General Information


Feeding and Nutrition
Captive Environments
Disease and Parasite Prevention
Escape Proofing Enclosures
Provide a Suitable Environment
Animal Identification
General Health Information
What Does 1.2.3 mean?
Licensing, Permits
We offer these FAQs on animals we presently have or with which we have had past experience. They are being written in response to the multitude of inquiries we have had over the years. We believe the taxonomic information is current with the present changes as far as we have been able to determine. All of the information in these FAQs are a result of our own experiences and research and may not the same as others' experiences and research.

A large portion of our baby animals are used in animal education programs. Some go to select private homes as companion animals. Due to the sensitive nature of these animals, private owners must be willing to become educated on the highly specialized care that the animals need - nutrition, exercise, socialization, training, habitat, etc. All exotic animals kept as animals for educational purposes or pet/companions must be neutered before they enter their first sexual cycle. If not, sexual behaviors can become established that are undesirable and difficult to correct.

It is a huge responsibility to take on any animal as a pet. Considering an exotic is an even more serious responsibility. Some of the animals' behaviors may not be to your liking. You may expect the animal to react like one of those you have had or seen that have been bred in captivity as domestic animals for generations. Wild instincts in all animals are always there, some very evident, others latent and mis-leading. Never, never forget that exotic animals are not like domestic dogs and cats. They can all be trained if properly hand-raised and trained throughout their life with fairness and consistency.

If you are interested in learning more about availability of our exotic animals, or handbooks on their care, we suggest checking our links to animals or books for sale.

Feeding & Nutrition
We list several different diets for some animals due to feed availability problems and also to various information we have received. In all instances, it is important to monitor the weight and general health of your animal. Make any diet switches gradually. Be sure that animals that are fed free-choice clean up all feed several times a week to insure that they do not have stale food at the bottom of their feed container. Some diets have a particular shelf-life and lose potency in certain vitamins, especially Vitamin C. Do not mix dry foods and fruits, vegetables and meats unless you plan to pick up the left overs within a short time after feeding. The pelleted foods can spoil after they become wet. Breeding animals must be maintained in good weight, but never obese. Some animals need to be in lean condition for prebreeding condition. Others must be on a weight gain prior to breeding season. Know your species and its needs. Store foods in a cool, dry place where t! hey cannot absorb odors that might be unpleasant to the animals. Some foods will be mixed with other ingredients to attain the proper level of nutrition.

Some animals need extra vitamin E and selenium. Others need a high level of vitamin C, or extra roughage. While still others need a higher content in certain minerals. Feeds can be purchased with those items included or you can add them yourself in the form of a supplement or water additive.

I highly recommend looking in to Purina Mills Mazuri Zoo feeds which have been formulated for a great number of species from Flamingos to Sharks!!! Check with your local Purina Mills distributor for information about ordering these specialized foods.

Captive Environments
USDA requires the minimum acceptable environments. Larger and more elaborate enclosures may be beneficial and aesthetically pleasing to both the animal and you. Be sure that any dangerous animal has a holding area that can secure it if it is necessary for anyone to enter the enclosure for cleaning or repair. For enclosures that must be washed , check to see that the area drains rapidly and in a sanitary manner when cleaning is done. The animals must have place to retreat when cleaning is being done so they do not become wet and/or cold. Try to simulate the native environment with branches, tree trunks, rocks, grass, sand, and plants. Some plants will need to be protected against the animals themselves. Think about the light, humidity and temperature as well as protection from inclement weather, including winds, sun, rain, snow, ice, etc. Burrowing or digging animals may need to have sand over wire or concrete. Be sure to consider proper drainage and sloping of the enc! losu re. Tops will have to be included on many climbing or jumping species as well as to protect the animal from outside predators. Some barriers will have to be buried or set in concrete to prevent digging out or animals from digging into the enclosure.

