Bringing a New Pet Home - Part Two


Last post I went over the general stuff you can do to prepare for you new pet *before* it comes home, so here’s some things you can do to once your pet is finally home.

Handling Your Pet the First Few Days
For most small pets, it’s a good idea to let them adjust for a few days before expecting them to behave normally.  Sometimes this is a matter of health, as in fish or adding animals to a colony, when isolation gives you a chance to observe them for health problems.  Sometimes it’s more of a stress issue – a new hamster or mouse may need a couple of days to adjust to their new environment before being played with or handled.  Cats, dogs, and rabbits seem to adjust faster, but you should still give them a few days before judging their personality or habits.  In snakes or other animals that don’t eat every day, appetites might shift with stress, and need a little while before becoming regular.  Remember – this is a big change for your pet, and transportation might not have been very much fun!

Introducing Your Pet to Other Pets
Definitely wait until they’ve settled in before introducing your new pet to any other animals you might have.  If your pet doesn’t require isolation, then you can introduce them as soon as you feel they’ve settled in and are comfortable and healthy.  All introductions should be supervised, and some animals cannot be left alone without supervision (predator-prey, like cats and rats or dogs and bunnies).  Look for signs of aggression – vocal warnings are one thing, but any pouncing, biting, or aggressive postures should be a sign to separate them.  Some critters will need to be introduced several times over a period of days before they get along, just depending on the animal.  A good trick with cats is to lock the resident cat into a room and let the newbie roam the place, until everything smells like them, and then switch them.  Eventually, they’ll get used to each other’s scents and argue a little less when you introduce them.

Training and Litter Training
Training is going to largely depend on the sort of pet you’re getting and its background.  It’s almost always better to go with rewards over punishments, however.  Litter training is probably the first thing you’ll have to do.  It’s not just for cats – rabbits and even rats can be litter trained, in fact, they almost train themselves.

Mice and guinea pigs tend to pick an area of the cage and always go to the bathroom there, so position food away from a corner so it won’t get soiled.  Rats prefer to keep where they sleep clean, so place a non-clay, non-clumping litter in a box in a corner of the cage and move any pellets or soiled bedding to the box.  With a little encouragement, they’ll figure it out.  Rabbits can be litter trained in a similar manner, but remember not to use clay litter as it can cause impaction.  Just place any pellets or soiled bedding in the box, and when you see bunny put his tail out, try and get him to his litter box.  Putting hay in the box helps, since rabbits frequently go to the bathroom while eating, but don’t add too much at a time or it will get too soiled.  It’s okay for a bunny to eat some of his poo – it’s necessary for digestion.  Spraying, however, is a different issue and will stop if you get your male rabbit neutered (it will help with aggression, too!).

Cats use litter boxes instinctively, so just make sure there are plenty that are easy to find in all areas of the house so your new cat or kitten can find where to go to the bathroom.  Potty training puppies on the other hand is a pretty big issue, so I’m not going to get into it right now, heh.

That’s about it for getting your new pet settled in!

See you next week (or sooner if I get around to that silly pet spotlight thing!)!
-Miss Mouse
<:3 )~~

Bringing a New Pet Home - Part One

My boyfriend and I have been checking out houses for a while now to find our perfect first home.  With much more space than our little apartment affords, we were toying with the idea of perhaps getting our first puppy along with it.  Not *quite* sure yet, but we've both always wanted a border collie.  :)

This got me thinking, so this Saturday and next I'll be rambling about the fun, but important, things to cover before and after bringing home your new friend.  :D

Today - Preparing for your new pet!

Do Your Research
And I'm not talking about asking the store employee which lizard will suit you best five minutes before bringing one home, either.  Before you ever buy a cage or go look at the shop's animals, get on the world wide web and start digging around for info to help you decide if you and that animal are a good match.  Here are some great questions to research:
     - What does the critter need for food?
     - What does the critter need for caging, litter, or space?
     - What do they need for companionship and exercise?
     - Do you have the time and money to exceed its needs?
     - Do they get along with any other pets you may have?

It's important to look at more than just one website for your information, in case the person or company publishing it doesn't have as much info as someone else, or is writing under a misconception.  Once you are certain you can meet and exceed all of the animal's requirements, can care for any friends it might require (like social animals that need to be purchased in pairs or colonies), and are aware of all of its habitat or medical requirements, it's time to move on to the next step.

Set Up the Cage or Supplies FIRST
As exciting as it is to bring your new pet home right away, it's important that your home be prepared.  It can be stressful to both you and the animal if you have to watch it while setting up its new home.  Have whatever litter box, food bowl, bed, cage, or other supplies completely prepared so the animal can relax for a little without the added activity.  This is especially important for fish - have an isolation tank set up and completely cycled before ever purchasing your new aquatic pet.

This actually leads to the last step for pre-pet preparations...

