Category Archives: Nutrition

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!


If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers 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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Summer Cool Down


So it’s meant to be summer (at least soon), but apparently Britain hasn’t got the memo yet!

Even though it’s raining outside, I was thinking of all the things people do to keep cool – air conditioning, going to swimming pools/ parks, ice cream and ice lollies, wearing summer clothes… Often animals are left to fend for themselves; aside from ensuring water is topped up and coats are trimmed.

So here are some other idea to help you keep your pet cool…

  • take off collars in your home and garden – these get sweaty and hot rubbing on the neck of your pet
  • paddling pools on the garden (or smaller pools for smaller pets)
  • ice blocks in water or frozen water (in water bottles) – ensuring fresh water is still available to drink whilst the ice melts
  • partially frozen veggies for your herbivorous pets  (partially so their tongues don’t stick to the veggies)
  • frozen peas are good to drop into your fish tank (especially cold water tanks) for your herbivorous fish
  • frozen (raw) meat for your carnivorous pets
  • providing shade indoors and outdoors – close blinds/ curtains, moving outside enclosures to shaded areas, providing shade at all times of the day
  • keep you pet off hot ground – shoes don’t protect your pets’ paws! – hot pavement is uncomfortable and potentially painful/ damaging to furry feet
  • provide a cool area for your pet to hide from the sun – whether this is ensuring your dog or cat can access the house, or ensuring your rabbit and guinea pig enclosure has a dark, hidden area for them to retreat into
  • avoid metal bowls outside! – porcelain bowls keep water cooler and do not retain heat like metal bowls do (thus keeping the water warm)
  • do not leave your pet shut in a hot car (or room)

 

Keeping cool in the pool
Keeping cool in the pool

Unless you and your pet are living in the same part of Britain as me and you are both unsure of what heat is 😉

If you have any other suggestions, that may be of help to others, please leave a comment below or on one of Ali’s Answers social media pages.

Bunny Basics!


With the warmer weather (supposedly) on its way, now that spring has arrived & Easter is on its way, it got me thinking rabbits! Partly because of the Easter bunny, partly because all the little, wild baby bunnies (kits) will start to appear soon with their parents, to begin life above ground! So here is my bunny post… Bunny Basics.

Some Basic Terminology

  • An adult female is called a  Doe
  • An adult male is called a Buck

(like many deer species)

  • Baby rabbits are called a kitten or kit (for short)
  • Bunny is an affectionate term for rabbits as a species, sometimes mistakenly thought to be the term for baby rabbits
  • A mother rabbit will have a litter of kits
  • A group of rabbits is known as a colony, warren or nest in the wild
  • A group of domestic rabbits is called a herd
  • Caecotrophs are feacal-like pellets, that are very soft. It is full of undigested nutrients that the rabbit will re-eat to gain the nutrients it missed the first time round the digestive tract
  • The process of caecotrophy, or more accurately coprophagy, is when the rabbit eats the caecotrophs (do not be alarmed by, or discourage your rabbit from, eating its’ waste)
  • For many years, rabbits were wrongly classified as Rodents – they are not. Rabbits are classified as Lagomorphs.
1.5 week old kit
1.5 week old kit

Classification of Rabbits

The domestic rabbit, a.k.a. the common rabbit, a.k.a. the Old World rabbit, a.k.a. the European rabbit, is classified as follows:

Kingdom – Animalia – it is an animal
Phylum – Chordata – it has a back bone with nerves, that does or at some point did extend past the anal opening (Sub-Phylum – Vertebrata – it has a back bone, a stiff rod of uniform composition)
Class – Mammalia – it is a mammal; produces milk from mammary glands for its young
Order – Lagomorpha – meaning “hare-shaped”; it is a small to medium sized, terrestrial herbivore – hares, pikas, and rabbits
Family Leporidae – hares and rabbits
Genus – Oryctolagus – native to Europe and North West Africa, however has been introduced world-wide
Species – Oryctolagus cuniculus – common rabbit

Today, they exist in the wild on every continent except Asia and Antarctica, and exist domestically world-wide. With the vast population of rabbits, humans introduced a disease to attempt to control the wild population – myxomatosis. This is a nasty, air-borne virus that affects both wild and domestic rabbits – it will result in death, whether via the progression of the disease, or via euthanasia. Domestic rabbits can be vaccinated against this  – so make sure you get your rabbit(s) to the vet and keep up with this inoculation regularly, especially if you and your rabbit(s) live in close proximity to a wild rabbit colony.

