Thu, Nov. 14

Test time: Apply your thinking caps

I want to thank everyone for their support and understanding as I recovered from major surgery. This was a very scary time for me and my family. I am now able to practice again full-time, the results were all benign, and life is wonderful! Thank you for all the cards and flowers, I truly appreciated them, and love being part of the Village Community.

Last month's Village Vet column was met with great enthusiasm. The only aspect I heard that was missing was horses and reptiles. So as requested here are a couple of True/False for them.

1. Feeding insects to lizards gives them their calcium, you can tell because the insect ‘shell’ is stiff. FALSE Actually the skeleton and ‘shell’ of insects are made of chitin, which while is brittle there is no calcium whatsoever in the making of it. The best way to be sure your reptile is getting enough calcium is to either ‘gut-load’ the crickets with high calcium foods, or dust them in calcium powder before feeding to your lizard.

2. Any insect is fine to feed to my Bearded Dragon. FALSE Frankly this can be true of any captive reptile. If your neighbor has had their house and yard treated for insects, and they (the insects) make it to YOUR house, then you feed them to your lizard … toxicity can occur. Also, and this is scary, Lightning bugs, though easy to catch, the phosphorescence is deadly toxic to Bearded Dragons.

3. My horse isn’t around other horses, so this twice a year vaccination schedule isn’t necessary. FALSE…mostly. You may be able to get away without vaccinating an isolated horse for the most part. The problem arises from those diseases that aren’t carried by other horses, West Nile and Rabies. Since the mosquito is the vector for the West Nile, any body of water can be the reservoir…from wildlife. Also most horses are curious about something that isn’t acting right, like a bat flopping around that is succumbing to rabies…one bite on the nose, and you may have a case of rabies. Oh, and all bets are off on pregnant mares since there ARE vaccines necessary at 5, 7 and 9 months pregnant to benefit the offspring. Don’t skimp on your equine vaccines, your horse and you will appreciate it!

4. Horses are very good candidates for acupuncture. TRUE While mostly I perform acupuncture on small animals and exotics, some of my BEST responders to treatment are horses. I once had a cowboy friend of mine tell me that he didn’t believe in acupuncture since it was all placebos. I replied, well, then, how do you explain how it works in animals? They don’t know what a placebo is! (He actually grinned and agreed that I had a point.) Each horse has a different personality, and just like small animals, some relax, figure out you are helping them, and the effects are incredible. For the most part my first session I limit the number of needles, just to give them the idea, and also so they don’t think I am doing their spring shots! By the second treatment, I have had horses see my vehicle and trot right over to where they were normally tied for the procedure. I have had others that come to me, eagerly walk up ready to go. The one thing that’s a benefit to me, is that once I know the horse, I am able to do the treatment by myself, most horses fall asleep and wouldn’t dream of pulling out a needle. Dogs and cats on the other hand, like to remove their own, so I need an assistant at all times!

5. Snakes are the easiest of all reptiles to have as a pet. TRUE! OK, this may be a bit biased because of almost three decades of watching other reptiles become pets and having difficulties. Lizards are great pets, AND they require special diet, special lighting, basking lights, large enclosures etc. Turtles require much the same, and during the warmer months outdoor time. Tortoises, again, special diets, lighting, and regular health check BEFORE you consider letting them hibernate for the winter. Snakes on the other hand have an easy diet for the most part (yes you can buy frozen mice), because they eat an entire animal you have less of a problem with nutritional deficiencies.

They are easy to clean especially if you use Astroturf like substrate at the bottom of their aquariums. Exercise obviously has to be in a confined area so they don’t escape, but they can have sun time too. All in all for acquiring a reptile, the snake is the easiest and most economical.

OK, a final word here before I get into trouble. Mice, rats and other rodents make wonderful pets in and of themselves! Rats are very intelligent, can be trained easily, and they eat almost anything. Just because something traditionally is a food source for something else does NOT mean I don’t think they are equally wonderful as pets. Same with chickens, yes they can be a food source, however, hand raised they are very affectionate and highly trainable pets.

I doubt if there is a single pet out there that I haven’t had as a companion at some point in my illustrious career, they all can be wonderful! If you are thinking of adding a companion/pet to your household and would like advice please give us a call, and we’ll do our best to help you in your endeavor!

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