Environmental Enrichment for Pet Birds

The Veterinary College at Texas A&M University has put out some very helpful tips on how to provide your pet birds with environmental enrichment and mental stimulation.

They report that birds are happiest when given many different forms of enrichment.  Not surprising given their intelligence, curiosity, and sociability!

Here are a few tips, but be sure to read the full story for more ideas for your own bird!

  • Besides regular toys, birds also appreciate objects that provide visual and auditory stimulation like mirrors, music, bells, and rattles.
  • Birds are sensitive to the texture of objects; some prefer plastic, while some prefer wood or paper.
  • Birds are color-oriented and may prefer certain colored toys over others (some dislike red!).
  • Be sure to choose toys that are lead-free and made from safe forms of plastic. Be careful of toys with string as these can harm a bird.
  • Household objects can also be used as bird toys, such as paper towel rolls and popsicle sticks.
  • Place your bird’s cage in an area where the outside is visible through a window.
  • Lots of interaction with you (and even other animals in the home) is a key form of stimulation and enrichment for birds. Pay plenty of attention to your feathered friend.  You can even teach it some tricks!

Interested in learning more?  Check out this Avian Enrichment blog from the Association of Avian Veterinarians!

 

Health Problems in Lop Eared Rabbits

House rabbits are becoming an increasingly popular pet among animal lovers.  Fancy rabbits, such as tiny dwarf breeds, fluffy lionheads, or floppy eared lop breeds, are top choices among rabbit fanciers.

If you’re thinking about adding a floppy eared lop rabbit to your family, check out this new research about the health issues that can go along with lop ears.

A comparison of lop eared versus erect eared rabbits has found that floppy eared rabbits have higher rates of certain ear and dental problems.  Specifically, lop eared rabbits are more likely to suffer from

  • Ear canal stenosis (narrowing of the ear canal)
  • Cerumen (ear wax buildup) leading to ear infection
  • Erythema (reddening and inflammation of ear skin)
  • Incisor pathology
  • Molar overgrowth, sharpness, and spurs

These problems can be painful and can negatively impact a rabbit’s overall quality of life, causing hearing loss and difficulty in eating.

Proper ear and dental care are important for all rabbits, and especially for lop breeds.  Be sure to talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions about ear and tooth care for your bunny.

The House Rabbit Society offers lots of helpful advice on ear care and dental care on their website as well.

 

New UK Animal Welfare Report Shows Sharp Decline in Pet Vaccinations

The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) is a UK charity that runs hospitals which provide free and low-cost veterinary care.  Each year they produce a report on animal well-being known as the PAW Report.

The latest PAW Report (click HERE for the full text) has been getting a lot of attention because it has found that the rate of pet vaccinations in the UK is on a sharp decline.

The PDSA estimates that over 7 million UK pets are at risk for disease because of lack of vaccination, including very young pets that are the most vulnerable.

The number of primary vaccinations received by young pets has dropped from 84% in 2016 to 66% in 2019, an 18% decrease.  32% of pets in the UK are not receiving their booster shots.

Reasons for not vaccinating cited by pet owners include:

  • Too expensive
  • Pets don’t encounter other animals
  • It’s unnecessary
  • Going to the vet is stressful for pets

The report’s authors note that the decline in pet vaccinations mirrors the decline in child vaccinations.  Many people who are reluctant to vaccinate kids and pets show skepticism about the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

According to PDSA veterinarians, “Vaccinations have helped to protect millions of pets from serious diseases. If people don’t vaccinate, we risk seeing a rise in extremely unpleasant, preventable, diseases that can cause considerable animal suffering and death.”

If you have questions or concerns about vaccinations for your dogs, cats, and other animals, be sure to talk to your veterinarian.  You can also check out the Vaccinations page of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website for lots of helpful information.

 

September is Animal Pain Awareness Month

The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) has dedicated the month of September to raising awareness about pain and pain management in our pets.

According to the IVAPM, animals suffer from the same kinds of acute and chronic pain as humans, from causes like arthritis, cancer, and post-surgery pain.  They note that also like humans, older pets can suffer from chronic pain that owners may attribute to age or just “slowing down.”

There are many ways to manage pain in our pets, including physical therapy, medications, acupuncture, massage, and laser therapy.

Common signs of pain in pets are:

  • Decreased play and activity
  • Not going up or down stairs
  • Reluctance to jump (especially for cats)
  • Difficulty standing after lying down
  • Decreased appetite (mouth pain)
  • Over-grooming or licking a specific area of the body

Do you suspect your dog, cat, or other pet is suffering from pain?  Be sure to make an appointment with your veterinarian for a wellness check and come prepared with your questions.

To learn more about pain management in our pets, be sure to visit the IVAPM website for lots of useful information.

 

Study Shows Owners of Flat Muzzled Dogs Often Ignore Health Risks of Brachycephaly

Researchers in the UK recently conducted a large-scale survey of owners of flat faced dog breeds like the Pug and French and English Bulldogs.

The findings show that while these breeds are very popular, owners often downplay the health problems associated with brachycephaly in their dogs.

Brachycephaly can cause a wide range of chronic health issues, including airway obstruction, skin fold infections, overheating, and corneal ulcers.

Many of the survey respondents said that their own dogs suffered from these health issues, and yet only a small percentage felt that their dogs were less healthy than average.  In fact, over 70% of owners rated their dogs as either in “very good health” or “the best health possible.”

In an article on the study published by the Royal Veterinary College, the researchers note that our attraction to flat muzzled dogs can often lead us to rationalize their health problems.

One veterinarian involved in the study offered this important assessment of our role as responsible pet owners in addressing the health and well-being of our animal companions:

“After almost a decade working on brachycephalic dogs, I have come to realize that the issue is as much a human problem as it is a dog problem. As humans, we design, breed and choose the dogs we own but our dogs have to live, for better or worse, with those outcomes. With such great power comes great responsibility. Deeper understanding of the human reasons for our choices can help us make better decisions and to improve the welfare of our ‘best friend’.”