Be careful, especially in warmer weather about parasites too! Keep you rabbit up to date with anti-parasite precautions, such as worming tablets and flea/ mite spot-ons. One of the worst things your bunny can get in warm weather, and poor hygiene, is fly strike! Fly strike is where the smell of a dirty bunny or a dirty hutch/ cage attracts flies, and the flies lay their eggs on the rabbit (usually around their tail and rump). The maggots hatch and begin to eat… the live rabbit. This, obviously, can be fatal. If caught in time, and gotten to the vet in time, they can survive. This is a painful experience and very unpleasant (as you can well imagine). Keep your bunny and his house clean and smelling as nice as a rabbit and his house can! Especially in summer!

Bunny Care

Pellets or muesli-type rabbit food can be bought, and fed according to the guidelines on the packaging. Do your research into good food brands – cheap price usually means poor nutrition. In my personal opinion Excel are brilliant at rabbit and guinea pig food (but not dog or cat food), and the pellet type I have used with my rabbits in the past. Russell Rabbit food is a good muesli-type, and very popular too. There are a lot more brands out there so do some research, and also see what your rabbit prefers.

Some rabbits will pick out the bits they like from muesli-type food, and leave the rest (as mine used to). Rabbit that do this are better suited to the pellet diet so that they get all the nutrients provided in the food, and do not miss out on any because they’re being picky! Now if you keep rabbits and guinea pigs together, know that guinea pigs do not make vitamin C in their body like rabbits do – guinea pig food is safe to feed both rabbits and guinea pigs on, however guinea pigs will get a vitamin C deficiency if they are fed on rabbit food.

Fresh fruit and veg can be given to rabbits, but be careful what you give them! Grapes, onion and garlic are toxic to bunnies – as with dogs. Tomato leaves are also toxic to bunnies. Do not feed you rabbit anything with a high water content such as lettuce (particularly iceberg) and cucumber; foodstuffs too high in water content can cause bloat, which can be painful, smelly, and on occasion – fatal. Do not feed grass cutting from your lawn-mower; this is not good for your rabbits’ digestive system.

Dark green veggies are great – cabbage, broccoli, sprouts, pea shoots, green beans… Not forgetting the classic bunny food – carrots! These can be fed in their entirety – leaves, roots and all! When thinking what to feed your bunny abide by the “if in doubt, leave it out!” rule.

If you let your rabbit in the garden, make sure there is nothing toxic growing out there that could be the end of your rabbit! Daffodils, foxgloves, ivy, poppies, hemlock, snow drops, tulips, and many more common garden plants are toxic to rabbits – take a look around your garden and check up on the plants before letting your rabbit run free – alternatively, get a run for him!

Roughage is approximately 70% of your rabbits diet. This is a very necessary foodstuff that your rabbits requires. Roughage means dried grass, mainly hay but there are other types out there – although not straw. Rabbits do not eat straw, however it can be used as bedding. Fresh hay ought to be provided daily, and any soiled hay removed.

Bedding needs to be soft, warm and absorbent – wood shavings are commonly used as they are highly absorbent. Ensure wood shavings are dust free as much as possible, so your rabbits is not coughing or sneezing due to the dust. Straw can be provided for extra warmth, however a lot of rabbits will make a bed out of the amply supply of hay – breakfast and bed! 😉

 If you are new to rabbit ownership, I would advise you to get a book about rabbit care, with a good reputation.
These will contain basic care information and food do’s and don’ts.

If you have any questions, comments, or would like more information; leave a comment below or contact me via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn.

Something Fishy! (1)


After doing my dissertation on goldfish nutrition, bringing the fish back home with me, and them surviving the long journey from university, I am quite impressed at how well my goldfish are still doing after 2 years! I also maintain my dad’s tropical fish tank with somewhat smaller and different species to my Comet goldfish (pictured below). This tank has been going since I was a kid, just replacing stock as required.

