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Southlake Animal Hospital
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Call us today! 219-942-0909

3570 E. Lincoln Hwy
Merrillville, IN 46410

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Holiday Care For Exotics

December 15 2023

Happy Holidays! It’s always a pleasure to receive pictures of our canines and felines looking extra cute and lovable in front of decorated trees at this time of year. While it’s easy to find information about how to care for dogs and cats around the holidays, reptiles and exotics have different needs. This article from a Merrillville, IN veterinarian offers tips on caring for exotics and reptiles during this special season.

Decorating Tips For People With Exotic Pets

Many popular holiday decorations are dangerous for pets. Anything small or sharp can be harmful. Things like miniature figurines, string lights, ornaments, tinsel, plastic berries on fake plants, ribbons, ornament hooks … the list goes on.

Several popular seasonal plants, such as mistletoe, holly, and ivy, are toxic to pets. Even safe plants can become toxic if they are treated with chemicals, such as pesticides and fungicides, or decorated with small items.

Christmas trees are another concern: those sharp needles can cause injuries. This is especially worrisome for animals like birds or sugar gliders who may want to perch on the tree. (Some lizards will also climb trees if given the opportunity.) The sticky sap from real trees can also be harmful if ingested or touched. The water bowl under a real tree is another potential hazard, as it may contain chemicals such as fire retardants which could leach into the water. Many of the decorations are also unsafe.

Want to add some seasonal cheer to your pet’s living space? No problem! Just always prioritize safety. One idea is to liven up their tank or habitat with a festive backdrop, such as a pretty wrapping paper. Just put it on the outside. This also applies to lights. You can also consider a seasonal hideout, like a miniature igloo. Or, get creative and craft a cozy pet tent using themed materials. Do you have a small pet like a Guinea pig or hamster? Get the kids involved, and have them make snowmen or snowflake chains out of regular plain paper. These are cute projects!

Stress-free Holidays for Exotic Pets

The holiday commotion can be a lot for our animal companions too. Like many of us, most pets thrive on consistency, and may become anxious with any disruptions to their usual routine or environment. The chaos of decorations, loud noises, and unexpected visitors can also unsettle them. For example, your Chinchilla may be terrified by your aunt’s Great Dane, while your lizard may be more frightened by the singing reindeer on the other side of the room.

Watch for indications of stress. Exact warning signs can vary from pet to pet, but some universal ones include hiding, trembling, reduced appetite, unusual posture, and uncharacteristic vocalizations.

Are you hosting a party over the next few weeks? If you plan on having many people over, you might want to temporarily relocate your pet to a quiet back room. You can set up a small travel enclosure if their normal enclosure is too big for you to move. The most important thing is to ensure your pet is safe and comfortable. 

Keep A Close Eye On Exotic Pets And Their Habitats

An environment that is too cold or damp can cause many exotics – particularly reptiles – to become very ill very quickly. This is especially important around the holiday season, since weather conditions can fluctuate so much at this time of year. Check that your heating and lighting systems are operating properly, and pay close attention to the weather. It may not be a bad idea to add extra bedding, especially if your pet is a senior. 

We recommend getting a backup heat source in case of a power outage, such as a small generator. Ask your Merrillville, IN vet for specific advice.

Petsitting or Boarding: What Is Best For An Exotic Pet?

If you’re headed home for the holidays, you’ll need to find someone to care for your reptile or exotic pet. We’d usually recommend having someone care for your animal buddy at your house, if possible. Look into professional reptile sitter services. You can be assured that your animal companion will be well cared for by an experienced professional, and will be able to continue on their normal schedule. 

Some pet sitters may be able to accommodate your animal companion at their home if you know someone who knows how to care for your type of pet, especially if they are unable to come to you. While you’ll have to set everything up correctly, the petsitter will only have to provide food and water, as well as some basic cleaning.

It also depends on the type of animal you have. Many reptiles require very little maintenance: some snakes don’t even eat every day. Other animals require quite a bit of care and attention daily.

Here are a few tips:

  • Put your lighting and heating equipment on a timer. With some newer equipment, you may be able to manage and/or monitor these through an app.
  • Set up a smoke detector. Many of these can be accessed via an app.
  • Set up a webcam to provide a live feed of your pet.
  • Make sure you leave extra bulbs for the heating and lighting equipment.
  • Provide updated contact information. Make sure the sitter has your Merrillville, IN veterinarian’s and an emergency clinic’s phone numbers.
  • Put the misting schedule on or near the water bottle you use for misting.
  • Don’t add live bugs to your pet’s tank if it eats live insects. Insects can bite and injure reptiles. Create a separate enclosure for your pet’s live lunch.
  • If you have any specific instructions, provide them in writing.
  • A small beginners’ care book or first-aid care sheet won’t hurt, especially if your pet sitter is new to the type of pet you have.
  • Prepare premade meals and place them in sealed plastic bags labeled with the mealtimes and dates.

Traveling With Exotic Pets

We’d probably advise against taking exotics on long trips. However, bringing your pet along on a short car trip—such as over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s—may be possible. 

For some animals, small carriers will work just fine. Plastic storage containers with air holes, or perhaps a small aquarium or tank, will also work.

You’ll need to pack food, bedding, a first-aid kit, treats, and any supplements your pet takes. Add a bit extra of everything, just to be on the safe side. Reptiles need heating or lighting equipment, while birds and pocket pets may need chew toys.

Make sure nothing can fall onto your pet during the ride. Also, make sure the carrier is placed in a secure spot, so it won’t fall over or move.

Heat packs, microwaved rice socks, hot water bottles, or even regular water bottles with hot water can all be used to keep your pet warm on the trip. You should place these around the outside walls of the tank, so they don’t fall over on top of your pet. Additionally, make sure your vehicle is nice and warm before you bring your pet out to the car.
All of us here at Southlake Animal Hospital, your Merrillville, IN animal hospital wish you a happy holiday season. Please contact us for all of your pet’s veterinary care needs.