Sunday, November 27, 2011


Domestic rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus ) are descendants of the wild rabbits living in Western Europe and Northern Africa. In a rabbit’s natural environment they are completely herbivorous. This means that they eat only plant matter. In the twilight and night hours are when they most actively forage for their food. Their claws are used to help them dig and burrow into the ground for protection and shelter. Their speed and maneuverability helps them escape from their predators in the wild. Both in the wild and in captivity they are known to be successful breeders.

Domesticated rabbits are typically docile and quiet in nature making them a popular pet. However, they do need more care then many originally think and sadly the end result is not always a happy one. Too many are drawn in by their cuteness especially when still young. Be sure that you do research before deciding if these adorable balls of fur are right for you,

10 or more years.

Can be a bit tricky on some types of rabbits. Generally it’s not until they are to the age of sexual maturity that it’s much easier to tell. With practice you can sex your rabbits pretty accurately. However, even breeders make the occasional mistake. Often the females have a fold of skin that develops under the neck. This is called a dewlap. Females have slit opening where the males have cylindrical tubes. Males will have external testicles but like many small animals they can withdraw them into the body. This can make sexing younger rabbits difficult. There’s many websites out there that go into more details on how to sex correctly. If you still aren’t sure and don’t want any oops litters be sure to consult a breeder or vet that specializes in rabbits.

Multiple Rabbits
Males usually fight especially once they reach maturity. If a male has been bred it can fight to the death and kill another male if he sees them as competition. It’s generally not a good idea to house males together at all. Even ones that get along in the beginning often change later on and you’ll end up having to separate them.

Females are generally easier to pair up and often do okay together. The bigger the cage the better so that they don’t get stressed and feel over crowded.
The other pairing that usually works is a neutered/spayed pair.

Of course every rabbit is different and some prefer to live solo. Others may play well together outside of a cage but prefer not having any cage mates.

Many recommend that your rabbits are housed indoors. However, given the proper shelter and following certain precautions rabbits and do live well outdoors as well.

The cage whether indoors or out should be at least as large as possible. The bigger the cage the better. Plus you’ll find you won’t have to purchase or change cages as much as they grow. There’s a debate on whether solid or wire bottom cages are better. Either type can be used. Some larger breeds tend to have issues wire cages. If you give your rabbit some solid surfaces or a good bedding this should help prevent any issues.

Food dish - often the best the type is metal or ceramic and something heavy that won’t be easily tipped over. Many love to toss their dishes around so another way to go is the type that attach to the cage. There’s many different styles on the market these days so you can find something that works best for you and your rabbit.

Water bottle - be sure to use either a plastic or glass water bottle. Each have their pros and cons. However, both are much safer and more practical then using a water dish. Dishes of water not only get spilled too easily but harbor germs and bacteria when food and waste get kicked into them.

Litter box - typically this is a preference thing. Many rabbits can be litter trained. They tend to pick a corner to do their business and are usually pretty adamant about always returning to that area. You can place a litter box in their chosen corner. Many do pick up on the concept, especially younger rabbits. Owners find it makes clean up a lot easier. Time between full cage clean outs can be extended leaving you only having to maintain the litter box regularly.

Hides - many rabbits enjoy a quiet, warm, dark place to hang out in. Many outdoor and some indoor styles provide a hutch for this purpose. You can also purchase different rabbits houses or make your own. Another handy way is using boxes and then as they get soiled or chewed up you can always replace them.

Toys - Be sure they have something to entertain themselves. They often enjoy tossing things around, pouncing, and yes even chewing. You can get creative and make your own toys by using things around the house or check out the wide variety that many stores have now. It’s usually cheaper in the long run to find and make your own toys that way you know what your rabbits does and doesn’t like and you’re not out a ton of money on a forgotten toy.

Chew treats - Rabbit teeth constantly grow throughout it’s life. It’s important that you provide them with items to help wear them down. You can specially made chew toys and treats. Untreated pinewood or fruit tree branches are also a good things to gnaw on.

Hay - should be their primary source of food. Unlimited amounts of timothy or Bermuda are the best choice. Though some alfalfa hay okay on occasion. Do limit the amount of alfalfa as it’s been proven to cause urinary stones.

Mixed leafy greens - can and should be a daily food as well. At least one cup a day.

Pellets - are best if used in addition to the hay and greens. It shouldn’t be their primary diet but is a good source of nutrition if that is all that is available.

Fruits - Only in small amounts since the high sugar content may cause diarrhea.

Remember always introduce new foods, especially vegetables and fruit slowly.

Safe Vegetables, Fruits & Weeds
Peppermint leaves
Apple (no seeds)
Mustard Greens
Lemon Balm
Honeydew Melon
Kohl Rabi
Nettles (small dried)
Radish tops & sprouts
Strawberry and leaves
Sweet Potato
Wheat Grass
Carrots (tops & root)
Alfalfa Sprouts
Artichoke (Jerusalem)
Asian Greens
Collard Greens
Shepherds Purse
Silver beet
Papaya (no seeds)
Autumn Leaves (dry)
Chives (moderation)
Bok Choy
Brussels Sprouts
Pak Choi
Lettuce (dark leaf varieties)
Blackberry (leaves, stems & fruit)
Dandelion (leaves, stem & flower),
Raspberry (leaves, stems, fruit)
Tomato (fruit only, leaves are toxic)
Rose petals & leaves

Nicotine, Biscuits, Salty Foods, Sweet Foods,
House Plants, Peas, Cedar Chips, Chocolate,
Avocado, Beans, Onions, Potatoes, Rhubarb, 
Pesticide treated foods

Never pick them up by the ears or neck. Also never allow them to dangle in midair. It they jerk around it can crack their spine, neck, or other bones. Always carefully support their hindquarters by sliding your hand under it’s hind legs. Then lift them up and brace them close to you with both arms. Another option is lifting it using it’s underbelly and carefully holding it that way.
Never chase your rabbits to catch them.
When you need to put your rabbit back into it’s cage herd it by walking behind it.
Don’t pick the rabbit up allow it to back in on it’s own.

Spot check the cage daily. Remove any soiled bedding or litter. Also be sure that the dishes are clean. At least weekly (depending on the rabbit’s size, how many are inhabiting the cage, and the time of year) you’ll want to clean the entire cage. Be sure to only use a safe cleaning product and be sure it’s fully rinsed and dried before returning the rabbit to the cage. Warm soapy water, vinegar water mix, or peroxide mixtures are quite popular and generally quite safe for rabbits. Use extreme caution when using anything with a bleach or ammonia base and be sure it’s rinsed very well. Like many small animals rabbits tend to be quite sensitive to strong smells.

It’s recommended that any rabbits not being used to breed should be spayed or neutered.
If done properly and by vet that has experience with this procedure on small animals there’s many health benefits. Having your rabbit “fixed” may also extend it’s life as well. Males that are neutered will not “mark” their area and are usually less aggressive. Most females will also calm down as well. An unsprayed rabbit is more likely to get ovarian cancer when they are older.

Health Concerns 
Dental Disease
Gastrointestinal Disease
Organ Disease
Respiratory Disease
Hair balls
Fly strike
Heat Stroke

Intestinal blockage
Common in rabbits. They can swallow hair while they’re grooming. The best way to prevent this is regular grooming. However, if you see any of the following symptoms you should contact your vet.
Lack of appetite
change in droppings
runny nose
labored breathing
urinary problems
bloated abdomen lumps bumps

Rabbits can be very sensitive to heat. Be sure that the temps are less then 80 degrees. Sometimes moving them to a basement or cooler room in the house is best in the summer. They do better in cooler temps.

Antibiotics from the Penicillin family - like Amoxicillin - are TOXIC to rabbits and should be NEVER be administered.

What your rabbit is trying to say

  • Rabbit Noises: In protest, or fear.
  • Thumping: Thumps hind leg when it's either frustrated or upset about something. Perhaps it senses the presence of something foreign,
  • Sideways Hop: Running at full speed, they’ll jump in midair, and slightly kick their legs out sideways. They are pleased or happy about something. 
  • Ears Perked Up: Senses something unusual.
  • Licking: Will lick and gently nip you when being affectionate.
  • Humping and Nipping: Annoying trait when in heat. When they’re ready to mate, they’ll start humping more than its toys, even its owners (by the way, they can be aggressive since it humps and bites hard at the same time. 

Note - There’s many opinions, conflicting information, and care sheets out there for the way to care for rabbits. As with any animal it’s important to always do your research. Be sure to check out many sources. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011


The wild brown rat is a descendent of the domesticated rats you see today. They have been bred for approx one hundred years.

2.5 - 3 yrs (varies)

Average Size
14 - 16 inches including the 7 inch tail.

Living Arrangements 
Being social animals it’s crucial that they are housed in groups. At the very minimum they should have at least one buddy. However, it’s recommended they have several friends in their colonies. When their friends die they go through a mourning process so it’s important that they have many friends.

