turtles like to stick their heads out of the water while their bodies are still submerged. In general, the water depth should be about twice the length of the turtle’s shell and there should be several inches of air between the water and the top of the tank to prevent escaping.  Tanks with lids are best to prevent the turtle from being able to crawl out.

It is important to keep your slider’s water clean since the turtles drink the water in which they swim, no matter how nasty I think it is.  This generally requires cleaning and water changes at least once a week.  Always try to keep the water clean & fresh.  Daily removal of any uneaten food & feces right away will help to avoid any illness. Getting your sliders accustomed to eating in a separate container will also help keep their tank clean, which means less work for you.  The habitat needs to be thoroughly cleaned & disinfected at least once a week with a 3% bleach solution & water.  After thoroughly washing & rinsing the enclosure, make sure the area is free of the aroma of bleach. Once done, add clean, dechlorinated water with a temperature ranging from 70 to 75° before returning your turtle to their home.

While plenty of healthy water is essential to sliders, this is not everything.  Sliders also need a dry dock, such as a slate, rock, or area of gravel, to give the turtle an optional area to eat, sunbathe, and dry themselves.  Like all reptiles, their environment should provide a temperature gradient so they can self-regulate their internal temperature.  The air temperature for the warmer basking side needs to be around 95°F & the cooler end, where the water would be, should have a water temperature of 75°F.  Basking bulbs are most commonly used for the area with the turtle dock and a submergible heater is most commonly used for the area with the water.  UVB rays with full spectrum lighting must be used for 10 to 12 hours a day.   This is required daily for the turtle to allow them to properly process the calcium their bodies need.  These bulbs are usually only good for 6 months, so be sure to change them regularly even if they are not “burnt out.”  Be sure your slider cannot burn or injure themselves with any of the objects in and around their tanks.

DIET

Aquatic turtles are omnivores & their main diet usually consists of a commercial pelleted diet with leafy vegetables, non-toxic aquatic plants, & sliced vegetables such as squash & carrots.  However, juvenile sliders are more carnivorous and become more herbivorous as the mature (trading in meat-based nutrients for plants and veggies).  Even adult sliders should to have comet goldfish, earthworms, & insects offered to them as treats to stimulate their hunting ability that may be lacking from their captive lifestyle.  As adults, sliders only need to be fed every couple days and try to maintain a ratio of 30% pellets and animal protein to 70% plant matter.

HEALTH AND BEHAVIOR

When thinking of getting an aquatic turtle for a pet, it is important to remember they do not enjoy being picked up or handled very much, and they are known to bite when frightened. Of course, they are excellent swimmers & they love to jump off their docks into the water. When the light is on for your turtle, you will see him/her basking regularly under the heat lamp to be warm & dry. Your turtle should be active & alert regularly. Of course he/she should be eating regularly. If not, then you should contact our hospital and have Dr. Balmer examine him/her.  You might notice as your turtle is growing that their shell looks to be slightly rough around the edges. This is normal!  It is normal for turtles to occasionally replace their individual scutes as they grow.  However, watch for lesions, sores, bumps, discoloration, or spots on the shell or skin; any discharge from the nose, eyes, mouth, or vent; or if he/she seems to be lethargic.  If you notice any of these signs, you should contact the Animal Hospital of Dauphin County for a physical exam.  Even if your pet is healthy, annual wellness visits are recommended and can reduce the risk of illness/injury. Some commonly seen health issues that aquatic turtles develop are listed below:

  • GI Tract Parasites
    • Signs & Symptoms: poor appetite, lethargic, diarrhea, & anal prolapse.
  • Respiratory Infection
    • Signs & Symptoms: Open mouth breathing, eyes, nose, or mouth discharge, sneezing.

      • This can be caused by a cold environment
  • Shell Rot/Ulcers
    • Discolored or foul-smelling patches or pits on the shell that can become infected

      • Most commonly seen in cases with poor unclean habitats or improper diets
  • Eye or Respiratory Infection
    • Swollen eyes & sides of head
      • Most commonly seen in cases with vitamin A deficiency

Tech Talk with Sarah: Macaws

TECH TALK

By: Sarah Elizabeth

sarah

PET BIRDS

MACAW

Hello! My name is Sarah & I am a vet tech from AHDC. Each month I will be posting a new blog about exotic pets. Things like at home care, pros & cons of having the responsibility of caring for an exotic pet, & general information.

Today I am going to be talking about Macaws! These colorful feathered friends of ours come in many sizes & colors. The personality of a Macaw is very unique.

MACAW

Socialization and Behavior

When first starting the socialization process between you & your new pet macaw, it is best to first allow your pet to adapt to his/her new environment. Not only for them, but also for yourself. For a few days, interact from a distance. Let your new pet get adjusted to your voice, your smell, ect. Macaws are known to build a very strong bond with one specific person of their choosing & can become very protective of this person. They can even potentially become violent if felt threatened. Therefore, at a young age it is best to have multiple people handle your pet so he/she will not feel easily threatened.

Besides proper socialization, macaws need exercise and room to do this.  Macaws are active birds that love to climb, swing, chew, and need adequate mental stimulation (toys) so screaming or plucking doesn’t become a habit out of boredom.  Macaws should have a minimum of 2-3 hours of playtime outside of the cage each day.

If you are interested in learning more about socialization and other macaw facts, check out this website: http://animal-world.com/encyclo/birds/macaws/MacawProfile.htm

Housing/Care

Macaws need very large cages in order to have a comfortable habitat. Although they come in all different sizes, larger macaws have a very wide wingspan  and their housing should allow them to spread their wings and stretch to preen (a minimum of 30in x 40in, height varies but usually about 57+in). Wooden perches are amongst their favorite places to rest, and they enjoy jumping from perch to perch safe from any harm below.  This also helps to stretch & move their muscles to avoid muscular dystrophy, or weakened muscles, which is common in poor environments.

