Not Your Everyday House Pets: Top 9 Animals That Shouldn't be Domesticated

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Attempting to keep wild animals as pets is never a good idea. Safe neither for aspirant owners nor the animals themselves, some endanger human lives while others simply fail to thrive outside the wild.


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Lemurs, capuchins, chimpanzees, and baboons all fall into the primate category. They are cute and “childlike” but are not a substitute for human babies. Sure, they are often treated like babies by their owners putting them in diapers and strollers but they also act like babies, permanently, with all the messes and screaming included.

The biggest issue with pet monkeys is that they are prone to rampages without warning and, possessing sometimes shocking levels of strength while lacking what we comprehend as 'moral conscience' or reason, chances of effectively controlling such behaviors are slim. They may also bite their owners which is something the health department doesn't like. This is especially scary given the fact that they can transmit diseases like Hepatitis A and HIV-1, the virus that causes AIDS.


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Cougars, lions, tigers, and leopards make up the majority of large cats kept as pets. They are strong and dangerous, to say the least. If you think you can just de-claw a lion like you did your little house cat then think again. De-clawing removes the entire last bone in each toe. If you remove the tips of the toes of a large cat, they are unable to properly walk because of their size and become paralyzed when the procedure is done incorrectly.

Large cats like tigers kill their prey by biting their throats, not by clawing them to death, so they are still dangerous even without claws. If the teeth don’t kill you, their crushing jaw pressure will. Removing dangerous body parts does not create a good pet.


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Venomous snakes could kill you with a single bite and there is most likely no anti-venom close enough to help you. Some cobras can also cause immense pain and blindness just by spitting their venom into your eyes. There are plenty of pet snakes available that do not produce venom so it is easy to stick with the safer species.

Extreme safety measures must be taken if these snakes are kept in a home, and if they do escape, you are endangering the lives of not only your family but your neighbors, too.


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Despite the fact that bears can weigh over 1500 pounds full grown, people still feel they are like cute and cuddly teddy bears. Bear cubs are appealing for many reasons but they don’t stay small for long. They will tower over you when they stand on their hind legs and can knock you over, or even kill you, with a swift blow of their paw.


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The coati (pronounced ko-wot-ee and sometimes referred to as a coatimundi) is a member of the raccoon family. Originally from South America, these omnivores require a large enclosure to roam about. They are extremely active and difficult to train. They have 38 to 40 sharp teeth, forage for their food, and require a lot of mental stimulation, much like a pet monkey.

Needless to say, even though they are kept as pets more and more, they are still wild animals that can deliver a pretty nasty bite.


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What carries Rabies and SARS, has sharp teeth, sleeps all day, and flies all night? Bats. The truth is, bats are extremely cute and intriguing, but a hands-off approach is best since there is the possibility of zoonotic disease and no realistic way to care for a bat in your home.

They can live over 30 years, hibernate for months in colder climates, and eat insects, fruit or blood at night (depending on the species). These little guys are better left outside so don't bring one of these cute critters into your home intentionally.


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Wolf and coyote ancestors were too wild to live alongside humans which is why domesticated dogs exist. Wolves and coyotes are still wild today and they act on their instincts. They hunt when they are hungry, play when they want to, and sleep the rest of the day. If they feel threatened, they will attack.

They can kill a full-grown moose and sense the sickest animal in a herd, even when that animal shows no symptoms. Like large cats and bears, they are far from domesticated and cannot be trusted. Wolfdogs have also grown in popularity as pets but are not much different from their pure wolf cousins, therefore, they too should be avoided.


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The American alligator can reach over 14 feet in length and kill prey as large as cattle. Most homes cannot accommodate such a large predator. These animals can cause serious infections from bites, causing limb amputations, knock you down with a whip of their tail while it breaks your legs, and even kill you with their bite force of around 2000 pounds. You don't want to see a male gator during mating season. These animals should be respected but not kept as pets.


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With the exception of the tiny Fennec fox (or the domesticated Silver/Siberian Fox), foxes are not recommended as pets. Red foxes can become very tame, but never fully trustworthy and are especially dangerous around children, just like other wild canines such as wolves. They are far from being domesticated and they also have a musky odor that is far worse than a ferret.

They have teeth like any other canine and if scared they may resort to their wild instincts and cause you or someone else harm. Also, most states will destroy a pet fox if a bite is reported because there is no vaccination protocol, despite being similar in size and relation to a dog.


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What is the Canine Distemper Virus?

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Distemper is one of the most serious diseases your dog can get. It is also one of the most preventable. Here are the facts, symptoms, treatment options, and prevention methods that every dog owner needs to know about distemper.


What Is Canine Distemper?

