I love love LOVE Cocker Spaniels, and I think they are the most adorable looking dog ever. However, what a lot of people do not realise is they can have a few underlying medical problems, or aggression. The Breed: Originally recognised by the Kennel Club as a 'real' breed in 1946, Cocker Spaniels, are lively, dogs and ... need constant exercise! There are two types of English Cocker's Spaniels, the field, the working (which is why Cocker's are known to have docked tails), and the show type, usually long coats which touch the ground. They are known to be quite stubborn, but at the same time, are intelligent dogs. They are extremely loyal, and do often form a big attachment with their owners, making it difficult for them to be left alone. Their life span is around 11 - 12 years old, which is similar to other pure bred pedigree animals.
Spaniels have the quite obvious, long floppy ears, and when pulled in front, they are usually a little longer than their nose. Although these ears make them look cute and cuddly, they can manifest some of the health issues most common with the breed.
As their ears are long and floppy, there is not enough ventilation within the area to flush out any bacteria which may be harbouring around their ears, thus leading to an ear infection, which can be very painful for the dog.
It is always important to thoroughly dry you Cocker Spaniels ears after a bath, after a walk in the rain, after swimming etc., and to also brush the ears through too, so to get rid of any grass seeds/debris which could cause infection.
CHECK THE EARS REGULARLY, this takes just a few minutes, you just need to look out for the colour of the skin (a healthy pinky colour), do they smell?, is it free from discharge? If the answers are no, then your dog does not have an infection, a small amount of wax is possible and not alarming, however a large amount could indicate.
As mentioned earlier, it is quite common to see Cocker Spaniels with docked tails.
But please be aware that tail docking is now seen as banned in the UK, and will the dog will only be able to have a docked tail if the dog is only going to be used as a working dog, and the vets would need solid proof of this. If you are buying a puppy, and they have their tail docked, I would advise to ask for the paperwork from the vets to show it was done professionally, if not you could run the risk of getting a puppy with an illegally docked tail, which could lead to infection/future health problems.
This has been seen in a variety of breeds (Bull Terriers, Golden Retrievers, Lhasa Apso and Yorkshire Terriers), but is recognised in the Spaniels, and is sometimes referred to as Cocker Rage Syndrome. It most commonly seen in male, red cocker spaniels, but can be seen across the breed.
Rage syndrome is often believed that it is a mild form of epilepsy within the dog, which causes the dog to aggressively lash out, and this is due to the likelihood that the dog has low serotonin levels.
Now, please be aware, this is a very rare problem within Cocker Spaniels, so don't go completely off the breed, just bare it in mind if you are thinking about a Spaniel.
Other health problems:
- Night Blindness
- Kidney Failure
- Hip Dysplasia
- Retinal Atrophy
Although these problems can be seen in any breed of dog, they are still there for Cocker Spaniels and you still need to pay attention and actually think, what if my dog does end up with these? Can I cope? Can I afford it?
Yes they are uncommon, but uncommon doesn't mean impossible, and could very well happen!
I rescued a black and tan male Cocker Spaniel from a dogs home near where I live. He was 13months old when we got him, and had already been in 6homes!!!!! We noticed he was VERY hyper, which we expected, as we have owned the breed before, but Mojo definitely had his mojo, and a lot more! He's a very vocal little boy, and is OBSESSED with tearing up grass!
A few weeks after we adopted him, he had formed a major attachment to me, and thus we started witnessing attacks against my boyfriend, which was very hard to watch, but we dealt with it. Our way of handling this was the 'normal' way, and we sought professional help!
As mentioned earlier, there is the Cocker Rage Syndrome, which we believed Mojo had as the attacks he expressed were completely unprovoked, and we just couldn't see why he was acting out! After vets tests, it ruled out the rage syndrome, and instead put it down to just pure behavioural problems which could have escalated from family to family that he has been to in his short, but already eventful life!
We noticed Mojo was very 'food' orientated, and we managed to teach him a lot of tricks! He definitely lives up the the intelligent trait they are known to have! Mojo now knows, sit, lie down, cross paws, sit up, stand, pray, speak and crawl, and we have only had him for 10 months!
