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Tips for Keeping Your Exotic Pet Safe During Cold Weather

Posted December 15, 2014 in Reptile Health & Care

Dr. Laurie Hess discusses why it's important to keep your exotic pet warm as the weather turns cold.


Storms and cold temperatures are never fun to deal with, but if you live any place where the seasons change, you will undoubtedly have to face inclement weather at some point this winter. How do you keep your bird or exotic pet healthy when the temperature plummets? Here are a few tips to help keep your bird or other exotic pet safe.

1. Provide heat!
Many birds and reptiles, in particular, need to be kept warm to remain healthy. Birds (especially  larger parrots) can generally tolerate temperatures as low as the 50s, but once the thermometer drops below that, they may get fluffed up (expending all of their energy trying to trap warm air between their feathers and their bodies to keep warm) and stop eating. Pets burn extra calories trying to stay warm, so it is essential that they keep eating. Reptiles are “cold-blooded;" their body temperatures are determined by their environmental temperatures. If their environments get very cold, their body temperatures drop in turn. Their immune systems do not function well at suboptimal temperatures, and their digestive systems and metabolism also slows down - typically what occurs during hibernation or brumation. Reptiles can safely tolerate living at less-than-ideal temperatures for a few days, but over time, hibernating reptiles can get sick.

Other exotic pets may suffer in the cold, too. Hedgehogs, for example, can go into a state of sluggishness or torpor and stop eating when the temperature falls. Thus, if you own an exotic pet, and your home is cold because you have lost electric power, you should do all that you can to keep your pet warm by wrapping his or her cage with a blanket or towel to minimize air flow, moving the cage near a sunlit window (as long as there are no drafts blowing through it), and placing plastic bottles, bags, or even rubber gloves filled with warm water (if you have access to warm water) wrapped in towels directly underneath the reptile (or under the cage, if you have a bird or small mammal such as a rabbit or rodent that might chew on the plastic or rubber).  

2. Offer water!
In bad storms, if you lose electric power or if your pipes freeze, you may also lose your water supply. Given

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Laurie has more than 15 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified bird specialist and exotic animal veterinarian as well as a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.

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