Wild Peach Veterinary Clinic

20723 Highway 36
Brazoria, TX 77422

(979)798-9111

wildpeachvet.com

Rabbits
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Rabbits make very entertaining pets. They each have their own distinctive personalities. They are fairly sturdy pets, but some precautions must be taken in their care to prevent potentially fatal problems. There are many breeds of rabbits from miniatures to giants, short-haired to long, curly-haired and straight. Depending on the breed, they can live from 8 to as long as 15 years with good care by their human caretakers.

 
Male rabbits can become aggressive and may not make very good pets, so neutering is recommended. Female rabbits very often develop cancer of the uterus and need to be spayed as soon as possible. They can also become aggressive due to hormones. Rabbits are known for their excellent reproductive potential. Many rabbits now sold at major pet stores are already spayed or neutered.

 
Choosing the correct diet for your rabbit makes a big difference in keeping your rabbit healthy. The best diets are sold direct from the farm to you. We recommend www.oxbow.com. Other foods are packaged at the manufacturer, shipped to a warehouse, purchased by a pet supply store, shipped to their warehouse, and eventually shipped to an individual store. It could be many months after manufacture before your pet eats it. Warehouses are not usually cooled or heated and the humidity levels vary greatly. After this prolonged storage and varied conditions, the complete nutrition may not be there anymore. Rabbits should not be fed mixtures of corn, grains, dried fruits and seeds. Although colorful, these foods do not have the kind of nutrition rabbits need and can cause digestive problems.

 
The primary food that rabbits should be eating is hay. Chewing hay keeps the digestive tract healthy and is also essential to keep the constantly growing teeth from overgrowing. The recommended hay is grass hay. Timothy and orchard grass are commonly available. Alfalfa hay should only be fed to rabbits less than 6 months old because of the high protein content. Hay should be available at all times and should be kept up off the floor in a hay rack.

 
Pellets should only be offered in unlimited amounts to rabbits that have trouble chewing and elderly, underweight, or sick rabbits. Healthy rabbits should always have the amount of pellets measured. Small breed rabbits should get 1/8 - 1/4 cup per day and large breed rabbits should get 1/4 - 1/2 cup per day. One cup of fresh greens for every 2 pounds of body weight should be offered daily. This would include beet tops, carrot tops, collard greens, kale, turnip greens, etc. Some chopped raw vegetables such as bell peppers, carrots, and squash can also be offered in small quantities as long as it does not seem to cause any soft stool. Fruits that are bright in color can be offered at a maximum of 2 tablespoons per day.

 
Water is best provided using a water bottle with a sipper tube. At least weekly the bottle should be washed in soap and water and disinfected with a little Chlorox water. Even better, you can get two bottles and replace the water bottle daily while the other one is being washed and disinfected.

 
Rabbits are unusual in that they get an important part of their nutrition from specialized fecal pellets they produce and eat directly from their rectum. These are called cecotrophs and provide important nutrition for the rabbit that can not be obtained any other way. When rabbits have severe digestive problems, stop eating, or have arthritis they no longer have access to cecotrophs and suffer the nutritional consequences.

 
Housing your rabbit does not have to be done in a standard rabbit cage from a pet store. Rabbits enjoy having multi-story homes to explore. See an example at http://sprowtybun.tripod.com/nic.html  Rabbits should not be walking on wire cage floors. This causes trauma to the feet and is very uncomfortable. Any wire that is exposed needs to be covered by a thin, latex-painted wood, linoleum or other sturdy floor that is non-toxic. Outdoor wire cage floors can be covered by plastic orange safety fencing available at many home improvement stores. Waste can still fall to the ground below.

 
The floor of your rabbits cage can be covered with newspaper or a recycled paper product. These do not harbor bacteria or fungus and the parts that are wet or dirty can be easily replaced and do not generate dust. Some rabbits do well on thin towels if they are not chewing on them.

