Raisins any­one?

The Tribune (NZ) - - YOUR BODY -

It is so ben­e­fi­cial for a child to look af­ter a pet. And it doesn’t have to be a cat or a dog. The whole spec­trum of emo­tions and life’s lessons can be felt when they love another liv­ing thing. It is such a great thing for us at the hos­pi­tal to see that look of ap­pre­hen­sion turn to smiles when we show them that we are help­ing their best friend and get them in­volved by us­ing the stetho­scope or the light to look in their ears. Of­ten there is a bit of a bar­rier to wear down (Mum and Dad) in or­der to get that much-wanted pet, pri­mar­ily be­cause Mum and Dad are go­ing to be do­ing most of the look­ing af­ter, and in the case of cats and dogs, may in­herit them when boys or girls be­come more in­ter­est­ing. I was one of those in­ces­sant plead­ers that my whole life was con­sumed with want­ing a dog. I got a cou­ple of guinea pigs in­stead which were great apart from the fact that the first cou­ple es­caped through the wire mesh. Prior to these I had skinks, an ant farm and the school’s gold­fish (which had to be re­turned be­cause it wasn’t sup­posed to come home with me). But any pet is great for a child and this week we have seen some cool lit­tle char­ac­ters, par­tic­u­larly mice and guinea pigs. So let’s start with guinea pigs: These lit­tle guys are great pets and very ro­bust. Not much goes wrong with them apart from itchy skin. They live a good 5-6 years, weigh about 1kg, are able to breed at two months of age (imag­ine that!), they usu­ally pro­duce 2-4 off­spring which are born with hair and teeth all ready to go; and the length of preg­nancy is around 68 days. They are so­cial an­i­mals and ideally should live as a pair. AND, they are very af­ford­able for Mum and Dad. There are some cool hutches to buy and they will eat all your vege scraps as well as the com­mer­cial pel­lets in re­turn for a co­pi­ous sup­ply of small raisins all over the lawn. Health prob­lems: Two main ones! They are very sus­cep­ti­ble to an an­noy­ing lit­tle mite that makes them scratch un­til they bleed. The rule is: “If itchy – treat for mites”. And the treat­ment is sim­ple via a se­ries of not very costly anti-mite in­jec­tions or the use of a spe­cific sur­face ap­plied med­i­ca­tion. The sec­ond prob­lem is to do with their un­usual re­quire­ment for Vi­ta­min C be­cause they can’t man­u­fac­ture it. So they can get SCURVY! Not just a pi­rate dis­ease! They can de­velop lame­ness with swollen joints, di­ar­rhoea, lack of ap­petite and gen­er­ally be­come de­pressed. Most com­mer­cial pel­let foods for these guys are sup­ple­mented with Vi­ta­min C. You can also ei­ther add it via their wa­ter with a health food sup­ple­ment or use plenty of veg­eta­bles that con­tain vi­ta­min C such as toma­toes, broc­coli, spinach and kiwi fruit. Other less com­mon dis­eases in­clude ab­scesses around the neck and painful and swollen feet es­pe­cially when housed in damp con­di­tions or on wire net­ting. In the win­ter or when frosts are likely, it is im­por­tant (like any out­side pet) to pro­vide shel­ter and ex­tra warmth. A thick sack over the hutch is ideal. I used to be able to stand the sack up in the morn­ings be­cause it was frozen solid from the heavy frost in In­ver­cargill, but the guinea pigs were nice and cosy in­side. They are a great pet, very easy to han­dle and a lot less scram­bly and scratchy than some of the smaller rab­bit breeds.

Mice are a whole topic in them­selves and I think they are great. Peo­ple’s ini­tial re­ac­tion is gen­er­ally one of al­most dis­gust but they re­ally are awe­some for kids. They can hold them and watch them and they love their lit­tle feet and noses. You should see the awe­some flu­oro plas­tic houses and ac­ces­sories you can get for them. One tip though: try to get fe­male mice, they don’t smell at all whereas the boys have a very strong scent. I’ll tell you some more facts about these guys another time. Have fun and check out the smile on the chil­dren’s faces. We all need to smile ev­ery day. Have an awe­some week from the crazy An­der­sons crew.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.