Canine distemper should sound familiar to you if your dog is up-to-date on his vaccinations. Veterinarians consider the distemper vaccine to be a core vaccination, along with the parvovirus and rabies vaccines.

The disease is highly contagious and potentially lethal. A paramyxovirus causes distemper in dogs, and it is closely related to the measles and rinderpest viruses. It causes severe illness in the host by attacking multiple body systems, resulting in a widespread infection that is difficult to treat.


How Is Canine Distemper Spread?

There are three ways dogs can get canine distemper:

  1. Through direct contact with an infected animal or object

  2. Through airborne exposure

  3. Through the placenta

Canine distemper is spread through direct contact or airborne exposure, rather like the common cold in humans. When an infected dog or wild animal coughs, sneezes, or barks, he releases aerosol droplets into the environment, infecting nearby animals and surfaces, like food and water bowls.

The good news is that the virus does not last long in the environment and can be destroyed by most disinfectants. The bad news is that distemper-infected dogs can shed the virus for up to several months, putting dogs around them at risk.

Dogs are not the only animals that can get distemper. Wild animals like raccoons, foxes, wolves, coyotes, skunks, ferrets, and mink can also get the distemper virus. This means that an outbreak of distemper in the local wildlife population can put dogs at risk for catching the disease even if they do not come into contact with other dogs.

Female dogs can also spread the virus through the placenta to their puppies, which is one of the reasons why it is important to fully vaccinate any dog you plan to breed.


What Are the Symptoms of Canine Distemper?

Distemper dogs experience a wide range of symptoms depending on how advanced the disease is in their bodies. Once a dog becomes infected, the virus initially replicates in the lymphatic tissue of the respiratory tract before moving on to infect the rest of the dog’s lymphatic tissue, the respiratory tract, the GI tract, the urogenital epithelium, the central nervous system, and optic nerves. This results in two stages of symptoms.

Stage One

The first symptom of distemper in dogs is usually watery to pus-like discharge from his eyes, followed by fever, loss of appetite, and clear nasal discharge. Most dogs develop a fever approximately 3-to-6 days after being infected, but the initial symptoms depend on the severity of the case and how the patient reacts to it. In general, the symptoms associated with distemper in dogs during the first stages of infection are:

  • Fever

  • Clear nasal discharge

  • Purulent eye discharge

  • Lethargy

  • Anorexia

  • Coughing

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Pustular dermatitis (rarely)

  • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord

If a dog infected with distemper survives the acute stage of the illness, he may also develop hyperkeratosis of the paw pads and nose, which gives distemper the nickname “hard pad disease.” This distemper symptom causes the pads of a dog’s feet to harden and enlarge and is uncomfortable.

One of the other risks associated with distemper in dogs is a secondary bacterial infection that attacks when a dog’s immune system is compromised by the distemper virus. Secondary bacterial infections can cause respiratory and GI symptoms, including:

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Change in respiratory rate

  • Pneumonia


Stage Two

Some dogs develop neurological signs as the disease progresses and attacks the central nervous system. These signs are particularly disturbing for owners.

  • Head tilt

  • Circling

  • Partial or full paralysis

  • Seizures

  • Nystagmus (repetitive eye movements)

  • Muscle twitching

  • Convulsions with increased salivation and chewing motions

  • Death

Distemper in dogs presents with some or all of these symptoms, depending on the severity of the case. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), “distemper is often fatal, and dogs that survive usually have permanent, irreparable nervous system damage.”


Is my dog at risk for Distemper?

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Distemper is a risk to all dogs, but unvaccinated dogs and puppies under four months old are particularly susceptible to canine distemper. If your puppy shows any symptoms of distemper, call your vet immediately.


How to Treat Canine Distemper

There is no cure for canine distemper. Veterinarians diagnose distemper through a combination of clinical signs and diagnostic tests, or through a postmortem necropsy. Once diagnosed, care is purely supportive. Veterinarians treat the diarrhea, vomiting, and neurological symptoms, prevent dehydration, and try to prevent secondary infections. Most vets recommend that dogs be hospitalized and separated from other dogs to prevent the spread of infection.

The survival rate and length of infection depend on the strain of the virus and on the strength of the dog’s immune system. Some cases resolve as quickly as 10 days. Other cases may exhibit neurological symptoms for weeks and even months afterward.


Preventing Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is entirely preventable. There are several things you can do to prevent distemper in dogs:

  • Make sure your puppy gets the full series of distemper vaccinations

  • Keep distemper vaccinations up-to-date throughout your dog’s life and avoid any gaps in vaccinations

  • Keep your dog away from infected animals and wildlife

  • Vaccinate pet ferrets for distemper

  • Be careful socializing your puppy or unvaccinated dog, especially in areas where dogs congregate, like dog parks, classes, and doggy day care

By following these steps, you can keep your dog safe from distemper. If you have more questions about distemper in dogs, talk to your veterinarian, and call your vet immediately if you suspect your dog might be showing symptoms of distemper.


