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Tips for Keeping Your Exotic Pet Safe from Household Toxins

Posted December 18, 2014 in Small Animal Health & Care

Mouse in a cage

Dr. Laurie Hess lists common household items and toxins that can be dangerous to your exotic pet. 

All of us with exotic pets strive to give our pets a safe and comfortable home. But, as we animal lovers know, our pets tend to get into anything and everything, given the opportunity. Here are some important safety tips to help keep our pets out of trouble:

1. Candles – We all love to light those beautiful scented candles, but these should never be burned anywhere near your birds or other exotic pets. The strong scents that these candles emit can be toxic to your pet, especially if you own birds (that are exquisitely sensitive to any kinds of fumes), plus some older candles contain lead in the wicks which also can be harmful if inhaled. The same is true for bowls of fragrant potpourri (that birds or small mammal pets may mistake as a yummy snack).  What smells and looks good to you can be quite harmful to your pet. So the take home message is – avoid candles and potpourri around birds and exotics.

2. Many human foods, especially rich chocolate treats in which we all love to indulge from time to time, are toxic for all birds and other exotic pets. In addition, liquor of all kinds can be very dangerous for exotic pets. If you do give your bird a taste of a tasty meal, his or her portion should be kept completely separate from yours. Humans’ mouths contain completely different bacteria from that found in the mouths of birds and other exotic pets; these bacteria can be transmitted from humans to their pets unwittingly in a simple bite of food, leading to severe, potentially life threatening infections. Plus, if you share any food that has bones in it, be careful feeding your bird, in particular, small bones, since they can splinter, causing wounds in the mouth, or get stuck in your pet’s throat and/or stomach.

3. Household decorations, especially those made from natural materials like seeds, dried flowers, and wood, can be tempting for pets to eat, but many of them are treated with potentially toxic chemicals to keep them looking fresh. Plus, once these decorations are chewed on, small parts can sometimes lodge in pets’ intestinal tracts, necessitating a trip to the emergency hospital. Ferrets and rabbits can be particularly

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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.