Leopard Gecko Care

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Whenever a client or friend asks me what type of reptile I would recommend them getting, leopard geckos are always towards the top of my list!  They are so fun to watch, generally well mannered, and make good pets.  Here is a bit more information regarding their care!

Leopard geckos are native to India and Pakistan, and come as many color varieties.  They generally live 10 to 15 years and can grow to be 10 inches in length.  They can be housed alone, or can be housed as a group of females.  It is difficult to tell their gender until they are older, so it is recommended they are kept separate until then.  Most geckos are housed in aquariums, which should be at least 2 feet long and 1 foot wide per gecko in the tank.    They are ground dwellers and do not do very much climbing, but you can give them small rocks and logs.  They should have at least one area in which to hide.  It is recommended that the bottom of the cage is lined with newspaper or artificial turf for easy cleaning.  Small substrate is not recommended, as it is not uncommon for geckos to accidently ingest the substrate and it can become stuck in their intestines.  The cage can be cleaned with dilute bleach.

A leopard gecko’s tank also needs to be adequately heated.  You can use a ceramic heat lamp (no hot rocks or heating pads) which should give a basking area temperature of 90-95°F.  At the cool end of the tank the temperature should go down to approximately 80°F.  Ideally there are two thermometers in the tank, one on each end.  Make sure that the light turns off at night, and the temperature can decrease to the 70s at that time.  A red heat lamp can be used at night if needed.  It used to be believed that leopard geckos do not need UVB lights as they are generally nocturnal in the wild.  This has been found to not be true!  UVB light from the sun is reflected off the moon at night, which is absorbed by the gecko.  UVB light provides Vitamin D for your reptile so that he can metabolize calcium.  Putting your gecko’s tank in front of a window is not enough, as UVB light can NOT go through glass or plastic!  The light should be within 18 inches of your reptile and should be placed in his basking area.  Read the box when you purchase your light, as most lights expire in approximately 6 months and this date should be noted so it is replaced when needed.

A shallow water dish should be placed into the tank, large enough for him to climb into but not completely submerge himself.  This dish should be changed daily.  Some geckos have difficulty with the low humidity found in Colorado, so the cage can be misted with water twice daily to help increase the humidity.  This is especially important during shedding, as the low humidity can lead to dysecdysis (difficulty shedding), which can lead to retained shed on the digits and tail and can cause damage to these structures.  Soak your gecko daily during his shed to help with this process.  You can also make a “humidity chamber” for him.  Use a tupperware and cut a hole in the side for the gecko to crawl into.  Then you can place damp sphagnum moss in the tupperware, which will greatly raise the humidity of that area.  Geckos often eat their shed, so you may never see it happen!

Leopard geckos are insectivores.  Juveniles should be fed every day, and adults every other day.  They should be fed a mixture of small insects such as crickets, earthworms, and mealworms.  The insects should be no larger than the gecko’s head.  The insects should be gut-loaded and dusted with calcium powder.  Remove any uneaten insects after about 30 minutes.

We recommend that your leopard gecko be examined yearly.  A fecal examination should be performed for all new geckos.  An exam helps to catch infections, organ diseases, behavioral problems, and most importantly husbandry issues.  Call to schedule your appointment today!

Julia Katzenbach, DVM

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National Pet Dental Health Month is Coming!

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February is dental month, and it is just around the corner!  Dental health is just as important in your furry pets as it is in you, and we do not tend to think of it nearly as often.    During dental month we try to promote and educate owners regarding dental disease.  We also have an incentive this month only for a discount off of your final bill if your pet receives a dental prophylactic cleaning.

Periodontal disease is the most common type of dental disease that effects dogs and cats.  It starts with plaque formation, which is noticed most obviously during an examination.  This then progresses to tartar build-up.  It can appear as a thick, tan to brown plaque on your pet’s teeth, and is created by the bacteria in your mouth.  This tartar is unsightly, but more importantly it can get underneath your pets gums and cause gingivitis.  This appears as red, swollen gums and can be uncomfortable for your pet.  If there is disease under your pet’s gums, this can eventually affect the support structures, the roots, and the bone surrounding the teeth which can cause tooth root abscesses and loss of the tooth.  These abscesses can be very painful, and can generally only be cured by extraction of the tooth.  The goal of routine dentals is to do them preventatively, so that we never get so far as to have tooth root abscesses in our pets!

