It’s easy to tell that Easter is approaching by the amount of advertisements containing cute bunny rabbits and fuzzy little chicks! Often, parents looking for a first pet are inspired by these ideas, and will surprise children with a baby chick or a bunny in an Easter basket. While both species can be very rewarding pets, there is a lot more to them than meets the eye!
Rabbits can make wonderful pets, but they require more work than a dog or a cat!
Below, Kingsbrook Animal Hospital reveals some facts about rabbit and chicken care.
Rabbits need to be spayed and neutered, just like dogs and cats. Intact male rabbits often
This bunny is a lop! Lops have very long ears.
become aggressive, and over 80% of intact female rabbits will develop invasive and fatal reproductive cancers before 5 years of age. Healthy, well-cared-for rabbits will live for 10-12 years!
Bunnies require very specific housing conditions. They need solid-floor housing–wire-bottom cages and shelves can cause a condition known as “bumblefoot,” which is a painful infection and swelling of the feet. Rabbits cannot have wood shavings of any kind, and cages should be in a well-ventilated area to minimize the risk of
Rabbits, just like cats and dogs, need to be seen by a veterinarian at least once a year.
There are “good” and “bad” veggies when it comes to rabbits. It is important not to feed sweet or starchy fruits and veggies such as apples, sweet potatoes, or carrots, because they can actually slow down a bunny’s digestive tract and cause life-threatening GI stasis.
Baby chicks require lots of specialized care until they are old enough to live outdoors.
Rabbits like romaine, Swiss chard, endive, and red- or green-leaf lettuce. Even more important is a constant supply of fresh timothy hay.
Baby chicks need to be kept inside until they are fully feathered–this can take around 5 months for some breeds. Chicks need a very temperature-controlled environment
Chickens are birds, which means they will make noise and can be fairly messy!
(~95 degrees is ideal) which means a heat lamp is a requirement. Also, chicken feces contain salmonella bacteria, so baby chicks need lots of clean-up to keep the bacterial populations to a minimum.
Chickens are birds, which means they can fly(to an extent)! This sounds obvious, but it means that either the chickens will need a very tall fence, at least 7 feet, to prevent escape– or they will
If a chicken is going to be a good pet, it needs to be handled from a young age.
require regular wing trims to prevent flight. Keep in mind that if a chicken can’t fly, it can’t escape from a fox or raccoon!
Many city ordnances and homeowners’ associations (HOAs) prevent owning chickens or any “farm” animals. Be sure to research all laws and by-laws thoroughly!
One of the most common procedures done in veterinary clinics around the country (and here at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital!) is altering a pet—“spaying” for females, and “neutering” for males. What exactly is involved in these surgeries, and what benefits are there for pets who are surgically altered?
“Neutering” is the surgical removal of the testicles. In dogs, this is done through a small
KAH technician Julie poses for a brief selfie with Rusty before getting started with surgery!
incision in the abdomen, while for cats and for rabbits the veterinarian can perform the surgery by making a tiny incision in the scrotum.
Almost 100% of intact male cats AND rabbits will spray urine in the house. They may become aggressive or destructive, and most will escape outdoors to find a female and defend their “territory.” Unless he is being used for breeding purposes, there is very little benefit to leaving a male cat or rabbit intact. Cats and rabbits are usually neutered no later than 6 months old.
Dogs, however, are a different story. Large-breed male dogs (those over 50lbs as adults) especially seem to benefit a lot from remaining intact until they are finished growing. For these boys, owners can wait until 1 year of age to neuter.
Smaller dogs(or larger boys who start to show signs of marking or aggression)can be neutered as early as 6 months of age.
Dr. Lynch completes a pre-anesthetic exam and enters her notes. Every surgical patient at KAH is given special care!
A “spay” is when the veterinarian removes a female’s uterus and ovaries. This prevents pregnancy and pyometra, a life-threatening infection of the uterus.
Cats and rabbits are spayed before 6 months of age to prevent them from going through a heat cycle. For both species, once a heat cycle starts it won’t end until the pet has mated.
