The "Flea" Market ~Walkin' The Dog ~The Cat's Meow ~The Fish Bowl ~For The Birds ~The Snake Pit ~The Rat Race

The "Flea" Market

When it comes to fleas, we can be glad that we live in modern times. Down through the ages, fleas have bugged pets and people most unmercifully. Fleas are terrible pests, and our great-great- grandparents tried very hard to get rid of them. Their methods, however, were not that successful compared to those we have available to us now.
For example, most people tend to think of lapdogs as the pampered, idle rich of the dog world. In earlier times, lapdogs actually had an important job. Some historians think it was to attract fleas off their owners and onto themselves.
Today, thankfully, there are better ways to get rid of fleas. Your veterinarian can recommend ways to alleviate your flea problem. Fleas are not just irritating, they can cause health problems for your pet, particularly if he or she is allergic to them. One common problem resulting from fleas is pets chewing on their skin and causing "hot spots". These can become open sores, attracting bacteria and becoming infected.
Why have fleas always been such a pain? Years ago, houses weren't as dry or cleaned as often and certain types of fleas were simply more common. Today, despite our improved ways of fighting fleas, they can still be hard to get rid of if they get a toehold in your household. Fleas are very small and hard to see, and they are very resourceful little bugs. A single female can lay dozens of eggs in just one day, and thousands in her lifetime. Flea eggs can lay dormant in carpets and pet bedding for long periods of time, waiting for the right moment to hatch.
For these reasons, fleas are often the most irritating problem facing pet owners. This is also why flea-control is a billion dollar business. There are a confusing array of products available today to control fleas, but not all of them work the same or as well. That's why you should talk to your veterinarian if you think you have a flea problem or just want to make sure you never get one. Your veterinarian can suggest products that will solve your problem.
The best products on the market can be obtained through your veterinarian. The most effective products are the ones that don't require fleas to bite a pet first before killing them. These products will kill nearly 100% of adult fleas within 24 hours of application. No adult fleas mean no flea eggs! These products should be used 8 to 12 months a year to prevent your pet and home from becoming infested. Ask your veterinarian for the best product to suit your pet.
These treatments are extremely important if your pet suffers from an allergy to fleas. This type of allergy will show up as skin irratation, or hot spots. If you think your pet as this allergy, contact your veterinarian about a new product that actually reduces and can almost eliminate this problem in your pet.

Walkin' The Dog

Part of the normal routine for a healthy dog is regular exercise, which along with a good diet, is essential in keeping your dog happy and healthy.
All dogs love and need daily exercise - the amount your dog needs will depend on his size and his breed. Some smaller breeds can have lots of energy; whereas some larger breeds are not always as energetic. Puppies will get enough exercise through his natural playfulness, but as he grows up he must be taken for regular walks. Don't take your dog out until he has had all of his vaccinations and been given a clean bill of health from your veterinarian.
Your dog must be kept on a leash whenever you are near a street or wherever he is likely to cause a nuisance (most cities have leash laws requiring dogs be on a leash). Both you and your dog will be much happier if it is well trained. Remember, not everyone is as fond of dogs as you are and you must respect their feelings and keep your dog under control at all times. Part of your walk should be over hard surfaces (concrete, asphalt) as this will help to keep his nails short.
If your dog is young and still growing,don't make the mistake of overexercising your dog as the bones are not yet strong enough to cope with the extra stress of rigorous excercise.
Regular and varied walks are not just essential in keeping your dog fit - they also provide the opportunity for your dog to experience new stimuli, including meeting other dogs. This will help them to develop into a contented and well adjusted pet. All exercise should be supervised - never allow your dog to stray and never let your dog out during the day to fend for itself.
Remember that a good walk or run every day will keep him in good shape and will help to avoid the problems of obesity.
As your dog ages, he will tire out more easily. His joints may stiffen and he will be subject to muscular aches and pains just like we humans experience as we get older. There are a number of drugs available from your veterinarian to improve your dog's mobility, if necessary.
Older dogs often have poor eyesight and their hearing and other senses may also be impaired. They can easily become disorientated and lost if separated from their owner, so don't let your dog get too far away from you when out walking.
Although your dog may be less active, it is still very important to maintain a moderate level of exercise - this helps to improve his circulation, keeps his joints moving and he will also receives plenty of fresh air.
Take him for more frequent, shorter. Don't overdue it. When raining, make sure you dry your dog thoroughly when you get home. If the ground is icy or if there is salt on the roads, wash and dry his paws to avoid irritations, which can lead to sores and infections.
Don't take him out for walks when the temperature is extremely hot or extremely cold. Wait until the weather is more comfortable, his body may not be able to handle overly hot or cold conditions.