Cats also have a unique form of dental disease called resorptive lesions.  This can affect up to 60% of cats.  At this point we do not know exactly what causes it, though there are many theories.  However, we do know that these lesions cause the teeth to be eaten away and can be very painful.  The typical treatment for these teeth is extraction.  We do know that preventative care can help prevent development of these lesions in some cases.

The good thing about periodontal disease in our pets is that it can be almost entirely preventable with at home care!  There are many options for at home care including dental treats, dental diets, chews, rinses, wipes, and brushing.  Brushing is by far the most effective way to prevent periodontal disease and tartar build up in your pet.  A pet specific toothpaste should be obtained, and your pet’s teeth should be brushed THREE to FIVE times per week in order for it to help!

However, we do understand that it can be difficult to commit to brushing your pet’s teeth frequently, and some pets do not tolerate it.  I have had some cases where owners are very devoted to brushing daily and their pet still develops dental disease.  Routine prophylactic dentals are indicated in all pets.  Again, the goal of these dentals is to save the teeth so that hopefully we never need extractions!  But, we also want to find those problem teeth before they cause your pet discomfort or start to affect the surrounding teeth and bones.  In this case, dental radiographs (xrays) are often performed and we may discuss removing the problem tooth.

A dental cleaning requires general anesthesia, so your pet is asleep while his teeth are cleaned.  This allows us to adequately clean beneath the gumline and assess for diseased teeth.  Anesthesia free dentals exist, but are actually illegal in some states as they do not appropriately clean and address the teeth, and sometimes even harm the teeth.  Without anesthesia, dentals are painful for the pet and cannot address disease underneath the gums.  Anesthesia is always taken very seriously, and a full physical exam and appropriate bloodwork is performed before the dental cleaning.  Your pet is monitored closely by a certified veterinary technician, which includes an electrocardiogram, blood pressure, and oxygenation status.

Also, a quick note on our smaller furry friends.  Some of the exotics critters get dental disease as well!  I most commonly see ferrets with dental disease, which get similar issues as dogs and cats do.  Occasionally I see dental tartar in hedgehogs as well, and gingivitis is common in bearded dragons!  Our hindgut fermenters (rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas) can get overgrown teeth which can cause ulcerations and pain.  During every visit, your pet’s teeth are always assessed!

Please do not hesitate to contact us regarding your pet’s dental health, or call to schedule your pets dental cleaning and health assessment next month!

Julia Katzenbach, DVM

Bearded Dragons!

10783575895_02f66e09fe_nAs we’re moving inside and avoiding the sub-freezing temperatures, I thought I would write about a scaled friend who enjoys the winter way less than we do!

Bearded dragons are one of the most popular reptile pets these days, with good reason!  If well-handled and used to people, they can be very friendly and interactive.  They are entertaining to watch and fun to take care of.  However, they have some vital care requirements that I would like to discuss.

Bearded dragons should be housed in large aquariums with a screen top.  Remember, the tiny dragon that you purchased may end up being a foot in length and you should get a cage big enough for that.  They can also be very active and will use this space.  An ideal size would be 72” long, 28” wide, and 18” tall.  The more dragons you have, the bigger the cage should be!  Very importantly is what type of substrate (what is at the bottom of the cage) should be used.  We do see dragons accidentally ingest their substrate when they’re eating!  Therefore, I tend to stay away from particulate substrate (sand, shavings) and use something that they cannot accidentally eat.  I really like the turf substrate, as it is very easy to clean and replace.  Plain newspaper can be used as well.  Always give your dragon an area to hide out as well, in case he does not want to be seen.

