Another Diet Post…


For some reason I was discussing children with my receptionist – she has 2, I have none. I discovered that she followed a similar practice to my mom. You didn’t have to eat the food that was served to you, but neither she nor my mother were willing to make anything special. I fondly remember foraging in the kitchen from a young age.

Our pets can be like young children – frustrating to feed. You do have to stay on top of them, learn what they need and figure a way to get them to eat it! Many of our exotic pets are “concentrate selectors”. That is, they pick out all the yummy stuff first and move onto the nutritional stuff later. In the wild, this works great. In the home, not so good.

HayFor many rabbits, guinea pigs and reptiles, all you have to do is offer them the correct mix. There are rabbits who prefer the pellets to hay – maybe the hay is stale, or they’d rather have oat hay than timothy…but for some, the nutrient rich pellets just are more yummy. The key is not to allow them to control what you are offering. If you’ve let your bunny eat nothing but pellets for years, you may not be able to get them back onto hay.

…and always, there is no such thing as too much hay!

Birds are a little different. They are very smart – sometimes it feels like you’ve got a toddler on your hands. But they can’t make cognitive leaps. If they haven’t been offered a food previously, they may not know that it is food. This is why you never just change the diet “cold turkey”. We’ve seen birds starve to death because their food dishes appear to be filled with rocks.

It’s a good plan to make sure your bird is healthy prior to working on a forced conversion to pellets. Modifying the diet can be stressful and the last thing you want to do is turn a mild self-limiting illness into a problem requiring a doctor’s intervention.

Check out our diet recommendations at Bay Area Bird Hospital for recommended food types, brands of pellets and conversion recommendations.

Don’t give up! Getting your pet onto a healthy diet is the single more important thing you can do for their long-term health.

Reptiles – Not an Inexpensive Pet

A Family Tries to Do What Is Right

A few years ago a young family brought in their sick turtle – it was a Red Eared Slider, although they didn’t know that. They were trying to live within their means. With two young children wanting a pet, these parents knew they couldn’t afford a dog or cat. So they bought a turtle. Because the pet store employee said “get a turtle, they’re cheap”.


This turtle was sick. He needed testing to determine what was wrong with him. He needed treatment for the apparent bacterial infection. But they couldn’t afford either.

The turtle was sick because his home wasn’t set up correctly for him. The pet store said to just keep him in a tank. He needed a water filtration device, a water heater and a thermometer to measure water temperature. He had a basking light but the air temperatures weren’t being measured so he may have needed a different light. They were not providing a UVB lamp. The parents couldn’t afford to purchase all of these items.

The Outcome

They made the difficult choice to re-home the turtle. All this time they were just trying to do the right thing.

Is Any Pet an Economical Choice?

Sure – some are. If they don’t get sick or injured.

But not a reptile. Ever.


Proper reptile care requires setting up an appropriate home environment. They need higher temperatures than our homes provide. They need special lighting that is appropriate to their species. They need specialized cages that keep them contained safely within their carefully managed environmental zones. They need special food that has to be supplemented – ok, some are vegetarians so it may be cheaper to feed those but most still need a daily freshly prepared balanced meal.

Reptile environments must be checked periodically – is it too hot or too cold, are the humidity levels appropriate, is it clean?

One part of the difficulty in reptile care is that we are still learning what they need from us and how best to replicate their natural environment. Another difficulty is that they require an experience veterinarian for their care.  These guys are slow to get sick, slow to develop signs and slow to respond to treatment. That often means that by the time they are brought into a veterinarian, they are very sick.

Reptiles Aren’t for Everyone

…but they are great pets for the right people. Can’t stand insects? Don’t get a Leopard Gecko. Feeding mice make you squeamish? Don’t get a snake.

Do some research on their needs, their care, their lifespan…and you will find yourself in a much better starting place. Don’t forget – if their home is set up appropriately, it is much less likely that you will find yourself needing sick pet rather than well pet care.

Here’s a link to a page with information on setting up a tank for an aquatic turtle and the associated costs. Costs range from about $350 (for a hatchling) to $1500 (for a full sized adult).

Corn Snake