Happy holidays from everyone at Hodes Veterinary Health Center. At this time of year, we receive many adorable photos of our furry patients posing in front of festive trees. Dogs and cats take center stage in many of those cute pics. However, it’s important to remember that reptiles and exotics have unique care requirements during the holiday season. In this article, a local Wichita, KS veterinarian shares valuable tips on how to properly care for your exotic pets.

Protect Pets From Holiday Stress

Our animal friends can also get overwhelmed by all of tha tseasoanl hustle and bustle. Most pets are creatures of habit, that do best on a steady routine. Any changes to your little buddy’s environment or schedule can distress them. Commotion, flashing decoratoins, and loud noises can also  unsettle your pet. If your aunt is bringing her Great Dane over, your Chinchilla may be terrified of Fido, even if he is a big lovable goofball. A lizard, on the other hand, may be scared of that singing reindeer on the other side of the room.  

Watch for signs of stress or anxiety. These warning signs can vary from pet to pet, but there are a few universal things to look for, such as hiding, trembling, reduced appetite, unusual posture or behavior, and uncharacteristic vocalizations. Ask your vet for more information.

Are you hosting a party over the next few weeks? If you’re having a lot of people over, you may want to temporarily move your pet to a quiet back room. If their normal enclosure is too big for you to easily move, just set up a small travel enclosure. This is fine for a few hours, or even overnight, as long as you can provide proper conditions. The biggest thing is to ensure that your pet is comfortable and safe.

Monitor Conditions For Exotic Pets 

Many exotics can get sick very fast if their environment gets too cold. That’s a particular concern around the holidays, as weather conditions can fluctuate so quickly. Make sure all heating and lighting equipment is functioning properly, and pay extra attention to conditions. 

You may want to consider adding some extra bedding. This is particularly helpful for older pets. We’d also advise getting a backup heat source, such as a small generator, in case there is a power outage.

Traveling With An Exotic Pet

If you’re going on a short car trip, such as over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house, you may be able to bring your pet with you … assuming they’re welcome. 

Here are a few trips for traveling with pets:

  • Pack extra. Your little buddy will need food, bedding, a first aid kit, and any supplements or medicine your pet needs. Bring a bit extra of everything, just in case of delays. Reptiles will need heating or lighting equipment, while pocket pets and birds may need toys and chew toys.
  • Always confirm your pet’s accommodations in advance! You definitely don’t want to find out at the last minute that the Airbnb you booked doesn’t allow iguanas.
  • A secure travel case is a must. Small dog or cat carriers are fine for some animals. You may also be able to use a plastic storage container with air holes popped into it. A small tank or aquarium can also work. 
  • When preparing your pet for travel, make sure nothing can fall over onto them. Also, be sure that the tank is in a secure spot, so it won’t fall or tilt if you take a sharp corner. On the floor behind the passenger seat is a good spot.

You may need to keep your buddy warm on the trip. Heat packs, microwaved rice socks, hot water bottles, or even regular water bottles with hot water in them can all come in handy. You’ll want to put these around the outside walls of the tank, so they don’t fall over on your pet and injure them. Also, be sure to have the vehicle nice and warm before bringing your pet out.

Boarding Or Pet Sitting: What Are The Best Options For An Exotic Pet?

Are you headed home for the holidays? Traveling can get a bit tricky for people with reptiles or exotics. For those with exotics or reptiles, we’d usually recommend having someone care for your pet in your home: this is usually going to be much easier than bringing them somewhere. You’ll know that your animal companion is being cared for by an experienced professional, and will not have their normal schedule interrupted. If you can’t find anyone willing to stop over and check on your pet, look into professional reptile sitter services. 

In some cases, you may be able to bring your animal companion to the pet sitter’s house. This may be a good option if you know someone who is experienced with your type of pet, especially if they can’t come to you. You’ll have to get everything set up properly, but the pet sitter will only need to provide their ward with food and water, and of course do some basic cleaning.

Of course, the type of animal you have is also a factor. Many reptiles are quite low maintenance: some don’t even eat every day. Other animals need quite a bit of daily care and attention. 

Here are some tips:

  • Set heat and lighting equipment up on a timer. You might even be able to manage and/or monitor these through an app on your smartphone.
  • Consider getting a smoke detector that you can connect to a smart app.
  • Webcams can be set up to provide a live feed of your pet. 
  • heavy reading, but a small beginners’ care book isn’t a bad thing to have on hand, either. 
  • Have premade meals ready to go. For an iguana, you can have pre-chopped veggies divided into sealed plastic bags, with dates written on them.
  • Does your animal friend eat live bugs? If so, you may want to prepare a separate enclosure for the  critters. We don’t advise adding extra live bugs to your pet’s tank: insects can bite and injure reptiles. 
  • Get extra bulbs for heating/lighting gear.
  • Provide updated contact information, as well as info for your veterinarian and an emergency clinic. 
  • If your reptile requires misting, provide a water bottle for misting, along with the misting schedule. 
  • Give clear, written instructions on things like safe and unsafe foods, household hazards, and signs of sickness. It’s probably unreasonable to expect a pet sitter to do a lot of 

Choosing Holiday Gifts For Exotics 

Don’t forget to pick up something for your pet. Reptiles and exotics might appreciate some new decorative items, such as new climbing branches or perhaps a new hide. Smaller animals, such as Guinea pigs, ferrets, and hedgehogs, may like little beds, tents, or hammocks. Pets with open-rooted teeth will always appreciate chew toys. Mazes are also a good bet. Birds tend to enjoy perches, swings, and toys. Of course, if you’re considering adopting a pet, a forever home is a great gift. Just think it over carefully first: adoption is forever. 

All of us here at Hodes Veterinary Health Center, your Wichita, KS animal hospital, wish you a wonderful holiday season. Please reach out to us for all of your pet’s veterinary care needs.