Mojo suffers from severe separation anxiety when I leave, I could only be gone for about half an hour and he would have gone to the toilet a few times, and will worry so much he is sick. It is hard to know that he hurts so much when we leave, but he is so happy when we return, and jumps straight up for a cuddle.
Even though we have had all of these aggression problems with Mojo, I would NEVER look back, and I would do it all over again if I had the chance. He is such a loving little dog 99.9% of the time, and is the most loyal dog I have ever met. The affection which he shows towards me and my boyfriend is unreal, and that is what pushes us to keep on trying with him, and never giving up! It is hard to deal with the way Mojo has treated us, but the love and affection he gives us is irreplaceable, and is possibly the best dog I have ever owned.
Mojo used to have the show cocker coat, which was long, soft and very beautiful. Unfortunately, it wasn't ideal for Mojo, as he was constantly swimming, running in puddles etc, and his fur became matted, and he wasn't very helpful when we were trying to groom him as he saw it as a game more than anything else! So we took him to be professionally clipped, and he now has very short hair!
Mojo has bought me and my boyfriend such joy, and with the problems that he has, we have decided to put off having our own family until he has passed. We would never forgive ourselves if he was to lash out at a little baby if we had one, and we couldn't bear the thought of having him put to sleep, or re-homed.
After reading all of the above information, even the problems I have had with my dog (which we thought when we adopted him, wouldn't happen to us!) answer these questions:
Could you give a Cocker Spaniel a loving home?
Could you provide the care he/she needs?
Could you manage if you were to have an aggressive cocker, and could you accept the fact that in a family the dog is more likely to have a strengthened bond to one person, which could or could not be you?
Can you manage the constant exercise they need?
If you feel like this has helped you, then I'm happy I could help.
If you've decided that the Cocker Spaniel is still the breed for you, I am happy for you, and I hope that the dog is everything you want and more!
If unfortunately you have decided the Cocker is not for you, then somewhere out there is your perfect dog.
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Equipped with a loving stare and cute long tail , Seeing a Gerbil makes people fall in love. But Many People dont know anything about these little creatures , so this article is going to try and teach you about Gerbil basics. How Do Gerbils Live In The Wild ? In the wild gerbils live in the deserts of Mongolia the ... habitat is a sandy grassland with little vegetation. The desert lacks rainfall and the temperatures can range enormously between seasons and parts of the day. Gerbils survive mainly in the wild due to their burrowing instincts , the burrows protects them from the extreme temperature drops and rises and will maintain the correct temperature. The Gerbils burrow contains a complex network of tunnels with separate chambers for they're food and they're nest. The Gerbil has evolved to survive on a small amount of water and food ( this is why gerbils don't drink a lot ) There long back legs help them cover large areas of space to search for food , these legs also enable them to get away from predators. Gerbils do not sweat and due to there minimal food and water intake they produce small amounts of waste , therefore being clean animals. Gerbils live in large colonies and are extremely sociable animals ( reccomended to keep them in pairs of the same sex ) They are very territorial and rarely accept outsiders. The Gerbils natural instincts tell them to forage for food and to burrow therefore they will need at least 8 inches of bedding you can bury food around they're tanks to give them something fun to do. Gerbils teeth grow constantly and can be painful if they are to long , this is why you need to provide cardboard and wooden items for them to gnaw on.
How Many Gerbils ?
Gerbils Should Be kept in pairs or groups , they are very sociable creatures and if they live on their own they will become bored and depressed.
Where Should Gerbils Be Housed ?
Tanks are a very popular option because they give the best of both worlds. If you make a mesh and wood lid for the tank like shown in the picture then it provides enough ventilation and a tank can provide adequate digging space for gerbils. A pair of gerbils will need a minimum of 20 gallons ( it is reccomended you keep them in pairs ) Unlike most animals bigger is not always better I reccomend 20-50 Gallons any smaller and they will be bored and may opt to fight to cure that boredom. Any bigger and they may split into different separate colonies and become territorial over ' they're ' space , therefore causing them to fight. New tanks can cost alot so buying second hand on ebay is a great way to keep the costs down. You can pick up 20 gallon tanks for under £20 , often you can find tanks without a lid which will be knocked down in price.