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Why "Dry Pilling" Is Dangerous for Cats

If your cat coughs or vomits after taking a pill, there's probably a good reason. Coughing or vomiting after having swallowed pills dry could very well be a result of dry pilling (giving your cat a pill without any liquid). If you have ever tried to dry-swallow an aspirin, you'll recognize how uncomfortable the experience can be. Swallowing half a pill can even be worse, because of the sharp corners.

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Why "Dry Pilling" Is Dangerous for Cats

Dry pilling can lead to pills getting stuck in your cat's esophagus (the tube leading from the mouth to the stomach). While dry pills are likely to get stuck, capsules are even more dangerous for cats. The smooth, gelatinous surface tends to cause capsules to lodge in the esophagus.


A 2001 study presented in a veterinary journal stated that "After 5 minutes, 84% of capsules and 64% of tablets are still sitting in the esophagus." The study also brought out the dangerous occurrences of esophagitis, which can be caused by the irritation of pills and capsules remaining in the esophagus for long periods of time. This can often lead to blockage, entirely.


How to Give Your Cat Liquid to Avoid Dangerous Dry Pilling

It may seem impossible to force a cat to drink. Fortunately, though, there are a number of tricks you can use to prevent problems when administering oral medications to cats:

  • Follow Pilling with Liquid
    Use a small 1cc syringe filled with either plain water or low-salt broth. Approach the cat from the back or side, rather than front-on. Keep the cat's head level rather than tipped back, to facilitate swallowing.

  • Conceal the Pill in a Pill Pocket
    Pill Pockets are cone-shaped, soft treats with a hole down the center. Just pop the pill inside and pinch the top closed, and offer it to your cat as a treat.

  • Treat After Pilling
    Offering a favorite treat will not only encourage future pilling cooperation but will help get the pill into the stomach quickly so it can go to work.

  • Canned Food After Pilling
    Try giving only a small portion of a regular meal of canned food before the pilling, and withhold the remaining portion for afterward.

  • Compounded Flavored Meds
    Some pharmacies will compound medications into flavored liquid doses, which are both easier to swallow, and a lot tastier than pills. Your veterinarian may work with a compounding pharmacy, a "regular" pharmacy may have flavors for pets (we strongly advise against shopping online for your pets meds).

  • Transdermal Meds
    Some medications can be formulated into a gel or ointment that can be rubbed into your cat's inner ear. These can also be compounded by pharmacies.

At least one of these solutions should relieve both you and your cat of the anxiety and discomfort found in dry pilling. Speak with your veterinarian specifically about the best approach for your feline friend.


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Can My Dog Have "People" Food?

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With so many “don’ts,” what human foods can we share with our dogs? Are any human foods safe for our dogs? The answer is yes! Here is a list of some human foods that are yummy and generally good for your dog:

[Important note: Always consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet.]

Lean meat

Besides being a great source of protein, dogs love to eat meat. In order to prevent an upset stomach, or worse yet—pancreatitis—it is safer to feed dogs lean meats such as turkey, chicken, and fish. Fish is not only a good source of protein, but can also be a great source of omega-3 fatty acids—especially salmon. Omega fatty acids are purported to have anti-inflammatory properties, are a major component of the mammalian brain, and can help with skin and coat problems. When giving your pets meat, remember to remove the skin and fat; if it’s not healthy for you, it’s not healthy for your dog. Finally, be sure you also remove all bones. Beef bones can chip a tooth, poultry bones can splinter, and any bone can get stuck in your dog's throat or intestinal tract.

Veggies

Vegetables can be a healthy and delicious treat for your dog, such as carrots, broccoli, and sweet potatoes. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene and dietary fiber. They can be served raw or cooked. Many dogs enjoy the crunchy texture of raw carrots. An additional benefit is that their hard texture can help keep teeth and gums clean. Other dogs prefer cooked carrots for the soft texture. Broccoli is rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, and other nutrients with anti-cancer effects. Like carrots, it can be served raw or cooked. Most dogs prefer broccoli steamed and mixed in their food. Sweet potatoes are loaded with complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and beta-carotene; and are a good source of vitamin B5, vitamin B6, manganese, and potassium. The great thing about vegetables is that they are low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Fruit

Many dogs like apples because of the crunchy texture. Apples are healthy and a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C. Just make sure your dog doesn’t eat the core (a choking hazard); also avoid the seeds--they contain cyanide. Bananas are another fruit-treat you can give your dog. Bananas are rich in vitamin B6 and soluble fiber and also contain moderate amounts of vitamin C, manganese, and potassium.