Disease and Parasite Prevention
"This is not meant to be a substitute for proper veterinary care. Always consult and confer with your veterinarian before administering any mediation or medical treatment."

Beware of putting new animals with your current stock. You can lose a breeding colony in a heartbeat because a new introduction has presented a health risk. Quarantine any new arrivals in a completely separate area. That is what quarantine means. Ask your vet to set up a program for you that you can follow in the future. Most vets are more than happy to do this to reduce future problems.

Spray for fleas and ticks when appropriate and de-worm the animals. Be sure you know the proper parasiticide to use because some animals are so sensitive to certain chemicals they may become very ill or die.

Weigh each animal on an appropriate size scale and maintain a chart for it, weighing it often if feasible for that species. Most animals may be weighed by putting them in a container that has been weighed empty and calibrating the difference. This reduces stress on the animal by less handling. It is hard to get an animal to 'stand still' on a scale.

To get them into shape for breeding, feed high quality food and add electrolytes with vitamins and/or minerals to their water the if appropriate.

Be sure your food is wholesome, not contaminated by mold, mildew or vermin. Keep wild rodents and roaches away. They often carry fleas (which are vectors for tapeworms), or diseases. Some rodents, themselves are vectors for certain tapeworms.

Exotic mammals are susceptible to various viral, bacterial and fungal diseases. Your vet can do certain tests to determine what the underlying problem is if your animal gets sick. Know the proper medication or antibiotic by conferring with your veterinarian. Certain antibiotics can kill some animals and others will do no good at all. Your vet may do culture and sensitivity tests, fecal flotations, skin scrapings and other functions that may provide a clue to your animal's health problem.

Check your animal(s) daily as you feed them. Check to see if their stools are of proper color, consistency and well-formed for that species. "Loose" may be normal for certain species and "formed" may be abnormal for others. Be sure no fecal matter is caked around their anus. See if the eyes are bright or sunken. Weigh weekly, monthly or as often as possible, to see if they are maintaining their correct weight, gaining or losing. If you cannot weigh without undue stress, get an educated eye-ball guess on the animal and keep notes! If they are losing weight, you have a problem or the animal may even be overweight and need a diet to stay healthy and remain reproductively active.

Necropsy any animal that does not die as a result of trauma. Have culture and sensitivity tests done by your vet for respiratory and gastrointestinal sicknesses. Do not guess when using an antibiotic. Most antibiotics are specific for certain diseases. You may be giving one that does not have an effect on the disease you are trying to control and will be wasting valuable time. Also excessive antibiotics can cause destruction of natural flora in the digestive system that normally aid in the animal's food digestion and absorption. Some animals are so sensitive to certain antibiotics that the administration of certain ones will kill the animal. Some animals can take an antibiotic by one method of administration without harm, but another method will be detrimental to it.

Some major factors that will determine the health and longevity of your animals are:

  • Genetics: Select breeding animals that are free of genetic defects and in the best of health. Be prepared to cull and/or neuter all offspring that do not have the properties to produce sound offspring. Don't just get a mate for your animal. Get a mate that will enhance its genetic material and help to ensure more viable, healthy, genetically correct offspring.
  • Parasites: A sound program to determine infestation of external or internal parasites is critical. Animals from tropical climates have a higher incidence upon importation, of carrying parasites. Many parasites cause considerable damage to the host by migrating through body tissues and injuring vital organs. Some internal parasites can be determined by a fecal flotation test. Use the proper drug to treat specific parasite infestations. Several good ones are Ivomecr, Strongid-Tr and Piperziner but they may not be safe for certain species or effective for the type of parasites you are treating. There is a specific method of administration for each species. Some chemicals and medications for parasite control can be harmful to certain species. An anthelmintic such as IvomecO, for example, is administered only orally in horses, while in cattle and sheep it is administered by injection or a pour-on solution. It has been reported not to be safe in particular breeds of dogs in the collie family in certain doses.