One of my Comet Goldfish

There are some key factors in well maintaining a fish tank, which I have decided to cover in 2 parts so that I avoid writing an essay! So here it goes…

Feeding

Food varies with species. There a many forms on the market. Flakes are the most common/ popular, as are pellets. Live and frozen food are also popular choices for meals and/or treats – again, this depends on the fish species and dietary requirements.

Flakes and Pellets

The brighter coloured the flakes are, the worse they are for the fish as they are filled with additives and colourings! Pellets are harder to tell by colour, however, the best kind you can get is from a reputable brand, not a supermarket’s own brand (this goes for flakes too).

Pellets Flakes
Pellets                                        Flakes

Ensure that you feed the correct flakes for your tank species – fish from different climates, habitats and water-types have different dietary requirements – according to what they would eat in the wild. Tropical flakes for tropical species, cold-water flakes for cold-water species, and marine flakes for marine species. Pellet-wise they can be more species specific than just water-type, for example; Catfish pellets specifically designed for catfish, sinking pellets for general bottom feeder species, and another example being cichlid pellets designed specifically for the diet of cichlid’s.

Live

Mealworms: live mealworms need their heads crushing to prevent them eating their way out of the fish’s stomach). These may also need cutting up if they are too large for your fish – do not feed anything too big for your fish to swallow, as fish can choke too! It’s difficult to do the Heimlich-manoeuvre on your fish!

Brine Shrimp: these can be purchased in many aquariums and pet stores in a bag of water. They will live approximately 5-7 days (slightly longer if they are refrigerated), but ought to be fed to your fish A.S.A.P to prevent them from dying before your fish get their dinner! Do not feed dead brine shrimp to your fish as it could cause stomach upset.
*Interesting fact – this is what your first “pet” was if your first “pet” were Sea Monkey’s!*

Blood Worm: these can also be purchased in aquariums and pet stores, and come in a bag of water. Again they live approximately 1 weeks, a day or 2 longer if they are refrigerated.  However, with blood worm you may wish to drain the water out as it can turn your tank water red! This can be done by pouring most of the water out; carefully keeping the blood worm in a small amount of water at the bottom, and then pouring that into you tank.

 Frozen Food

Beef heart, blood worm, and brine shrimp are the most common forms of frozen food sold. These can all be defrosted for feeding to your pet fish, for marine or tropical tanks. Cold-water tanks can have the frozen blocks defrosted, or dropped straight into the tank – as it shouldn’t affect the water temperature too much, and is a great and tasty way for your cold-water fish to cool down on a particularly warm day.

These types of food can be the main diet, in the place of pellets or flakes. They can be fed as a treat or supplement weekly or every-so-often, again to replace a flake/ pellet meal or as half-half with flakes/ pellets.

If you have larger carnivorous species of fish (such as an Oscar Fish) frozen mice are often fed, defrosted, via long forceps to avoid bitten fingers! Depending on the quantity and size of the fish, determines the quantity and size of the frozen mice fed.

Other Treats

Depending on if your fish is a cold water, tropical or marine fish; and whether they are herbivores, carnivores or omnivores, will depend on what it needs feeding.

Vegetables (not for carnivorous species!):

  • Zucchini (sliced to appropriate size)
  • Lettuce and Swiss chard (shredded to appropriate size)
  • Cucumber (sliced to appropriate size)
  • Peas (boiled or fresh, or frozen for Cold-Water)
  • Broccoli (boiled or fresh, chopped to appropriate size)
  • Split green beans(boiled and cooled)

Fish treats can be purchased that stick to the side of the tank, and can be nibbled at throughout the day.  These need to be suitable for your tank – tropical, cold-water or marine – just like flakes need to be specific to your tank type. These can be a good way of health checking your fish as the treats can be stuck to the front of the tank, and you can see a lot more of your fish when they come up for a nibble!