Grains

You can supplement your dog’s diet with rice, preferably brown rice. In fact, most veterinarians recommend a temporary diet consisting of chicken and rice for dogs with acute gastrointestinal problems (tummy aches). Brown rice is loaded with dietary fiber; minerals like manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc; and vitamins such as vitamin B1, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, and vitamin B6. Flax seeds can also be given as a healthy treat. Flax seeds are a great source of omega fatty acids and dietary fiber.

If you have an overweight dog, substituting one of these healthy veggies or fruits for treats can be a great way to reduce his calories without you feeling like you are denying him. Let’s face it; we all like to give our dogs treats. Unfortunately, treats have calories that add up quickly. Fruit and veggies are a low-calorie alternative. 


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Toxic Medications & Products For Pets

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It’s natural to want to ease your pet’s pain if they are experiencing illness or discomfort. But before you act, you must be aware that common medications used for adults and even children can be toxic and even fatal to your pet.

It is always recommended that you contact your veterinarian before administering any medications to your pets. It could be the difference between life and death.

Danger Lurks in the Medicine Cabinet

Tylenol: Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in this pain reliever, is very toxic in cats. The drug interferes with oxygen uptake in the blood of cats and can result in death if not treated promptly. Acetaminophen (also used in Excedrin and other aspirin-free drugs) can be used in dogs, but there is a fine line between the effective dose and the toxic dose. Consult with your veterinarian. Acetaminophen overdose in dogs can cause severe liver damage.

Aspirin: This drug is also very toxic to cats except in a very low dose. At times, veterinarians will use aspirin as an anticoagulant for cats with heart disease. This should only be done under a veterinarian’s supervision, as aspirin can be fatal. Dogs can tolerate this drug, and veterinarians will sometimes recommend it for use as a pain reliever. Chronic use of the drug produces side effects.

Ibuprofen: This is the active ingredient in over-the-counter medications such as Advil, Motrin, and "cold and flu" medications, and is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID). This drug is never recommended for cats or dogs, as it can result in severe gastric ulcers or acute kidney failure. Accidental ingestion should be treated immediately. Ibuprofen and other human NSAIDS should never be used in pets, as there are veterinary specific NSAIDS that are less toxic. Drugs like Rimadyl, Deramaxx, and Meloxicam are veterinary prescribed NSAIDS, and are much safer for pets.

Naproxen: This is the active ingredient in Aleve or Anaprox, and is a very potent NSAID. Even the smallest of doses can result in severe symptoms of gastric ulcers, stomach perforations, or acute kidney failure in animals, and should never be used in animals.

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DID YOU KNOW?

Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are two of the most common pet poisons.

Over-The-Counter Products to Skip

Tear supplements with antibiotics: Dogs with chronically dry eyes (commonly a problem in short-faced dogs with protruding eyes) need tear supplements to help with lubrication and keep them comfortable. But read the label: Some of these products contain neomycin, an antibacterial that should be administered under the advice of your veterinarian only.

Alcohol-based ear treatments: Alcohol burns and inflames the sensitive tissues of the ear canal while drying them out, which actually makes problematic ears worse. And yet, a quick internet search will show you all kinds of “home remedy” sites encouraging its use. (Along with gentian violet, another Internet “cure” that’s not recommended by veterinarians.) If your pet has an ear infection, you need to take him to your veterinarian. After that is resolved, you can use a veterinary-recommended cleaner on a regular basis to help keep the ears clean and healthy.

Hydrogen peroxide: While commonly, effectively and safely used to induce vomiting in dogs, hydrogen peroxide should not be used on wounds. The fizz created when it interacts with tissue makes it seem like something good is happening, hydrogen peroxide, in fact, inflames the healthy skin around a wound, which increases healing time. However, recent studies have shown that it’s not even an effective antibacterial.

Steroid creams: We all know how miserable itching makes us, and when your dog is scratching, you’re almost as miserable as they are, just from watching and listening. But don’t just slap a steroid cream on the itchy spot; you may be making an infection worse, or you may just be wasting your money. Your veterinarian has many ways to help stop the itch, but the problem needs to be correctly diagnosed before any of them will work properly.

What to Do If Your Pet Is Poisoned

If you suspect that your pet has been poisoned by a medication, call your veterinarian immediately. If your veterinarian is not available, call an animal poison control. There is often a charge with these services, but paying a minimal fee could save your pet’s life.

  • Pet Poison Helpline: 1-800-213-6680


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