5 Low-Maintenance Pet Bird Species

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Birds are easier to care for than any four-legged pet. And while there is no such thing as a no-maintenance bird, some species are easier to care for than others. From doves to finches, canaries to parakeets, there are many cute, charming pet birds that won't put great demands on an owner's time but will still prove to be good companions.

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Plenty of Bird Species Make Good Pets and Are Easy to Care For

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FINCHES

As long as finches are provided with a proper flight cage and two or three flock-mates to interact with, they require zero handling and out-of-cage playtime. Finches tend to keep to themselves and would rather socialize with other finches than their human caretakers, so those who have little spare time can enjoy the company of birds in their home while only having to feed, water, and clean up after them.

However, a small flock of finches can be quite messy, so keep in mind the balance between allowing them to socialize with each other and having to clean up a big mess.

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PARAKEETS (BUDGIES)

Some bird lovers want a bird that they can hold, train, and that can even learn to talk, but that they don't have to spend every minute of every day holding. A parakeet, or budgie, is the ideal option for that scenario.

While Budgies do bond strongly with their owners, as most parrots do, they are easier to keep occupied than many larger species. A budgie in a spacious cage well-stocked with plenty of safe and interesting bird toys can thrive as long as their owners can devote an hour or two per day of socialization time to them.

This is a big contrast to many other parrot species, some of which need a minimum of four to six hours outside of the cage each day. Consider a budgie if you'd like all the perks of owning a parrot without the huge time commitment.

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DOVES

Doves are hardy, medium-sized birds that enjoy interacting with their owners but are also content to spend a good part of the day entertaining themselves. Unlike a larger bird like a cockatoo or a macaw, a dove isn't constantly in need of attention. 

Because doves are a little smaller than parrots and other popular pet birds, cleaning up after them is much easier. Although it's still important to form a bond with your pet dove, these quiet, pretty birds won't demand much of your time. Keep their cages clean, and you'll have a content, satisfied bird most of the time. 

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CANARIES

Canaries are another excellent choice for bird lovers who prefers a pet to be seen and heard instead of taken out and handled. Much like finches, canaries don't do well with human handling and prefer to stay within the comforting walls of their cages.

There are different types of canaries to choose from, and each variety has different care requirements. However, overall, these little birds are a good fit for those who don't have a lot of spare time to spend with a pet.

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COCKATIELS

Another parrot species, cockatiels are the highest-maintenance bird species on this list. Like budgies, cockatiels require a certain amount of handling and out-of-cage playtime on a daily basis.

However, cockatiels are nowhere near as demanding as some of the larger parrot species. They normally don't talk, but cockatiels are highly intelligent and can be trained to follow commands.

Cockatiels are a great choice for those who have the time to devote two or three hours per day to playing with their pets. As long as it has a large enough cage and a bird-proof area for it to play in, a cockatiel will be a good fit for a would-be bird owner.


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Common Illnesses Found in Pet Turtles

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What are some of the common diseases of pet turtles?

Common conditions of pet turtles include Vitamin A deficiency, respiratory diseases, abscesses, shell infections and fractures, and parasites.


What are the signs of these diseases?

Vitamin A deficiency occurs as a result of feeding turtles an inappropriate diet. The all-meat diet, or the "cricket and fruit cocktail" diet, or the "lettuce and carrots" diets are all deficient. Lack of Vitamin A produces signs seen with changes in the epidermis (outer layer of skin and mucus membranes), including lack of appetite, lethargy, swelling of the eyes and eyelids (often with a pus-type discharge), swelling of the ear (actually an ear abscess), and respiratory infections.

Most respiratory infections are caused by bacteria, and in turtles are often secondary to Vitamin A deficiency. Turtles with respiratory infections may have excess mucus in their oral cavities, nasal discharges, lethargy and loss of appetite, and possibly open-mouth breathing and wheezing.

Abscesses, commonly seen in pet turtles, appear as hard tumor-like swellings anywhere on the pet's body. Abscesses often are located on the opening of the ear in turtles. Abscesses in turtles are often related to Vitamin A deficiency.

Shell problems are often encountered in turtles. These can be infections caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses, or more commonly are the result of fractures of the shells. Fractured shells can result from trauma from vehicles (being run over by a motor vehicle) or from dog bites (turtle housing should be constructed to prevent access from predators such as dogs.)

Parasites, such as roundworms, are common in pet turtles. They often cause no clinical signs and are detected on an annual fecal examination. They may, however, cause diarrhea or weight loss.

How can I tell if my turtle is sick?

Signs of disease in turtles may be specific for a certain disease, such as nasal discharge in the case of a respiratory infection, or non-specific, such as a turtle with anorexia (lack of appetite) and lethargy, which can be seen with many diseases. Any deviation from normal should be a cause for concern and requires immediate evaluation by your veterinarian.

How are turtle diseases treated?

Vitamin A deficiency is treated with either oral or injectable Vitamin A. Treatment should only be done under veterinary supervision, as hypervitaminosis A, a condition resulting from the incorrect usage and over-dosage of Vitamin A, can occur. Speak with your veterinarian on how to further prevent vitamin A deficiency.

