Monthly Archives: April 2019

A New Bunny Bestie? Kingsbrook Animal Hospital Explores Rabbits and Guinea Pigs as Pets

Springtime is all about new beginnings, and for many families this is the perfect time to add a new, furry member. For those who aren’t ready or able to care for a dog or a cat, “pocket pets” are a frequent starting point.  Although they are adorable and offer lots of love, these smaller pets are not always the easiest to care for! Here at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital in Frederick, MD the two pocket pets we see the most are rabbits and guinea pigs.

Rabbits

KAH’s Dr Lynch cuddles bunny patient Snickers.

While some rabbits do fine outdoors, it is best for rabbits to live inside. For optimal room to move about, 12 square feet (3’ x 4’) are needed for every 5lbs of rabbit—and in order to keep their feet healthy, they need a solid-bottomed cage (not the wire cages so often seen in the pet stores).  Bunnies can be litterbox trained, which frees them up to roam around a room or a floor of the house under supervision. This exercise is important for maintaining a healthy GI tract.

Speaking of GI tracts, rabbits need to eat constantly. While those pelleted diets are tasty, they aren’t all created equal. Look for a high-quality timothy-based diet—we love Oxbow Bunny Basics. While these pellets provide lots of nutrients, the most important thing a rabbit can eat is hay! Every bunny should have access to

KAH assistant Kayla poses with adorable Nittany while she was here for her annual exam.

an unlimited supply of clean, fresh timothy hay. Fresh greens are an important part of each rabbit’s diet, too, but take care to avoid anything high in calcium (such as spinach and kale) to prevent urinary problems. Sugary foods like sweet potatoes, apples and carrots can cause GI stasis, a painful and life-threatening condition where the intestinal tract basically shuts down.

Another consideration for prospective bunny owners is altering. Intact rabbits are prone to behavioral problems and cancer—80% of intact female rabbits will develop mammary cancer, which spreads rapidly and is usually fatal. If trying to house a pair of male rabbits together, neutering both is vital to prevent fighting.

Guinea Pigs

KAH assistants Emily (left) and Caitlynn (right) pause for a photo with a guinea pig patient Chandler.

Guinea pigs (or “cavies”) are similar, but not identical, to rabbits. They also require a solid-bottomed cage, but for these critters, substrate is extremely important.  Guinea pigs cannot have any wood shavings that contain aromatic oils, such as cedar or pine; the oils produce a toxic gas when they mix with guinea pigs’ urine. Cavies are very susceptible to upper respiratory issues and need a clean, dust-free environment—for this reason, recycled paper (e.g. Carefresh) is the best substrate choice.

As far as food, guinea pigs require a nonstop supply of fresh timothy hay just like their bunny cousins. However, guinea pigs cannot produce their own Vitamin C (just like people!) so it is very important that they eat a guinea pig-specific pelleted food, which needs to be stored in the dark to protect the Vitamin C. Fresh fruits and veggies such as oranges and romaine lettuce are great additions to a cavy’s diet and can help boost Vitamin C intake—optimally, guineas should

Joey the guinea pig came to visit KAH with his brother Chandler. We interrupted his hay-munching to snap a photo!

receive the Oxbow Natural Science Vitamin C supplement daily to ensure they’re getting enough of this critical nutrient. Also, like rabbits, high levels of calcium and sugar in a guinea pig’s diet are very dangerous, so it’s best to avoid foods or treats rich in these.

Here at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital, we love fur-babies of all sizes! Our veterinarians and staff are available and happy to assist with any questions a new bunny or cavy owner might have!

“Domestic Dinosaurs:” Kingsbrook Animal Hospital Explores Reptiles As Pets

Looking for a pet that is hypoallergenic, quiet, and a great conversation starter? Reptiles are quickly gaining popularity as pets–but that doesn’t mean that they are a great fit for everyone. The most common reptiles we see here at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital in Frederick, MD are bearded dragons and leopard gecko.

KAH assistant Karah’s beardie Amelia is soaking up the sun outside!

Bearded Dragons

Bearded Dragons, or “beardies,” are desert reptiles that originate from Australia.  They prefer drier climates and hot temperatures. Bearded dragons can reach 24 inches when fully grown and a healthy beardie can live up to 15 years!

Housing:

Juvenile bearded dragons may be small, but they grow relatively quickly. A full-grown bearded dragon needs a 75 gallon tank!  Substrate for the bottom of the tank can be newspaper, paper towels, or reptile pellets; sand is not ideal, due to the risk of impaction upon digestion.

KAH’s own Dr. Cardella poses with a beardie patient!

Lighting is extremely important for the health of a bearded dragon. UVB lighting is essential and should be available to beardies 12 hours each day. Being desert animals, they thrive in 90-100 degree temperatures–use temperature gauges to be sure heat is adequate. Basking spots should be available and can be a hide, reptile corkboard, or a reptile log. Heat rocks are not safe, as a beardie that rests on one can incur painful burns on their bellies and toes! Bearded dragons should have a warm side and a cool side to their habitat. A heat mat can be used under the tank to allow the temperature to stay within range of 75-80 degrees overnight.

Feeding:

Happy, healthy beardies eat a diet of both insects and veggies, and have access to UVB lighting.

Beardies are omnivores and require a variety of foods. Talking with your veterinarian at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital is important to help find the correct ratio that works for a bearded dragon’s current age–growing beardies have different needs from adults. A few examples of the foods these guys enjoy include: hornworms, crickets, waxworms, collard greens, turnip greens, cabbage, and bell peppers. Juvenile beardies should eat twice daily, whereas older beardies eat about once a day. Bearded dragons may thrive in desert conditions, but water is still important for our captive beardies! Always have fresh water available in a bowl that is easily accessible for them, and it can be helpful to occasionally mist their habitat.

Leopard Geckos

Housing:

KAH technician Morgan poses with a leopard gecko. These are unique and fascinating pets with a lot of specific husbandry needs!

Leopard geckos reach a size of 10 inches, and live an average of 8-12 years in captivity.  Males usually fight with one another, so only one male can live in each tank with 20 gallons being the smallest tank size advisable.  Like beardies, leopard geckos need a warm environment (88-90 degrees) and a temperature gradient (the cool end should be no less than 75 degrees), and they are also prone to burns from heat rocks.

Since geckos are only active at night, they do not need UVB lighting–but they can benefit from it. Leopard geckos do need a “hide” for the daytime such as a cave or a hut, and ideally this should contain moss or another material that retains humidity. Overnight heat is important for leopard geckos too. They do well with a felt substrate, artificial turf, or newspaper flooring in their habitat, and leopard geckos will actually designate a “potty” corner of their tank all by themselves–this makes for easy cleanup.  Just like bearded dragons, sand is not a good substrate because of the dangers associated with accidentally ingesting it.

Feeding:

Dr Cardella is examining this leopard gecko’s eyes. Improper substrates or humidity can affect a gecko’s ocular health.

Leopard geckos are strict insectivores, and thrive on a diet of live crickets and mealworms.
Insects should be “gut-loaded” (which means they are fed a high-protein and high-nutrient powder for at least 12 hours before being offered to a reptile) and can be “dusted” with a calcium/vitamin powder to ensure the gecko is getting enough of these nutrients. Geckos will also lick up a supplement on their own if it is available in their habitat. Like beardies and all animals, leopard geckos should always have fresh water available in an easily-accessible bowl.