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Which species of exotic pets tend to pack on the pounds?
This week, we’re looking at the top five species I treat for obesity.
No. 4 on my list of obesity-prone pets are rats!
Rats are known for their ability to squeeze through small
spaces and get into everything. It’s amazing the narrow cracks and crevices that lithe little rats manage to
get through. Yet, many pet rats sadly can’t accomplish this trick, because they
It’s no surprise that rats eat everything that’s not nailed
down. Bread, crackers, chips, meat, vegetables and sweets — no intelligent rat
turns down any of these yummy treats. That’s why wild rats tend to congregate
around dumpsters and trash bins nibbling on anything they can get their little
paws on. Pet rats are no different. Most pet rats will eat anything their
owners offer them, and since they are omnivores, consuming both meat and
vegetable matter, owners tend to offer them a little bit of everything. The problem is that a little bit of everything can
eventually add up to a lot of weight gain, particularly in pet rats confined to
cages for many hours a day who have nothing better to do than nosh. Fat rats
can develop many of the same cardiac and musculoskeletal problems that other
obese animals and people can develop but are particularly prone to the
formation of lipomas, which are fat deposits under the skin that can actually become
as large as the rats and can interfere with walking and moving due to their size
and weight. Some lipomas become ulcerated and bleed from friction with the
ground and actually must be removed surgically.
Savvy rat owners can help
prevent obesity by feeding a limited quantity of commercially available,
nutritionally balanced rat pellets supplemented with small amounts of
vegetables and fruit, and also by having rats work for some of their food. Rats
are incredibly smart and love to run through mazes and solve puzzles. Food
offered in the form of a reward at the end of a maze or at the top of a
multilevel cage encourages rats to get exercise to obtain their meals and can
help limit weight gain in predominantly sedentary rodents. Plus, most rats
really enjoy the mental stimulation of having to hunt and search for food. Small
rodents like rats have very high metabolisms, so getting them to burn calories
through exercise is a great way to encourage weight loss. Just remember to
consult with your veterinarian before starting any diet or exercise program
with your rat to make sure you know how to help your pet lose weight safely.
Tomorrow: tubby turtles!
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