    "This is not meant to be a substitute for proper veterinary care. Always consult and confer with your veterinarian before administering any mediation or medical treatment."

  • Infectious Diseases: Some of these diseases can be controlled by immunizations and vaccinations. Some diseases are geographical and affected by weather, other animals and vectors of the diseases. Most often they can be treated with the proper antibiotics.
  • Nutrition: Feed the proper type of food, in the proper amount to each species of animal. Use high quality food, refrigerated as necessary. Non-refrigerated foods should be kept in rodent and insect-free containers. Several diets are included for many of the species in this text so the owner can fit the diet both to the animal and availability. Remember, in some instances, variety is necessary, while in others, uniform daily diets are the norm. Use common sense. Beware of improper antibiotics - that can KILL!: Certain animals, especially marsupials, have zero tolerance for some antibiotics. Be sure to get your veterinarian's advice before administering any antibiotic.
  • Protection from Toxins: Be certain that cages are made from non-toxic wire and wood, and only non-toxic paint is used in their areas or cages. Watch insecticides, fertilizers, herbicides and rat poisons. If you include branches and tree limbs, check out that species toxicity before including in your animal's environment.
  • Sanitation: The animal's enclosure should be of a design that is safe for it and the caretaker and one that can be easily cleaned. Dangerous species should have a holding area if it is necessary for the 'keeper' to enter the enclosure to clean it. Debris and manure must be removed at least daily. The animal should have a way to get out of the path of cleaning water and solutions when the area is being washed and disinfected. A perch, tree branches and a flat house top are good areas for this. Insect and rodent control should be a concern. Each area should be disinfected regularly. Uneaten food should be removed after a short time, to lessen spoilage and keep down flies. Fresh, clean water should be available at all times. Feed and water containers should be disinfected on a regular basis.

  • Escape Proofing Your Enclosures
    If you are to be a responsible owner of any animal, it is imperative that you have the dedication to see that the enclosures are appropriate for the type of animal you are housing. Several factors should be considered:
  • Can the animal climb?
  • Can the animal dig out?
  • Can predatory animals dig in?
  • Are predatory birds a factor?
  • Are there any openings through which the animal could squeeze or reach?
  • Is the animal capable of pushing or chewing its way out?
  • Providing a Suitable Environment
    Be sure you have the enclosure carefully planned and constructed before you bring the animal to its new home. You must make the area safe and pleasant for the animal, because after all, that will be its home.
    There are several items to consider when planning the area:
  • What is the temperament of the animal?
  • Will it need seclusion and/or a quiet area?
  • Does it need a nest box? Trees or branches? Rocks? Dirt to dig in?
  • Will the area be pleasing to and safe for the animal and conducive to breeding and rearing of young if that is your goal?
  • Are there any animals nearby that would prey upon it in the wild, or visa versa?
  • Is there plenty of shade and access for sun-bathing if that is what the animal likes?
  • Is there shelter from wind, rain and inclement weather?
  • Are there free-roaming dogs, cats or wild animals that can disturb them or transmit diseases?
  • Is there access to bathing/swimming water, such as for capybara, if that is what the animal needs?
  • Are there animals of its own species nearby that could disturb/inhibit it?
  • Animal Identification
    Each animal should be marked with an identifying mark, tag or other means. Some methods are temporary and others are permanent. Animals in groups may need a visual marker such as a colored tag or collar.

    Temporary methods of identification are, leg or neck bands, leg or ear tags, paint, collars, and hair clipping.

    Permanent methods include brands (hot or cold), tattoos, ear notching, and microchips.

    Blood-typing is another method of identifying but the animal still needs an external ID.

    General Health Information

    Health Considerations
    "This is not meant to be a substitute for proper veterinary care. Always consult and confer with your veterinarian before administering any mediation or medical treatment."

