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Holidays With Exotic Pets

December 15, 2023

Seasons greetings from all of us at Aloha Animal Hospital! Every year, we receive lots of adorable photos featuring our canine and feline patients in front of beautifully decorated trees. However, dogs and cats aren’t our only patients! It’s important to remember that reptiles and exotics require specialized care during this time.  A local Las Vegas, NV vet goes over some seasonal care tips for exotics and pocket pets in this article. 

Decorating With Exotics

Many of those pretty decorations can be dangerous to pets. If you have a pet that stays in its habitat exclusively, such as an axolotl, for instance, you won’t need to worry, but most smaller animals need daily free time. 

Anything small or sharp is unsafe. That includes things like ornaments, ornament hooks, tinsel, manger pieces, the plastic berries on many decorative items, ribbons … the list goes on. If your pet stays on the ground, you can just keep these items in high spots. If you have a furry pal that jumps or flies, such as a sugar glider, you’ll need to take some extra precautions. 

The tree itself can be quite dangerous to many pets. Pines have sharp needles, which can cause injuries. They may also have sap, which can be a sticky irritant. Many seasonal plants are toxic to pets, which is another thing to be concerned about. Keep these things in mind when decorating. 

That said, you can also have a bit of fun with your pet’s habitat. If you like, you can add some decorations to your pet’s habitat. You may be able to find a holiday-themed hide, such as a cute igloo. Paper snowmen or snowflake chains are cute options for pets that like to chew, like bunnies and Guinea pigs. Just take care to only use safe objects. Avoid small and/or sharp objects, items with ropes and cords, and anything with glitter, tinsel, or pine needles (real or fake). A seasonal backing can also add a bit of holiday cheer. You can put out smaller decorative items on the outside of your pet’s habitat, as long as they can’t reach it.

Holiday Stress And Exotic Pets

Most of our animal companions are creatures of habit. Changes in your pet’s schedule, temperature, and environment can be quite distressing for them. Loud noises and commotion can also be unsettling for them. 

If you’re hosting an event, you may want to put your animal companion in a quiet back room during the festivities. If their normal enclosure is too big to easily move, set them up with a travel enclosure. 

Look for signs that your little buddy is feeling uneasy. These vary from pet to pet, so you’ll want to do some research and find out what to look for in your animal companion. That said, there are a few things that are red flags in almost any animal. 

These include:

  • Trembling 
  • Hiding 
  • Anorexia
  • Unusual posture or vocalizations

Contact your Las Vegas, NV vet if you notice any of these things, or any other signs of distress.

Holidays With Exotics: Monitor Temperatures

Keeping pets at a comfortable temperature is important for any animal, but it’s particularly critical for reptiles. If the weather outside is frightful, you’ll need to pay extra attention to your pet. Because reptiles are cold-blooded, they can get sick very quickly if their environment gets too chilly. Keep a close eye on their habitat at this time of year, and make sure that any and all heating equipment is functioning properly. 

You may want to provide some extra bedding, especially for senior animals. We also recommend getting a backup heat source, such as a small generator, in case of a power outage. Smaller pets, like sugar gliders or hedgehogs, may appreciate little tents or cozies.

Traveling With Exotic Pets 

‘Tis the season for going over the river and through the woods. Many of our canine patients accompany their humans on short trips. Kitties, of course, can usually be left alone for a day or two. But what do you do with an exotic?

We would usually recommend either boarding or getting a pet sitter. When it comes to reptiles, if you can find an exotic kennel nearby, then that’s a great option. Pet sitters are also a good choice. This can be an easy option for someone with a snake, as many of them don’t even eat every day. However, many other reptiles and exotics need daily care. 

One option is to offer to bring your pet to the sitter’s house. You’ll have to set everything up properly, but once that’s done, your pet sitter will have a pretty easy job. That said, having the sitter come to your house is going to be much less disruptive for your pet. 

There are a few things you can do to make things easier for your pet’s caretaker.

  • Prepare food in advance. For an iguana, you can have pre-chopped, clean proportions of veggies divided into sealed plastic bags. For pets that eat live bugs, prepare a separate enclosure for the creepy crawlies. (It’s worth noting that it can be difficult finding someone who is willing to handle live insects. This is definitely worth an extra gift from Santa.) 
  • Provide a water bottle for misting, along with the misting schedule. 
  • Give clear instructions. A small beginners’ care book isn’t a bad thing to have, particularly if it is clear about things like do’s and don’ts and offers information on signs of illness. 
  • Make sure to leave contact information for your veterinarian and an emergency clinic. 
  • Have heat and lighting equipment set to a timer. You may be able to manage and/or monitor these through a smartphone app.
  • Get spare bulbs for heating/lighting gear.
  • A smoke detector and smart app can also save you a lot of stress.

Holiday Travel: Should I Travel With An Exotic Pet? 

If you’re only going a short distance, you may be able to bring your pet with you. This will require some planning, as you’ll need to bring everything your pet needs with you. Consider how long you’ll be gone, and how far you are going. 

We always recommend having a travel case or carrier. For some exotics, you can use a storage tote with air holes. A dog or cat carrier will work for some animals. You’ll need to be careful that nothing can fall over onto your pet. 

You’ll also need to make preparations to keep your pet warm on the ride. You can use microwaved rice socks, heat packs, hot water bottles, or even regular water bottles with hot water in them. Place these around the outside of the tank, so they don’t roll over on your pet. Ask your Las Vegas, NV vet for more information. 

Choosing Holiday Gifts For Exotics 

Remember to put something in your pet’s stockings. A snake or turtle probably won’t get too excited over a toy, but may appreciate some new décor. Pocket pets, sugar gliders, ferrets, chinchillas and other exotics may enjoy some treats or comfy beds, tents, or hammocks. 

Some pets will also appreciate having some empty boxes to play in after everyone has opened their gifts. 

Final Tip: Remember To Take Some Seasonal Pictures!

Exotic pets can take some really cute pictures! Put a tiny Santa hat on your pet hedgehog, or take a picture of your Bearded Dragon on a sleigh. You can also have fun with editing software. 

All of us here at Aloha Animal Hospital, your Las Vegas, NV animal hospital, wish you a wonderful holiday season. Please reach out to us for all of your pet’s veterinary care needs.

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