 
Rabbits can be easily litter trained. Put the litter box in the location the rabbit has already chosen as his toilet. The front sides should be cut down to make it easier for the rabbit to enter the litter box. Placing the hay rack over the litter box encourages defecation there since rabbits tend to produce their fecal pellets when they are eating. The litter needs to be the pelleted kind - recycled newspaper and pine come this way. Clay and scoopable litter tend to be eaten and have caused fatalities.

 
Housing your rabbit outdoors is possible if given sufficient protection from the elements. However, it is difficult to protect rabbits from all wildlife and stray dogs. Rabbits are prone to heat stroke, maggot infestation. and animal attack. It is difficult to do anything to protect an outside rabbit against excessive heat and humidity. Observing outdoor rabbits for health problems is difficult and disease is usually advanced when discovered in outdoor rabbits. Outdoor rabbits do not enjoy the same lifespan as an indoor rabbit would.

 
Exercising your rabbit outdoors can be done. Keep your yard free of insecticides and fertilizers since your rabbit will want to sample everything. Putting a harness on your rabbit is the best method to keep your rabbit safe. Putting your rabbit in a cage outside is not protection enough. Stray dogs, raccoons, snakes and even insects like blowflies (where maggots come from) will all cause problems. If you are in an area where wild rabbits come into your yard, there are diseases that can be passed to your rabbit.

 
Rabbits are very curious and if allowed to explore the household, may come across danger. One of the main dangers is electrical cords. Rabbits seem to enjoy chewing on them. This can electrocute the rabbit, any people who handle the cords, and can start a fire. To prevent this, cords can be covered with round slit vinyl tubing. Furniture is a favorite chew toy. Rubbing on a thin film of something pungent such as Vicks Vap-O-Rub usually works and doesn't usually hurt the wood, but can't be used on fabric. Chewing on fabric and carpeting can cause intestinal blockage. Other animals in the household are a real danger. Dogs naturally want to hunt rabbits, even if they were raised with them. Dogs can never be trusted with rabbits. Ferrets can be a problem as well. Rabbits can use pet doors to escape the house and then have to deal with all the dangers of the outside world but lack experience to avoid danger. In our area, hawks and owls are a real danger. Getting hit by a car is a real issue. Of course, once a rabbit has left its home, it does not have a homing instinct and will not return home. It is very unlikely that a lost rabbit will be reunited with its owner.

 
Rabbits like to play and some will play with balls and other toys. Be sure the toys are "rabbit proof" and chunks cannot be bitten off and swallowed. It is best to supervise use of toys and examine toys after playing to be sure they are still intact. Home-made toys are good such as pecan sticks, cardboard boxes, paper sacks and paper towel rolls. Give your rabbit a few different toys every day and rotate them.

 
Household pet rabbits don't need vaccinations or routine deworming, but yearly check-ups are still needed. A common problem as rabbits age is overgrown molars. Teeth grinding does require anesthesia, But dental problems can lead to severe disability and even death. Sometimes the incisor teeth can overgrow because of misalignment or loss of the opposing incisors. These will need to be trimmed at least once a month and will not require anesthesia. Obesity is another common problem seen in all age rabbits. This is usually caused by eating pellets instead of hay for most of the diet. Digestive problems are common and can usually be avoided by increasing hay and fresh green in the diet. Sometimes pellets are eliminated completely. Rabbits can get hair balls, especially long-haired rabbits. Prevention is by brushing the hair coat and increasing hay in the diet.

 
Rabbits don't usually like to be picked up but do enjoy being stroked and cuddled. They do need a lot of scheduled attention to continue to enjoy human company. With the correct housing, feed, and attention, your rabbit should have a long and enjoyable life with you.








Fish

If you are thinking of taking the plunge and getting into fish, or if you already have fish, there are many books and publications that will help to get you started or learn more. If you want a quick start, you can use the internet and go to www.fishlore.com. If you want to buy a book, a good one to start with is Aquariology, by Gratzek and Matthews. A good magazine is Tropical Fish. There are many, many others but these will give you a solid foundation and will not lead you astray like some internet sources. For individual fish, Wikipedia often has specific advice about each species.