Part of providing a good environment means providing a warm home as macaws come from the warmer environments of Central and South America. A good room temperature is between 70-75 degrees year round.  A heating lamp is a great way to heat an area for your companion, but be sure it is out of reach so your bird cannot harm itself.  Macaws are playful birds, and it is best to have objects that the bird can use to trim down its beak or nails naturally. Many people are under the impression that mirrors are a great thing for a bird so they can look at their reflection, but this is false information! Macaws & other birds tend to become very aggressive toward their own reflection, thinking that it is another bird in their space. Bowls should not be placed under perches, but rather near and beside perches so there is less chance of them soiling in their food & water.

It is best to have your macaw groomed frequently. Having the nails trimmed will keep both of you safe.  Some birds may also need their beaks smoothed or reshaped if they have overgrowth or peeling.  This can be done during an annual wellness for your macaw at AHDC or more frequently as needed.  While the vet and tech are performing such tasks, they are also monitoring your pet to make sure their stress level is okay & they are safe. During your bird’s annual examination, the veterinarian will do an overall exam of your pet & check for any signs of illness such as poor feather quality, damaged blood feathers, irregular breathing, and any other changes.  Blood feathers are new feathers that are developing on the bird and can be damaged due to wing cramping or a poor environment.  A way to keep their feather quality pristine & to be sure your pet macaw has great hygiene is to bathe your pet macaw regularly. It is common for macaws & many other avian breeds to bathe in the shower.  No shampoo necessary! In fact, although we love the flowery smells of most soaps, perfumes, and hand lotions, the smells are very overwhelming and irritating to birds.

I hope you enjoy this first newsletter and that we can help you and your companion enjoy a long and happy life together.

Nutrition

The average weight of a macaw is about 1.75 to 4 lbs. In length, a macaw can range up to about 30 to 35 in. long. Their wingspan can range between 40 to 45 in. long. Although macaws come in all different sizes & colors, I would like to focus on my personal favorite, the Blue and Gold Macaw.  Blue and golds are one of the most popular large parrot kept as companions due to their beautiful coloring and their overabundance of personality.  Most are a blue/turquoise color & have a yellow chest & belly. Their turquoise wings vividly flow into a beautiful green along the side of their bodies to the tip of their tail feathers which will sometimes fade into a dark green. The top of their head is caped with a vivid color of green, while their face is all white & will obviously blush red when excited. Their beaks are very large, curl, & are black in color. The average lifespan is about 50 to 60 years in captivity! A lifelong companion to have by your side.

General Information

The average weight of a macaw is about 1.75 to 4 lbs. In length, a macaw can range up to about 30 to 35 in. long. Their wingspan can range between 40 to 45 in. long. Although macaws come in all different sizes & colors, I would like to focus on my personal favorite, the Blue and Gold Macaw.  Blue and golds are one of the most popular large parrot kept as companions due to their beautiful coloring and their overabundance of personality.  Most are a blue/turquoise color & have a yellow chest & belly. Their turquoise wings vividly flow into a beautiful green along the side of their bodies to the tip of their tail feathers which will sometimes fade into a dark green. The top of their head is caped with a vivid color of green, while their face is all white & will obviously blush red when excited. Their beaks are very large, curl, & are black in color. The average lifespan is about 50 to 60 years in captivity! A lifelong companion to have by your side.

Bird Body Language

By Dr. Balmer

Did you know January was National Adopt a Rescued Bird Month?  Birds can make great additions to many families; but when considering any type of pet, it is best to first learn about their different behaviors, likes, and needs and consider how they would fit in with your family’s lifestyle.

Most of us are familiar with the meaning of a dog’s tail wag or a cat hissing.  Birds can be a little more elusive to those unfamiliar with them.  However, it is just as important for bird owners to learn how to interpret the sounds and behaviors of their feathered friend in order to respond in a positive manner.

One of the basics to bird body language is in their eyes.  Birds will often pin and flash (constrict and dilate) their pupils when they are feeling aggressive, nervous, scared, or excited.  To determine which feeling is motivating their pinning, you must also pay attention to the behaviors accompanying this action…

Aggression: Along with eye pinning, eyes will be slightly closed and elongated.  They may also fan their tail, hold their wings open or semi-open, or flap their wings.  Their mouth may be open and they may become stiff and lean down and forward with their neck stretched out.  They can also charge or try to bite.

If a bird acts this way toward you or another person or animal, beware.  This is not a happy bird and a bite or attack may follow if you do not heed their warnings.

Nervousness/Scared: These birds will also be pacing side to side or backing away to look for an escape route.  They may try to nip/bite or take flight.  Their body may be quivering or they may be lying on their back with the mouth open and feet up, ready to defend themselves.  You may also see heavy breathing and an overall “scared” look.

It is best to give these birds space to avoid over stressing them or causing them to become aggressive.

Excited/Pleasure:  While these birds are eye pinning, their eyes will also be wide open.  They will likely be vocal and trying to rub or snuggle their beak or other body parts against people or objects.  They may also move their heads, wag their tails, regurgitate, or offer a foot to step up.

These birds have a general “happy” look (sometimes too happy as these can also be signs of mating behavior).

Note: Birds with solid color eyes can be tougher to read.  In general, if their eyes are round, they are happy.  If a bird’s eyes are almond shaped or slightly elongated, give the bird space to allow him or her to calm down.

Now that you have this basic understanding of reading a bird’s body language, you may want to begin to consider adding a bird to your family! As you start the process of choosing the right bird for you and your family, be sure to seek more “bird knowledge” so you can provide the best care possible for your new friend!

Dr. Balmer is now seeing exotics! Book your appointment with her by going to our online scheduler..