Monthly Archives: February 2013

Nerves involved with Grooming Explain Mammal’s Responses

Scientist identify nerve that detect pleasure from grooming

C-fibers, nerve cells found in the skin of the hairy portion of mice legs, conduct pleasurable sensory input, not pain, according to research from the California Institute of Technology. It’s possible the cells evolved in response to mammals grooming for external parasites, and their existence may explain why many mammals experience pleasure when the head or arm is stroked. The Independent (London)(1/30)

Raw Diets – Cats

This was recently published concerning raw diets. There have been many problems linked to them over the past few years.

Study: Raw meat falls short on
feline nutrition

New research has found that raw meat diets do not meet the full spectrum of feline nutritional needs for captive and domestic cats. The study evaluated horse, bison, cattle
and elk meat. All the diets were short on linoleic acid, and the horse meat did
not contain sufficient arachidonic acid for kittens or for gestating or
lactating females. A raw diet fed to domestic cats often omits necessary fat
and important fatty acids and exposes cats to pathogens that may be in raw
food, and it can also promote a change to the gut flora.

Reptile Myths

I recently came across an article written back in 2002 by Dr. Stephen Barten of Vernon Hills AnimalHospital in Mundelein, IL discussing 10 commonly believed myths concerning captive reptiles that appeared in the proceedings of the North American Veterinary Conference. I’d like to share these with you.


Myth: snakes unhinge or dislocate their jaws to swallow large prey.

Fact: Snakes enjoy a high degree of head movement that allows an extraordinary gape, but no unhinging or dislocation of joints takes place.


Myth: Reptiles need to shed their skin to allow growth.

Fact: Crustaceans and insects must shed their armor-like inflexible exoskeleton to allow for growth. Reptiles, however, have skin that is elastic and flexible, and measurable growth occurs between shed cycles.


Myth: Reptiles only eat what is good for them; they instinctively see nutritious foods.

Fact: Reptiles eat what tastes good, and taste has no relationship to nutritional value.


Myth: Pet snakes require live food.

Fact: Snakes in captivity not only accept, but actually prefer dead prey.


Myth: You can stunt the growth of a large species of reptile by withholding its food or keeping it in a small container

Fact: Stunted growth caused by intentional starvation is a symptom of malnutrition and is a cruel and inhumane practice. Reptile growth is unaffected by cage size.


Myth: If a reptile becomes lethargic, and goes off feed, it might be trying to hibernate.

Fact: Hibernation is a specific physiological response to shorter days and lower temperatures in reptiles from temperate climates. It is not something a reptile can do because it “decides” to do so.


Myth: Pet reptiles get lonely and need a friend or cagemate.

Fact: This is an example of anthropomorphism. Reptiles are for the most part solitary and antisocial.


Myth: Reptile illnesses are usually some kind of “rot”. Among the best known are mouth rot, belly rot, and tail rot.

Fact: The use of the term “rot” is unprofessional and often represents an attempt to simplify a complex situation. More precise terms are preferred.


Myth: If someone keeps a reptile under certain conditions and it lives, all members of that species should be kept under identical conditions. This is a myth that is prevalent on the internet particularly posted on breeder/dealer websites.

Fact: Some captive reptiles enjoy accidental survival; data from small experimental sample sizes is statistically insignificant. Detailed studies including wild, biological information are usually needed to determine the optimal habitat and temperatures.


Myth: Commercial products manufactured for reptiles are always the best choice.

Fact: No government agency monitors safety or efficacy in products sold for pet reptiles. Most commercial reptile products are manufactured for marketing purposes with little consideration for their effect on pet reptiles.

Sedation, Preanesthesia or Anesthesia

There are differences between sedation, preanesthesia and anesthesia. Sedation implies the administration of a drug to help a patient feel more relaxed and comfortable to facilitate doing a diagnostic or minimally invasive medical procedure (usually with a local anesthetic added). This includes but is not limited to doing a blood draw, taking xrays or doing an ultrasound examination. Preanesthetic agents usually include a sedative but are also agents that are given to make anesthesia safer for the patient. Preanesthetic drugs provide sedation, work to ensure smooth and rapid induction of anesthesia, help to counteract against some potential adverse effects of anesthesia and deliver pain relief. Nearly all patients benefit from administration of preanesthesia before surgery. Anesthesia is most commonly used to minimize pain for surgical patients. There are several types of anesthesia, including general, local, and regional. General anesthesia is a loss of consciousness. Local and regional anesthetics are used as “blocks” to a specific surgical area. A good example of a local block is in dentistry to numb a tooth. A regional block may numb an entire area of the jaw.

Preservation Response: Hold off showing illness

Many of our exotic pet and bird species hold off showing signs of illness until they are severely if not gravely ill. This is called the preservation response. In the wild to do so may buy some time to actually get better, but the animal tries to act normal so as not to fall prey to predators. In our pets, they may only show very subtle signs that something is wrong, and while we think it is minor, it may be the tip of the iceberg. So generally, by the time you notice something is wrong, the animal is very ill. Birds are masters of doing the preservation response – signs may only be that the bird is not vocalizing as much as normal or is acting more quiet that normal. And in fact the bird is near death. Stress plays a large role in our pet’s illnesses just as it does with humans.

So if your pet is not behaving normally, not vocalizes normally, has subtle changes in eating, chewing, defecation, urination, activity: it needs to be seen sooner rather than later.

Maple branches available for perches

First come, first serve – I’ve brought in to the clinic a whole bunch of branches from the maple tree in my yard – no pesticides or insecticides. Branches should be washed and dried before usage in your bird cage, sugar glider habitat. They are free – only suggest a coin donation per branch to the Washington Ferret Rescue and Shelter. Please come and get some great perching material.