A bearded dragon’s tank also needs to be adequately heated.  You can use a ceramic heat lamp (no hot rocks or heating pads) which should give a basking area temperature of 90-95°F.  At the cool end of the tank the temperature should go down to approximately 80°F.  Ideally there are two thermometers in the tank, one on each end.  Make sure that the light turns off at night, and the temperature can decrease to the 70s.  A red heat lamp can be used at night if needed.  A UVB light is a must have!  These lights provide Vitamin D for your reptile so that he can metabolize calcium.  Putting your dragon’s tank in front of a window is not enough, as UVB light can NOT go through glass or plastic!  The light should be within 18 inches of your reptile and should be placed in his basking area.  Read the box when you purchase your light, as most lights expire in approximately 6 months and this date should be noted so it is replaced when needed.

A large dish should be placed in your dragon’s tank, large enough for him to get into it and soak if he chooses.  The water should be replaced daily.  A beardie’s diet is very unique, as they are mostly insectivores when they are young, and turn into mostly herbivores as they reach approximately a year of age.  When they are young, they should be fed about 75% insects including crickets, wild caught insects, mealworms, and others.  A variety is best!  They should be no larger than the dragon’s head so that they can be easily swallowed.  The insects should be gut-loaded, meaning that you feed the insects something healthy (including Calcium and other vitamins and minerals), and then the dragon will get this food as well.  My favorite brand is Fluker’s to be used for gut loading.   The remaining 25% of the dragon’s diet should be dark leafy vegetables including red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, romaine, collard, mustard greens, kale, endive, and others.  Some fruits can be offered as well.  As your dragon reaches a year of age, they should eat approximately 25% insects and 75% vegetables.

We recommend that your bearded dragon be examined yearly.  A fecal examination should be performed for all new dragons.  An exam helps to catch infections, organ diseases, behavioral problems, and most importantly husbandry issues.  Call to schedule your appointment today!

Julia Katzenbach, DVM

Heads Up for the Holiday Season!

Heads Up for the Holiday Season!

The snow is falling, the temperature is dropping, and we’re all bundling up for the winter!  This holiday season, keep a few extra things in mind for your furry friends!

As it gets closer to Thanksgiving and you’re planning your dinner menu, make sure that your pets do not help with the food prep.  Keep your trash bins out of the way and covered so to make sure no one goes dumpster diving for the discarded parts.  Discarded turkey bones can potentially damage the esophagus and stomach as they are ingested, and can cause an obstruction or blockage if they get stuck trying to pass through.  Onions and garlic can cause severe blood abnormalities, including a drop of red blood cells.  Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in some cases.  Also, if a pet (especially a dog) ingests a large amount of fatty food, this predisposes them to pancreatitis (an inflamed, angry pancreas) which can make your pet very ill!  Be safe and don’t let your pet have anything that you do not know is safe for them.  If you notice your dog acting abnormal, being lethargic, or having any signs up an upset stomach, see veterinary attention.

Pets also confuse decorations (ornaments, tinsel, you name it!) as a brand new toy!  Dogs love to chew up ornaments, and cats love to swallow tinsel, and this can cause a big issue.  Keep all of these fun objects away from your kiddos just to be safe.

Many pets love to be the center of attention when family and friends are visiting.  However, many others get very nervous and overwhelmed.  If your pet is in the second category, make sure you give them a safe place where they can escape from the noise and the unwanted attention.  If they love the attention, great!  Just pass along to your family that they probably shouldn’t be getting too many table scraps (see above!).

Mesa Veterinary Hospital wishes you a safe and healthy holiday season!  Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns!

Julia Katzenbach, DVM

Keeping Your Pets Safe this Halloween

Keeping Your Pets Safe this Halloween

Happy October!  As you’re decorating your house and figuring our your (and your furry friend’s) costume for this year, there are a few things you should keep in mind to keep your companions safe this Halloween.

