Category Archives: Pet Health

Moving: With Pets (Part 1)


Moving is stressful when it’s just you and your junk (speaking from experience) – but how does moving take its toll on your pets? You can bet they’ll be stressed and anxious too, even if they’re not packing or trying to organise a removal company!

Here are some tips to help your pets cope with moving… part 1: packing and travelling.

On a practical level – remember to update your contact details on microchips, tags, pet passports, etc. – as well as with your pet insurance company and your local vet. If you’re moving a significant distance, remember to find a new local vet and get all your pet’s details transferred.

Updating the tag is something you can do easily, and may choose to do before moving day in case your pet wanders off during or post transit.

Packing:

Your pet’s belongings and foodstuffs – if you can pack these last do. In particular pack bowls/bottles last so that your pet can have a drink upon arrival, as they will likely need one!

If you have a designated area in your home for your pet and will do so in your new home, this can all be packed last so your pet can chill whilst you pack up, and then unpacked first so your pet can begin to settle whilst you move the rest of your stuff in.

Maine coon snoozing on suitcases

Welfare:

If your pet is prone to being anxious in transit there are steps you can take to ensure their welfare is one of the top priorities on moving day…

• Allocate one person (if possible) to be in charge of your pet – checking on them at regular intervals during the move to ensure they’re doing okay.

• Ensure the removal company staff know where your pet is and how their belongings are to be transported – i.e. any of your pet’s things that are to stay with your pet and not be packed deep into the removal van you should make the removal co. staff aware of.

• Pheromone sprays and collars are very beneficial to a distressed pet – companies such as Feliway and Adaptil provide such items for dogs and cats (for more information please click here for Feliway and here for Adaptil).

• Animals can be placed into carriers with a familiar scented item (current bedding rather than fresh, blanket or owners item of clothing, etc).

• Placing a blanket or towel or sheet over the carrier can also help in keeping your pet calm.

• Ensure pets in carriers have something to keep them occupied if they so wish – you don’t want chewing of carrier bars (potentially damaging their teeth/gums) when you could provide a chew toy to keep them occupied.

• Ensure your pet is secure in transit; whether this means entrusting someone responsible to holding the carrier, or fitting the carrier safely into a vehicle, or ensuring your dog’s seat-belt is secure and he can’t get to anything he shouldn’t whilst on the move – make sure your pet is safe and secure.
A big pet peeve of mine is people who have dogs loose in the car – not only is their jumping about distracting to you and other drivers, even a small dog (say 5-10kg in weight) can cause serious damage to you if you have an accident and the dog is thrown into someone – not to mention the injury the dog will sustain by being unrestrained! We wear seat-belts to avoid injury if we were to be involved in an accident; its the same principal – secure your dog.

• If you ware moving far away and the journey is long – remember your pet would enjoy a bathroom/ water break and a leg stretch. Ensure that any exercise is done safely and with your pet on a lead – your can get harnesses/leads for dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets and more.

 

To follow: I will cover moving with fish, amphibians and reptiles, and once you’re in your new place.


All images are open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


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Tortoise Care


Tortoises, or land turtles, are one of the most popular reptile species which are keep as pets. Nowadays, we have a bit more knowledge about these unusual animals, which allows us to take the best care of them that we can!

Baby Hermanns Tortoise
Baby Hermann’s Tortoise – own image

Tortoise species which are kept domestically, typically have lifespans of 60-80 years. Lifespans differ between species.

As previously mentioned in my Reptile Awareness 2015 post, reptiles are endothermic (cold blooded) and need to bask in the heat, to absorb heat, to get moving! A heat source needs to be fitted in the vivarium (enclosure) for this purpose – but at one end of the vivarium, and far enough away from the other end,  that your tortoise can move into a cool spot when it likes. The natural source of heat is the sun, which naturally also provides UV, in a domestic environment, in the vivarium, a UV bulb should also be fitted. UV is a good source of vitamin D which aids in shell and bone development and growth. Without adequate heat and UV, your pet may become ill, or worse.

On a personal level, I would not recommend heat rocks or mats for any reptile species, as these can get very hot – if the animal is lay on a heat rock or mat when it’s too hot, it could cause harmful burns.