The easiest pairing is usually females. Males can tend to fight unless they are introduced at a young age. Females tend to be more accepting of new rats in their colonies throughout their life. Of course this is a generalization and it can vary depending on the rats.

Gender differences
Besides the obvious physical differences they often act differently as well. Females tend to be busier and on the go all through their lives. Males tend to be calmer and more social with their humans. This varies depending on the rats and their ages but in general that is typically the main difference between the personalities.

Keep your rats out of drafty areas as they are prone to colds. Also extreme heat or direct sunlight should be avoided since heat stroke is can be an issue. Temps between about 60-80 is about the right range for your rat to be comfortable.

While many house their rodents in aquariums it’s recommended that cages are used. Not only does this give them better ventilation but allows them room to climb and play. The larger the house the better. You want them to have a lot of room to play and live. Also if they want alone time a bigger cage can provide that.

It’s recommended that the flooring be solid. If you do use a cage with a wired bottom be sure to provide solid surfaces so that they can get off the wires on occasion. This helps prevent sores and other issues causes by hard surfaces under their delicate feet.

Many different products can be used. Each have their pros and cons. The general consensus among rat owners though is NEVER use Cedar and when at all possible you should avoid Pine as well. While Pine isn’t as harmful on their lungs and doesn’t cause the burning Cedar can it can still causing breathing issues.

Many experts recommend aspen, care fresh, or recycled paper pellets such as Yesterday’s news. Paper towels, newspaper, and flannel cloth can also be used.

Cage Accessories
You can buy products especially designed for rats, small animals, or even birds. However, it can be just as fun if you get creative and use things around your home. Not only do they enjoy it just as much but it can save you a lot of money as well.

Boxes, flower pots, dishes, pvc or cardboard tubes can be used for awesome hiding places. No need to purchase those high priced hammocks. Get creative and make your own with flannel, towels, baby blankets, old tshirts, or whatever else you have around.

Some rats may enjoy wheels but not all of them do. Generally it’s the females and usually when they’re young. Be sure to purchase one that is safe for your furry friends. A solid running surface without wire is best. This can help prevent a tail or foot from being caught while they’re playing on it.

Rats love a variety of things to play with. It’s fun to experiment and see what they prefer.

Chew toys
Rats like other rodents have teeth that grow continuously throughout their lives. It’s important that they are provided with something safe to chew on. Wood that hasn’t been painted or treated, cardboard, dog biscuits, store bought rat safe chew toys are all various things you can provide.

Basic Care
Remove any uneaten food, soiled bedding, and dropping daily. At least once a week the cage should be completely cleaned out. This schedule may vary depending on what you’re using for bedding, the amount of rats, and the time of year. Different cleaners can be used but be sure they are not harmful to the rats and are completely rinsed and dried off everything before coming in contact with the animals again. It’s generally recommended that warm soapy water, vinegar with water, or peroxide mixture be used. Avoid any strong bleach or ammonia based products.

Hand taming
Generally curious and friendly by nature they usually don’t take long to trust you. However, they do need to get used to you before they’ll allow handling. You can build trust by offering them small treats. Once you’ve begun to establish trust with that move on to the next step. Begin picking them up. Be sure one hand is supporting their bottom and the other is gently holding their backside. If they are squirming and want to immediately dart back into their cage give them time. Don’t restrain them against their will but only put them back in their cage when they have calmed down. If you put them back in immediately they’ll do that each time they want back in the cage. A little trick that many do is simply walk away from the cage. They now have to rely on and trust you. Allow them time to calm down. Try the hand walking method. It almost looks as though they are running in place. They begin trusting you and often they find that to be a fun game. Eventually you shouldn’t have any problems convincing them to join you outside the cage. Often the opposite tends to happen. You’ll have problems convincing them playtime outside the cage is over. Of course every rat is different so some may or may not take to things as quickly. The key is being patient and building trust.

Once you’re bonded you can and should provide a lot of out of cage time. Provide them with a safe area where they can play, explore, and get exercise. Be sure they’re always supervised during these out of cage playtimes.

Things to remember
Always move slowly when approaching your rats
Let them first smell you by offering the back of your hand
Be sure hands are washed or else they may want to sample them
Don’t stick your fingers through the cage as they think that’s a snack
Never pick a rat up by it’s tail or squeeze them

Many rat owners use a high quality pellet known as rat blocks or “lab blocks”. There’s a few versions on the market. Be sure to look for a brand that lists a soy meal base versus corn. Dried corn and alfalfa type products are hard for rats to digest.

The other alternative is making your own rat food mixes. There’s many websites that show how to go about doing this. You can try different methods until you know what works best for you and your rats. The advantage of making your own is not only knowing what is put in your rat’s food but you can cater it to your rat’s needs better.

Small amounts of fresh vegetables and fruits are also recommended. Foods such as peas, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, corn on the cob, sweet peppers, carrots, fresh leafy greens, pears, strawberries, blueberries,  bananas, apples seedless grapes, pineapple, mango, are all great things to start out with. Small amounts of melon can also e given but should be limited as they can cause diarrhea.  You can mix it up and try various things to see what your rats favor.

Some grains and seeds can be given as well. Oats, barley, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, millet, unsalted peanuts, shelled nuts,

Occasionally it’s okay to share some of your “people food” with your little friends. Table scraps such as cooked pasta, chicken, mashed potato, squash, small pieces of egg, pieces of whole grain bread or pizza crust can also be given. Treats should be limited to prevent health issues especially obesity.

Of course fresh, clean water should be provided at all times. Water bottles should be used versus bowls as they stay cleaner.

Ceramic crock type or metal dishes are best for keeping the food. Plastic may end up being a chew toy.

Foods to avoid
Onions, Chocolate, Coffee, Tea, Soda, Lemonade, Citrus,
Foods with high acid, fat, or sugar content.

Symptoms of sickness
The following symptoms can indicate a problem. Be sure to contact your vet if you notice any of these.
Hair loss
Visible parasites (lice, mites, ticks, fleas etc.)
Lack of energy
scratching, rubbing, or chewing that causes bleeding
Limping or favoring their leg
Eyes bulging from their sockets
Dull eyes
Excessive sneezing (rats sneeze occasionally)
Rattling or congested sound when breathing,
Labored breathing
Red discharge from eyes or nose (pigmented secretion, not blood)
Reddish brown staining around the eyes
Head tilted to one side
Lack of appetite
Weight loss
Constipation or diarrhea
Blood in urine

Note - There’s many opinions, conflicting information, and care sheets out there for the way to care for rats. As with any animal it’s important to always do your research. Be sure to check out many sources.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Just a little note about rats

I can still remember my feelings not long ago towards rats. I’ll admit that I was one of those “ewww rats” people. That was until I gave them a chance. My new hobby is research. Anytime I want to learn more about a breed or species my first place I go is the infamous search bar. This time was no different. I’d begun seeing a lot of advertisements on Craig’s List (another new “hobby” of mine) I wanted to know what the big deal was about this strange looking rodent.

Now I look back and wonder how I never saw them as the adorable unique creatures that they are. I regret the years I wasted and missed out on having these wonderful pets. I can’t even imagine my life without them now. Something that began as a mild interest quickly turned into an addiction. 
We have now been owned by many of these little critters. Sadly we’ve had some leave us way too soon to the “Rainbow Bridge”. As any Rat owner knows we have a limited time to enjoy all that our furry (or not so furry) friends have to offer us. We learn to enjoy each day that we are given with these amazing animals. 

Sadly they are one of the most misunderstood animals out there. Looking back I admit I was one of those people that may have thought what others still think.. When many people hear the word “RAT” they think immediately of the disgusting sewer dwelling hairy things that lurk in the shadows in horror movies. Domesticated rats are not the scary possessed demons we’re led to believe they are. No they are quite the opposite. A pet rat also known as a “Fancy Rat” is a clean loving animal. They are social beings that love their cage mates and humans. A rat is most happy if they can spend their time with both. There’s a few exceptions to the rule. Sadly we had a “rescue” rat that didn’t have a good start in life. We did not give up on him. He never learned to truly trust humans and sadly just when he finally knew the companionship of his fellow species it was for a limited time. However, he’s one of those rare cases. The rest of our “Rattie Pack” love each other and their humans. Each has their own quirks and personalities. Some get along better then others. I’m sure we could say the same about any species. 

Rats are smart animals that can be trained to do tricks, come to their name, and some of the less stubborn ones even learn to use a litter box. I honestly think they groom themselves (and each other) more then cats. As someone that has owned a few different types of rodents I’d say they are definitely more friendly, clean, and probably the most social. Yes Guinea Pigs are social creatures but I believe our rats top that threefold. 

