Belinda Says Hay: “Thanksgiving Drama”


Hello. It’s Belinda.

Thanksgiving is five days away and there’s too much going on.

For one thing, this is my first time working in retail during the holidays. All I hear is Black Friday this and Cyber Monday that and “Where’s the sleigh prop?”

It would help if someone would explain this whole Black Friday business. First of all, which Friday? Will it be dark all day or for just a few minutes?

Sounds like the eclipse back in August, which I heard about nonstop. But this has something to do with big sales on hay and snacks, not with the sun snuffing out.

And that’s just the half of it. It’s been like this for weeks, everyone running around, trying to get things ready. Taking photos day and night, asking me to “look merry” and pose with bows and little plates of herbs. I just want to relax and enjoy the holidays.

But that isn’t on the menu because get this: I have to host Thanksgiving.

Not my idea. My roommate breezed past me a few days ago and said, “Well, Belinda, are you all ready for the big day?”

Then she left the room. Didn’t explain anything but it can only mean one thing.

Now that I’m the main provider I’m expected to step up and do my part.

Not sure what the roommate is bringing in salary-wise and that’s none of my business. But this house is full of hay, pellets, healthy snackers, herbal blends, chew toys, supplies and even a few necklaces for humans that were shipped and delivered to “Belinda, Spokesrabbit.”

My roommate might hide the boxes from me. But at the end of the day, I’m the one bringing home the hay, if you know what I mean.

I don’t even know who’s coming, meaning rabbits. Could be just the four of us—me, my boyfriend, his companion and the English rabbit, who is welcome to enjoy his meal alone on the top floor.

Or maybe the rabbits from the shelter will be put on a shuttle. I don’t mind sharing my stash but now I’m supposed to create an entire holiday menu and worry about allergies and special diets.

As far as I’m concerned, we can eat “family style.” Throw a few types of hay on the table, add romaine, bok choy and such, top off with some side plates of herbs and you’re done. It doesn’t have to be fancy.

I’m happy to share because, after all, I started at the shelter and I’m grateful for my home and my career. That’s the true meaning of Thanksgiving, not all this extra fussing.

That’s the problem with a holiday. It starts out seeming like a good idea and then it gets out of hand.

Good thing there’s nothing going on the next day.

Sincerely,

Belinda

Spokesrabbit, Small Pet Select

Pet Insurance: The Reality and the Myths (Part I)

Life has a funny way of just pulling the proverbial rug from under our feet, doesn’t it? We’re going along doing great – maybe even paying down our debt a bit – and feeling as though we’re really getting ahead.

BOOM!

You feel a lump in your rabbit’s back. Her nose or eyes are running. Or, she’s exhibiting any number of symptoms that scream: Get to the vet NOW!

Her life depends on it.

You already have a rabbit-savvy veterinarian. (If not, click here to learn how to find one as soon as you finish reading this article.) But, are you financially prepared for that unexpected illness or injury that could put a huge dent in your bank account? Or, will you have to decide between getting your rabbit or small animal the care she needs and having her euthanized because you simply cannot afford the treatment?

A somber reality

Every year an estimated four million dogs and cats are euthanized (that doesn’t even take into account all the exotic animals, including rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and ferrets) in shelters across the United States. While there are no official statistics as to how many of those deaths are a result of the inability to afford veterinary costs, vets at a clinic in Virginia  estimated that two-thirds of euthanasia cases at their facility were “economic euthanasia” in which the pet parent simply couldn’t afford the necessary treatment to care for their pet. 

You can avoid economic euthanasia with advanced preparation. Pet insurance can help you defer expensive veterinary costs over the course of your small animal's life. That’s the good news. The bad news is a lot of people don’t really understand how pet insurance works. Let’s take a look at what it is, how it works, and whether purchasing a pet insurance policy for your little one is right for you in part one of this two-part series.

How does pet insurance work?

Pet insurance is not an investment. That’s the most important thing to remember when you’re considering it. Pet insurance is not an investment. Rather, it’s a risk management tool. You are paying a premium each month for pet insurance in case your pet gets sick or injured. If your small animal goes her entire life without ever getting sick or injured, you won’t get the money that you paid for the pet insurance back.