The Cat's Meow

A clean, shiny coat is a sign of good health and proper nutrition. Cats are naturally clean animals so your cat may need very little grooming. Long haired cats need to be groomed regularly - preferably once a day - so it is best to get the cat used to this when it is a kitten. If you can get your cat or kitten used to being groomed, then regular grooming of your cat can be enjoyable for both you and the cat. If the cat or kitten gets nervous when you attempt grooming, spend some time playing until it is comfortable with you touching it. Let your cat play with the comb or brush before you attempt grooming.
Remove all the dead hair out of the coat using a soft bristle brush or comb. Be very gentle when combing the cat's head. Brush down the body, the tail, and the legs.
With long haired cats and kittens the fur may become tangled or matted. The matted hair will need to be removed before attempting to groom. If the matting is severe it may be necessary to have your cat sedated and then clipped. Always seek expert advice if this problem occurs.
If your cat is dirty, use a clean damp cloth to wipe the cat down. Use warm water only.
Grooming your cat gives you a good opportunity to check its skin for any lumps, rashes, or other signs that your cat is not well. If you find any problems your should contact your veterinarian.


The Fish Bowl

Choosing the right location for your aquarium is very important. Basic points to remember are:

Electrical supply - you should position your tank near an electrical socket to accommodate any electrical hardware.
Keep your tank away from strong, direct sunlight. This encourages algae growth which can ruin the appearance of your aquarium.
A tank of water is heavy. If you are using a tank without a stand specifically manufactured for aquariums, make sure the surface you choose is flat and strong.
Pick a location that would benefit from the attraction - don't hide your creation! Choose a place where it will be seen - even from both sides, maybe as a room divider.
Purchase a good quality glass aquarium with hood. The hood should have a 'condensation tray' below the light to prevent condensation reaching the lighting unit. The basic equipment you will need is a filter, an airpump and, if you want to keep marine or tropical fish, a heater thermostat.
The filter is needed to clean the water. Waste, such as uneaten food and excrement, must be filtered from the water or they will break down and pollute the aquarium. There are four basic kinds of filtration:

1. Internal filtration:
These filters fit inside the aquarium. Water is drawn in through the bottom of the filter and through filter media - usually sponge - by an electric pump. It is then pumped back into the water an attached spray bar. Internal filters are ideal for all sizes of tanks.

2. Undergravel filtration:
With the undergravel filter, the gravel itself is the filter medium. A special undergravel filtration plate is placed on the bottom of the aquarium with an upright pipe fixed to one corner. The filtration plate is then covered with about 3 inches of gravel. A submersible electric pump, known as a powerhead, pumps water up the tube drawing it through the gravel. The gravel filters the water as it passes through.

3. Reverse flow filtration:
This system combines the benefits of both internal filtration and undergravel filtration. An internal filter is connected to the uplift tube on an undergravel filtration system. The water is filtered by the internal filter then pumped down the uplift tube and filtered again by the gravel.

4. External filtration:
External filters are outside of the tank. The water is drawn from the aquarium and filtered through one or more filtration media before being pumped back into the aquarium.