Before I shared a very generalized care sheet for these amazing animals I thought I’d share a little background. When I say generalized I mean just that. There are many ways to go about raising rats. When you research the internet you’ll see tons of pages with tons of information. I recommend reading up on everything you can, talk to others with rat experience, and like any animal you raise you’ll come up with ways that work best for you. Things that I do or say in this care sheet aren’t the be all end all of rat raising. In fact I’m sure some may not agree with some of it. However, it’s what works for my rats.


This was originally posted in my other blog:  crazyforchis 

This tiny toy sized dog known for it’s brave, courageous, and proud demeanor is the smallest breed. It was named after the state of Chihuahua in Mexico.

Chihuahuas make good companion dogs. They’re fiercely loyal and tend to become very attached to one owner. They do enjoy affection and have been known to show it in return by licking their owner’s faces.

These lively, agile, happy, and adventurous dogs tend to be quite strong willed. It’s important that they have proper human leadership. They can be difficult to train and house break but are intelligent and learn quickly with patience. Chihuahuas respond well to proper, firm, gentle training. Positive reinforcement is key to succeeding with these stubborn souls.

It’s important not to allow them to get away with things that you’d not allow a bigger dog to do. Many tend to allow small dogs to get away with more and baby them. An example of this is jumping up on people. It may be cute to see a tiny dog putting his little paws on your leg. However, if this is allowed you’re telling them that this dominant behavior is okay. This will lead to them thinking they’re the pack leader and that leads to behavior issues such as jealousy and aggression with others. They’ll also become suspicious of everyone but their owner.

Chihuahuas that develop this pack leader mentality may be prone to snapping at humans, especially children. In general it’s not recommended that this breed is around children unless properly socialized. The key is to socialize these dogs well from a young age and continue throughout their lives. Just like any other breed the better socialized they are the better behaved.

Also it’s important to give them a lot of exercise. There’s a huge misconception about small dogs. Many think that they don’t need to be walked as much. They assume that these dogs get plenty of exercise running around during the day. However, this is not true. Walks are crucial for a dog’s well being. They not only provide much needed exercise and energy release they provide mental stimulation as well. It also satisfies their natural migration instincts.

It’s important to treat them no different then you would a larger dog. Owners that realize that their Chihuahua is no different then another sized dog will get a more appealing temperament. They need to make sure that they are the pack leader and not the dog. If this is done they are more likely to be trustworthy around others.


The true history of this unique breed is not entirely known. There’s many theories surrounding the origin. Folklore and archaeological finds show the breed originated from Mexico. The most common and thought to be most accurate is that they descended from the Techichi, This was a companion dog of the Toltec civilization in Mexico. No records of the Techichi prior to the 9th century exist. It’s probable that ancestors of the dogs were present prior to the Mayans. Dogs much like the Chihuahua were found in materials from the Cholula Pyramids predating 1530. Also they were found in the Chichen Itza ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula. Other historians believe they came from the island of Malta in Mediterranean.

European paintings of small dogs that resemble Chihuahuas also give possible creedence to the this theory. One of the most famous is a fresno in the Sistine Chapel by Sandro Bottcelli dated 1480-1482. The fresno, Trials of Moses shows a boy holding a tiny dog with a round head, large eyes, big ears and characteristics of the Chihuahua.

This particular painting was finished ten years before Columbis returned from the New World. Botticelli would not have seen a Mexican dog but he depicted a dog that looked much like a Chihuahua. Reportedly in 1850 a progenitor of the breed was found in ruins near Casas Grandes. This is in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. This is where the dog gets their name.

Most artifacts relating to the existence of this breed are found around Mexico City. However, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico in the U.S. were where they first rose to prominence. Since then they have remained consistently popular as a breed. They were first recognized by the AKC in 1904. The present day Chi is much smaller then their ancestors. This change is thought to be due to the introduction of miniaturized Chinese dogs, such as the Chinese Crested dog into the South America by the Spanish.

Description and standards

Chihuahuas are known for their large dark or sometimes ruby colored eyes that are set well apart. They have large erect ears and their long sickle shaped tails either curl over their back or to the side. The beautiful short or long coat can be either wavy or flat. Solid, marked, and splashed markings can come in white, chestnut, fawn, sand, silver, sable, steel blue, black, tan, and parti color and any combo of those colors.

Their bodies are longer then they are tall. Their heads are well rounded like an apple in shape. The muzzle is short and pointed with a well defined stop. Commonly referred to as either Apple or Deer heads. One has a short nose and rounded head similar to an apple. The other has a longer nose and elongated head.

The breed standard doesn’t specify height only weight and a description of overall proportions. This results in varying heights. Height usually ranges from 6-10 inches. Some can grow as tall as 12-15 inches. British and American standards both state that the Chihuahua must not weigh more then 6lbs for conformation. The British standard also states the weight of 2-4lbs is preferred. In fact if two dogs are equally good in type the diminutive one is preferred.

The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) standard is 3.3-6.6lbs. Smaller ones are more acceptable in show rings. Pet quality often range above these weights. Some are even above 10lbs if they’ve got large bone structure or allowed to become overweight. This doesn’t mean they’re not purebred but do not meet the requirements for conformation shows. Oversized Chihuahuas can be found in both good and bad bloodlines. The standards for both long and short coats are typically identical except for coat description.

It’s important to know that terms like Teacup, Pocket Size, Tiny Toy, Miniature, or Standard are marketing gimmicks. They’re made up to inflate a puppy’s value. These aren’t recognized by the breed standards.


United Kingdom’s Kennel Club and the American Kennel Club only recognize two Chihuahua varieties. The long coat and the smooth coat also known as the short coat. Genetically they are both the same breed. Short coat doesn’t mean the hair is smooth. The hair can range from velvet touch to whiskery. Long haired Chis are smoother to the touch. They have soft fine guard hairs and downy undercoats. This gives them their fluffy appearance. Unlike many other long hair breeds Chis require no trimming and grooming is minimal. Contrary to what people may believe the long haired Chihuahuas typically shed less then the short. It can take up to two or more years before the full long haired coat develops.


Chihuahuas come in many color combinations: solid, marked, or splashed. Colors can range from solid black to solid white. Spotted, Sable, and a variety of other colors and patterns can also appear in the Chihuahua breed. The colors and patterns can combine and affect one another. This can result in many variations. Most common colors are fawn, red, cream, chocolate, blue, and black. No pattern or color is considered more valuable.

Merle is not considered part of the breed standard. In May 2007 The Kennel Club decided that any puppies with this coloration were not to be registered. This is due to the health risk of this gene. In December of that year the Breed Standard was amended so that any merle dogs were disqualified. The Federation Cynologique Internationale that represents the major kennel club of 84 countries disqualified the merle color as well. Countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Germany also followed suit. However, in May 2008 the Chihuahua Club of America voted that this color wouldn’t be disqualified in the United States. It would be able to be registered and compete in AKC events. Those opposed to the coloration believe it came about by modern cross breeding with other dogs.


Choosing a Chihuahua must be done carefully. An owner’s temperament often effects the dog’s. Chis with an ill temperament can be easily provoked to attack. That makes them generally not suitable for homes with small children. This breed is known to be fiercely loyal to one owner. In some cases they even become over protective. This is especially true around other people or animals. They aren’t always able to get along with other breeds. Chihuahuas are prone to clan like nature. Often preferring the companionship of only their kind over others. Generally this makes them not recommended for children that aren’t patient and calm. These small dogs love their dens and are known to burrow into pillows, clothes, and blankets. Often they can be found under the covers or at the bottom of the bed. Deep in the dark safety of what they consider their den.

Health Disorders

Expert veterinary attention is often needed in areas like birthing and dental care. They’re prone to genetic anomalies. Neurological issues such as epilepsy and seizure disorders are common. Like other toy breeds Chihuahuas are prone to the painful disease hydrocephalus. It’s diagnosed when a puppy has a an abnormally large head during the first months of
it’s life. Other symptoms of hydrocephalus are patchy skull plates rather than solid bone, typically lethargic, also they don’t grow at the same pace as their littermates. Veterinarians can diagnose hydrocephalus but the prognosis is not good.

Another common issue for this breed is moleras. This is a soft spot in their skulls. They’re the only breed born with an incomplete skull. This does fill in with age but care still needs to be taken during the first six months until the skull is fully formed. However, some do not close completely and will continue to require extra care to prevent injury. Many veterinarians aren’t familiar enough with the breed and mistaken molera with hydrocephalus.

Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar is another risk. This is especially dangerous in puppies. Not treated this can lead to coma and death. This can be avoided with frequent feedings. Every three hours for small and young puppies. It’s recommended that owners have a simple sugar supplement on hand in case of emergency. Nutri-Cal, Karo syrup or honey can be rubbed on the gums and roof of the mouth. These rapidly raise the blood sugar level.

Lethargy, sleepiness, low energy, uncoordinated walking, unfocused eyes, and neck muscle spasms or head pulling back or to the side are all symptoms of hypoglycemia.