“It's not a savings account for your pet. It is a risk management tool. That means if you have your rabbit 10 years and you’re paying $40 a month and he never gets sick, you did not lose that investment. You don't hope for him to get cancer,” Mary Cvetan, an insurance expert and founder of the Pittsburgh House Rabbit Club, says.

When do I buy pet insurance?

Now.

 “You don't go and get pet insurance when you already know your animal is sick,” Cvetan says. “You have to get it before the animal's ill.”

What happens if you wait until your rabbit, guinea pig, ferret, or chinchilla is sick? Chances are the insurance company will simply refuse to cover your pet. Then, you’re on your own.

However, before purchasing pet insurance, contact your veterinarian to make sure she accepts it.

Why not just start a savings account?

That’s certainly an option but it is a wise one? You may squirrel away $40 a month or whatever equals the insurance premium for your pet. But, what happens if your rabbit, for example, develops a costly illness? What if she has to be hospitalized? Will you have enough money saved to cover her care?

“Pet health insurance protects you against allowing your rabbit to suffer or from having to say let's have the rabbit die because I cannot afford the treatment,” Cvetan says.

Keep in mind that as veterinary care advances so does the cost of that care. 

What about Care Credit?

Many veterinarian practices accept Care Credit. Care Credit works as a healthcare credit card where, if you’re approved, you’ll receive a limit to how much you can spend. Then you’ll be required to pay it back with interest.

Even if you decide to purchase pet health insurance, Care Credit may be a good backup. However, be sure you do your research first and apply before you need it. The last thing you want is to be in an emergency room with a critically ill rabbit, guinea pig, ferret, or chinchilla, worrying if you’re going to be approved for Care Credit or how you’re going to pay for the emergency care.

Click here to learn more about Care Credit

Nationwide Pet Insurance

 Nationwide is currently the only company in the United States to ensure exotic animals, including rabbits, chinchillas, guinea pigs, ferrets, and a host of other exotics. Because exotics are not covered as widely as dogs and cats, exotic pet parents must call Nationwide for a personalized quote.

We'll discuss how Nationwide's exotic pet insurance works in part two.

Is pet insurance for you?

Is pet insurance right for you and your furry family? That’s a personal decision. Regardless of what decision you make, remember that pet insurance is not an investment. You don’t ever want to have to use it but, if your little one gets injured or sick, you know it’s there to help cover her care.

Remember, “pet health insurance can save people an awful lot of pain and can save the animal,” Cvetan says.

Coming up 

In part two, we’ll look at the details of pet insurance, including how to sign up, what it usually covers, monthly cost, whether deductibles come into play, etc. Look out for part two in December!

Home for the Holidays: Why New Pets and the Holidays Don’t Mix

Jingle bells. Jingle bells. Jingle all the…Does the thought of the holiday season make your heart skip a beat in happy anticipation or does it strike a fearful dread like a dagger through your heart? If you’re one of those people who starts counting down the days to Christmas at the stroke of midnight on December 26, you’re probably already well into planning this year’s celebration.

But, the holidays can be incredibly stressful for some people. Even those who love the holidays will likely admit it’s the most hectic time of the year. Now imagine adding a new pet to all that craziness.

Let’s take a look at five reasons new pets and the holidays just don’t mix.  

Time is at a premium.

We’re all busy all the time, right? But, that busyness leaps to a whole new level when the holidays roll around. Now, imagine adding a new pet to the mix. With time already at a premium, when will you have time to bond with her and help her transition to her new home? When will you have time to bunny proof? To give her the calm and quiet she needs to acclimate to her new home?

Oh, holiday stress. Oh, holiday stress.

Put yourself in your prospective new family member’s fur. You lost your home who knows how long ago, found yourself in a shelter or a rescue around strange animals and people, finally got comfortable, and now you’re in a new place again. Sure, you have a comfy space, plenty of toys, and everything you need. But, it’s so loud, so busy, that all you want to do is hide in your box because you’re scared.