Airpumps put additional oxygen into the water. Fish need to breathe and the water therefore needs to be oxygen-rich. When air is pumped into the tank it puts oxygen into the water. More importantly, the rising bubbles create movement which circulates the oxygen-rich water at the surface around the rest of the tank, which also increases the oxygen in the water. An airstone can be used to make this more effective and attractive.
A heater thermostat is used to warm the water. Tropical and marine fish need to be kept in water at about 25C - 28C (77F - 82F). Choose a heater thermostat suitable for the size of your tank. Your pet store can advise you on the size you need. You will also need a thermometer to check the water temperature.
To prepare your water, put your gravel and your rocks into your aquarium before adding the water. Rinse all gravel before use in clean water. This is most important as dirty gravel will result in cloudy water. Boil any rocks or bog-wood before use. It takes about 2 weeks from filling the tank to the water being in the right condition to be able to put fish safely into the aquarium.
Ordinary tap water can be used it must first be treated to remove the chlorine before fish can be added. The first step in this process is to neutralise the chlorine in the water by adding a neutraliser called a "Dechlorinator".
Just as we need many types of bacteria to help us stay healthy, fish also need an environment which contains the right amounts of certain bacteria which help to break down waste. This increase in useful bacteria is called 'maturing'. This maturing process can be speeded up by leaving the heater and airpump running and adding two or three crumpled flakes of fish food each day to 'feed' the bacteria that help the maturing process. Once this has been done it should be safe to introduce the fish after about 14 days.
Every 2 to 3 weeks it is recommended that you carry out a partial water change. This means siphoning 20% to 30% of the water out of the tank (you don't need to remove the fish) and replacing it with new water. The new water can be tap water, but treated with a product such as a Dechlorinator prior to adding it to the tank. If you have tropical fish, to avoid distressing them, you should warm the new water to about 25C (77F), and pour it carefully into the tank.
The two main potential problems which can occur in aquarium water is a build up of nitrite, and an imbalance in the level of acidity. If left unattended both can stress the fish and lower their resistance to disease. Both are easily monitored and controlled with water test or treatment kits, your pet store can advise.
Fish need living space, do not overstock your tank. As a general rule allow 24 square inches of surface water area for each one inch of coldwater fish, and 10 square inches for each inch of tropical fish (head to tail, but not including the tail fin). Ideally, you should allow 2 gallons of water per goldfish, and more once the fish grows more than a few inches long.
Make sure your fish have been properly quarantined before you buy them. Disease often takes a few weeks to show and a fish not quarantined can easily introduce diseases which can infect all your fish. It is also better to add your fish gradually starting off with only two or three fish of one species, then building up more over the months as your tank matures.
If at all possible, buy your fish nearby. Long trips and a drop in water temperature can stress your fish. Before you put the fish in the tank , float the opened plastic bag on the surface of the tank for about 20 minutes to equalise the water temperature and reduce the stress on the fish. Fish which are just introduced into a new tank may be nervous and hide. Leave them alone for a few hours to get used to their new home. After that, you can give them a few fish flakes.

For The Birds

A pet bird can be a wonderful addition to your family. However, there is a lot a new bird owner must know in order to keep a bird healthy and develop a loving and trusting relationship.

Feeding
An all seed diet is not recommended. Birds have starved to death when their owners thought they had a bowl full of seeds. Pet parrots crack the seeds and eat the inside portion. The hulls often remain in the bowl giving the appearance that the bird has plenty of food when actually there are no seeds left at all. Replace your bird's food every day.

Diet
Seeds are a very poor source of nutrition. They lack calcium, protein and many other vitamins and minerals which birds need. Seeds and nuts are also high in fat, which can lead to liver disease. While birds do eat seeds in the wild, they also supplement their diet with many other foods - nuts, berries, fruit, bugs, etc. Like humans, birds require a balanced diet to stay healthy. Birds enjoy vegatables, fruits, sprouts, grains, pasta, and even cooked meat like chicken. Pellets are also a good source of nutrients. Many experts recommend that pellets should be no more than 50% of the diet, while others feed a higher percentage. Seeds and nuts can be given as treats.