Before looking into diet, you need to know if the species of your tortoise is a herbivore or a carnivore. If it is a carnivore, ensure you know what you can and cannot feed your pet – including sizes (likely food source will be pinkies (newborn mice)). Most pet tortoise species (at least, that I have had the pleasure of caring for since I was 16) are herbivores. As with any herbivorous animal, you need to know what fruit and veggies and other greens are safe to feed your tortoise, and which are not!

Also, pellet foods supplement a diet vegetables and fruits and other greens; the pellets are filled with balanced nutritional requirements suitable for the tortoise species. The diet should also include fibrous plants like grasses and weeds.

Tasty fresh food - own image
Tasty fresh food – own image

Good greens, veggies and fruits include white nettle, dandelion (flower and leaves), corn poppy, apple, chickweed, bindweeds, chicory, clover, heather, sow thistle, rose petals, fuchsia, nipplewort, peach, clover, grape, honeysuckle, bittercress, melon, blackberry, raspberry, knapweed, leafy salads, lettuce, apricot, watercress, curly kale, brussel tops, dahlia, spring greens, pumpkin, coriander, parsley, rocket, carrot, parsnip, strawberry, carrot, tomato, kale, courgette, cabbage, and bell peppers. Leafy greens should be  the bulk of the vegetation.

Don’t forget to provide fresh water daily for your tortoise, don’t put the water bowl under the heat lamp, to ensure your pet has cool water to drink. Tortoises like to bathe too, and will often sit in their water bowl .

Tortoise bathing in water bowl - own image
Tortoise bathing in water bowl – own image

The best types to buy are the bowls with ramps/staggered sides to enable your tortoise to easily climb in and out – not that they will always use the ramp! Often they will bathe themselves when they are shedding (they shed in bits like a lizard, not all in one like a snake), to help remove dead skin and relieve itching.

Climbing out of water bowl - own image
Climbing out of water bowl – own image

Tortoises have always been quite popular, however, some things that previous generations have done with their pet tortoises, were (unknowingly) not in the best interests of the animal… Such as, painting the shell – this is a big do not as the paint can block the air holes in the shell, and cause suffocation. Some tortoise species will go into hibernation during the winter months, they will wake come spring-time – your pet is not dead, and does not need to be buried or disposed of!


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Common Behavioural Problems: Tail Chasing


Behaviour Banner

Tail chasing can be a harmless behaviour; however, when performed regularly, and encouraged, can become a behavioural problem (and even damaging to the health of your dog).

Tail chasing (see video) often starts when the dog is young. When you have a puppy, and it is playing and bouncing around and being adorable and silly – and it chases that waggy thing behind it, and the pup is running in circles trying to catch that wild tail! You sit watching this cute display; cooing and talking to the puppy in your excited voice (you know the one I mean)! This, to your puppy, is encouraging the behaviour.

Try, despite how adorable it can be in a young dog, to discourage this behaviour. If you don’t, this behaviour may lead to obsessive compulsive behaviour or damaging attention seeking behaviour in your adult dog. The word compulsive is used to describe the repetitive, irresistible urge to perform a behaviour. Discourage this behaviour as a puppy, and throughout the life of your dog, to reduce the likelihood of this behaviour problem occurring.

Adult dogs with obsessive tenancies can become obsessed with catching their tail, and if they do, they can obsessively chew. The behaviour does not necessarily have a purpose to it, however the dog feels the need to perform it anyway – even past the point of pain. This can be severely damaging to the health of the dog, as obsessive chewing can occur past the point of pain and cause series damage (which can be a behavioural problem in and of itself).  A dog who repeatedly performs a compulsive behaviour may find that it gets in the way of normal activity – normal life. Tail chasing becomes the primary need in the life of the dog – so much so that the dog may lose weight, due to missing meals performing the behaviour; the dog may become lethargic/ exhausted, due to staying awake more to perform the behaviour; the dog my become anxious when not performing the behaviour.

Tail Chasing - Open Source Image
Tail Chasing – Open Source Image

This type of behaviour is more likely to develop in dogs whose living conditions cause stress/ anxiety. Dogs in situations where they are stressed; which can contribute to the compulsive disorders developing. Such as; dogs who spend a lot of time tied up, or confined to living in small areas, or a dog experiencing social issues – long separation from a companion or discord in social relationships, for example. Dogs with the opportunity to perform normal dog behaviour, or do not get the chance to socialise with people and other animals can succumb to obsessive, compulsive behaviour. Alternatively, there could be an underlying medical issue causing the behaviour.