Due to their large, round, protruding eyes and their relatively low ground clearance they’re prone to eye infections. Care should be taken to prevent them from being poked in the eyes. Their eyes are also prone to frequent watering to remove dust or allergens that may get into the eye. Daily wiping will help keep the eyes clean and prevent tear stains.

Collapsed trachea also known as reverse sneezing is a health concern of this breed

Chihuahuas have a tendency to tremble. This is not a health issue but occurs usually when the dog is stressed, excited, or cold. Cold can be a problem for these small dogs. When outside they can wear coats or sweaters to help keep them warm. Also they enjoy digging and snuggling into blankets while they sleep.

The average lifespan for a healthy Chi is between 10-17 years. (Another source said 14-18 years.)

Since Chihuahuas are sometimes picky eaters it’s important to provide the adequate nutrition. Wet or fresh food is often most appealing. Though it’s important not to go too long without a meal care should be exercised not to overfeed this small breed.

Dental care is important for these little dogs.

Human foods shouldn’t be given. Due to the dog’s small size high fat or sugary treats even given in small amounts can result in an overweight dog. Being over weight they are more susceptible to increased joint injuries, tracheal collapse, chronic bronchitis. Also this can shorten their life span.

Luxating Patella is a known genetic condition very common in Chihuahuas.
In some dogs the ridges forming the patellar groove aren’t correctly shaped and a shallow groove is created. The patella will luxate or slip out of place or sideways in dogs with shallow grooves. This causes the leg to lock up and forces the Chihuahua to hold their foot off the ground. When the patella luxates from the femur groove it usually can’t return to the normal position until the quadriceps muscle relaxes and increases in length. This is why the dog may be forced to hold their leg up for a few minutes after initial displacement. When the muscles are contracted and the patella is luxated from the correct position the joint is held in a flexed or bent position. The knee cap sliding across the femur can cause pain due to the bony ridges of the femur. When out of position they feel no discomfort and can continue with activity.

Some Chihuahuas can also have heart related disorders such as heart murmurs and Pulmonic Stenosis. This is when the blood outflow from the heart’s right ventricle is obstructed at plutonic valve.

They are also prone to physical deformities especially seen as they get older.

Registered with:

CKC = Continental Kennel Club
FCI = Fédération Cynologique Internationale
AKC = American Kennel Club
UKC = United Kennel Club
KCGB = Kennel Club of Great Britain
CKC = Canadian Kennel Club
ANKC = Australian National Kennel Club
NKC = National Kennel Club
NZKC = New Zealand Kennel Club
APRI = American Pet Registry Inc.
ACR = American Canine Registry
DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.
NAPR = North American Purebred Registry, Inc.

Information compiled from various sources. No copyright infringement intended. No monetary gain was received. Original was created August 26st, 2011 by Carrie McCormick.

Labrador Retriever

Originally posted in my other blog: loveforlabbies

This friendly loyal breed is very loving towards humans. With their happy usually reliable temperament and dependable easy going way it’s no wonder the Lab is one of the most popular breeds. They not only hold this title in the United State but Canada and Australia as well.

The typical lab thrives on human companionship, approval, and attention. They always want to be around their humans. The expression “follow you around like a puppy dog” may have been invented to describe this dog’s behavior. They are always eager to please and are very affectionate. They have a need for close physical contact. Whether it’s lying on your feet, sitting in your lap (someone must not have told them they aren’t lap dogs), or leaning against you they need to have that close contact with their humans. If you’re the type of person that doesn’t appreciate such displays of affection this is probably not the right breed for you.

Lab are the type of dog that doesn’t consider anyone a stranger. Whether you have known them forever or just met them they will greet you just as enthusiastically. They have plenty of kisses and tail wags to spare. Guard dogs they are not. Many do make good watch dogs though. When someone approaches Labs will warn you with a bark. The key to keeping this easy going attitude towards others is socialization. No dog is too young to begin that very important behavior. Be sure to enforce social behavior throughout your dog’s life. (No matter what breed a social dog is a good dog.)

Their loving affectionate nature and desire for the company of others makes them a good choice for families. Definitely not a one man’s dog. . Labs love to run and play with kids. Generally they are gentle and patient with children. They are not usually easily startled or upset. However, caution should be taken as their enthusiasm may get the best of them and they may knock a child over by accident. Many also enjoy games of fetch especially if water is included. Their other favorite hobby is chewing. They mouth and chew anything and everything. It’s not uncommon to see them carry things around in their mouths. Labs usually get along with other dogs so do well in a multi dog family.

Labs are pretty content to live anywhere. Whether it’s an apartment without a yard or a huge home in the country they are happy. Just remember to always take them for a daily walk or run. Burning that extra energy makes for a happy dog. Remember if you have a yard be sure that it’s securely fenced. This breed tends to wander if not supervised.

This highly intelligent breed makes training easy. Commands are often picked up very quickly. Be sure they have plenty of exercise to release any pent up energy. If bored they are notorious for digging holes. Also lonely or bored Labs tend to be more vocal. The chewing habit may appear in destructive ways to release their frustration.

If you’re looking for a hiking or jogging companion this may just be the breed for you. They are very athletic, strong, and have plenty of energy. These attributes make them good in agility, obedience events, and hunting. Many Labs have gone on to be therapy dogs, service dogs, or guide dogs for the blind. Some have even gone into fields such as search and rescue or narcotics detection.

It’s important to know being a larger breed they tend to physically grow quickly. However, their mental growth may take longer. Until two years old (sometimes older) these wonderful dogs tend to act like puppies. Another good reason early training is recommended. Since they crave leadership it’s important to establish that role with them. Adult Labbies tend to be very strong dogs so it’s important to teach them fundamentals at a young age. For example always make sure they know not to bolt out doorways or gates before you.


There’s two types of Labrador Retrievers. The English which as their name suggests are bred from English stock. The other of course is the American. The overall appearance of the two types does differ. American bred tend to be tall and lanky. The double coat is smooth and does not have any waves. Whereas the English Lab tend to be heavier, blockier, and have a thicker build.

The head is broad with a moderate stop that sits on a proportionately wide and powerful neck. They have thick noses that are black on the black or yellow Labs. On the chocolate Labs their nose pigmentation is brown. Since pigmentation often fades this is not considered a fault in the show rings. Their muzzles are fairly wide and their teeth should meet in a level or scissors bite. Lab’s bodies tend to be slightly longer then tall. The hard short coat isn’t too difficult to care for. It’s also water resistant.

Yellow and black labs should have brown eyes. Chocolate labs have hazel or brown. Green or greenish yellow are also possible. Silver dogs usually have gray eyes. The medium sized eyes are set well apart. In Chocolate Labs their eyes are rimmed in brown whereas the yellow and black labs have black rims. Lab ears are medium sized and gradually taper into a tip. They’re covered in short hair completely with no feathering. Labs are known for their strong compact webbed feet. This genetic trait has aided many in swimming.

English lines tend to be more calm and laid back compared to their American counterparts. It’s also said that they mature quicker. Field lines like the American tend to be very energetic and become easily high strung if they are not exercised properly.

Both are average shedders. Their smooth short double coat is easy to groom but does require regular combing or brushing. Be sure to pay close attention to the undercoat. Bathing or using dry shampoo should only be done when needed. The coat colors come in solid black, yellow, or chocolate. Colors such as silver, gray, or white are not “rare” as many may have you believe. Breeders often try to get more for such color mutations. However, these colors are referred to as a shade of chocolate by the AKC. There is controversial debates over these colors. Some claim the mutation is true. Others strongly believe it’s due to the Weimaraner breed being crossed bred with Labradors.

Height for males is usually 22-24 inches and in the females it’s 21-23inches. Males tend to weigh 60-75lbs though some may grow up to 100 or more. The females typically stay smaller within the 55-70lb range. Labs generally live 10 - 12 years.

Labs usually don’t have many major problems. However, they do have some inherited disorders.

Prone to hip and elbow dysplasia especially in the larger labs. It’s recommended to get hip scores before breeding and joint supplements are often recommended.

Suffer from the risk of knee problems. Luxating patella is common in the knee where the leg is often bow shaped.

Eye problems like progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts, corneal dystrophy and retinal dysplasia. A veterinary ophthalmologists should examine and give an eye score for any dogs being considered for breeding.

Hereditary myopathy is a rare disorder that causes a deficiency in type II muscle fibre. Symptoms are short stilted gait or bunny hopping. In rare cases ventroflexion of the neck accompanied by a kyphotic posture.

Small incidence of other conditions like autoimmune diseases and deafness in Labs. Either congenitally or later in life.

Labs often suffer from exercise induced collapse. Syndrome that causes hyperthermia, weakness, collapse, and disorientation after short bouts of exercise.