Toxic Foods
Some foods that are safe for humans, are deadly to birds. These include such items as avocados,alcohol, chocolate, caffeine, lima beans, raw kidney and cigarette smoke and pesticides in fruits and vegetables.

Grit
You don't need to use Grit. Most birds don't need grit and can even get an impacted crop from it. Grit is only recommended for birds who eat whole seeds - shell and all. Most birds crack their seeds, leaving the hulls and so have no need for the grit.

Cages
Make sure the cage you get for your bird gives him plenty of room to spread his wings, jump, climb around, swing and play. Be sure the bars are not spaced so that a bird can wedge his head between them and get stuck . Since birds tend to favor the higher parts of the cage, get one with a large width and depth. Your bird will be spending many hours in his cage, so the bigger the cage the better. Be sure to place the cage away from drafts or doors that lead to the outside. Temperature should not go below 55 degrees.

Perches
Birds spend lots of time on their perches. They need perches of different diameters to prevent foot problems such as atrophy and arthritis. Tree branches are very good for the feet and also help satisfy the chewing urge. Perches made from dowels are uniform and don't exercise feet. A cement perch can help keep nails trimmed. Put a wooden perch high in the cage. Make sure perches aren't over water or food bowls or other perches so droppings don't hit them. You can use multiple perches, but be sure to leave room for birds to move around in the cage.

Communication
One of the most important things in creating a successful relationship with your bird is the ability to understand his body language and vocalizations. Birds learn to communicate through sounds, behavior and actions. By using these they can tell us when they are happy, frightened, hungry, angry, tired, sick, or ready to be held and cuddled. It is extremely important that bird owners learn to interpret the meanings of their birds sounds and behaviors in order to successfully tame, train, and provide them with the very best care.

Attention
Birds are very intelligent and social creatures who need love and attention. Although the amount of attention varies by species, a bird who is ignored or bored can go crazy, plucking his feathers or even mutilating himself. Keep your bird in a location where there is family activity, but be sure he has a quiet place to sleep in at night. Talk to your bird. If you work, leave the radio or TV on when you are not there. Take him out to play every day. Be sure he has lots of toys to play with in his cage. Give your bird lots of love and affection.

Feathers
If your bird accidentally loses some feathers, don't panic. They'll grow back. Bird also molt. It is their way of replacing worn feathers. Different species molt at different times and lose different amounts of feathers. Feathers will usually grow back in about 2-3 weeks. If you see bare patches of skin, this could mean disease or feather plucking. In this case see your veterinarian.

Vets
Birds are very different than cats and dogs. Find one that knows about birds. Take your bird for a new bird exam to make sure it is healthy. Find a vet or hospital that you can contact at night or weekends in an case of emergency. Birds should also have an annual check-up.

The Snake Pit

Snakes have various needs that must be met in order to keep it in good health in captivity. The following are some factors that are important to the well-being of your snake.

Cages
Cages should be of adequate size, properly ventilated, escape proof and easy to clean. Aquariums with pegboard or screen tops make good cages, however, snakes may rub their noses raw on wire mesh or screen. Large cages can be made of wood and pegboard, Most snakes do not need that much space. Suggested cage sizes are 1/2 square foot of floor space per foot of snake for those up to six feet in length and 3/4 square foot of floor space for those six to nine feet long. Increase the cage size by about 25% for each additional snake. Floor covering makes cleaning easier. Paper (including newspaper), outdoor carpet, and pea gravel are very good. Shredded aspen, a is also a good for medium and large snakes. Sawdust, kitty litter, soil and sand are not good. Sand and soil don't dry very well, and a wet cage can promotes skin diseases. Dust from sawdust or kitty litter may give you snake pneumonia which is incurable. Cedar chips are not recommended as they may be toxic to your pet.
Snakes can develop 'Dirty Cage Syndrome' when their cages are not kept clean and droppings build up. Cages should be cleaned every week or two with a detergent and a disinfectant. Household cleaners can be toxic to your snake, pet stores carry products that will not harm your pet. Most snakes do very well in a simple cage. You will need to supply a water bowl and some kind of hiding place. A closed cardboard cereal box with a hole in a corner works for larger snakes. If the box is too big for the snake, fill it with loosely wadded newspaper. Tree snakes need a branch to coil around. Plants, rocks, and other furnishings are optional.
Keeping one snake in each cage is best, particularly if it's a snake eater like a kingsnake. But if the snakes must be caged together, snakes of the same species are more likely to get along than snakes of different species.

