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Prarie Dogs

Prairie dogs

Warning: This animal may carry the monkey pox disease. When purchasing this animal be sure to get a clean bill of health certificate from the vet. Regular check ups are advised.

The prairie dog is a member of the rodent family. There are five species of prairie dogs with the Black-Tailed species being the most common. They are generally light brown or tan in color, weighing from one and a half to two and a half pounds with large eyes and long claws for digging and burrowing.

In the wild, prairie dogs live in colonies sometimes referred to as "towns". Within these towns, there are coteries which usually consist of a single adult male, one to four adult females, and any offspring under two years old. They breed once a year and produce a litter of 4 to 6 pups.

Over the past few years prairie dogs have become more popular as pets. But, before you run out and get one of these cute little critters, please do a little homework first. Listed below is only a summary and further research is advised as their diet and care will have a major impact on their comfort and longevity.

In the wild, they live on low-grade grasses and an occasional insect. In captivity, the adult prairie dog's diet should consist mainly of Hay (no Alfalfa) and fresh water. An occasional treat (once a week) may be given. A few recommend treats are, sweet potato, broccoli, carrot, or other vegetable. No corn though as it may cause health problems later on. Unfertilized, chemical-free grass may be given free choice and is enjoyed greatly. Since they require a low-fat and low-protein diet, do not feed them nuts or seeds (very high in fat). Do not feed them monkey biscuits or lab blocks (they are high in fat and may contain corn). Dairy products and chocolate are not recommended either.

There are many considerations to take into account before acquiring a prairie dog such as:

Commitment - Prairie dogs are social animals. They cannot be caged without social interaction from you. Consider a 8 to 12 year commitment.

Time - Having the time to supervise them when let out of the cage is very important as they must be let out frequently (preferably every day). They are gnawers and burrowers and will chew your couch, carpet, doors among other things so supervision is a must.

Patience - Most are captured wild and you must have patience for taming them and then, they may still bite during their rut season (it's their nature and you won't change it) so be prepared.

Money - Although they are pretty sturdy, are you willing to pay vet fees if necessary, purchase a suitable cage and create a safe environment with electrical cord covers, etc...

Family Members - They normally bond to one person and will defend that person's immediate area. Over time they will usually get along with other family members but they can sometimes be unpredictable. This pet is not suitable for a child.

Other Pets - Most will get along with other family pets like dogs, cats, etc.. Must be supervised though.

Vet Care - Is your vet experienced with prairie dogs? If not, is he/she willing to learn and work with you to ensure their best care?

If you take the time to bond with your prairie dog, they will make wonderful, dedicated and loving pets. Each has their own personality and temperament that makes them unique (hence the use of the words; most, usually, and normally in the above considerations).

Note: It is advised to always check with a licensed veterinarian experienced with prairie dogs as to specific care information and for updates to their recommended diet as we are still leaning more about them.

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