For the public

Basic Care: Bearded Dragon

Bearded dragons are social, active lizards that need proper heat, ultraviolet light, and the correct diet with necessary supplements.  Bearded dragons may not get along if crowded or territorial so caution with housing them together and ideally never have an adult with baby bearded dragons.

Caging

An adult bearded dragon needs a cage at least 3 ft long, 2 ft wide, and 1.5 ft tall.

Basic Care: Ball Pythons

Ball pythons are modestly sized snakes that range from 30-45" in length and rarely reach five feet or slightly longer.  They originate from west and central Africa with most of the wild-collected animals exported from Ghana, Togo, and Benin.

Most of the ball pythons sold in pet stores are wild-collected.  Babies are often exported from "ranches" where adult females are collected, kept in captivity until they lay eggs, and then the babies that hatch are exported to other countries.  These "ranched" babies are often much cheaper to buy than ball pythons that were captive-bred and born in the United States and may be more difficult to get feeding.  Wild-collected ball pythons are more likely to have parasites than true captive-bred and born ball pythons.

There are now many different color morphs of ball pythons.  Some of them, such as panda pieds and scaleless, may sell for thousands of dollars.

Toys & Behavioral Enrichment for Pet Birds

Parrots and other birds are intelligent, curious and naturally active in the wild. The typical wild bird spends most of its day searching for food and being alert for predators. When it is not looking for food, it may be searching for a mate or helping take care of a nest, protecting its home from rivals, socializing with other birds, or preening its feathers, among other activities. As pets, birds no longer have to search for food, worry about predators, defend their home from rivals, or do many of the other things necessary to survive in the wild. Without these things to do, some parrots and other birds begin to engage in abnormal behaviors such as feather-plucking and chewing at their skin, pacing around their cages, back-flipping, eating their own stool, prolonged abnormal screaming, etc.

Screaming Behavior in Pet Birds

Screaming is the second most common problem noted by parrot owners.  Normal parrot vocalizations include alarm calls and contact calls.  Alarm calls occur when the parrot is feeling as if it is in danger or distress.  Contact calls are vocalizations used to identify where other members of the bird’s flock are at any given time.  Both of these types of calls are normal.  It is also normal for some parrot species to call and scream for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day, especially in the morning, and may be a way that wild parrots tell other parrots from another flock to stay away.  When a parrot begins to repeatedly vocalize for prolonged periods of time this is considered to be abnormal and may indicate stress or boredom.  Studies on parrot behavior have shown that one cause of problematic screaming may be a lack of physical interaction between social partners (i.e., other birds or its human companions).

PDS & Bornavirus

PDS, which is short for Proventricular Dilatation Syndrome, causes regurgitation, weight loss, and death in macaws and other parrots.  This condition has recently been linked with a poorly understood virus known as bornavirus. Bornavirus has been linked with feather-plucking, toe-tapping, and other conditions in parrots. 

Getting a New Bird

You need to plan ahead before you bring a bird into your home.  Part of that planning should include a same-day wellness visit to a reputable veterinarian since there is no way to be sure a bird is completely healthy just by looking at it.  After a physical examination, the veterinarian may discuss screening your new bird with laboratory tests.  Simple tests can be done at the hospital, such as looking at droppings and oral secretions for abnormal bacteria using a Gram stain or checking the droppings for parasites.  However, additional tests are often needed particular for birds that have been around many other birds.  The importance of this additional testing cannot be ignored -- one study using protein electrophoresis, a kind of blood test, revealed that 30% of seemingly healthy birds had undetected infectious or inflammatory disease.  Specific tests for psittacosis (also known as parrot fever or chlamydophilosis), Pacheco's virus, and psittacine beak and feather disease may be important especially if you have other birds at home.  If the Gram stain suggests abnormal bacteria are present then microbiological cultures and sensitivities should be performed so that the right antibiotic can be chosed to treat the infection.  Your new bird can have its sex determined by saliva, blood, or feather samples to confirm that you got what you paid for or to learn what you got.  When you are budgeting for a new bird, make sure you remember to include money for a thorough health check!

Feather Plucking & Self-Mutilation

Behavioral disorders are a frequent issue identified in companion parrots and one study revealed that 36% of owners felt their bird had a behavioral problem. Feather destructive behavior, more commonly known as feather-picking or feather-plucking, was the most common behavior problem seen by veterinarians and the fourth most common behavioral problem identified by owners. This issue can result from both medical and behavioral causes.

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