Spaying before the first heat cycle prevents mammary cancer. Most intact female cats and rabbits will develop mammary
KAH technician Sam cuddles her recovering patient after a spay surgery.
tumors, which are invasive, fast-growing, and almost always fatal. There is no benefit to leaving a female cat or rabbit intact unless she is going to be used for breeding.
Larger-breed female dogs may benefit from waiting until 1 year of age to spay. However, most girls go through their first heat cycle between 6-8 months old. Our veterinarians at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital consider each dog on a case-by-case basis and make recommendations accordingly.
Veterinary medicine is constantly advancing both in scope and in quality, and one newer option many pet owners aren’t familiar with is pet insurance. At Kingsbrook Animal Hospital, this is a topic most often brought up in conversations with new puppy or kitten owners, but animals of all ages can benefit from a pet insurance plan. Below, KAH shares some information on pet insurance to help owners make an informed decision!
1. Pet insurance plans are usually for accident/illness, but many offer additional coverage for wellness care. This can help to cover things like routine vaccinations, annual (or semi-annual) physical exams, and even oral health care such as dental cleanings. Some companies even offer additional riders for breeding dogs or those who are at increased risk of hip dysplasia.
2. Most plans are customizable in cost, where owners can set their own premiums and/or deductibles. A higher deductible amount usually means a lower monthly or quarterly premium, just like with human insurance.
3. Pet insurance covers new problems, but not pre-existing conditions. For example, if a dog has been treated for an ear infection previously and comes in for a new exam because he is shaking his head and scratching at his ears, pet insurance will not cover the new exam or any treatments if the problem this time is another ear infection. This is why Kingsbrook Animal Hospital discusses pet insurance plans with all new pets–if they’re enrolled while they’re young and healthy, there are no pre-existing conditions!
4. Different than human health insurance, with its co-pays and delayed billing, pet insurance reimburses owners once claim forms and invoices have been submitted. Owners still have to pay for exams and treatments out-of-pocket, but once the insurance company processes the claim a check will be mailed for the amount covered.
5. Not all pet insurance is created equal. Kingsbrook Animal Hospital recommends Pets Best insurance (click on the link to learn more), but several other companies such as Trupanion and Embrace have gotten good reviews from our clients too.
KAH patient Swaggy is ready to look into pet insurance! Be sure to research which company has the best plan for each pet before buying!
6. Keep in mind that most insurance companies have a “waiting period” after enrollment, usually between 10-30 days. This means that any exams or issues within 10-30 days after applying for coverage will not be picked up by the new insurance.
One of the most important things owners can do for their pets is giving or applying preventative medications. These “preventatives” help protect our pets from all sorts of yuckky things. Below is some information on preventatives.
These are some of the parasites that can be avoided with the regular use of preventatives!
Preventatives cover parasites inside and outside of the body. Flea and tick preventatives like Nexgard also help prevent tapeworms (which are carried by fleas), and Interceptor also has a basic dewormer included to take care of hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms. We see all 4 types of intestinal parasites here in Frederick! Worst of all, some of these are zoonotic parasites, which means they can be shared with people too.
Cats need preventatives, too! Feline friends who go outdoors, or who live with dogs with known flea problems, can really benefit from preventatives. Frontline will address the fleas and ticks, but Revolution (another topical medication) also prevents heartworms and certain mites.
Preventatives need to be given monthly in order to do their job. This means once every 30 days! There is no “carryover,” which means once every 2 months isn’t protecting the pet for the second month. Most manufacturers of preventatives will guarantee their products, but ONLY if they are given monthly!
Flea and tick prevention is just as important over the winter as it is during the summer. Ticks in Maryland do not die off in the cold, and in fact are searching harder for a warm furry body to live on. If the winter stays temperate, the fleas don’t die off either, and here at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital we have indeed seen pets with fleas over the winter!
KAH’s own Dr. Cook displays Nexgard, a safe and effective oral flea & tick preventative.
Preventatives cost much less than treatment for parasites. Fourteen years’ worth of heartworm preventatives still cost less than one round of heartworm treatment, and usually dogs need 3 treatments. Unfortunately, heartworm disease in cats is fatal since they can’t tolerate the medication used in dogs. Fleas can take up to 6 months to be completely eradicated from the environment, which means washing all fabrics in the house several times and treating all pets (even indoor-only cats) who live there.