    As I said earlier, I cannot give veterinarian advice on what to do with your animals. But in some instances I will tell you what I do with my animals. There are many things you can safely treat yourself, but first I strongly suggest that you develop a rapport with your veterinarian and seek his/her advice whenever you have a health problem with your animals. Veterinarians are specialists in diagnosing problems and they may see something that you have overlooked that will help in determining the solution to your problem. If you have a large volume of animals and are some distance from your vet, ask him to make a small kit for you of the most appropriate medications, etc. so that you will have them for an emergency. See later in this text for a kit of this type.

    Whenever you lose an animal, consider having your veterinarian perform a necropsy on the animal to determine the cause of death. If you have any problems with diarrhea, feces with a strange color or odor, females dying prior to giving birth, respiratory afflictions, etc. to name a few, ask your vet to do culture and sensitivity tests to determine what organism your animal may have been harboring. This test is inexpensive insurance against a problem with the rest of your herd. Keep a notebook of the symptoms and the final diagnosis and treatment so you can refer to it if you have a recurring problem.

    "This is not meant to be a substitute for proper veterinary care. Always consult and confer with your veterinarian before administering any mediation or medical treatment."

    Of course, prevention is the key to healthy animals. Keep the humidity down to about 40% for most animals. See, however, that some rainforest animals need much higher humidity. Remember that with many animals breathing and urinating, the humidity can a reach a very high level in a closed building. High humidity is a good breeding ground at 70-80 degrees for a multitude of organisms that can cause problems in your animals. Proper ventilation and air exchange is a must, especially in a closed environment. Good sanitation practices will also help keep your animals healthy.

    Look at each animal every day. When its habits or demeanor change, be suspicious that there may be a problem. Is it listless, lethargic, depressed? Has its bowel movement changed? Has its appetite diminished? Is its fur laying properly or is it separated. Has it lost any hair? Are its eyes clear and bright? Are its eyes less open than usual? Use any changes as a red flag to pinpoint the reason for the change. If you have seen the problem before and know how to treat it, do so with caution because there are many symptoms that are similar for different diseases or disorders. Remember that there are self-proclaimed experts who see their animals perish because of the misdiagnosis and improper treatment of a sick animal. And last but not least, there are some diseases that are directly transmissible to humans from animals.

    Internal: Small exotics can be plagued by a variety of internal parasites such as round worms, hookworms, flukes and tapeworms to name a few. Once your animals have been treated and are parasite-free, there is less danger of internal parasite infestation if you maintain a closed colony unless your animals come in contact with wild rodents. You should be sure that new animals coming in are quarantined and de-parasitized first. I have used several de-wormers on my small exotics depending on the animal species and the parasite being treated. You must be careful to use the proper wormer for the parasite being treated and the species involved. I do not know of any de-wormers that are specifically labeled for small exotics, for example: Ivomecr Pour-on insecticide (this medicine is indicated only for cattle at this time) is often used as a de-wormer and de-miticide. It is not effective on all types of internal parasites. To measure tiny doses, it may be necessary to use an insulin syringe and apply it directly to the skin on the back of the a! nima l. Strongid-T (pyrantel pamoate) also called Nemex is used also and is a yellow oral liquid. Piperzine is a de-wormer that is used which is added to drinking water. There are various strengths of this product so you will have to consult the directions and your vet. Panacur (fenbendazole) is another de-wormer that works well. Not all de-wormers treat all worms. Ask your vet what he thinks will be best, and have him figure the dose. Believe me, this can be very tricky and you could overdose your animal. De-wormers are poison and can kill in the wrong dose. Marsupials, for example, are touchy about the type or anthelmentic used and method of administration.
    "This is not meant to be a substitute for proper veterinary care. Always consult and confer with your veterinarian before administering any mediation or medical treatment."
    You must know the proper medicine, dose and method of administration.