Proof the House Before Problems Arise
If your new pet is an out-of-the-cage sort,  like a bunny, puppy, kitten, ferret, etc., it will quickly become necessary to critter-proof anything in the house within reach...BEFORE damage to the house or the pet becomes an issue.  How to proof?

For cats, the biggest problem is usually scratching, climbing, or knocking things over.  I am painfully familiar with this one, and so is my denim couch!  Before your kitten or cat comes home, go through anywhere in the house they will have access to looking for:  exposed wires, glass or fragile things on counters, shelves, or desks, and any other pets the little ball of fur might find appetizing.  It's also a good idea to have extra litter boxes around the house, at least one per room, so no accidents occur.  Obviously, remove any poisons or household chemicals from reach.  If you have furniture you'd prefer not be scratched up or climbed on, most pet shops sell a spray that smells funky to cats, or you can rely on the tried and true squirt bottle method.

For puppies, it's a bit less of a climbing issue and more of a potty, chewing, and floor issue.  Once again, remove any exposed wires (or cover them), chemicals, or fragile things near to the ground.  If you have hardwood floors that need to not be scratched, keep the dog's nails trimmed and consider a nail cover like Soft Paws.  Potty training will be covered next week.

For rabbits, chewing is by far the biggest issue, followed probably by spraying (when it comes to un-neutered males).  Since rabbits LOVE branches, wires must be covered.  If you have to have some exposed, you can easily cover them using plastic tubes like come in long lengths for fish tanks.  Just slit down the length of the tube and pop it over the wire.  That way, you can watch for chewing before it becomes dangerous.  Keep inappropriate foods, plastic bags, and chemicals off the floor and any furniture the bunbun might be allowed to jump up on.  Papers are another thing to watch out for - they love to tear, and they don't care how important the papers are to you!  ;)  If you have other out-of-cage animals that you're concerned about, keep them in another room until they have been properly introduced and you're positive they can get along. 

For other free-roaming pets, just make sure there isn't anything lying around that can be chewed, messed on, or might be poisonous.  It's just important to have everything prepared so that no serious accidents occur while they're settling in.  :)

Next week I'll cover introducing pets to your home and to other pets, when to start handling your new animal, and how to train and potty train your new small animal.  :)

See you next Caturday!
-Miss Mouse
<:3 )~

P.S. - I know I missed putting up that animal spotlight this Wednesday, I'm sorry.  We've been so busy house-shopping that I didn't have much time to write a good one.  I'm still going to post something up, though, hopefully this week.  ;)

Giving Medications - For The Not-So-Healthy Critter

Happy Caturday!

It turns out my boyfriend's dog Diamond, who resides at his parent's house and we are petsitting this weekend, got a nasty ouchie on her leg last week.  Her vet has prescribed clavamox, a common antibiotic, in pill form to help her ward off infection through the injury.  She *hates* it, and is very sneaky about extracting it from whatever food we've hidden it in, spitting it out, and then eating the medicine-free food!  Here's a couple of pictures of the goofball:

Diamond is a German Shorthaired Pointer, a past champion, and quite the diva.

In the interest of Diamond, I'm going to talk a bit about giving oral medications today to our furry friends who happen to not feel so hot.  Since there are many different kinds of medications and methods of administration, I'm only going to cover a few here, but these should be applicable to several different kinds of pets - not just dogs.

First let me point out that some treatments involve vaccines or shots, and should only be given by a professional vet OR under the instruction of one.  I definitely would not recommend giving shots by yourself unless you've had training and are sure about what you're doing.  :)

When it comes to oral medications, you will likely be prescribed either liquid or pills.  Liquid medications might be flavored or might not, and some can be mixed into wet food, whereas some may need to be given straight.  When giving liquid meds, it's important to either keep the syringe you are giving it with very clean or to use single-use syringes.  The droppers that come on the lid do not need to be washed unless you've brought it into contact with food or the animal, in which case a thorough rinsing under tap water will keep contaminants from getting in the medicine.  For small animals, applying the medicine on a cracker, cheerio, or other quickly-edible treat may make things easier.

Pills also usually come with the option to be given with food, which is a huge plus in my opinion!  The common trick is to wrap the pill in cheese or peanut butter, but occasionally your pet will figure that one out (like Diamond did!).  If the pill is a tablet and not a capsule, you may be allowed to cut it into smaller pieces with a pill cutter (check the instructions, first, as some medications are timed release or need to be digested slower), which might mix better into wet food.  Obviously there are special situations that you would not want to hide the pill in a treat, such as if the problem is already causing digestive system problems.  Few smaller animal medications come in pill form, but it is quite common for larger animals like cats and dogs.

