Universal Press Syndicate
For years those who care about iguanas have been struggling against ignorance and the toll it takes on these reptilian pets.
Iguanas are relatively inexpensive pets to acquire, which makes them popular, especially for children. But caring for them properly is neither cheap nor easy -- a point too often not realized at the time of purchase -- and there the problems start.
The cost of a proper setup can set a new iguana owner back a lot more than the price of the pet itself, but incorrect housing can kill an iguana. So too can an incorrect diet.
The good news is that the fashion in reptilian pets seems to be changing, with more people migrating toward pets that are easier to care for, such as the bearded dragon or other mild-mannered reptiles. (From 2002 to 2006, iguana popularity fell from 17 percent to 12 percent among people who keep reptilian pets, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association.)
Those who do keep iguanas -- or are up to the challenge of getting one -- can find plenty of good information around now, thanks in no small part to the work of avid fanciers, including those behind National Iguana Awareness Day, which is set for Sept. 8 this year.
If you want a pet iguana (or have one already), here are some tips to keep your pet in good shape:
-- Diet. Iguanas should be fed plant matter only, a mixture of vegetation that's high in calcium but low in phosphorus and fat. Choices include mustard, collard and turnip greens, as well as yams, carrots, alfalfa sprouts, alfalfa hay and squash.
Chop the vegetables into a size that can be easily handled by the pet, and mix and store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Offer small amounts twice a day and sprinkle the food with a calcium supplement, available from pet-supply stores, catalogs or Web retailers that specialize in reptiles. This diet can be supplemented by high-quality commercial foods.
Water should be available for both bathing and drinking. A ceramic dish in the enclosure is a must. Many iguanas also enjoy being sprayed with mist a couple of times a day.
-- Housing. The bigger the better. Little green babies can grow to be as large as 6 feet in length in as little as three years. Cages or aquariums must be kept scrupulously clean and dry to prevent bacterial or fungal diseases. The iguana's enclosure should be lined with newspapers or, better yet, clean newsprint. (Roll ends of clean newsprint are available from many newspapers.) Other possibilities for good footing include indoor-outdoor carpeting, Astroturf or even paper-towel squares. Avoid sawdust, litter, wood shavings or gravel.
Silk artificial plants can improve the appearance of the enclosure and are easy to keep clean. Provide your pet with a place to hide, such as a cardboard box, and some branches for climbing.
Uneaten food and soiled areas must be promptly removed. For disinfecting, avoid pine oil cleaners and use a solution of 1 part bleach to 30 parts water. Remember that proper sanitation and handling are essential for your protection as well as your pet's, since salmonella is a risk when proper hygiene procedures aren't followed.
-- Heat and light. Instead of a hot rock, use a heating pad or an undercage strip designed for use with reptiles, or a ceramic basking lamp, which emits heat but no light.
Captive reptiles need ultraviolet B light from an artificial source. Pet stores sell lightbulbs that provide the proper light for iguanas. It's best to approximate natural conditions by supplying 10 to 12 hours of light per day.
Those who love and properly care for their iguanas wouldn't have any other pet. But for most people, the work required to keep an iguana (especially a big one) is just too much time and money. It's always better to know what you're in for before you take home that cute little green baby.
Check out the best sites for reptile fans
It's not always easy to find good information on unusual pets such as snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs and other reptiles and amphibians. These Web sites can help pet owners connect with other herp fans and find reliable care advice:
-- Kingsnake.com (www.kingsnake.com) is the oldest and largest online reptile community in the world. It offers free chats, newsletters and photo galleries, as well as special guest events with leading herpetologists, breeders, veterinarians and researchers.
-- Herp Vet Connection (www.herpvetconnection.com) lists vets who are familiar with cold-blooded animals. Don't wait until your reptile is sick to find a herp-friendly veterinarian
-- Herp and Green Iguana Information Collection (www.anapsid.org) is an encyclopedic resource and one of the most respected herp sites on the Web, covering captive care requirements for lizards, snakes, invertebrates and amphibians. Its iguana resources in particular are a gold mine for anyone keeping, or considering, iguanas as pets. -- Christie Keith
Puppy keeping her baby teeth
Q: Our Aussie puppy is losing her baby teeth, which we know is perfectly normal. We have noticed something that worries us, though. On her lower jaw, in the front, one of the adult teeth didn't push out the baby tooth, but came in behind it, making a double row of teeth at the spot.
The baby tooth seems loose, but it's still there and doesn't seem easy to pull when we try (plus, she gets impatient with our fiddling with it). What should we do? -- T.W., via e-mail
A: Dogs are amazingly well-adapted to their original purpose -- versatile eaters of almost anything -- through the virtue of their teeth.
They have 42 of them (puppies have 28), but that's not the whole story. Adult dogs have four different kinds of teeth: incisors, canines, premolars and molars. And though the collection isn't well-suited to grinding down material, the teeth are good for getting meals fresh -- as in, on a dog's own -- or dealing with whatever he may find in a day of doggie travel. (The puppy collection is missing molars because he doesn't have to grind food, as he's on a liquid diet, courtesy of mom.)
It's those large and significant canines that attract the most attention. In fact, the teeth are so famous that even in other species -- cats and humans, for example -- those "fangs" are called "canines."
Puppies start losing those baby teeth at around 4 months of age. The incisors fall first, then the canines at about 6 months, and finally the molars. The adult teeth push the baby teeth out, and all that puppy chewing helps the process, while also making a puppy feel better about the discomfort associated with teething.
Now and then, though, a baby tooth will be retained, a situation quickly remedied by the veterinarian with a quick yank during a puppy visit if waiting it out or wiggling it loose doesn't do the trick. -- Dr. Marty Becker
(Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com.)