Labs like to eat. Without proper exercise they can become obese. Healthy labs can swim and do wind sprints for two hours. They should have a very slight hourglass waist. They should be fit and light not fat or heavy set. When fat they usually develop hip dysplasia or other joint problems and get diabetes. Osteoarthritis is common in older overweight labs. According to a 14 year study by Purina of 48 dogs those fed to maintain lean body shape outlived by about two years those fed freely. This is an example of why not over feeding is important.

Once known as the St John’s dog. Labs are native to Newfoundland. These dogs worked beside fishermen catching fish that came loose from the lines. Also they were trained to jump in icy waters to help pull the nets. In the 1800s they were brought to England by English ships coming from Labrador. Setters, Spaniels, and other types of Retrievers were cross bred with the Labradors. These breeding techniques were done to improve the hunter instincts. Present day Labs now excel in hunting, tracking, and retrieving.

History of subtypes:

Yellow and Chocolate Labs did occasionally appear through the breeding lines. However, sadly many were often culled. It wasn’t until the 20th century that they finally gained acceptance.

Ben of Hyde born in 1899 was the first recognized yellow. In the 1930s chocolate became more established.

Yellow -

Early years until mid 20th century labs of the color we now refer to as yellow were much darker an almost butterscotch shade. Many early photos of yellow labs show this. At that time the shade was known as golden. They then had to change that name b/c UK Kennel club said gold wasn’t actually a color. Over the 20th century preference for lighter shades and cream colors. Now these days most yellows have this shading. Fawn was also another common color in the yellows.

English breeders in the 1980s reestablished the interest of darker shades such as gold or fox red. Three dogs were instrumental in this change. A black lab born approx 1976 by the name of Balrion King Frost consistently sired very dark yellow offspring. He’s credited for having the biggest influence of the redevelopment of the fox red shades. His great grand son Wynfaul Tabasco was born in 1986 has been described as “the father of the modern fox red Labrador” He was also the only modern fox red show champion in the uk. Others such as Red Alert and Scrimshaw Placido Ramingo are also credited with passing on the genes into more then one renowned bloodline.

Chocolate -
Jack Vanderwyk traces the origins of Chocolates listed on the LabradorNet database. (About 34000 labs of all shades) to eight original bloodlines. These shades were not seen as a distinct color until the 20th century. Before that time according to Vanderwyk these dogs can be traced but not registered. Crossbreeding with Flatcoats or Chesapeake Bay Retrievers has also been documented in the early 20th century prior to be recognized.

Chocolate labs were well established in the early 20th century at the kennels of the Earl of Feversham, and Lady Ward of Chiltonfoliat. These traced bloodlines each lead back to three black labs in the 1880s.

Buccleuch Avon (m), his sire Malmesbury Tramp and dam Malmesbury June . Morningtown Tobla also an important intermediary, and according to the Buccleuch Kennels studbook the chocolates in this kennel came through FTW Peter of Faskally (1908).

Group Classification:

Gun dog, AKC Sporting.

Registered with:

CKC = Continental Kennel Club
FCI = Fédération Cynologique Internationale
AKC = American Kennel Club
UKC = United Kennel Club
KCGB = Kennel Club of Great Britain
CKC = Canadian Kennel Club
ANKC = Australian National Kennel Club
NKC = National Kennel Club
NZKC = New Zealand Kennel Club
CCR = Canadian Canine Registry
APRI = American Pet Registry Inc.
ACR = American Canine Registry
DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.
NAPR = North American Purebred Registry, Inc.

Information compiled from various sources. No copyright infringement intended. No monetary gain was received. Original was created July 21st, 2011 by Carrie McCormick.


Goldfish have been bred for over thousands of years in the Orient. Europe has also been breeding them for over a hundred years. The various patterns, shapes, and colors are a result. In Asia and eastern Europe they are found in lakes, ponds, and cool watered streams. The ones you see nowadays in pet stores and from breeders are captive bred.

The key to keeping any fish healthy is clean water and Goldfish are no different. They prefer cool water. Therefore the temps should not rise above 74. The best range to keep them at is  65-68. If they’re kept at temps above 72 for lengthy time it can result in Oxygen deprivation. This will result in heart damage, nerve damage, and immune system issues that make them more susceptible to disease.

Though many keep Goldfish in bowls it’s not recommended. The way to go is an aquarium. The bigger the better as the case with many fish. Tanks shouldn’t be any smaller then 10 gallons. This size though is really only suitable for one so if there’s more then one in your tank you should go larger.

Water changes of 10-15% should be done weekly. This helps keep the water clean and removes any waste the filter may have missed.

Gold fish tanks need a good filtering system. Filters should not put out a strong current as it may cause difficulty in swimming.

Many Gold fish keepers don’t recommend using anything for a substrate. Often their health is at risk because gravel can get caught in their throat when they’re looking around for uneaten food. Also if decayed food trapped in the gravel gets consumed it can lead to intestinal bacterial infections. The other concern is Gold fish are naturally dirty so any organics or pollutions can get trapped in the gravel.

However, maintaining a healthy environment by circulating the water, keeping up on the filters, and avoid over feeding it can help prevent many of these concerns. Also if you use pea sized gravel it’s less likely they’ll be able to consume it causing any issues.

Tank Decorations
To feel safe they need lots of hiding places. A safe fish is an active fish. Make sure there’s at least 50-75% cover. Having places to hide will reduce stress and help prevent health issues.

These scavengers are omnivorous. This means they can have both plant and animal matter. It’s important to provide them with a varied diet high in carbohydrates. There’s a wide variety of Goldfish foods on the market. Also available are frozen fish foods which are a suitable choice as long as they’re not fed too often. The key to good health and long life expectancy is a proper balanced diet.  

These fish can and will graze for food constantly as they have large appetites. Be careful not to over feed them. They only need to be fed once a day. Any food not consumed after two minutes should be removed from the tank. Doing this helps prevent disease due to poor water quality.

Goldfish favorite foods:

  • Small fishes 
  • Krill 
  • Organic Earthworms 
  • Meal Worms 
  • Blood Worms 
  • White Worms
  • Micro Worms 
  • Tubifex Worms 
  • Wax Worms 
  • Infusoria 
  • Daphnia 
  • Brine Shrimp 
  • Baby guppies
  • Baby swordtail

Set up a feeding schedule. In time you should be able to figure out how much or how little to feed them at each meal. You can gauge this by seeing how much they eat in the first few minutes. Overfeeding causes health and water issues. Some recommend only feeding once while others say twice. Decide what works best for you and ration out the amounts accordingly.

Should be kept with same sized fish that require the same care. Also keep in mind the temperaments of the tank mates. Basically that usually narrows it down to other Goldfish. Luckily there’s a variety of fancy Goldfish to choose from.

Baby Care
Once the babies hatch be sure you clean the tank once within 7-10 days. You can feed them baby brine shrimp before slowly changing to other foods. Be careful not to overfeed the babies. Any weak or deformed should be culled as they won’t survive for long and may risk the health of the others. Always maintain optimum water conditions to be sure they stay healthy.

Life Expectancy
Some Goldfish can live as long as 20 years. These are usually of the pond variety. If a tank of proper size is maintained properly they can live 15+ years.

Note - There’s many opinions, conflicting information, and care sheets out there for the way to care for Gold Fish. As with any animal it’s important to always do your research. Be sure to check out many sources. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fancy Mice

Life Span 
Biggest drawback is their short lifespan. 1.5-2 years Is the average. Some have been known to live up to 3.

Mice are nocturnal and are most active at night. They are quite social and do best when in groups. Typically a pair of females is the easier grouping. However, larger groups will okay if provided with enough living space. It’s not recommended to house pairs of males unless are litter mates and have never been separated. Fighting is less likely if their housing is large. Avoid housing unfamiliar males together because they can and do fight sometimes even to the death. For obvious reasons males and females shouldn’t be housed together. They can produce a lot of offspring quickly.

Choosing Healthy Mice 
The most important thing to keep in mind especially when purchasing your mice from a pet store would be the health. Look got active bright mice that have clean ears, eyes, tails, and coats. Their tails and ears should have a clean pink hue. Their nose and eyes should have no discharge. Mouths and the anal section should also be clean and dry. It’s normal for their breathing to be somewhat fast but it should never be labored, raspy, or noisy.

Also be sure to check their surroundings. The cage should be cleaned and the mice within it should show they’re well cared for. Any waste should be dropping in a somewhat formed shape nothing runny or gooey looking.

Another thing you want to make sure that if they do sell both genders they’re separated. Good pet stores and breeders will be sure to do this. Like many rodents they can and do reproduce at a very young age. It’s not unheard of and quite typical for the, to already begin breeding at 6-8 weeks old. This should be avoided because it’s very stressful for the young female.

Mice are fully weaned around four weeks of age. They do benefit from being with their littermates for another week. After all having to leave their mom, home, and siblings all at the same time can be stressful on these little critters. If it can be avoided they shouldn’t leave their family before they’re five weeks. Too young and they can be quite skittish, jumpy, and prove harder to socialize.