Toppers are a wooden and mesh ( or just mesh ) structure that sit on top of the tank ( hence the name topper ) They are a great way of giving your gerbil more space by expanding upwards. They have a door on one or two sides to provide easy access. Its also a great way to keep all the essential items ( bowls , bottles etc ) above the bedding so they cannot kick the bedding into the bowl. The Topper has a frame which sits inside the tank snuggle so it isn't to loose and isn't to tight , it should come of and go back in with little effort. A quick search of the Internet should provide many articles and guides on how to build a topper. Make sure you use small spaced mesh and untreated wood , also if you use glue make sure it is non toxic , you don't want your little guys getting hurt !
What Bedding ?
Gerbils are natural burrowers so to give them only a inch of bedding will make them frustrated and angry. They should have atleast 5 inches of bedding although my personal minimum is 8 inches. Its amazing watching gerbils dig to make a labyrinth under ground ! Lots of bedding helps them keep occupied and lets them fur-fill theyre instincts. So you may be wondering what bedding do i reccomend ? Well theyre is no correct answer to that question but ill provide you with some information to make your own choice.
Wood Shavings - Wood shavings are probably the least expensive bedding of all you can get huge bags for £15. It looks nice and smells pretty good. Gerbils can get sore noses from shavings so watch out for that. The Shavings are pretty absorbent but not the best absorbing substance. It can also trigger asthma but ive been fine with it , although my asthma is only mild.
CareFresh - Carefresh bedding can be expensive and very dusty and it also makes tunnelling hard for your gerbils. It can set asthma of and probably isn't worth the hastle.
MegaZorb - Megazorb can be hard to source and can be pricey. It has very little dust and is quite absorbent. It is quite ugly to look at and comes in huge sacks so if you have limited storage then it can be a problem.
Sand - Although sand is the gerbils natural bedding in the wild it isnt pratical or nessecary in captivity. Store Bought sand is very different to the sands of the mongolian desert. The sand can be cold on gerbils and is hard to dig in if it is not damp. It gets smelly pretty quickly and needs to be baked before use . Good quality sand can be expensive however it can be baked and reused a few times
Aspen - Aspen is considered the holy grail of bedding and is my personal preference. It is absorbent , nice smelling and very nice to look at. The gerbils love it and can make great tunnels out of it as it holds very well. It can be expensive but if you buy in bulk then you can make good savings. So if you want my opinion then i reccomend aspen.
What Else should i mix in with my bedding ?
So you may ask , what else should i mix in ? The answer is hay and toilet paper tissue. They hay can be used as nesting material and is a great chew toy. The tissue is shredded up and used as nesting materials your gerbils will often run through the tissue and then tear it up. You can buy hay in bluk for around £10 a big bale and you can pick up 6 toilet paper tubes from a 99p shop.
What Toys Should Gerbils Have ?
So you may see coloured plastic toys in a shop and think ' aw thats cute i will buy it ' STOP , gerbils are chewers and it inevitable that they will chew it , now this is not an issue with cardboard and untreated wood but plastic is dangerous , it can clog in the digestive system and can seriously injure or kill a gerbil so bare that in mind while buying toys.
You can buy your gerbils all fancy toys but all they ever want is cardboard ! So lets have a look at some good ideas.
Cardboard - Cardboard is the cheapest and best toy for gerbils. With toilet paper tubes they can run through it , chew it and even use it to hold up tunnels. Small cardboard boxes can also be stuffed with toilet paper , hay and bedding with treats so that they can dig to find them , they will also demolish the box ! Gerbils can demolish a toilet paper tube in 5 minutes so be sure to ask friends and family to collect for you so you dont run out , the best thing about cardboard is it is free , Result !
Wheels - I only reccomend leaving a wheel in for a hour a day max. If you leave it in to long it will become addictive and the gerbils will need to run on it to get its fix. The wheel should be mesh with small spaces between each square of mesh. The bigger the space the bigger the risk of your gerbils breaking a leg or toe. A good wheel like this can cost from £10-£20.
What Does My Gerbils Behaviour Mean ?
Play Fighting - This shouldnt not be confused with proper fighting , play fighting sorts of dominance in young gerbils without full fighting , play fighting should not draw blood.
Boxing - Gerbils Stand on their hind legs and push eachother , this is boxing. It sorts out dominance without needing to fight.
Kissing - Gerbils kiss when they meet for the first time and sometimes when they meet in the middle of the tank. Gerbils transmit messages such as gender and dominance through theyre saliva , this is perfectly normal.