Respiratory infections are most often caused by bacteria; many of these turtles also have Vitamin A deficiency that requires treatment as well. Your veterinarian may want to do radiographs (X-rays), blood tests, and cultures to determine the cause of the infection. Occasionally, allergies can cause nasal discharge as well. Treatment for true infections involves antibiotics given orally or as injections, and possibly nose drops. Sick turtles require intensive care, including fluid therapy and force feeding, in the hospital.

Abscesses are treated surgically; the abscess is opened and flushed with a medicated solution. A culture of the abscess may be needed to determine the type of infection that caused the abscess. Topical medication and injectable antibiotics may also be used.

Shell fractures can usually be repaired by your veterinarian. Severe shell fractures may not be able to be repaired. Infections are more difficult to treat but usually involve identifying what type of organism (virus, bacterium, or fungus) is causing the problem, thoroughly cleaning the shell, and using appropriate anti-microbial therapy.

Parasites are treated with the appropriate deworming medication. The type of parasite identified on the microscopic fecal examination will determine which drug is needed.

Any disease in turtles can be severe enough to cause a loss of appetite and lethargy. When seen, these signs indicate a guarded prognosis and the need for hospitalization and intensive care, which can include fluid therapy and force-feeding.


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How to help turtles cross the road safely

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As the weather gets warmer, turtles are more likely to be seen trying to cross roads. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has tips for helping turtles cross roads.

  • Keep your own safety in mind – be aware of traffic. Signal properly when pulling over.

  • Be careful when handling an animal – an animal crossing the street may be injured or apt to bite. The USFWS says that there are times when just standing by as an animal crosses the street may be the best way to help.

  • A car mat can be helpful – by sliding a car mat under the turtle or animal, you can help without having to actually pick it up. Also make sure to put the animal on the side of the direction it was traveling.

  • Do not try to pick up an animal by the tail – check out this video on how to help a turtle. The USFWS also recommends holding a turtle by the base of the shell and not the side.

  • Get help for injured turtles – Contact your veterinarian or a wildlife rehabilitation center if you find an injured animal.


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Stargazing Syndrome in Snakes

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When the cervical musculature of a snake contracts, the head and neck are raised almost straight up, as if the affected snake is gazing at the stars. Hence the term stargazing.

This seemingly innocent behavior is actually a sign of a potentially serious underlying medical problem. If you see this behavior with your snake, you need to consult with your veterinarian immediately.

Other symptoms that typically accompany stargazing include the inability of the snake to right itself when placed on it’s back, as well as disorientation.

Stargazing is typically attributed to a variety of diseases that affect a snake’s central nervous system. In fact encephalitis is the primary cause of this posture. However, there are other potential factors that need to be considered as possibilities.

8 common causes of stargazing in snakes

  1. Viral infections such as paramyxovirus which typically attacks the neurological and respiratory systems of snakes. Typically viperids and colubrids are affected.

  2. Inclusion Body Disease (IBD) which typically attacks the neurological, gastrointestinal and respiratory systems of boids (boas and pythons).

  3. Bacterial infections such as acanthamoebic meningioencephalitis are often to blame as well.

  4. Major organ dysfunction can also cause neurological problems.

  5. Any sort of septic infections which can breach the blood-brain barrier.

  6. Extreme temperature fluctuations.

  7. Head injuries/trauma.

  8. Exposure to toxins typically found via pest strips, cleaning products, mite sprays as well as any other number of environmental toxins can also cause various neurological problems.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Stargazing Syndrome in Snakes

In order to treat this condition properly, your veterinarian will thoroughly examine your snake as well as take a detailed medical history (don’t forget to bring any prior medical history records). Diagnostic tests might include fecal exams, x-rays, as well as a complete pathology workup (like bloodwork).

Once you know the underlying cause of the stargazing, you and your veterinarian can then work together to form an appropriate treatment plan.

Please remember however, that stargazing itself is not a disease – it is a symptom of a very serious underlying condition/disorder that must be treated.


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Salmonella Infection in Pets & People: Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

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Salmonella is a group of bacteria that can live in the intestinal tract of many different animals. Salmonellosis (sal-mohn-el-OH-sis) is a bacterial disease caused by Salmonella.

Although Salmonella is most often spread when a person eats contaminated food, the bacteria also can be passed between people and animals. Many different animals and pets can carry these germs. Animals known to commonly spread Salmonella to humans include:

  • Reptiles (turtles, lizards, and snakes)

  • Amphibians (frogs and toads)

  • Poultry (chicks, chickens, ducklings, ducks, geese, and turkeys)

  • Other birds (parakeets, parrots, and wild birds)

  • Rodents (mice, rats, hamsters, and guinea pigs)

  • Other small mammals (hedgehogs)

  • Farm animals (goats, calves, cows, sheep, and pigs)

  • Dogs

  • Cats

  • Horses

How do animals and people become infected?