 
Saltwater fish are not recommended not only due to their expense and increased expertise needed for success, but because of the collateral damage to the delicate balance of reef systems when collecting saltwater species for the aquarium trade. Most of the species collected die before they get to the home aquarium. Almost all species are still collected from the wild.

 
Good starter fish would be guppies or goldfish since they are both cold-water fish and so do not require heaters or lighting in their tanks. However, they do require some form of bubblers to keep oxygen in the water and require regular water monitoring and changing and filters. Guppies are inexpensive and like to live in groups but also are quite prolific, producing many baby fishes that will need new homes. Goldfish like to live in groups and can grow quite large if they are cared for properly, so they can easily outgrow their tank. Goldfish tanks also need more frequent cleaning compared to other fish. Goldfish do come in a variety of types and colors and range from very inexpensive to expensive varieties. They enjoy exploring and interacting with plants and toys in their tanks. Goldfish can live up to 20 years.

 
The next simplest fish is the Siamese fighting fish or betta which can live in a smaller tank with no lighting and with low oxygen tension. These fish can take in oxygen from the surface of the water. These fish have impressive colors and long flowing fins. However, males must live alone because they are so aggressive. Their tanks should be at least 2 gallons and can consist of odd items large glass flower vases.  Tank decorations are recommended for the fish to rest on. Although they are tropical fish and prefer water temperatures of 76 degrees, the tank must be at least 5 gallons before a heater can be used. They are top-feeding carnivores, but do require some plant material for the fiber.

 
The tropical fish are the ones that are more challenging to keep. These fish require lighting, heating, filters and bubblers and well as water monitoring and changing. The tropical fish can be aggressive or a community fish. Some are omnivores, some are carnivores, some are herbivores. Some are bottom-feeders, some are top-feeders and some feed in the mid-water. Some grow tremendously, some stay about the same size that you buy them. Therefore, it is important that you are educated BEFORE you put fish in your aquarium. You do not want to put fish together that can not get along or that will eat each other now or in a few months. The tropical fish need a warmer temperature than goldfish and guppies, so you can not put them in the same tank. Check out the fish in the store, write down the ones you are interested in, then go home and research each one to decide which ones would work well in your aquarium.

 
All new fish must be quarantined before adding to your aquarium. The quarantine should be in a completely separate aquarium and should be for a minimum of 3 weeks. During the quarantine, the new fish should be treated after 5 days with malachite green, then at 10 days with metronidazole and at 15 days increase temperature to 82 degrees for 24 hours. The temperature increase should not be done for the cold-water fish such as goldfish and guppies as it is too stressful. This will eliminate many of the common parasites that comes with tropical fish. Examine the fish closely before adding them to the final tank to be sure they are healthy.

 
One general guideline to keep in mind is that for approximately every two gallons of water in your aquarium, you can put in an inch of fish. For smaller aquariums, you should put in smaller fish, not a 5" fish in a 10 gallon aquarium, but rather 5 1" fish would be better. Large fish need large aquariums. These guidelines can be broken by experienced people with advanced water monitoring. If adding a fish that will grow to a larger size, estimate the large size in inches and use that as your measurement.

 
If you don't know how many gallons your aquarium holds, you can figure it out (if it is a square or rectangle) by multiplying height X width X depth divided by 231.

 
Poor water quality is the largest cause of fish mortality by far. Most diseases start by the fish being stressed by poor water quality. Sometimes you can see the water is cloudy or there is particles floating in it or it is green. However, many times the water appears clear but the chemical changes that have taken place are killing the fish. The following water parameters must be monitored closely: pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Oxygen content is also useful to know, but more expensive to monitor. Monitoring kits can be purchased from www.hach.com. The hardness of the water is necessary to know, but doesn't usually change over time. You can call your local city hall to find out the hardness of your water or your local health department if you are using well water. City hall or the health department can also tell you if there are any other problems with the water that may affect fish.

 
Tropical fish require temperatures of 75 degrees and soft water, pH 6-7.5, ammonia <0.02, nitrites <0.4, nitates <40, oxygen 5-10 ppm.

 
Keeping a written log of water parameters at least monthly will help determine any problems building up. More frequent testing is needed for smaller tanks, newer tanks and tanks with more fish.