Chocolate Ingestion

I think the majority of us can agree that chocolate is delicious, and if you go trick-or-treating or have a bowl of candy at your own house likely a large portion of it will be chocolate!  Well, your dog agrees and may not hesitate to help himself.  Chocolate can cause severe toxicity in dogs.  If your dog ingests chocolate, you should contact your veterinarian, an emergency veterinarian, or Animal Poison Control [(888)426-4435] right away to see if they have ingestion a dangerous amount.  Signs of chocolate toxicity can include diarrhea, vomiting, hyperactivity, tremors, and seizures.  If you notice any abnormal signs from your dog, you should seek veterinary attention right away.

Xylitol

Xylitol is a sugar substitute sweetener commonly used in types of sugar free gum, candy, and foods.  It is also now found in many types of peanut butter.  If ingested, it can cause a severe drop in blood sugar, liver damage, and even liver failure.  Again, if you know your pet ingested anything with xylitol in it, you should contact your veterinarian, an emergency veterinarian, or Animal Poison Control [(888)426-4435] right away.

Fear and Anxiety

Halloween is supposed to be fun and spooky for us, but it can actually be quite terrifying to our pets.  They do not understand why a bunch of children are ringing their doorbell dressed in weird outfits.  We recommend that you keep your pet inside and if needed, in a separate room from the front door so they cannot escape if they get very scared.  Make sure they have collars and identification tags on them just in case they do.

Why does my vet want that sample?

Why does my vet want that sample?

Why does my vet want a poop sample?

So you received your reminder in the mail that Fluffy is due for her wellness exam and some vaccines, as well as a “fecal exam”.  It crosses our mind, why would my veterinarian possibly want to look at my pet’s poop?  Let me tell you!

A fecal exam is performed to check for internal parasites.  Even if your pet’s poop appears normal, they could be harboring parasites that can be spread to other pets and even to people!  Gross!  We would prefer to find these parasites and treat them before they become a problem to your pet.

There are multiple steps to a fecal exam.  First, a fecal smear is performed.  For this portion of the test you place a thin layer of feces across a slide, place it in special stains, and examine it under the microscope.  Bacteria and a few parasites can be found.  Next, a flotation is performed.  The stool sample is mixed with a special solution that helps to separate parasite eggs from the sample and float to the surface.  These are then found on a microscope slide.  Finally, centrifugation is performed with further helps to separate some parasite eggs from the feces.

The last thing you need to know is how to bring the sample in to us.  The fresher, the better!  This is to make sure that the parasites are found in an unchanged form, as the longer the fecal sample sits out the harder it is to recognize them.  Try to collect a stool sample that day if possible.  If not, a sample from the night before is adequate, but it should be placed in a completely sealed container and put in the refrigerator.

Why does my vet want a urine sample?

During your exam on Fluffy, your vet discusses collecting a blood and urine sample on her.  And again you wonder, why would my veterinarian want to look at my pet’s pee?

A urinalysis is very helpful in many situations to help assess your pet’s health.  First, we check the concentration of your pet’s urine.  This is helpful to make sure your pet’s kidneys are functioning appropriately (as they are in charge of concentrating urine) and make sure your pet is drinking appropriate levels of water.  Then we check the pH of your pet’s urine, which tells us how acidic or basic the urine is.  If abnormal, this can indicate types of infections or cause formation of bladder stones.  We check for any protein in the urine.  Protein should not be found, and if is it can indicate types of inflammation or kidney disease.  The urine is checked for glucose (blood sugar) and ketones which can indicate that a pet has diabetes and related complications to this disease.  The urine is then checked for bilirubin, which is a compound from the liver, and can indicate liver disease.

Next, urine sediment is examined under the microscope.  The sediment is what remains after the urine is centrifuged, which separates the liquid and solid components of the urine.  The sediment can be composed of white blood cells, red blood cells, bacteria, crystals, and casts.  White blood cells in the urine can indicate forms of inflammation.  If bacteria are seen, the pet may have a urinary tract infection and a culture should be performed.  Crystals in the urine can indicate that a patient is predisposed to making (or has already made!) bladder stones.  Finally, casts can reveal different types of kidney diseases.