You want to make sure you’re getting mice of the same sex. They can produce large litters in a short period of time. In just three weeks babies are born. If you’re not careful you could easily be overrun with more babies then you know what to do with. Then your cute little easy mice can become difficult problem.

Telling the difference between the genders is not difficult on mice. It doesn’t take long for the obvious features to show. You simply need to check under their tails. The distance between the anal and genital opening is shorter on females then males. The younger they are the harder it may prove to be if you don’t have both genders to compare. Once they’re older and definitely once they’ve hit the 6-8 week the male’s “equipment” is very easy to see. Also another good tip to remember is females have nipples and the males don’t.

Gender Behavior 
Males tend to be more cuddly and friendly. Males are much harder to house together.

Females are typically more active. More females can live together. It’s good to have at least two together.

Pick them up near the base of the tail supporting their little bodies. Never grab them their tails as that can cause injury. Mice will try to escape if they’re being grabbed. Careful not to squeeze to tight as you may crush them by accident. Frightened mice may use teeth in self defense so always be aware of that.

Until they’re used to it try using something else to scoop them up in. Then you can gently slide the mouse into your hand that way. Remember because of their small build children should be supervised at all times during any handling.

There’s a few options. Each have their own pros and cons. Remember no matter what is used mice are small and can easily squeeze out of small spaces. They can also chew their way to freedom as well.  Whatever you choose to house your rodents in you will need to take these things into consideration. Also be sure to use a secure screened lid for anything that isn’t already a cage type material. You want the mice to be able to get enough ventilation.

Many use simple 10 gallon tanks which are suitable for up to three mice. As with any type of housing the larger the better. If you have the ability to go bigger it’d only benefit your mice.

Other housing options: bird or small rodent cages with wire spacing no larger then ¼, wood boxes, plastic bins.

Bedding and Nesting
It’s important to never use synthetic fiber or cotton bedding. Mice have been known to eat it or even get tangled in it causing death. Also never use cedar shavings since it can and does cause breathing issues as well as burns. Many also discourage against pine shavings because breathing issues can come up with this product as well.

The best thing to do is try a variety of beddings to see what works for you and your mice. Another good tip would be not to buy in large quantities until you know what works best.

Aspen - Used by most. However, it’s been known to cause more allergies then other wood beddings.

Care fresh - Safe. However, sometimes this bedding can be very dusty.

Timothy Hay- Helps odor. The mice enjoy nesting in it. However, it can carry parasites such as lice or mites. It’s recommended that you freeze or bake it before using so that any parasites are killed.

Treated Pine - As mentioned above it’s not usually recommended. However, it is the most common type of bedding used.

Other - Paper towels, newspaper, cloth. Each has their pros and cons and it’s recommended to research anything you choose to try.

Other Cage Supplies
Your new little friend(s) will want something to play with. This is where the fun part comes. Get creative. Though the pet stores are filled with toys you don’t have to spend any extra money. Simple things around the house make the best types of toys. Cardboard paper towel or toilet paper rolls, Cardboard boxes, little containers (be warned they will be chewed), piece of safe wood or wooden blocks, bird toys, rodent wheel, little plant pots or other random dishes. Ladders, swings, teeter-totters, and other devices to climb on can also be made or bought. Be sure they have a rodent wheel as many love to entertain themselves for hours. Also some place to nap filled with a safe nesting material such as hay is ideal.

Don’t forget water bottle and food dishes that can endure mice chewing.

Mice are omnivores and will eat just about anything. Their staple diet is usually oats of some kind. Other types of food people often use: nuts, seeds, dry bread, dog food, dog biscuits, bones, millet, maize, cream crackers, cooked or uncooked pasta, root vegetables, breakfast cereals, mouse diet, meat, fish, fruits, greens (though too much can cause runny stool)

Despite their size mice do consume quite a lot of food. Be sure to always check that they have plenty of food. Water should also be checked and changed often.

To avoid odor they should be cleaned at least a couple times a week. Left too long between cleaning and ammonia builds up causing health issues. Be sure to use a mild cleanser, completely rinse so there’s no residue or fumes, and dry completely before the mice are put back. Don’t forget to clean any toys, dishes, water bottles, and other cage items as well as the cage.

Typically they are hard animals not prone to a lot of health issues. Though they are susceptible to many of the same ailments other small rodents have. Usually by the time symptoms are seen it may be too late. It’s important to seek help quickly if you suspect something is wrong.

Note - There’s many opinions, conflicting information, and care sheets out there for the way to care for Mice. As with any animal it’s important to always do your research. Be sure to check out many sources. 


aka Pleco, Sucker Fish, Sucker Mouth, Catfish, Algae Eaters

Life span 
10-15 yr

South America

At least 18inches depending on variety.


Typically these nocturnal fish have a peaceful solitary nature. However, they can be aggressive toward their own species.

Many due their usually peaceful nature.

Tank Setup
Adults can grow quite large so depending on the type the minimum size tank would be 55 gallons. Hiding places, plants, and rocks should be provided.  

These bottom feeders are usually herbivores. There are some that require live, dried, and freeze dried and meaty based foods in their diets. They get their algae off of the glass and other surfaces in the tank. Plecos also enjoy: lettuce, zucchini, spinach, peas (smashed and placed on a rock like paste.)

Older Plecos eat algae less often. They’ll need it supplemented in their diet. This can be done with algae wafers that sink to the tank’s floor. Sinking shrimp pellets are also another favorite.

For best results it’s suggested that you feed after the lights have been turned off for the day. This helps prevent other fish from stealing your Pleco’s food.

Most of the armored catfish available are commonly referred to as Plecostomus even though they belong to other catfish species. Most will grow to a length of 10 inches.

No visible difference between the genders.

They can be difficult to breed in home aquariums. In fact one site even stated that there’s no reports of them breeding in captivity. In their natural habitats breeding is done in pits they’ve dug into the substrate. Once the eggs have been laid and fertilized they guard them until they’re hatched. Once hatched the young fry feed off the body mucus of their parents.

Most Plecos that are sold in pet stores are from eggs that were collected from riverbanks. After they are collected they’re hatched and raised on fish farms.

Note - There’s many opinions, conflicting information, and care sheets out there for the way to care for Pleco Fish. As with any animal it’s important to always do your research. Be sure to check out many sources. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Red Eared Slider (Chrysemys scripta elegans)

Natural Environment
United States - from Gulf of Mexico to East Coast to Western Texas.
Also found in other regions most likely because of people releasing pet turtles into the wild.

These turtles spend most of their lives in or around water. They can be found in lakes and rivers but prefer marshes, ponds, and other slow moving water. Basically areas that can provide adequate food and basking areas. RES enjoy rocks, logs, and other surfaces above water that allow them places to bathe in the sun. Like other reptiles keeping warm is essential. Turtles found in the northern regions will hibernate.

Sadly though they’re the most popular semi aquatic turtle they are also the most abandoned and poorly cared for. Many don’t realize the proper care  of these turtles can be more complicated then they originally thought.

Life expectancy
50-70 years.

Hatchlings - Approximately 1 inch in diameter.
Adults - Can grow as large as 12 inches in length.
Note: It’s illegal in the United States for pet stores to sell these turtles if their shells are less then 4 inches in diameter.

Sexual differences: 
In captivity generally they reach sexual maturity between 2-4 years old. In the wild females sometimes don’t mature until 5-7 years. Females are usually larger than the males. Generally it’s difficult to tell until your turtle reaches 3-5 years of age.

Males - Typically sporting longer front claws, shell is concaved on the bottom, tail is fatter and longer. Their vent opening is farther from the body and closer to the tail’s tip.

Females - Claws are shorter, shell bottom is flat, shorter tails, vent is closer to the body. They are also bigger then males.

RES skin is green with bright yellow stripes. Some sliders may not be sporting the red patch behind their eyes. Most do and that’s how got their name.  Sometimes they also have a patch of red on the top of their head.  They have webbed feet with strong claws. Hatchling shells are green with a fine pattern of  yellow-green sometimes dark green markings. When they mature the carapace may be yellow or olive green. The fine pattern changes into dark lines or patches on each scute. Some portions of their shell may have yellow, white, or red. As a turtle ages the lines and patches of color may slowly disappear eventually resulting in a uniform dark olive green or greenish-brown. Some male s will become uniformly dark gray or black also known as melanistic.

Through breeding two other color morphs have been developed. One is lighter in color with varying amounts of red or yellow. This particular color formation is known as pastel. The other morph is albino. Juveniles are bright yellow with the color fading as the turtle ages.