Impulse decisions often don't work out.

Oh, those cute little faces at the animal shelter. Who can resist them any time of the year, but especially around the holiday season? A new pet would just be the proverbial red bow on the perfect Christmas present, right?

Unfortunately, many people who bring a new pet home for the holidays do so in the excitement of the moment. An impulse decision can lead to panic after the holiday ends and reality sets in. That means shelters and rescues will see an influx in new homeless animals after the holidays.

Many rescues will not adopt animals out during the holiday season for that very reason. If you know someone who really wants a new pet, suggest contacting a shelter or a rescue after the holidays.  

Pets are family members.

How many times do we see TV, print, and online ads touting pets as the perfect holiday gift? Probably a whole lot more than we can remember, right? Think about that message. Giving a pet as a gift frames, whether it’s meant to or not, that animal as a possession rather than a treasured member of the family. And, people don’t think twice about “getting rid” of possessions, like they would with a family member, do they?

Reality bites (well, sometimes).

Advertisements paint bringing a new pet home as the perfect experience. But, the fact is, adopting a new pet is a big adjustment not just for the little furry one but for the entire family. It’s going to take time to get used to the adjustment, something you won’t have time for in the middle of the frantic holiday season.

Bringing a new pet home is so exciting, challenging, and life changing - for the better. These are just a few reasons that adopting a new pet during the holidays isn't a good idea. What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments! 

Happy Holidays! 

Boredom Busters: Keeping Your Chinchilla Mentally & Physically Stimulated

Do you remember the last time you were bored, so bored you considered doing something drastic – like deep cleaning or exercising? We’re not the only ones whose minds wander when we get bored. Chinchillas, stuck in their cage without anything to keep them occupied, are the same way.

We want our chinchillas to be happy and healthy, right? Well, one of the best ways we can ensure our chin’s happiness is to provide her with plenty of time to run around, to spend with us, and toys to keep her mind and her body moving.

Play time!

Chinchillas have tons of energy. But, you already know that, right? Give your chin plenty of play time – outside of her cage – that will allow her to exercise, explore, and spend time with you. Ideally, a chin will have at least four hours outside of her cage each day. You’ve got two options for play time: A pen and free run in a chin-proofed room. Either way, you’ll want to supervise your little one whenever she’s out.

Pen

An exercise pen will allow you to confine your chin to a fairly large space. Since chins can jump pretty high, consider opting for a pen cover so she can’t jump out of the pen. Pens come in a variety of heights so your best bet might just be to buy the highest you can.

Free run

Allow your chin total freedom – under supervision, of course – in a thoroughly chin-proofed room. Free run also gives you and your furry little one the opportunity to bond.

Choose a room then get to work chin-proofing that room. The last thing you want is for your chin to chew on your lamp or smartphone cords (dangerous for her).

Whether you opt for a pen or free run, make sure your chin has plenty of toys inside and outside of her cage. (Don’t just take her toys from her cage and put them in her play area or pen. Mix it up.) Let’s turn the topic to popular toys for chinchillas.

What about the rest of the time?

Play time’s probably the highlight of your chin’s day, right? Kind of like when we were kids and recess was the absolutely best part of every school day. But, even if your chin is out for four hours or more, that leaves a whole lot of hours for her to occupy in her cage.

Keep her mentally and physically stimulated by providing her with plenty of fun toys. Let’s take a quick look at some popular toys for chins:

Popular Toys

  • Chew toys. Chins naturally chew. If your chin doesn’t have safe things to chew, she’s going to start eyeing things she shouldn’t chew – like baseboards – when she’s having playtime. Find safe chew toys, such as a wooden play table ), a mobile, or a willow toy.