Hiding Food From Friend - Gerbils will often take a tasty treat from you and run into a hiding place and turn its back to its friend. Its a natural instinct to keep the food safe from other gerbils , its a survival tactic but it can be amusing to watch them try to steal eachothers food.
Scent Marking - Scent marking is whe gerbils drag their stomach along the floor or on new items. This is letting other gerbil clans know that they shouldnt not go there. It is usually done by the dominant gerbil
Storing Food - When cleaning out your tank you may find a storage chamber with your gerbils favourite snacks in it. This is a natural thing for the gerbils to do in the wild , its what helps them get through winter by storing it for a later date.
Licking The Glass of the tank - Gerbils lick the tank when they need to get water or if they havent worked out how to use the bottle , if you see this then check if the water bottle is still working.
Thumping - Gerbils will stamp their feet very quickly in a few short sharp bursts , this is to warn other gerbils that there may be danger.
What Food Should i Feed ?
Gerri Gerbil is a great food because it balances out all the the nutritional needs of a gerbil However ,
I make my own gerbil food because i have local wholesalers where i can make 1.5kg of feed for £4. I make my own mixes because not only is it cheaper for me its better for the gerbils overall health. I personally use all of the below ingredients and try to make sure all of the values are right. If youd like to make your own mix , id enquire about it on the gerbil forum. I start of with a base mix with the right values ( eg gerri gerbil ) i then filter out the corn ( it is a filler and has no nutritonal value ) i then add in all the ingerdients and serve ! i feed 2-3 handfuls every 2-3 days. Gerbils are generally good and wont over eat. Id replace food only once it has all been eaten.
I Personally Use :
For a full list on Ok and Not Ok foods , visit my Gerbil website ( link at the bottom of the page )
Buying Gerbils , The Where The What And The Who.
Before you go to a breeder or a pet shop you should pop down to 2 or 3 local rescues , if there are any gerbils their then they should be your first option. By adopting from a rescue you are helping a worthy cause and the majority of rescues give you reliable advice and will give them a full health check before they go. Before they adopt them out to you they will normally treat them for any illnesses or diseases they may have. The Shelter will normally ask for a minimum donation ( normally around £8 ) However id personally give them more as its going to a good cause.
If there is no gerbils available then your next stop should be a reputable breeder look at the accommodation they are kept in , look below to see the health check and also test the breeder on the information that you have already gained. If they refuse to let you see the accommodation , don't know enough about gerbils or haven't got healthy gerbils then avoid them. If Neither of them options reveal anything then your last option should be the pet shop. Make sure you choose a pet shop that gives you the best advice and advises that you keep them in big tanks. With all three of these options you should health check the gerbils before buying. So how do you health check gerbils ? well lets have a look. ( Health Check From eGerbil , all credit goes to egerbil )
Is the Gerbil's coat smooth and glossy with no patches of hair missing?
Patches of fur missing could indicate problems with mites, infection, or bullying from other Gerbils. Feel under the fur for any tell tale signs such as bites or scabs. Blowing gently against the fur can also show signs of bites and scabs. Providing chinchilla sand once a week for bathing will help keep the coat in good condition.
Are the eyes bright and shiny?
Excessive red coloured discharge from the eyes usually indicates the Gerbil or Jird is stressed for one reason or another, or has an underlying health problem. Excessive discharge may indicate an eye infection and excessive tears may lead to nasal dermatitis. Cataracts can form in older animals and can be recognised as cloudiness in the eye, although cloudiness in the eye can also indicate an injury so should be checked by a vet to obtain a correct diagnosis.
Can you see discharge or missing hairs?
The nose should be clear of discharge and there should be no hair loss around it. Discharge can indicate an infection and hair loss could indicate mites, allergies, infection or excessive grooming.
Are the teeth ok?
Check to see if the teeth are growing straight and are not mis-aligned or overgrown. Because rodent teeth grow continuously all their life, checking the length and alignment of the teeth often is very important. If teeth grow too long the gerbil will starve. The top incisors should meet the bottom incisors but be slightly forward. They should not overlap or grow at different angles.