Most common mistakes:
Potential turtle owners don‘t realize that pet stores don’t know much about the animals that they sell. These animals are usually purchased in large quantities from the cheapest dealers. That results in sales of inbred or wild caught animals. Sometimes these animals are even illegal to sell. Other times the health and wellbeing of the animals aren’t considered.
Hatchlings are difficult to care for. They can become sick easily. Often the disease rapidly progresses to death. Sadly about 90% of all baby turtles sold die within the first year.
Many don’t know the proper environment needed for turtles. Mistakenly many think turtles only need a 10-20 gallon tank with some water with just a little plastic island to crawl onto.

Ideally year round outdoor housing is the best choice for a turtle. However, that is not always obtainable. In that case there are ways of making a adequate environment indoors. If they aren’t house outdoor their natural environment will need to be mimicked. Warm temps, water for swimming, and a basking area are essential.

They can be housed in aquariums made of glass or acrylic. Heavy duty plastic tubs, wading pools, stock tanks, or homemade enclosures can also be used. The options are only limited to your creativity and budget.
Don’t forget they will grow and will need a large enclosure. Eventually they’ll need at least a 55 gallon aquarium. To avoid having to keep upgrading as they grow it may be more worthwhile to start out big. The bigger the better.

The swimming area for sliders should be five times longer then the turtle’s shell length, three times wider, and two times as deep. The dry area for basking should be twice the length of the turtle.

Turtles need a safe easy way to exit the water. The basking sites should be totally out of the water. Substrate of large smooth aquarium gravel can be used to form a slope to dry land. Cork bark, driftwood, a piece of plexi-glass glued to the side of the enclosure or smooth rocks can be used for basking.

Be sure to top the enclosure with a tight fitting screen. This prevents turtles from escaping, objects falling in, and predators getting to them.

Warm basking area is needed to help with digestion. This can be provided by using an incandescent spot light or a mercury vapor bulb made for reptiles.

The should also have exposure to UVB. It’s not certain how much is required for turtles. UVB provides vitamin D3 which helps in the absorption of calcium. Without this essential vitamin improper growth, soft shells, or even death can result. Since it’s not feasible for many turtle owners to provide sun for their turtles year round a UVB bulb can be purchased.

Here’s some options on how to provide both basking and UVB lighting.
Reptile florescent tubes like Repti-Sun 7.0 provides the needed UVB and can be paired up with an incandescent basking light to provide the heat needed for proper digestion.
Con of this set up - Dual lighting is needed.  Florescent tubes need replacement approx every 6 months. Also the bulb and basking light must be within 12 inches of each other to be effective.
Another alternative is using one bulb that provides both basking and UVB. This can done by using a Mercury Vapor bulb specifically made for reptiles. Used correctly these bulbs can fulfill both requirements.
Con of this set up - The cost is high. It’s about twice as much as a florescent bulb. It needs to be replaced every year.

Whichever lighting scenario you choose it’s recommended to use a timer. By doing this you can be sure the turtle gets the 12-14 hours of light it requires daily.

Do know that incandescent lights, non reptile florescent tubes, and
“Full Spectrum” don’t supply UVB.

Maintaining proper temperatures is essential to a turtle’s health.
The enclosure should be around 75. The dry basking area should be around 85-87. Water temps should be around 75-82.

If these areas are not warm enough the turtle may not leave the water to dry off and digest food. Fungal and bacterial diseases along with a loss of appetite can be the result.

Babies and ill turtles require water temps around 82-85.

Turtles use their water to swim, drink, and go to the bathroom. Feeding your turtle in a separate container can help reduce some of the mess. However, a good filter and frequent water changes are still needed. The filter can’t handle all the waste the turtle puts out. Much of this sinks to the bottom Water changes for 25-50% at least once a week will be required.

Also complete tank cleaning and disinfecting should be at least every three weeks. Be sure to completely remove everything from the tank. Wash all the contents minus any animals and live plants. Some recommend at 10% bleach to 90% water solution. Others suggest vinegar. Whichever method you choose be sure to thoroughly rinse and allow time to dry before replacing it back into the enclosure.

Young sliders eat mostly animal proteins. As they get older more vegetative matter is consumed.

In captivity we try to replicate their natural diet as much as is possible.
You should feed them a variety to ensure that they are getting what they need nutritionally although there are no studies that say exactly what that is.

Animal Proteins (25–50% of diet)
Vegetable Matter (50-75% of diet)
Beef Heart
Feeder Goldfish
Fresh Water Fish
Frozen Trout
Night Crawlers
Small Fish
Small Frogs
Wax Worms
Butternut Squash
Carrot Tops
Collard Greens
Dandelion Greens
Dark Leafy Greens
Duck Weed
Green Beans
Mulberry Tree Leaves
Mustard Greens
Water Hyacinths
Water Lettuce
Water Lilies

Commercial Turtle Pellets (15–25% of diet if at all)
Most commercial pellets are high in fats and proteins. They should be used only in limited amounts if at all. It could lead to an over weight turtle. It’d be better to offer real food with vitamin supplements.

Turtles should only be fed what they will eat in a 20-30 minute time frame. Also the amount should be equal to the size of their neck and head. Since they don’t produce saliva that’s needed to swallow they must be fed in water. This can be the water they live in or water of the same temperature in another enclosure.

It’s recommended that a supplement be used since it’s not known what a turtle’s exact nutritional needs are. RepCal’s Herptivite is a good reptile supplement that should be added 2-3 times weekly.

Providing some kind of calcium is important for proper shell and bone growth. There’s a lot of options but the most recommended are calcium blocks or cuttlebones. Turtles will gnaw on them when needed if you place them near the water.

It’s not unusual for them to spend their first days in their shells before acclimating to their environment. In time they begin to recognize you as their food provider. They’ll start greeting you with anticipation. Remember there’s always a chance you may get bitten if they feel threatened.

Be sure to gently handle them with proper support given to their body and legs. It’s best if you do this with both hands just to be on the safe side. Turtles could become seriously or fatally injured if they were to fall. If something startles them they may struggle and you could end up with scratches.

Don’t forget to always wash before and after handling any reptile. Any child younger then five shouldn’t handle turtles due to the risk of disease. Older children should always be supervised and taught the proper way to handle turtles.

Like many small animals and reptiles turtles can become sick for awhile before showing symptoms. Often by the time it’s noticed the situation is quite serious. If any of these symptoms happen and it’s not pinpointed to a new stress factor contact vet that specifically deals with turtles.

  • Cracked or broken shell
  • Swollen eyes, cheeks, or neck
  • Mucus around the nose or mouth
  • Open mouth breathing 
  • Lethargic
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipated
  • Soft shell 
  • Gaping 
  • Red object protruding from cloaca 
  • Not eating (even in proper temps)

Note - There’s many opinions, conflicting information, and care sheets out there for the way to care for turtles. As with any animal it’s important to always do your research. Be sure to check out many sources. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Oscar (Astronotus ocellatus)


Other Names
Velvet Cichlid, Marble Cichlid, Standard Oscar, Red Tiger Oscar, Red Oscar, Albino Oscar, Peacock-eye

South America,  Amazon and Orinoco River Basins - Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela

Minimum Tank Size
30 gallons to start out with when they‘re young. However, they need to be upgraded quickly. A single adult needs a minimum of 75 gallons. It’s usually best to start out as large as possible.

Tank Setup
Lid - Prevents fish from jumping out.
Low light - Often like to each their food at the surface.
Fake plants - They like tearing up live plants.
Rocks and other decorations - Need stuff to rearrange and play with

75°- 86°F

Tank Level
Usually stay within the middle but will go to all levels of the tank.

These large fish tend to be messy due to large waste. They will need frequent changes and a decent filter.

Often territorial especially during breeding season. They have a reputation of being aggressive but not as much as some fish. Can be peaceful if paired up with other robust species. Some can even live within small groups.

These smart fish enjoy uprooting their plants and tank decorations. It’s not uncommon for them to put on a performance when they want attention. Swimming to the surface opening and closing their mouths Is another favorite attention getting action used quite often. They can even recognize their owners and learn their feeding schedules. Many can even be trained to swim to your hand or other tricks.

Their tanks shouldn’t be barren as they need stimulation and things to do. If they get bored or stressed it can lead to illness. Playing with heaters, bubble wands, plants, and other assorted decorations and even digging their gravel are favorite hobbies of this entertaining fish.

Watching their owners and what else is going on in the room is another favorite past time. They seem to thrive in a room where there’s a lot going on and they can see you.

They can be kept by themselves or with other fish of same size. Smaller fish can fall victim to these large fish that love to eat. 

  • Cichlids of same size 
  • Oscars
  • Barbs
  • Wolf Fish
  • Clown Loaches
  • Tiger Loaches
  • Sharks
  • Polypterus of similar size 
  • Synodontis Catfish (upside down and squeaker catfish)
  • Plecos
  • Pacu
  • Large Arowana
  • Silver Dollar
  • Annostomus 

Life span
10 years or more. Oscars are long term commitments and this should be taken into consideration.

12-16 inches. Grows up very fast
While still young they can grow at an impressive rate of up to 1+ inches a month.