 
Municipal water systems are treated with chlorine and must be dechlorinated before it is safe for fish. There are commercial dechlorinators that can be purchased for use in aquariums and must be used every time water is added after a water change. Calculate how many gallons your aquarium has to accurately dose the dechlorinator.

 
Water treatment equipment options are available to kill microorganisms or further treat water problems. These include ozone generator, protein skimmer, water softener, ultraviolet light, ion exchanger and others.

 
Every week the gravel should be cleaned. This should be done with a siphon tool. A handy tool to use is the Python which is a type of water vacuum. Then about 25% - 50 % of the old water should be discarded weekly to every 3 weeks depending on the size of the tank and number and size of fish, and new dechlorinated water should be added. Small tanks and tanks with lots of fish should be changed more often. Do not simply top-off the aquarium with more water as it evaporates because the toxins will continue to build up and will never be removed.

 
There should be 2-3 inches of gravel, sand or crushed shell at the bottom of the aquarium. If there are live plants, there should be a little more. For small aquariums that are cleaned frequently and don't have elaborate set-ups such as for bettas, you can just use a handful of colored marbles or stones.

 
Under gravel filters are not recommended because pockets of gas that can harm the fish can develop under the filter in places that can not be cleaned. Filters must use 3 different methods-biological, chemical and mechanical. The biological part nurtures beneficial bacteria to breakdown ammonia into harmless byproducts. The chemical part is usually carbon which traps harmful chemicals and takes them out of circulation. This part of the filter needs to be replaced periodically. The mechanical part is often a sponge or floss material that traps larger particles and keeps them from getting back into the water. In some filters, the sponge acts as both a mechanical and biological filter and must be rinsed weekly, but never replaced or the beneficial bacteria will be lost.

 
Aerators or bubblers with a separate pump are used along with aerator stones to add oxygen to the water. Sometimes long aerator rods at the back are also used for visual effects. Often the filters add enough oxygen to the water to be acceptable. Only by reading the oxygen levels in the tank will you know for sure.

 
Lighting is very important in most tanks. There should not by any natural light affecting the tank. It should not be near any windows or doors because light promotes algae growth and may overheat the tank. Lights should be put on a timer and cycled for 10 hours of light and 14 hours of dark. Again, the number of gallons in your aquarium must be known to determine lighting requirements. For tanks with live plants, you will need a minimum of 4 watts per gallon. For tanks with fish only and no plants, you will need 2-3 watts for every gallon. Fluorescent lights are recommended for routine use. Incandescent lights tend to add heat. There are LED Moon Lights for viewing when the fluorescent lights need to be off and you can observe what happens during the dark phase in your aquarium.

 
For the heater, you will need about 3 watts per gallon. In addition to the thermostat on the heater, you will also need an accurate thermometer for the aquarium, not the stick-on kind. There have been many deaths from a malfunctioning heater that was not noticed until the fish were dead. Check the thermometer daily! For tropicals, a temperature of about 75 degrees should be maintained.

 
Feeding your fish should be done twice a day and in limited amounts. You should only feed an amount the fish will eat in 2-3 minutes. If there is still food present in the tank in 5 minutes, then you have fed too much and you should feed less the next time. Excess food in the water will rot and cause a spike in ammonia and possibly algae in the tank and may decrease the oxygen content of the water as well. The food size should take into account the size of the fishes mouth since they do not have teeth and can only nibble off soft foods. Some fish will not nibble on foods and just gulp appropriately sized foods.

 
Herbivores will eat plant-based food. In addition to buying commercially available food for fish, you can also offer small amounts of vegetables such as kale, thinly sliced squash and other soft vegetation. Food for carnivores, in addition to commercial food, can be live food such as wingless fruit flies and very small types of worms sold for aquarium use. There is also some home-made recipes that are more practical if you have large tanks or multiple tanks and some time on your hands. Omnivores will eat a mixture of these foods. More information on food ideas and home-made diets can be found at www.fishlore.com. There has been very little research on nutrition in tropical fish, so much of the nutrition-based knowledge is based on experience, not on science.