Seek advice from your vet if you suspect that your dog has an obsessive behaviour – your vet may refer you to a dog behaviourist. Your vet will also be able to tell you if the behaviour is being caused by a health issue, and treat any health problems caused by the behaviour.


Image is open source, Google images. The video is a YouTube video, from the search result of “dog tail chasing”. The image and video are NOT my own.


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Adapting – Adaptil


So my Dad got a new job… in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He moved there, and has been flying back and forth to keep seeing us, until everything is sorted our end too; my Mum and sister will shortly follow with the dog, but I’m staying put in England in a place of my own. I have adapted fairly well (even if I have been without internet for the best part of a month – hence the lack of posts); and I’m sure my family will adapt too, and eventually the dog.

Bedlington Terrier
Barney

The first thing we thought of for the dog, for Barney, was the travel. He hates travel. Even 5 minutes down the road to the park or the vet, he cries and gets foul odoured stress-breath! He can’t be sedated for the flight or the ferry in case anything happens, he needs to be awake and able to get himself out of any trouble. So, the decision was made to keep him with the family to travel – so that’s the long (8 hour) ferry. He needs a kennel booking but the family can go be with him, and it’s overnight so we hope he’ll just sleep.

However to make the transition easier, we have opted to try the Adaptil* dog collar; to relieve at least some of the stress he will experience through this long journey. The Adaptil dog collar is much like the plug-in diffuser, in the sense it releases the same calming pheromone as the plug-in – just in a different way. As I said in my post about dogs and fireworks (http://alisanswers.com/index.php/2014/10/23/common-behavioural-problems-fireworks-anxiety-dogs/); the collar works with the heat of the animal; activated by the heat it releases the pheromone into the blood stream. The collar will last approximately 4 weeks, and keep working – which will also help him settle into the new house and surroundings; and should help with his preference of being the only dog, and help him to adapt to the new neighbour (Golden Retriever). Once the collar is taken off, it stops working – if taken off before the 4 weeks is up, you can keep hold of it as it’ll work again later.

It can be ordered through your vet, bought in/ ordered through a pet store, or via the internet – I bought Barney’s from Amazon.

So let’s see how well he copes – putting Adaptil to the test, helping Barney to adapt!

Adaptil Collar - from www.amazon.co.uk
Adaptil Collar – from www.amazon.co.uk

NB. Adaptil is for dogs only.

*Adaptil comes in the forms of collar, diffuser, and spray. Feliway is the cat version; coming in the forms of collar and diffuser.

Christmas Foodstuffs NOT for Pets!


With only 21 sleeps until Christmas day; have fun this festive season, but not at the expense of your pet. Ensure you keep them safe and don’t let them get into the Christmas sweets and treats set out for you and your guests! Making sure you know what to keep “out of reach” of your pets is good to bear in mind amidst all the fun and activity.

This should go without saying; whether you consume it or cook with it, and no matter how much you’ve had – under no circumstances do you ever give your pet alcohol of any kind. Whether it’s in the Christmas pudding or straight from the glass/ bottle – just don’t do it. Alcohol can kill your pet (the smaller the quicker). This may sound obvious, but I have witnessed a person after having too much champagne attempting to let a dog share in the drinking… So also (always) keep an eye on your pet and ensure they’re safe around party guests.

Cooked veggies are a no-go for your herbivorous pet. Fresh and raw only. By all means give your little furry pet the carrot peelings/tops or the discarded cabbage leaves – just ensure you know what veggies are suitable for your pet so as too not feed the wrong food even in it’s raw form.

Cooked bones should not be given to your dog or cat – as these can splinter very easily, and get stuck in or cut their throat. Raw bones can be given with supervision, but not if your pet is food possessive or aggressive. Some dogs and cats that aren’t normally food aggressive, can become this way when given raw food/ bones.