Animals become infected with Salmonella through their environment, by eating contaminated food, or from their mothers before they are even born or hatched. Salmonella is naturally in the intestines of many different animals. Animals with Salmonella shed the bacteria in their stool which can easily contaminate their body parts (fur, feathers, or scales) and anything in areas where these animals live and roam (terrarium or aquarium, chicken coop, pen or fencing, countertops, sinks, etc.). It is important to know that many animals can carry Salmonella and still appear healthy and clean.

People can get a Salmonella infection if they do not wash their hands after contact with animals carrying Salmonella or their environment, such as their bedding, food, or tank water. For example, some pet products, like pet foods and treats, can be contaminated with Salmonella and other germs. Pet food and treats that may be contaminated include dry dog or cat food, dog biscuits, pig ears, beef hooves, and rodents used to feed reptiles (including frozen feeder rodents). Additionally, reptiles and amphibians that live in tanks or aquariums can contaminate the water with Salmonella, which can make people sick even if they don’t touch the animal.

Who is most at risk for serious illness?

Anyone can get sick from Salmonella, but some people are more likely than others to get salmonellosis. People who are more likely to get salmonellosis include:

  • infants

  • children 5 years of age and younger

  • adults aged 65 and older

  • people with weakened immune systems, such as people with HIV/AIDS, organ transplant patients, and people receiving chemotherapy.

Prevention

The best way to prevent getting Salmonella from animals is to always wash your hands with soap and running water right after contact with these animals, their environments, or their stool.

DO/

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and waterRight after touching animals.After touching your pet’s food (like dry dog or cat food, frozen feeder rodents) or treats (like rawhide bones, pig ears, biscuits).After touching the areas where they live and roam.

  • Use running water and soap, if possible.

  • Use hand sanitizer if running water and soap are not available.Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water as soon as a sink is available.Adults should always supervise hand washing for young children.

  • Use soap or a disinfectant to thoroughly clean any surfaces that have been in contact with animals. Do not let children 5 years of age and younger do this task. Children 6 years of age and older can help with cleaning and disinfecting but only if they are supervised by an adult.

  • Clean your pet’s cage, terrarium, or aquarium and its contents (such as food and water bowls) outdoors, if possible. If you must clean your pet’s habitat indoors, use a bathtub or large sink that can be cleaned and disinfected afterward. Avoid using a kitchen sink if possible.

  • Use a bleach solution to clean and disinfect.

DO NOT/

  • Do not let children 5 years of age and younger, the elderly, or people with weakened immune systems handle or touch animals that can spread Salmonella (like turtles, water frogs, or poultry). They should also try not to touch the water from the animals’ containers or aquariums.

  • Avoid keeping live poultry, amphibians, and reptiles in homes and facilities with children 5 years of age and younger or people with weakened immune systems.

  • Never eat or drink around high-risk animals (like turtles, water frogs, chicks, ducklings), or in areas where they live and roam.

  • Keep animals away from areas where food and drinks are prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens or outdoor patios.

  • Do not ask children 5 years of age and younger, the elderly, or people with weakened immune systems to clean pets’ habitats and their contents.

  • Persons 65 years of age and older and those with weak immune systems should wear disposable gloves if they have to clean their pet’s habitat.

  • Once you finish cleaning, throw out the dirty wash water in a toilet or sink that is not used for food preparation or for drinking water.

What are the symptoms of a Salmonella infection?

Salmonella Symptoms in People

People infected with Salmonella might have diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramps. Infants, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness. Please visit CDC’s Salmonella website for more information.

Salmonella Symptoms in Pets

Many animals with Salmonella have no signs of illness at all and appear healthy. Pets that become sick from Salmonella infection typically have diarrhea that may contain blood or mucus. Sick animals may seem more tired than usual and may vomit or have a fever. If your pet has these signs of illness or you are concerned that your pet may have a Salmonella infection, please contact your pet’s veterinarian.

Since there have been several pet treats recalled due to contamination with Salmonella, you should tell your veterinarian if your pet recently consumed a product that has been recalled. Do not feed your pet any more of the recalled product. Throw the product away immediately.

How can Salmonella infections be diagnosed and treated?

Diagnosing Salmonella in People

Salmonella infections in people usually resolve within 5-7 days, and most do not require treatment other than drinking plenty of fluids. People with severe diarrhea may need to spend time in a hospital getting rehydrated with intravenous fluids. Lab tests are needed to determine if Salmonella is the cause of a person’s illness. For more information about diagnosis and treatment, please visit CDC’s Salmonella website.

Diagnosing Salmonella in Pets

If you suspect that your pet has Salmonella, see your veterinarian. Salmonella infections may require prompt treatment with supportive care and fluids. If your pet is very sick, it may need to be treated with antibiotics or be hospitalized in a veterinary clinic. Your pet’s veterinarian is the best source of advice on your pet’s health.

More Information

Learn more about salmonellosis at CDC’s Salmonella website, which includes answers to frequently asked questions, technical information, and additional resources.


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