When checking your fish out for signs of ill-health, bear in mind some common fish diseases to look out for…

Common Fish Diseases and Treatments

White Spot > Characteristic white spots covering body; white spot treatment

Ich > Small white or grey spots on body; ich treatment

Rot – Fin, Mouth, Tail, Gill > Fungus rotting various parts of the body – fluffy grey or white patches; fungal treatment

Parasites – Gill fluke, Nematoda, Anchor worm, Internal Parasites > There are, as with most species, too many to name individually – both internal and external parasites; various parasitic treatments

Velvet > White/ yellow ‘peppered’ spots all over body; ich treatment

Dropsy > Bloated, protruding scales; anti-bacterial treatment

Head and Lateral Line Disease (a.k.a Hole-in-the-head) > visible holes in the head and along lateral line – at first pin prick size, and then get larger. Swollen lateral line; various “Hole-in-Head” treatments

Tuberculosis (Fish TB) > hollow belly, weight loss, possibly sores;  no known cure – very contagious to other fish, zoonotic (can be transferred to humans) if a human puts bare, wounded/ broken skin into infected tank

Oxygen Deficiency > Water problem – more oxygen needed in water. Gasping for air at the top of tank can be seen, water tests can be done; possible solutions – 50% water change, add aeration, add real plants (naturally put O2 into tank), put filter closer to the water surface to keep the water flowing/moving (adds O2) – see image below.

Filter keeping water flow, adding oxygen
Filter keeping water flow, adding oxygen

The majority of these treatments can be purchased in a pet shop, if not the treatments can be found online.

Dangerous “People-Food” for Dogs


My 9 year old Bedlington Terrier has always been a good little dog; never being overly naughty – no interest in chasing cats, never chewed shoes or stole food… until this past Christmas season! Still generally a good little dog, however the temptation of all the tasty treats we had around the house apparently proved too much after 9 years of being a good boy! He got into various sweets and chocolates, thankfully vomiting afterwards and being okay, but it was still cause for concern until he had vomited and gotten back to his normal self.

All this got me thinking – there are plenty of human foodstuffs that are bad for our dogs, but what are some of the more serious foods to keep your dog away from?
Chocolate – an obvious and widely known human food to not feed your dog. Garlic and onions, grapes and raisins – not necessarily commonly known human foods to keep you dogs away from.

 

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Chocolate
Everyone knows not to feed chocolate to dogs, however a lot of us still do it! Feeding your chocolate may also encourage stealing chocolate too.
But what is it that makes chocolate toxic to dogs? Caffeine and theobromine. These are also found in more dangerous quantities the darker the chocolate, whereas white chocolate contains quite low quantities – so as a general rule; the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is.
If your dog does ingest chocolate the affects may vary from vomiting and digestive discomfort, to seizures and death. A small amount of chocolate usually causes mild digestive discomfort, and often vomiting – which clears the digestive tract of the toxin. If this does not happen, and you dog has ingested a fair amount of chocolate, veterinary attention should immediately be sought!


OnionandGarlicOnions and Garlic
Garlic is more toxic to dogs than onions (gram for gram), but both garlic, onions and related foodtuufss are toxic enough to cause serious health problems in your dog.
Sulfoxides and disulfides can be found in these types of foodstuffs which can damage red blood cells and cause anaemia. It is quite uncommon for dogs to eat enough onion or garlic  for this to happen (raw is more toxic), although these foods should be kept well away from your hungry dog!

 

grapes-and-raisinsGrapes and Raisins
Vomiting, lethargy and diarrhoea can be caused by your dog eating grapes or raisins (and related foods), as well as more severe toxicosis causing kidney problems and possibly kidney failure (resulting in death).
It is unknown what exactly it is in grapes and raisins that causes these toxic effects. Some dogs can eat grapes and raisins with little or no ill effects, and others do not experience ill effects until a later date – so it is best to keep your dog clear of them!

My little Barney wouldn’t touch fruit or veg with a barge pole, so I don’t worry too much about that  (still keep them away from him though)! However, with his newly acquired sweet tooth I am having to be more mindful of where I leave my tasty treats so that they don’t end up being eaten by him! This means remembering to put chocolates and sweets back into cupboards or the fridge (preferably high up ones) so that he cannot reach them, and he cannot open any doors to get at any!

Bedlington Terrier