As per one of my early posts – garlic, onion, grapes and raisins, and chocolate are all toxic to dogs. These are also toxic to a lot of other animals.
(http://alisanswers.com/index.php/2014/01/29/dangerous-people-food-for-dogs/)

Grapes and raisins (and other kinds of fresh fruit and veg) are suitable to feed to certain species; such as parrots and lizards – always do your research before feeding anything new to your pet. If you want to feed chocolate to your dog, buy doggy chocolate which is safe.

If you feel the need to spoil your pet this Christmas, buy pet safe Christmas treats! Give your pets treats within reason so as to not overfeed! Above all, don’t forget to keep feeding your pet their normal diet throughout this festive season.

 Seek veterinary advice if you are unsure about what foodstuffs will harm your pet, prior to feeding it. If you think your pet may have ingested something harmful then take them to the vet as soon as possible.

Fishy Friends


It can be hard to know which fish will get along being in a communal tank. Which fish species get along, and which ones don’t. Quite often (unfortunately) the pet store or aquarium staff also do not know.

I was in a garden centre aquarium about a month ago to restock my tropical tank, and I was shocked to see some of the species that they had kept together. I was even more shocked, and saddened, to see the aggression within tanks due to the wrong species being kept together – dead fish, fin-less/ half-eaten fish, bullying within the tank… all sorts!

It is not fair on the animals in the tanks – they have nowhere to go, so it is the job of those caring for them to ensure they have optimum environments and tank mates. This starts by knowing your fish species and how to house them, and who with.

Tetra, platy, guppy, danio, corydora, swordtail, catfish, loach, molly, and goldfish species are all good communal fish (within their water types) – in my experience.

Chichlids can be kept with other chichlids – but do your research. You may keep the same species chichlids together of different sizes, or different species of similar sizes, or get a communal type (same species, varying sizes).

Barb species are communal within species. For instance you could keep several rosy barbs together, but not a tiger barb an a rosy barb together. Barbs ought to be kept alone within their types, they are not good communal fish – not good with other fish species.

Comet Goldfish
Comet Goldfish

Fighter fish on the other hand should be kept alone, except for breeding (but separated after mating has taken place). This species is very  territorial and aggressive towards other fish – definitely a solitary species.

The size, and the amount of the same species in a tank can cause issues. For instance, you can keep two tangs of the same species but they must be different sizes to avoid conflict/ aggression; or two tangs of the same size but they must be different types.

Ensure you research into fish species before acquiring them – some species may appear to be okay together or just make your tank look aesthetically pleasing together, but may not actually get on. An overstocked tank will likely cause aggression. Fish with lovely, long, flowing fins may survive happily with reduced numbers within their tank; but end up with chewed (off) fins by other fish when there is overcrowding.

Choose your communal tank species carefully. Do thorough research into every fish species, and how well your intended species will get along in a tank – taking into consideration tank size, and amount and size of fish wanted.

Pet Health Problems: Giardia in Dogs


Healthy Old English Playing in a River

In response to a question asked…

Giardia is a simple single-celled parasite – it isn’t a bacteria or virus.  The parasite occurs worldwide and causes of diarrhoea in people as well as dogs. It can be zoonotic (transmitted from humans to animals, and vice versa) but it is more likely to be transmitted from humans to dogs, and much less likely for humans to catch it from an infected dog. Giardiasis is the name for the intestinal infection that Giardia causes; this causes illness, especially diarrhoea. The diarrhoea is often discoloured (greenish tinge) and very loose. Vomiting is also a symptom, although less common.

Other symptoms may include lethargy (extreme tiredness), weight loss, poor coat condition, and in extreme cases – death. Other dogs may show no signs save for the loose and/ or discoloured faeces.

This is not usually life-threatening as it is treatable as long as you do something sooner rather than later, to prevent your pet becoming immuno-compromised.

The most common form of contraction, is waterborne as the parasites prefer moist conditions. Unclean and stagnant moist areas/ water will be good places for the parasites to thrive – so try to ensure your dog does not drink from unknown/ unclean water sources.  Water contaminated by faecal matter is common ground for Giardia. Ensure you provide your dog with fresh water daily.

The less common form of contraction is ingestion of the parasites/ eggs from other infected animal faeces. Watch your dog when out and about, and ensure (s)he doesn’t eat anything (s)he shouldn’t!