 
When first setting up an aquarium, it is best to add an inexpensive "tough" fish and let your aquarium cycle for 3 weeks to allow the biological filtration to activate. Then, if the fish remains healthy, you can add other fish. After your aquarium is well-established and you intend to add other fish later, be sure to start a smaller "isolation" aquarium first so that you do not endanger your well-established aquarium.

 
First aid for sick fish depends on how sick they are. Usually it is a water quality issue so the water needs to be tested immediately to determine what the issue is, and then a 50% water change done. The sick fish should be transferred to the quarantine tank and the tank should be treated with 3/8 cup of table salt per gallon of water and 1 teaspoon hydrogen peroxide per gallon of water. This may relieve stress on the fish for a time and allow some compensation. Any diagnosis needs to be done with the aid of a veterinarian with a microscopic exam of fresh tissues. This requires that a live fish be brought in, preferable one of the sick ones. Dead fish degrade so fast that the organisms that cause the problems degrade also. Practicing "shotgun therapy" by throwing in all the drugs at the fish store usually just stresses out the fish and does not solve the problem(s).




Guinea Pigs


Guinea pigs are adorable and compact little animals. They are one of the few pets that need to have vitamin C added to their diet. There are many varieties of guinea pigs from short-haired to long, curly-haired and straight. they can live about 8 years with good care by their human caretakers.

 
Guinea pigs are social animals and need to be kept in at least pairs. However, they do breed. If you have ended up with a male and female, you will need to get the male neutered immediately. Guinea pig females can breed at a very young age and usually have 1 to 4 in each litter. These little ones will need to find homes fairly quickly or they will breed as well. If a female does not breed while young and gets pregnant later on, the pelvis does not flex to allow birth and a C-section is necessary. This becomes a problem because the due date is rarely known, so the C-section must be done as an emergency. Spaying is not usually done in guinea pigs since there is usually more risk involved with this procedure than other species. However, cysts on the ovary sometimes form and a spay is necessary for this condition.

 
Choosing the correct diet for your guinea pig makes a big difference in keeping your pig healthy. The best diets are sold direct from the farm to you. We recommend http://www.oxbowanimalhealth.com/. Other foods are packaged at the manufacturer, shipped to a warehouse, purchased by a pet supply store, shipped to their warehouse, and eventually shipped to an individual store. It could be many months after manufacture before your pet eats it. Warehouses are not usually cooled or heated and the humidity levels vary greatly. After this prolonged storage and varied conditions, the complete nutrition, especially Vitamin C, may not be there anymore. Guinea pigs should not be fed mixtures of corn, grains, dried fruits and seeds. Although colorful, these foods do not have the kind of nutrition they need and can cause digestive problems.

 
The primary food that guinea pigs should be eating is hay. Chewing hay keeps the digestive tract healthy and is also essential to keep the constantly growing teeth from overgrowing. The recommended hay is grass hay. Timothy and orchard grass are commonly available. Alfalfa hay should only be fed to those less than 6 months old because of the high protein content. Hay should be available at all times and should be kept up off the floor in a hay rack.

 
Pellets should only be offered in unlimited amounts to guinea pigs that have trouble chewing and elderly, underweight, or sick rabbits. Healthy rabbits should always have the amount of pellets measured. Smaller guinea pigs should get 2 Tablespoons per day and larger breed guinea pigs should get 3 Tablespoons per day. One cup of fresh greens for every 2 pounds of body weight should be offered daily. This would include beet tops, carrot tops, collard greens, kale, turnip greens, etc. Some chopped raw vegetables such as bell peppers, carrots, and squash can also be offered in small quantities as long as it does not seem to cause any soft stool. Fruits with bright colors can be fed at 1 Tablespoon per day.

 
Water is best provided using a water bottle with a sipper tube. At least weekly the bottle should be washed in soap and water and disinfected with a little Chlorox water. Even better, you can get two bottles and replace the water bottle daily while the other one is being washed and disinfected.