Urine samples are requested for many reasons, including issues directly with the urine (you noticed your pet urinating abnormally) or as part of a wellness screening (better assessing your pet’s kidney function).  Urine is collected in multiple ways.  We may ask you to collect a urine sample at home.  The first sample of the morning is the best, as it is often the most concentrated sample throughout the day.  Collect the sample in a clean, dry container (we can provide one for you).  If you are collecting for a dog, you will have to follow them outside and when they start to urinate, place the container in the stream of urine.  If you are collecting for a cat, the litter will have to be removed from the box.  The fresher the sample the better!  Sometimes, we recommend that we collect the sample ourselves.  Often, it is because it can be difficult to collect at home (especially for cats or short dogs!).  Also, sometimes we want the sample to be as fresh and sterile as possible for accurate results.  Your veterinarian can help you decide how the sample should best be collected.

Why Wellness?

Why Wellness?

Many pets and clients we have seen come in just when their pets are ill.  That is great, we love to help those pets feel better, but an even BETTER feeling is keeping those pets from getting sick in the first place!  Often pets, especially for cats and exotics, hide their illness from their owners until they are very ill.  That is why wellness exams are recommended.

During a well exam, your veterinarian has a whole list of things he/she will go through.  First, we want to hear from you how your pet is doing.  Do you notice any abnormal behaviors?  Do you have any concerns?  We also want to hear about your pet’s daily life, including how much exercise they get, what kind of food they eat, and any other maintenance items you do for you dog (brushing their teeth, grooming appointments).

Most importantly is the wellness physical exam.  During an exam, our goal is to catch any issues often before you even notice they are there!  Dental disease is one of the most common findings (in cats, dogs, and small mammals) as most owners do not put their fingers in their pet’s mouths to check this.  If we can catch dental disease early, start some preventative measures (like brushing), and potentially perform a dental cleaning, often we can not only protect the health of your pet’s teeth but their overall health as well!  During our exam we look at the rest of the pet’s mouth (checking for masses or ulcerations), we look at their eyes (examining their cornea, lens, and retina for any abnormalities), and feel all of their lymph nodes.  We look in their ears and check their skin.  We also listen to their heart and lungs, often catching heart disease very early.  We palpate their abdomen for masses, swelling, or pain.  We also check for evidence of orthopedic injuries and arthritis.

We then check their records to see what sort of vaccines and bloodwork your pet has had.  This varies very much from species to species (for example, generally I do not recommend any vaccines for my exotic critters) but also varies from year to year.  A few years ago, I considered leptospirosis a rare disease, more commonly seen in very active outdoor and swimming dogs.  However, as we see more and more of it in dogs that never leave the yard, I now recommend the leptospirosis vaccine for all dogs.  If you just brought your dog in when they were ill or when you got a rabies vaccine reminder, you may not have known about this!  Also, we like to be sure all dogs are getting heartworm prevention and often flea/tick prevention.

As pets age, we often recommend labwork.  Again, this helps us to screen for disease before an animal actually feels the effects of it or shows any signs.  Usually this consists of a blood sample, but often a urine sample is requested as well.  In a blood sample, we check many different values including a red blood cell count, a white blood cell count, organ values (liver and kidneys), electrolytes, proteins, and a thyroid value.  A urine sample is helpful to check for kidney function, as well as evidence of inflammation, infection, and protein loss.  A yearly fecal exam is recommended to make sure your pet has not picked up any internal parasites.  Other diagnostics may be recommended based on our exam, including special blood panels or imaging (x-rays or ultrasound).  These can be discussed at length if we think they are indicated.

As a pet heads to his senior years, we recommend exams every 6 months.  This is because for a pet, a single year is equivalent to 5-7 human years!  For senior pets, we do not want to wait quite that long before repeating an exam in case anything more serious develops.  Generally, we recommend a blood and urine panel yearly for senior pets.

Please contact us to set up your pet’s wellness exam.  Let’s work together to keep your pets healthy!

Julia Katzenbach, DVM