    External: The three most common external parasites of small mammals are fleas, ticks and mites. You must know the sensitivities of the animal you are treating. Most animals in the cat family are extremely sensitive to some topical treatments Fleas and ticks could be treated with Adam's Flea Mist or Sevin Dust mixed in their shavings if they have bedding. Sevin Dust mixed with garden, and I stress garden (not swimming pool) diatomaceous earth, is a very good insect retardant. I also treat the room with Dursbanr spray. The animals should not come in contact with the wet Dursban. Fleas can be a vector for tapeworms as can be wild rodents, so be sure to keep your animals flea-free and your room rodent-free. Mites can cause skin irritation and flaking and scaling. They often generalize around the face or in the ears. If the animal is not sensitive to IvomecO it might be one to choose for mites. Some breeders treat for mites and certain internal parasites with Ivomec Pour-on insecticide. Fenthion is often used as topical treatment ! for fleas and ticks and is marketed under the names of ProSpot and Spotton. It is put between the shoulder blades, topically, and lasts about two weeks. This chemical can be very dangerous if used in combination with other flea sprays, flea collars, etc. even if you are only spraying the enclosure. In the wrong combination it will cause death!
    "This is not meant to be a substitute for proper veterinary care. Always consult and confer with your veterinarian before administering any mediation or medical treatment."

    Fungal problems
    Some small mammals can easily get ringworm if the humidity is high or there are domestic cats with the problem that can come in contact with them, their bedding or you. Check with your vet for an anti-fungicide. If you are to dust the animal, be careful to wear surgical gloves with systemic products and also add it to the bedding in a small amount. Do not get in yours or the animal's eyes. This has always cleared up with treatment within a short time. In a pinch, we have used Tinactinr or Cruexr on fungal problems.

    Your animals can get a localized or generalized infection that manifests in a dermatitis. This can be caused by irritation to the skin by fleas, mites, poor sanitation, injury or fungal or bacterial infection. Crusting, scaling, and/or pustules form with or without loss of hair or quills. This is a good time to see your veterinarian who can do a skin scraping and get to the root of your problem. It is vital to know what the cause is before you can treat it. For example, you might treat for mites, but the animal has an infection in skin lesions created by the mites. Both the mite must be killed/removed and the infection cleared up. This needs both an anti-parasiticide and an antibiotic. Topical treatments may not be effective because they could be licked off by the animal. Systemic treatments depending on the cause are the most effective.

    Respiratory problems

    These problems are best diagnosed by your veterinarian who can do a culture and sensitivity test on a swab taken from the animals nostrils or throat. This test will identify the organism that has been plaguing the animal and what antibiotic should be used to treat it. This test takes from 48-72 hours. In the meantime, your veterinarian can prescribe an antibiotic based on past experiences he thinks might work best.

    Diarrhea is a symptom and not a disease. It can have many causes from a parasitic infestation to a bacterial enteritis. Sometimes, the animal could have both - an infection in the intestinal tract caused by lesions from parasites. So you must get to the root of the problem. If I know the animal is reasonably parasite-free (by previous de-worming or fecal flotation), your vet might treat with Spectoguard for the bacterial enteritis until he can get the results back from a culture and sensitivity test. Amoxicillin is a very broad spectrum antibiotic that is often used to treat small mammals if your vet prescribes it. It comes in several forms, including a very palatable cherry flavored liquid. It can be very helpful in certain infections of the following: respiratory, geno-urinary, gastro-intestinal and certain dermatological problems. It seems very tough against certain strains of streptococcus and staphylococcus that cause these problems. If the bacterial infecti! on i s caused by another agent, your culture and sensitivity test will indicate the antibiotic that will help.

    Try not to be the kind of person who just grabs 'something' to use as a medication, figuring, if it worked once, and it will probably work again. You may see your animals die and your money go down the drain.

    "This is not meant to be a substitute for proper veterinary care. Always consult and confer with your veterinarian before administering any mediation or medical treatment."


    R-Zu-2-U Home

    R-Zu-2-U FAQs

    R-Zu-2-U Animal "Terms"

    Treasure Ranch Home