Today I want to talk about the virtue of rats as pets. Before most of you can say eeeeew gross, just hear me out. There are many people in this world who have discovered how delightful rats can be and I have many clients who are as dedicated to the health and well-being of their rats as anyone is to their dogs and cats. If you haven’t ever gotten to meet a pet rat personally you may be inclined to think of them as dirty vermin, but once you get to know one you may find that their charms are hard to resist.

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I used to think that having a reptile as a pet was a somewhat strange idea. They are interesting looking and exotic, but how much interaction do you really have with a lizard? Fluffy the boa constrictor isn’t exactly going to play fetch with you in the back yard. They seemed more like high maintenance decorations than pets. Then I met Alexis the iguana. She had come to my exotics rotation at CSU because her abdomen was so full of egg follicles that she looked like a sack full of shooter marbles. Her body couldn’t seem to choose whether to reabsorb them or let them mature into eggs so she could lay them, so she was stuck in limbo so stuffed with follicles that she was wasting away because she couldn’t eat. We spayed her, one of my first and most memorable surgeries, and she was quickly on the road to recovery.

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Spaying and Neutering Rabbits

A while ago I had a new rabbit owner inform me that the breeder from whom she got her rabbit at the state fair had told her never to let a veterinarian perform surgery on her pet because vets kill all rabbits with anesthesia when they perform surgery. The breeder had recommended having the rabbit neutered, but apparently this was something she did herself without the benefit of anesthesia. I cringed, but was glad that the owner was still willing to talk with the murderous veterinarian about neutering her rabbit humanely before subjecting him to what I can only imagine would have been tantamount to torture. At least the breeder and I could agree on something. Spaying and neutering rabbits is as least as important for protecting their health and longevity as it is for dogs and cats.

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Tear Staining

Owners of little white dogs know all too well the scourge of tear staining, those red-brown streaks in the fur that run from the inside corners of the eyes and down alongside the nose. (Little black dogs have just as much tear staining but on the dark background isn’t very visible.) Rarely is there any sort of physical problem associated with it, but it is unsightly and for many owners it would be nice to have a clean white face to look at. The questions I usually get are: why does it happen and how can you make it go away?

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Every parent has probably had the experience of having their child lobbying relentlessly for a pet of their own. When the thought of managing a dog or cat seems like too much of a commitment, alternative pets like turtles are often considered.   After all, they are small and stay contained in an enclosure. Before you go that route, however, you may want to consider the situation carefully.

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