 
Guinea pigs should not be housed in pet store cages because they are too small. See an example of appropriate cages at http://www.guineapigcages.com/  Guinea pigs should not be walking on wire cage floors. This causes trauma to the feet and is very uncomfortable. Any wire that is exposed needs to be covered by a thin, latex-painted wood, linoleum or other sturdy floor that is non-toxic. Upper deck wire cage floors can be covered by several layers of plastic orange safety fencing available at many home improvement stores. Waste can still fall below.

 
The floor of your guinea pig's cage can be covered with squares of newspaper or a recycled paper product. These do not harbor bacteria or fungus and the parts that are wet or dirty can be easily replaced and do not generate dust. Some pigs do well on thin towels if they are not chewing on them, but these will need to be replaced frequently. Do not use wood shavings of any kind in your pig's cage. These are too rough, are not absorbent and grow mold and bacteria. Your pig should have a house to hide in when they are startled. It can be a wooden box that is painted or varnished for easy cleaning , a cardboard box that can be replaced as it gets dirty or you can purchase one.

 
Exercising your guinea pig outdoors can be done. Keep your yard free of insecticides and fertilizers since your pig will want to sample everything. Putting a harness on your pig is the best method to keep it safe. Putting your pig in a cage outside is not protection enough. Stray dogs, raccoons, snakes and even insects like blowflies (where maggots come from) will all cause problems. Any area where wild rodents come into your yard will have diseases that can be passed to your guinea pig.

 
Guinea pigs are very curious and if allowed to explore the household, may come across danger. One of the main dangers is electrical cords. Pigs seem to enjoy chewing on them. This can electrocute the guinea pig, any people who handle the cords, and can start a fire. To prevent this, cords can be covered with round slit vinyl tubing. Furniture is a favorite chew toy. Rubbing on a thin film of something pungent such as Vicks Vap-O-Rub usually works and doesn't usually hurt the wood, but can't be used on fabric. Chewing on fabric and carpeting can cause intestinal blockage. Other animals in the household are a real danger. Dogs naturally want to hunt guinea pigs, even if they were raised with them. Dogs can never be trusted with small mammals. Ferrets can be a problem as well. Guinea pigs can use pet doors to escape the house and then have to deal with all the dangers of the outside world but lack experience to avoid danger. In our area, hawks and owls are a real danger. Getting hit by a car is a real issue. Of course, once a pig has left its home, it does not have a homing instinct and will not return home. It is very unlikely that a lost guinea pig will be reunited with its owner.

 
Guinea pigs like to play and some will play with balls and other toys. Be sure the toys are "pig proof" and chunks cannot be bitten off and swallowed. It is best to supervise use of toys and examine toys after playing to be sure they are still intact. Home-made toys are good such as pecan sticks, cardboard boxes, paper sacks and paper towel rolls. Give your pig a few different toys every day and rotate them.

 
Household pet guinea pigs don't need vaccinations or routine deworming, but yearly check-ups are still needed. A common problem as guinea pigs age is overgrown molars. Teeth grinding does require anesthesia, But dental problems can lead to severe disability and even death. Sometimes the incisor teeth can overgrow because of misalignment or loss of the opposing incisors. These will need to be trimmed at least once a month and will not require anesthesia. Obesity is another common problem seen in all age pigs. This is usually caused by eating pellets instead of hay for most of the diet. Digestive problems are common and can usually be avoided by increasing hay and fresh green in the diet. Sometimes pellets are eliminated completely, especially in cases of bladder stones which seem to happen in guinea pigs. Feet problems are common in pigs. This is due to their prolific production of urine and lack of their humans to keep their cages clean. So their feet have chemical burns from the urine. Spot cleaning the cage every other day and completely cleaning the cage daily is the way to prevent this from happening. Using the proper bedding and flooring is helpful also.

 
Guinea pigs may not like to be picked up but do enjoy being stroked and cuddled. If they get a lot of attention when they are young and are the calm sort of pig, they will really enjoy your company. They do need a lot of scheduled attention to continue to enjoy human company. With the correct housing, feed, and attention, your guinea pig should have a long and enjoyable life with you.