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books.
On PetConnection.com there's more information on pets and their care, reviews of products, books and "dog cars," and a weekly drawing for pet-care prizes. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting PetConnection.com.
Among Titanic survivors -- two little dogs
-- The Titanic had many dogs on board, and the passengers enjoyed them so much that an informal dog show was scheduled to be held on April 15 (the ship struck the fatal iceberg on April 14). According to an article on www.animalradio.com, all but two of the pets were lost when the ocean liner went down. A Pomeranian and a Pekinese were lucky enough to accompany their respective owners, Margaret Hayes and Henry Sleeper Harper (of Harper publishing fame) on one of the first lifeboats to be lowered.
-- Worldwide, rabies kills 55,000 people per year.
-- The ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center hot line handled 116,000 calls in 2006 and recently released a list of the top 10 hazards reported. On the list: human medications, insecticides, veterinary medications, plants, rodenticides, household cleaners, chocolate, chemical hazards (such as antifreeze, drain cleaners and pool chemicals), physical hazards (objects that are knocked over, broken, chewed up and swallowed), and home-improvement products (paints, glues and solvents).
-- More than 350 service agencies with names like Doody Duty, DoodyCalls, Scoopy-Poo and Pooper Trooper have sprung up to pick up where pets have left off, according to Business Week. The pooper-scooper industry is seeing annual growth nearing 50 percent.
-- Yogurt is good for a dog's digestion. Try a canine smoothie: Use 8 ounces of strawberry or raspberry yogurt, 1 cup of raspberries or 6 large strawberries, 1 very ripe banana, 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 cup of ice. Blend at high speed until smooth. You can serve this fresh from the blender or put it in small containers and freeze for a frozen treat later.
-- Portland, Ore., ranks No. 1 among U.S. cities for dog parks per capita. The city offers 31 off-leash recreation spots in all. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Can't count on feline anatomy
You can't say for sure exactly how many bones any particular cat has, because many cats have some anatomically unusual traits. A cat with a normal tail will have more vertebrae than a Manx with no tail, or a Japanese Bobtail with just part of a tail. No surprise that cats with extra toes sport a few extra bones, too.
The range for all cats runs between 230 and 250 bones, with the "average" cat having 244 bones -- about 30 more than humans do, by the way. -- Dr. Marty Becker
New medication halts the canine queasies
While it may be a dog-eat-dog world, it's also a dog-eat-garbage world. Not surprisingly, the indiscriminate snacking habits of dogs, added to the canine tendency toward motion sickness, makes vomiting one of the most common reasons dogs are taken to a veterinarian. An estimated 3 million dogs have a bout of vomiting each year, and an additional 7 million dogs suffer from vomiting caused by motion sickness.
Luckily for dogs with upset stomachs, the owners who worry about them and the veterinarians who treat them, Pfizer Animal Health now offers Cerenia, the first product developed and approved to treat and prevent vomiting in dogs. The drug comes in both an injectable form that is used primarily to treat vomiting in the veterinary hospital and a tablet form that is used by pet owners to prevent motion sickness or treat vomiting at home. (The drug is given one hour before travel.)
"In the past we gave sedatives for motion sickness, and pet owners always faced the dilemma of when to repeat the drug. With Cerenia there's no sedation, and it has convenient, easy-to-understand dosing," said Dr. Tom Carpenter, the owner of Newport Harbor Animal Hospital in Costa Mesa, Calif., and the president of the American Animal Hospital Association.
Carpenter also likes the fact that while in the past medication to stop vomiting had to be given through continuous intravenous infusion or dosed as many as four times per day, Cerenia can be given just once a day.
"I feel safe giving the drug while waiting for radiographs, blood work or other diagnostic samples to come back. Plus by utilizing Cerenia to treat or prevent vomiting, we're going to save pet owners some money," he said.
While vomiting is common in dogs and often no cause for alarm, you should treat this condition as an emergency if you've seen the dog swallow some poison or a poisonous plant, if the vomit has blood in it, if your dog is lethargic or disoriented, or if he's throwing up with alarming frequency. In these cases, every minute counts in rushing your pet to the veterinarian. -- Dr. Marty Becker
PETS BY THE NUMBERS
Who brings home the kibble?
The kids and dad may beg for a pet, but mom had better be on board with the addition. That's because chances are she'll be the one doing the shopping. Only when the pets are saltwater fish does the percentage of women doing the shopping fall. According to a 2006 study:
Women as primary shoppers
All pets 79 percent
Dogs 79 percent
Cats 81 percent
Saltwater fish 67 percent
Source: American Pet Products Manufacturers Association
ON GOOD BEHAVIOR
Little dogs need training, too
In our practice we sometimes joke with each other about specializing in aggressive Chihuahuas.
Surprised? Most people don't worry about small breeds developing aggression. But the truth is it's easier to ignore the signs of bad behavior in small dogs because they seem more like babies than dogs to us.
Dogs and human brains share many features. But dogs interpret human behavior in a purely canine way, and that's different from the way we people see it.
When people provide everything the dog wants when he wants it, the dog begins to respond by increasing demands. Then, one day, the owner sees the dog guarding a toy or food and decides enough is enough. The result? A dog bite.
The relationship too often goes downhill from there. Be forewarned and forearmed with proper training and socialization, even with -- especially with -- tiny dogs.
(Animal behavior experts Susan and Dr. Rolan Tripp are the authors of "On Good Behavior." For more information, visit their Web site at AnimalBehavior.net.)
Pet Connection is produced by a team of team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper, by sending e-mail to email@example.com or by visiting PetConnection.com.
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