2001-Tue Jan 24 02:11:13 EST 2017
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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. So far
we’ve covered parrots, hedgehogs, rabbits and rats.
What’s No. 5 on my list of obesity-prone pets? Turtles!
When turtles want to hide, they pull their heads and limbs
into their shells and look effectively like paperweights. Yet overweight
turtles may get locked out of their shell homes. This is because their legs and
necks have so much fat on them that they get stuck outside.
If you’re not sure whether you’ve even seen a fat turtle,
it’s likely you haven’t. When you see one, you won’t forget it. It looks like a typical turtle but with an upper shell (the carapace) and a lower shell (the
plastron) that look like they are a few sizes too small. Fat bulges out from
their armpits and in front of their back legs. Sometimes their necks are so fat
that they can’t pull their heads back into their shells. Excessively obese turtles may not even be able to bear
weight on their legs on land and sit beached, like paperweights, until they are
back in the water and buoyant. Even in water, their mobility is limited.
Turtles typically become fat living in small tanks with little room to swim and
by consuming excessive amounts of high-starch pellets that float at the top of
their tanks until they have eaten them all.
Turtle owners can help prevent
obesity by giving their pets lots of both vertical and horizontal space in
which to swim and dive and by offering them limited quantities of high-quality
pellets with some vegetables. Turtles have a high requirement for vitamin A in
their diets, so feeding them shredded vitamin A-enriched foods, such as
carrots, peppers and sweet potatoes, is a great way to encourage weight loss
while providing good nutrition. Turtles also can be prompted to exercise by
feeding them live fish, such as goldfish and guppies, which they have to catch
to consume. They will enjoy the hunt and relish the food reward. Just remember
to consult with your veterinarian first before starting any diet or exercise
program with your turtle to make sure you know how to help your pet lose weight
Just like people, pets love food, and just as in people, too
much food can lead to obesity and associated health issues, even for exotic pets.
Our animal friends should enjoy their meals as we do, but we need to feed them
as we should feed ourselves: everything in moderation. If we live by this rule,
our exotic pets should enjoy a happier and healthier New Year!
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