If you have any questions or comments, or would like any more information or advice regarding this post; or if you have anything specific you would like me to cover in a future post, then either contact me through this site or leave a comment below, or contact me via one of my social media pages:-
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Hedgehog Hotels (Bonfire Night)


Bonfires are hedgehog hotels. Especially those built in advance. Bonfires should not be built until the day they are to be lit. Try to check your bonfire for wildlife before lighting your bonfire – move the bonfire, disturb it to try and shoo any animals out. A bonfire is essentially a big pile of wood that underneath is nice and cosy – making it a 5* hotel for any wildlife looking for a nice hibernation spot, particularly hedgehogs.

To prevent hedgehogs and other wildlife from getting injured or killed by lit bonfires, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) recommends that bonfires should not be built until the day you plan on lighting them. This will not only save wildlife from burning to death, but will also prevent the bonfire (wood) from getting wet if it rains the night(s) before! By moving the pile to be burnt to a new place on the day you are going to set it alight, everyone can help save some lives (especially the lives of nocturnal species who will have left your bonfire by the time you come to light it in the evening).

Hedgehog
Hedgehog

Putting chicken wire around the edge of your bonfire may help prevent wildlife getting in to the bonfire in the first place. Hedgehogs like to hide in the centre, and bottom two feet, of the bonfire – you can check for them by gently lifting the bonfire section by section with a pole/ stick/ broom. Never use a shovel/ spade/ fork as these can stab and injure wildlife. Shining a torch will help – listen for a hissing sound, as hedgehogs make this noise when they are disturbed.

Hibernating hedgehogs are particularly at risk – hedgehogs are not able to wake up quickly from hibernation so they may be unable to quickly escape the bonfire if disturbed, before it is lit. Ensure you leave plenty of time for escape, and double check for any wildlife before lighting your bonfire. If you do find a hedgehog in your bonfire and it hasn’t woken up, you can move it to safety; by wearing thick gloves you will prevent your human smell getting on to the hedgehog and the nest, which can cause stress. Try to pick up as much of the nest as you can, place the hedgehog in a box or a similar wooded spot, with lots of warm leaves and other natural warm items. An old towel can be used if necessary to ensure the hedgehog keeps warm. If in doubt about what to do, contact a professional.

Checking for wildlife only takes a minute to do, but can save many wildlife species from being burnt alive. Hedgehogs as a species are already in decline; take a minute to help turn that around.

 

If you have any questions or comments, or would like any more information or advice regarding this post; or if you have anything specific you would like me to cover in a future post, then either contact me through this site or leave a comment below, or contact me via one of my social media pages:-
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Common Behavioural Problems: Spraying (cats)


Behaviour Banner

Spraying – a form of communication, territorial marking, to signal mating status, indicator of health, and to show dominance. Spraying is a naturalnormal behaviour. It becomes a problem when it becomes excessive, and often in inappropriate places.

Cats will back up to a vertical surface (wall, table/chair leg, couch, door, bed, television…) twitch tail, and spray urine against the vertical surface.

Potential Causes:-
(a) Territorial Behaviour:
– another cat brought into a single-cat household
– a multi-cat household
– moving house/ getting an extension
– redecorating
– new cat(s) in the neighbourhood/territory

(b) Anxiety
– lack of owner attention (for attention)
– jealousy of other pet(s)/children/etc.
– change in routine
– social stressors
– environmental stressors
– new/unusual, (fairly) consistent smells (even as simple as new air freshener)
– negative encounters
– not enough litter trays for amount of cats

(c) Underlying Medical Problem
– consult vet ASAP
– urine crystals
– cystitis
– urolithiasis; struvites (urinary tract stones)
– other…

Cat Zoe
Happy Cat

Treatment Options:
Firstly, determine whether or not this is being caused by a medical issue, and your vet will be able to determine the best course of treatment. If there is no medical issue, then it is likely to be a behavioural issue. Successful treatment of this requires identification of the cause, and fixing of the cause or acceptance (from the animal) of the cause.

If you have a multi-cat household, to reduce the likelihood of unwanted spraying behaviour (and unwanted defecation), ensure that every cat has its own litter tray, and that there is a spare litter tray (or multiple spares for a larger group of cats). Ensure litter trays are in quiet places, not busy or open places; cats like privacy when going to the toilet.