These carnivorous fish are not very picky. Being opportunistic fish anything that fits in their mouths is fair game. This trait makes them always act hungry. They will do it whether they’re fed well or not. Overfeeding and health issues can be common due to this.  
Cichlid flakes
Cichlid pellets
Frozen foods
Brine shrimp
Insects and insect larvae
Crustaceans and other invertebrates
Plant matter

Difficult to determine.

A 55 gallon tank minimum is recommended. Often breeding pairs bond strongly and remain loyal. About 1000 eggs are laid on a pre cleaned site. Oscars make good parents and work together to protect their young.

Note - There’s many opinions, conflicting information, and care sheets out there for the way to care for Oscar Fish. As with any animal it’s important to always do your research. Be sure to check out many sources. 

Crested Gecko (Rhacodactylus Ciliatus)

aka New Caledonian Crested Geckos, Eyelash Geckos

Now gaining popularity these geckos are still relatively new within the reptile community. Until 1994 it was believed that they were extinct. They come from the  New Caledonian Islands near Australia.

These hardy reptiles make fantastic pets no matter what one’s reptile experience is. For the most part they are easy to care for, handle, and don’t require a lot of expensive equipment or food.

Crested Geckos are one of the easier lizards to feed. Many use Repashy Crested Gecko Diet. It’s simply a powder that you mix with water. This mixture has the essential ingredients to keep your cresties healthy. Some care sheets online still mention feeding baby food but many do not recommend.

Hatchlings and young geckos - Repashy Diet every night.
Adults - Repashy Diet 3-4 nights a week.

Crickets can be fed as occasional treat. However, it’s not recommended on loose substrate as there’s a risk of impaction if the it’s ingested. Also it’s not a good idea to feed crickets often because the geckos may lose interest in other food.

Mist the terrarium 2-3 times daily. You can do it less in the summer when the humidity is higher. The winter months are often drier so more often may be needed.

Water is licked off the glass and tank decos. You can keep a small water dish in the enclosure but it’s not required. As long as it’s shallow enough that the gecko can’t drown this shouldn’t pose any problems. To avoid the risk of mold and bacterial growth make sure the enclosure is dry during part of the day.

These geckos come from tropical regions but prefer cooler temps. During the day temps should be around 70-78 degrees. Anything above 80-85 is harmful and can cause stress. The temps at night can go as low as 62. Younger geckos are more fragile with extreme temperatures. Generally room temps are okay but an under tank heating pad for reptiles or a low watt blue bulb can be used if a little more heat is needed.

UV Lighting
Unlike most reptiles these geckos don’t require any special UV or full spectrum lighting.

Cage Setup
The options are endless. You can go simple or elaborate and natural looking. Many use simple Kritter Keeps with paper as substrate for young geckos. Be sure to include fake plants for them to climb on and hide in. Adults can be kept in larger enclosures like exo-terra terrariums or tanks. Eco earth can also be used as substrate when they are larger. If you want to display your geckos the natural look may be what you’re interested in.

In their natural environment they live in rainforests. They’re found on the ground and in the trees. Ideally they should be given similar conditions when in captivity.

Substrate of pea moss, coco-fiber, cypress mulch or other high humidity bedding can be used. Perches and hiding places such as branches, driftwood, or even cork bark can be used. Plants are also a good addition whether alive or fake.

Single or Pairs - 20 gallon tall aquariums make for a perfect habitat.

For larger groups - 29 gallons or larger should be used.

When considering their enclosure take into consideration they prefer to climb so something that gives them a lot of vertical space is ideal. Also for larger groups you may want to keep it as simple as possible. This allows for easier maintenance and clean up. Newspaper or paper towels make for an easy to use substrate. Get creative when considering hiding places. PVC pipes, cardboard tubes, egg crates, and other similar objects are good choices. Place a small plastic box with moist peat moss with a small hole cut for entry can be used for egg deposition or humid hide. 

Adjustment Period
Give your new arrival some time to get adjusted to it’s new home. They can become stressed from the transport. It’s not uncommon for them to be stressed and go off feed for several days.

Be sure their enclosure is set up properly and that should speed up the adjustment period. Typically they become stressed if their cage is different from what they’re used to. Many breeders keep reptiles in rack like systems so that the reptile is house in plastic containers. Usually the only heat source is heat tape and the only lighting is the room light.

Geckos can do well in these environments. Most owners owner don’t wish to keep their new friends in a set up like this and choose glass tanks. There’s more decorating options and they can experience and interact with the reptile better. Problem is geckos don’t care for change. Glass may end up causing stress. This may increase if the daytime is brighter then what they’re used to.

These night dwelling reptiles don’t care for bright lights. They prefer to hide when exposed to it. If you choose to still use a tank be sure to take precautions to help them adjust as easily as possible.


  • If a bulb is used be sure it’s a nocturnal blue bulb. An under tank heat pad can also be used as a heat source.
  • Warm, dark, and humid hiding spot should be provide to make to feel secure. 
  • For the first couple weeks don’t handle them often. 
  • To help the gecko adjust to it’s new tank tape up black construction or cardboard to all the walls. Each week remove a piece. Within a month all sides will be removed. 
  • Dietary changes can cause stress so keep them on the food type they’re used to. 
  • If you’re adding a gecko to an already established group sure it’s separate for about a month to let it adjust. This also gives you time to watch for any health issues.
  • When placing it among other geckos be sure they’re all about the same size. Always keep an eye on food intake to be sure they’re all feeding and maintaining their weight. Do not put more then one male together no matter the size of enclosure.

Generally they are easy to handle. Although some tend to be flighty or may try to bite. They should be handled several times a week to help them get adjusted. Avoid handling them in a rough manner. They may stress out and drop tail. Crested will not grow back their tail if this happens.

Relatively new to captivity it’s not known exactly how long these unique geckos live. It’s estimated that they will live an average of 10-15 years in ideal living conditions. Some may even live as long as 20 years.

Until they are about 5 months old they can’t be accurately sexed. When they’re that age and about 15-20 grams in weight they begin to show characteristics that define their gender. Males develop large bulges at the base of their tails. If a bulge is present on females it’s only slight.

Sexually mature at about 12-14 months of age these geckos are easy tot breed. However, do not attempt to breed them until they’re about 35-40 grams.

Until it’s time to breed males need to be raised away from females. Once both are mature they can then be placed together. Be sure to keep an eye for any signs of aggression during this period. Do not place more then one male together as they’re extremely aggressive with each other.

Late fall or early winter geckos should be put through a cool prior to breeding. If  there’s a heat source on the cage it should be turned off. For about 6-8 weeks they should be kept in temps in the upper 60s. They may not eat as much but continue to feed them twice a week.

When the room is back up to normal temps they should begin to lay eggs in their nest boxes. Usually every 3-6 weeks eggs will be laid. Up to 18 eggs are usually laid in one season.  

Check every other day for eggs in the nest boxes. Pure white with a solid feel are signs of a healthy egg. Any that are small or spongy are likely to be infertile.

Place the eggs in a deli cup or small plastic container in about 1-2 inches of perlite or coarse grade vermiculite. Add water in a 1:1 ratio by weight. It must be moist enough to pack when a handful squeezed no water should drip.

The eggs will take up too much water and mold if too moist. On the other hand if they’re too dry it’s likely they shrivel and dry up. It may take some practice to get the consistency correct.

Place 1-2 tiny holes into the side of the container to provide fresh air. Anymore then that and moisture will be lost and it’ll kill the eggs.    

Incubating temps should be at about 74-80. Temps close to 80 will quicken the process. Typical “reptiles rooms” should be warm enough that the containers can be kept on a shelf. If the room is cooler then 74 a Hovabator incubator can be used. They’re relatively inexpensive and can be found at most reptile suppliers. Be sure they’re set up and calibrated before they’re needed.

After 6-12 weeks the geckos will hatch. You can then set them up individually in plastic shoe boxes. Babies may be placed in small groups as long as they’re similar in size and there’s enough hiding places are provided.  About 3-4 days after hatching they should start feeding.

Color and Pattern Morphs: 
Crested Geckos come in many patterns and colors. Most of these are bright and vibrant.
Color examples - cream, red, orange, yellow, charcoal, brown, gray, tan, olive green.
Pattern examples - pattern less, bi-color, harlequin, fine striped, pinstriped, tiger-banded, Dalmatian-spotted
Morphs - Named by combining color and pattern. For example: Red Fire Dalmatian would be a red gecko with a fire stripe running down it’s back and Dalmatian spots.
Polymorphic - This means any combo of breeder can produce multiple color/pattern morphs in their offspring.
Selective breeding similar traits will most likely produce offspring with those traits. This process is just picking up. In time a lot of new morphs will be created.

Note - There’s many opinions, conflicting information, and care sheets out there for the way to care for Crested Geckos. As with any animal it’s important to always do your research. Be sure to check out many sources.