    A word of caution: Always make sure the toys your purchase are not made with pesticides or chemicals that can harm your chin.
  • Hiding box. Give your chin several cardboard boxes in her cage (and her play area). She can curl up inside the box when she wants to take a nap. And, she can chew on the cardboard when the fancy strikes. (Don’t forget – chewing the right things is good for your chin’s dental health and will help fight against malocclusion.)
  • Exercise wheel. Ever notice your chin get a sudden burst of energy? Perfect time for her to jump into her exercise wheel and start running. Take care, however, when choosing what type of exercise wheel to put in her cage. Avoid using any wheel that has spokes or a horizontal bar, both of which can cause injuries if your chin’s legs get caught.   
  • Television/radio. Yep. You read right. Many chin parents swear by leaving the TV or radio on for their little ones. Leave the television or radio on a low volume to keep your chin company any time of the day or the night.

There you have it! Just like us, chinchillas need plenty to keep them mentally and physically stimulated. Your chin will certainly reward you with popcorning in delight when she’s got plenty to keep her happy.

Rabbits & Fly Strike: What You Need to Know To Keep Your Rabbit Safe

Flies can be pesky little creatures, especially when they slip in the house through an open window or a door. But, for our rabbits, those pesky creatures can quickly turn deadly. Fly strike, unfortunately, is a common problem among rabbits, especially those who are disabled or compromised health-wise in some way.

Fly strike occurs when a fly or another insect – like a maggot – lays eggs in a rabbit’s fur.  Get your rabbit to a rabbit-savvy veterinarian immediately if you suspect fly strike. Your rabbit’s life depends on it.

What causes fly strike?

With the craziness of the weather, fly strike is something we should be aware of at all times, although it is predominant during the warm months when the flies are out and about. Even though your rabbit lives indoors, you’ll still want to be vigilant and understanding of fly strike, especially if you like to take your rabbit outside for fresh air from time to time.

Disabled, overweight, and elderly rabbits all face an increased risk of fly strike because they’re unable to keep their bottoms clean. That means you have to be extra vigilant, making sure your rabbit’s bottom is clean and dry at all times. If you give your rabbit bum baths because of poopy butt, for example, dry her bottom thoroughly. A damp or a wet bum provides fertile ground for flies to lay their eggs.

If your rabbit has an open wound, has limited mobility, or cannot eat her cecotrophes, she is also more susceptible to fly strike. Click here to read a technical discussion about fly strike in rabbits.

WARNING: Signs of Fly Strike

Know your rabbit. That should probably be the mantra for all rabbit parents, wouldn’t you say? When we know our rabbit’s personality, eating habits, and so on, we can pick up on a problem so much faster.

Lethargy is a common sign of fly strike. If your rabbit appears lethargic, she could be suffering from a range of health problems, including fly strike. Get her to a rabbit-savvy veterinarian immediately

Your rabbit may also show signs that she’s uncomfortable or in pain, both signaling that something is wrong.

Preventing Fly Strike

You can be the absolute perfect rabbit parent. Your rabbit lives indoors in an impeccably clean house with a litterbox that’s changed daily (or more often). Yet, your rabbit could still suffer from fly strike from that one stray fly that slips into your house. The best we can do is to take actions to prevent fly strike and, if it happens, immediately get our rabbit to a vet.

Here are some ways to combat fly strike:

  • Always keep your rabbit indoors. Rabbits should live inside anyway but limit the outdoor play time to safe areas like a covered tent or a stroller.

  • Groom your rabbit frequently. When you do, be on the lookout for tiny white eggs of flies or anything that just doesn’t look right. If you notice eggs or anything unusual, consult your rabbit-savvy vet immediately.

  • Change litter boxes frequently. Soiled litter will attract flies.

  • If you give your rabbit butt baths, make sure she is completely dry before putting her back on the floor.

Treatment of Fly Strike

Approach fly strike like the emergency that it is. Your rabbit could go into shock and could die in a very short period of time. 

Treatment for the burrowed eggs typically requires you (or the vet) to remove each of the eggs with tweezers or a similar instrument. Even if you remove the eggs yourself, take your rabbit to the vet immediately as she may require additional treatment if she's in shock or is displaying other symptoms. 

Suspect fly strike? Get your rabbit to a rabbit-savvy veterinarian immediately. In fact, when it doubt, always consult your veterinarian.