Neutering is a big help, but will not eliminate the problem. Spraying is less common in neutered cats, but it will not prevent spraying. Males also spray more than females, but females do spray.

Feliway pheromone diffuser plug ins and sprays are also available. The release of pheromones helps to calm and reassure, especially in multi-cat households; it can relieve tension between cats.  The pheromone release relieves stress and can help stop your cat spraying; stop the behavioural issue.

Acceptance of the cause; teaching your cat(s) to accept a new addition – whether this is another cat, a dog, a rabbit (i.e. another pet), or a new baby or even just a new couch. You can help this by not comforting your cat when it initially freaks out. Do not berate your cat for this either. Just act normal, like the new addition is completely normal. If you comfort your cat, (s)he will believe (s)he’s being comforted because there is a reason to be freaked out and anxious about this new addition. Normal behaviour on your part will help your cat realise (s)he can behave normally despite this new addition too.

Multi-cat household
Multi-cat household

Cats that get along are less competitive, and far less likely to spray. You can encourage cats to get along by playing with your cats together; giving each one equal attention. Feed them together, and try to encourage them to sleep near to each other – not necessarily sharing the same bed, but within the same room. Provide differently levels for your cats within the home; the more dominant cat will sit higher up than the subordinate(s) – being able to show dominance/ hierarchy in this way is likely to reduce other dominant displays.

Try to keep routine, at least for your cat even if not for yourself – because, let’s face it, we quite often need to mix up our routine; but cats, no, cats like routine. They will patrol the same bit of their territory at (roughly) the same time, daily.  They will sleep, hunt, etc. at (roughly) the same times each day. Feeding, grooming/brushing, and other activities your cat requires you for should be kept in some kind of routine for your cat too.

Although spraying is a very obvious behaviour; know your cat(s) and learn to tell when (s)he is acting out of the ordinary so as to pick up on behavioural issues early.


If you have any questions or comments, or would like any more information regarding this post; or if you have anything specific you would like me to cover in a future post, then either leave a comment below, or contact me via one of my social media pages:-
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Common Behavioural Problems: Feather Plucking


Behaviour Banner

Birds range from the little songbirds in your garden, to the powerful birds of prey, and various kinds of flightless birds – they certainly vary a lot between various species. They have been popular as pets as early as the 1700’s. Christopher Columbus brought 2 Cuban Amazon Parrots back from his travels in the 1490’s.

We all love our pets, no matter how they became introduced into our history, and our individual lives. The sad things about domestic life for our pets, is that sometimes it can result in behavioural problems; without always knowing the cause.

Grooming is a normal, natural behaviour – in birds known as ‘preening’. Feather plucking is when this normal, natural behaviour becomes obsessive, and done to excess. Birds may do this to themselves, or to others in their group.

Possible Causes:
– Nutritional deficiencies/ unbalanced nutrition
– Poor Diet
– Food sensitivity/ intolerances/ allergies
– Disease
– Itchy skin/ skin problems
– Frayed feathers
– Boredom (insufficient stimulation)
– Dirty environment
– Wrong environment

Moluccan Cockatoo
Moluccan Cockatoo

Possible Solutions:
–  Change in diet
–  Allergy tests (steering clear of the allergen)
– Food supplements
– Regular vet checks
– Stimulation: toys, interaction, treats/fruit/veg
– Plenty of light; not left in the dark
– Clean environment
– Sufficient space (but not too much) per bird
– Suitable type of environment; cage (tall or wide), paddock, by water, dirt bath, places to perch (at different levels)

Geese
Geese

Toys:

Ensure these are appropriate for your bird; for the species. Stimulating toys with bells and pieces that move are good for birds such as parrot types.
Mop/ rope toys (without loops!) are good for occupying birds with a pulling/ preening activity – keeping feather preening to a normal and safe amount.
Some birds like toys that look like birds, and this can be beneficial; others will be stressed by this kind of toy – know your bird and what they like, so as to best care for your pet.


If you have any questions or comments, or would like more information regarding this post; or if you have anything specific you would like me to cover in a future post, then either leave a comment below, or contact me via one of my social media pages:-
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