If mixing into food or hiding in a treat is not an option, you might have to give the medicine directly.  If your pet is particularly opposed to this, you'll have to take a bit of a more active approach.  When administering to a dog, remember to stay very cheerful and friendly, and give lots of praise.  Back them against something so they can't back away from you, and if someone is helping you have them hold the shoulder area.  Sit with your arm that will NOT be holding the pill closest to them, and use your non-pill hand to ease open the jaws from above.  Do this by applying gentle pressure behind the canines.  Use your pill hand to open the mouth further by pressing gently downward on the bottom jaw, then place the pill as near the back of the tongue as possible.  Don't drop it down their throat or gag them with your hand, though, just place it on the tongue.  Next, close their mouth and hold it down in a normal position until they swallow.

The idea is pretty much the same for cats, except you will need to use your elbow or a friend to hold them in place while giving them their medicine.  The ribcage is your center of control, but don't squeeze hard or you risk hurting them.  When using a dropper it can be helpful to place it at the side of their mouth and push inward with it gently, so the dropper is the first thing that gets in the cat's mouth, then release the fluid at a reasonable pace to avoid choking them.  Smacking is good, and keeps the liquid medication from falling out of their mouth.  Remember to give lots of praise!

For smaller animals, it's quite common to give medications in the water.  The dosage and method will depend on the medication in question and the animal it's being given to.  Keep in mind, however, that some medicines like tetracycline are light sensitive, so covering the bottle with foil might be a good idea.  Most medicines when given this way will require that the water be changed every 1-3 days to keep it fresh.  Some taste bitter, and depending on the instructions, *might* be able to have some sugar mixed in, but the water will need to be changed every day if so.  To make sure the critter is drinking enough of the water to get the right dose, remove other moist aspects of their diet, but remember to compensate with plenty of other foods to keep their strength up.  Lastly, check with a vet or expert to make sure the medicine is okay to be shared if the animal remains in a cage with other, possibly unaffected individuals.  Antibiotics are usually fine to be shared between small animals in the water, as long as the full course is given, and helps to prevent unnoticed symptoms from becoming worse in cagemates.

Common Medications
Here are some common medications that might come up and some general facts about them.  Because every pet is different, always follow the directions on the product and the advice of a veterinary professional.

Clavamox:  Amoxicillin and Clavulanate work together in this name brand antibiotic to ward off infections in dogs and cats.  It is by prescription only, and comes in pill or liquid form.  Nausea can be counteracted by giving food first.  Diarrhea is common and should be addressed with your vet if severe.

Baytril: I have only used enrofloxacin, or Baytril, for rodents before, but I believe it's also prescribed for a wide variety of other pets.  Baytril is another antibiotic, but should not be given to rodents under 3 months of age.  It may be effective against mycoplasma, but it's debatable.  Baytril is also available by prescription only.

Tylosin: I've used tylosin for mice too young to give Baytril and had moderate success.  Once again, it may be effective against mycoplasma, but it's still debatable.  Tylosin is an excellent antibiotic of choice for many other animals, too, including most pets and livestock.  It can be found at feed stores, but veterinary advice is highly recommended for dosages and mode of administration (available for in-the-water and injection).

Tetracycline: I recommend Tetracycline, yet another antibiotic, for anyone who comes to me with respiratory infections, abscesses, or general infections in their mice and other rodents.  It is light sensitive and should be given in a foil-wrapped water bottle.  It comes in liquid, powder, and capsule form and can be found in the fish section of most pet stores or in feed stores.  Wonderful instructions for administration to mice are available here:  I believe it can be used for larger animals, too, but I highly encourage seeking vet advice for instructions on how to give it and how much.

Ivermectine/Flea-Tick-Mite Spray:  This applies mostly to smaller pets, as cats and dogs usually receive other common medications to keep the fleas away.  Mites and other skin parasites can come in on bedding, and can cause quite a problem.  There are various sprays to choose from, but it's important to avoid your pet's eyes, freeze incoming bedding, treat weekly including the cage, and follow the instructions on the product you select.  If the spray seems to strongly irritating to your pet, try a spray for a smaller animal.  I believe avian spray is the mildest.

This is a terrific listing of dosages of various medications for rats:  Obviously there are a LOT more meds than this, and I omitted most of the heartworm, flea, and other medications your vet is likely to inform you about on a regular basis. 

Remember to keep your vet's number on hand for emergencies and questions, to always follow their instructions first, and to keep an eye out for side effects including vomiting the medication.  Never quit a round of antibiotics before it's complete - most are 14-30 days.  Quitting early can encourage resistant bacteria to thrive and make treatment much harder.

Okay...obviously there are thousands of books on vet medicine, and this is JUST a bit of an overview for the typical pet owner trying to get their pets to take their medicine.  If you have any questions or corrections about something I've written, catch me at kittuirrel on yahoo or leave me a comment.  I hope you find this useful!  I promise next week the blog will be a bit less technical and a bit more fun.  ;)

PLUS!  I'm starting an animal spotlight on Wednesday.  The first Wednesday of every month will spotlight a species of pet and their care and tidbits.  :)

Thanks for reading!
Miss Mouse