Temperature
A reptile will have the same temperature as its enviroment; it will move to a warmer spot to heat up and a colder spot to cool off. Most have an "optimum" body temperature that can be maintained within a few degrees and id generally between 80 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature variance in the cage lets the snake decide what temperature it wants to be. A thermometer is necessary to gauge cage temperature because a snake won't eat if it's more than a few degrees below it's optimum temperature. In the wild, snakes have a day/night temperature cycle in the wild. It is best for a snake to spend the night at a temperature 5 to 20 degrees lower than its daytime temperature.

Feeding
Snakes are carnivores. They don't eat lettuce, carrots, bread or similar foods. The diet varies from species to species; check a reference book, or your veterinarian or pet store to determine what to feed your snake. Individual snakes may also show preferences. Whenever possible, the snake's natural food should be offeredgiven. Most adult snakes should be fed every week or ten days, young snakes should eat more often. A snake can go for weeks without food if necessary, but it is better to feed smaller meals more frequently than a large meal every three weeks.
Mice have been know to bite captive snakes, so a live rat or mouse shouldn't remain in the cage with the snake for more than an hour. Snakes don't require live prey, many snakes don't care if their food is alive or dead, and some will only eat dead food. Frozen food can be used but make sure it is thoroughly thawed.
If your snake won't eat, it may be too cold in its cage. Or it may want its food inside a hiding box for seclusion. It may want something different. If a live adult mouse frightens your snake, try a freshly killed mouse or a live pinky. Cutting the belly open of a dead mouse produces a blood smell and a wet area that help to stimulate feeding. Force feeding is traumatic to your snake and should be used as a last resort.

Parasites and Disease
Snakes can suffer from many ailments - mites and ticks on the skin, worms in the gut, and protozoa, bacteria, or viruses attacking the mouth, skin, and internal organs. New specimens should be quarantined for at least two weeks, and maybe as long as three months, so it can be determined whether or not they have any parasites or disease. If you are not equipped to treat any diseases that occur, the snake should be taken to a veterinarian that is experienced in treating reptiles.
Ticks are arthropods that suck blood and carry disease. You can gently pull them off with forceps, then drop them in a vial of alcohol. Make sure you get the tick's head out, leaving the tick's head in the snake's skin can cause minor infections.
Mites are pinhead-sized, blood sucking arthropods closely related to ticks. Freshly caught snakes rarely have mites. The common snake mite almost always arrives on a snake from a pet store or other infested location. Putting a two inch square piece of a Shell No-Pest Strip or equivalent (active ingredient = 2,2-dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate) in the snake cage over night kills the mites. Put the strip in a cardboard or plastic container with holes in it. The insecticide can come out, but the snake can't touch the strip. Don't give the snake water during this treatment. Afterwards, clean the cage thoroughly. One treatment should be enough if the mite-carrying snake has just arrived. If the mites aren't detected immediately, they will spread and the treatment may have to be repeated once a week for a month to catch them all.
Worm parasites are often present in the gut and most do little harm. They are found during fecal examinations and can be treated with a commercial wormers.

Shedding
Every 1 - 3 months a snake will shed its skin. The eyes will become cloudy for a few days, then they will clear, the skin is then shed a few days later. Most snakes refuse food during this process.
Sometimes not all of the skin is shed. This seldom happens if the humidity in the cage is kept at the proper level of 40 to 70 percent. Daily misting with water after the eyes clear will help prevent problems. If some of the skin remains unshed, the snake should be soaked in a bucket half filled with water at 70 to 85 degrees Farenheit for about an hour. The old skin can then be gently peeled off.

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