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The Afternoon ShowRTÉ One, Weekdays, 4.00pm

'The Afternoon Show Vet Surgery' With Vet Stephen

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Our vet Stephen Cahalan is here to look at 3 exotic animals that are kept as pets in Ireland.. A Bearded Dragon, Stick Insect & Tortoise.

Vet Stephen Cahalan:
Stephen is originally from county Tipperary and qualified from UCD in 2005. Stephen worked in a mixed practice in Drogheda for a year where he developed a keen interest in small animal internal medicine. In 2006, he worked at the University of Sydney, for six months, where he was exposed to the treatment of an array of exotic pets. He has fostered this interest and with Jim Walsh is the practices exotic pet vet. Stephen joined Ark Vetcare in May 2007 and currently lives in Dublin

Today we are looking at exotic pets. How to look after them and how to spot the signs that they are sick!

1. Bearded Dragon
2. Stick Insects

Bearded Dragon
'PUFF' the Bearded Dragon is a 2year old male. He is worth €200 and is from Reptile Haven, Temple Bar, Dublin. Baby bearded Dragons go for about €75.00.
His diet consists of 70% insects (locusts/ crickets) then once a week a furry dead mouse!

What is a bearded dragon?
A bearded dragon is from the family of reptiles and is a type of lizard They originate from Australia from semi arid and desert type condition. They live for on average 10-12 years, but it depends on quality of care.

What kind of care do they need?
A lot of care! They eat a lot when they're young and their UV light needs to be replaced around every six months which is also going to cost a bit of money. They can grow up to 2 feet in length and the cage needs to be large as they often climb in the wild you need to set up a temperature gradient in the cage and maintain it with a digital thermometer.
And are they suitable for families?
They are gentle pets, they don't bite.there is a debate whether or not they form a bond with their owners compared to dogs or rats! However they seem to enjoy human company.

What kind of illness are Bearded Dragons prone to?
1. Terminal ingestion. They get this from feeding them insects that are too large to digest and from not having the temperature in their cage high enough (they can't regulate their own temperature). the food forms an unmovable blockage in their guts and eventually leads to paralysis and death.
2. Metabolic bone disease- In layman's language this means not enough calcium in their diet and inadequate U.V. light- this leads to stunted growth , weakness and brittle bones and if untreated death.

How do you know if they are sick?
They become sluggish, stop eating

Stick Insect
Stick insects are naturally camouflaged - they blend in with their surroundings. Their colouring and even their shape look like the plants on which they live and feed.

What is a stick insect?
It's a type of insect from the order phasmotodea. The ordinal name is derived from the Greek "phasma" meaning an apparition or phantom, and refers to the resemblance of many species to sticks or leaves. Their natural camouflage can make them extremely difficult to spot. Most species are found in the tropics ie parts of india, australia, south america

How should they be looked after?
Stick insects are herbivorous, some species eating bramble, privet , ivy
they live in an atmosphere at room temperature. All stick insects moult.
They need the leaves in the vivarium to be sprayed with water every day
life span is about 12 months

They are very low maintenance, no walks needed!

Members of a division of reptiles called chelonians - this group is split into turtles, tortoises and terrapins. Lay people and biologists use the word turtle to describe all chelonians general tortoises live on land, turtles live in or very near water and terrapins live on both

Are there many breeds/types of tortoise?
There are numerous breeds - spur thighed, horsefields tortoise etc. In studio today we have a a Hermann's tortoises. They are small to medium sized tortoises 10-20cm that come from southern Europe (Italy, Greece). They are herbivorous, they can live up to and beyond a hundred years depending on how well you and your descendants look after them!

What is the ideal habitat for them?
A mixture of indoors and outdoors depending on the time of the year and where you live in Europe. In a temperate climate, the pen must be placed in a very sunny location.the pen should be predator proof!! The most important part of the pen is a tortoise house that they can use as a shelter. This should be a weatherproof box with an openable roof and an entry way for the animals, just for the tortoise and not for any other animals!!The floor should consist of soil as in the wild to enable burying and thermoregulation. They leave the house in the early morning to warm themselves and then begin to eat.They can be kept outdoors approximately from mid-March to the end of October.

The tortoise house should have a heat lamp with a thermostat control. They should get regular shallow baths and have easy access to a shllow pool of drinking wate. They eat mainly fibrous greens like alfalfa grases clover/dandelions. In the past people used to feed CAT and DOG food- this is completely wrong as this does not supply adequte dietary calcium/fibre requiremnts.

Where do you keep them at home?
They can be kept in a vivarium indoors but need to provide them with a heat lamp and UV light to replace the light of the sun. There should be a temperature gradient in the vivarium and care should be taken not to let the humidity build up as they can get respiratory disease, they are vegetarian. eat dandelions, clover and lettuce as well as the leaves, flowers, and pods of almost all legumes.In addition to leaves and flowers, the animals eat fruits as supplementary nutrition. They only eat a small amount of fruit,

Hibernation 4-5 months

During this time, the heart rate and breathing rate drop tortoises can be kept in the basement in a roomy rodent-proof box with a thick layer of dry leaves. The temperature should be around 5 degrees C The box can also be stored in a fridge. the fridge should be opened once daily to circulate stale air. During hibernation, it is vital that the ambient temperature not fall below zero. Full-grown adults may sleep 4-5 months at a time.Hibernation extends the tortoises life span, they may not be albe to hibernate if they are underweight so it's important to keep a regular weight check.
How do you know if they are sick?
They become sluggish and stop eating/defecating, drinking.