The gerbil should be able to eat easily, and be able to chew and hold things in its mouth. Providing wood and good gerbil food should maintain a gerbil's teeth for most of its life. Checking the teeth is fairly simple, some gerbils will let you open their mouth to examine them, and less tolerant ones will usually allow you to apply slight pressure to their cheeks, which makes their teeth visible. If you are unsure, ask a vet to check, and if they are ever too long, get your vet to clip them carefully, do not attempt to do so yourself unless you have the proper equipment and have been shown how to do so.
If you notice your gerbil is losing weight, test if they can successfully nibble a piece of cardboard, and if it has difficulty in doing so, a vet trip is in order.
Healthy gerbil teeth should be coloured yellow and not white
Does the head tilt?
Usually the first sign you will notice that indicates there is something wrong with a gerbil's ear will be a head tilt or spinning in circles. Many ear infections are in the inner ear, nevertheless the ears should always be checked for any visible blockage, mites, infection or cuts from scratching.
Middle ear infections due to staphylococcus can be problematic too and can sometimes be caused by mites. If a Gerbil or Jird is seen excessively shaking its head or yawning, there may be an infection in the middle ear or eustachian tube. Seek the advice of a vet for a correct diadnosis.
Are the nails overgrown?
Gerbil and Jird nails also grow continuously throughout their life and wooden toys or a few clean rocks will help keep their length down. Sometimes for one reason or another, nails become overgrown and need to be trimmed down. Again a vet can do this simple procedure, but if you decide on doing it yourself be careful just to trim them and never cut into the 'quick' of the nail, or the pink medial line where there are blood vessels and nerve endings, as this area is very sensitive to pain. If this should happen it's wise to have a styptic pen or powder on hand to stem any bleeding.
Can you see missing hairs?
Always check the tail to make sure it is fully furred, if fur is missing it can be an indication of mites but it is far more likely to be due to over grooming by the gerbil. This is an indication that the gerbil is bored. Often by simply adding toys and tunnels etc into their environment can alleviate boredom.
Can you see evidence of injury or tumours?
The scent gland is located on a gerbil's abdomen, and is a bald, yellow, oval patch, which the gerbil rub against objects to mark their territory. It should be inspected for cuts caused by marking something sharp, and particularly in males scent gland tumours, which start off small but grow rapidly, and if caught early enough, should be removed via surgery by a competent vet. If it is inoperable, the tumour will need to be cleaned regularly as it will bleed when the gerbil marks its territory. Sometimes the gerbil will also try and bite off the external growth itself and this may cause excessive bleeding.
Is the anus/genital area clean?
Staining around this area on young Gerbils or Jirds could indicate that they have been living in poor dirty conditions or that the Gerbil or Jird may have recently recovered from a bout of diarrhoea.
Is the animal alert, active, and friendly?
Only purchase the animal if it is. A listless animal is often accompanied by an underlying illness. A nippy animal makes both a poor pet and/or poor breeding stock.
The gerbil itself should be observed behaving in its environment. Limping, reluctance to come out or exercise, and hiding away in a corner would indicate the gerbil has an ailment. If you feel your gerbil is unwell and you are unsure of the cause, or if you know the cause and it needs treatment, do not hesitate to bring the gerbil to your vet for the appropriate care, and ask the vet to check the gerbil over.
Are there any deformities?
Kinks in the tail or fixed wrists could indicate close inbreeding or genetic problems within the stock
Taming Your Gerbils
When you first get your gerbils back to your house you will automatically think ' i want to play with my new companions ' Unfortunatly many people get them out straight away and don't realise why they shouldn't. Your gerbils will be stressed by the sudden change in environment and handling them at this point will be extremely uncomfortable for them. Many people presume that they're gerbils are ' evil ' because they bite their new owner within a day of being home. The gerbil is not evil , it just needs time to settle in before big hands are invading their tank. They will need a day or two to settle in before handling , this is the essential first tip.
.Before handling new gerbils thoroughly wash your hands , this is very important , if gerbils can smell food on your hands they may nip you to test if your edible or not !
.Offer them a open palm gerbils are very inquisitive creatures and will more often than not come and explore you. To them you are a big thing that needs investigating , your also a very good climbing frame ! Gerbils normally wont climb up your arm until they trust you.
.Try placing some treats in your hands , gerbils will never normally turn down a tasty snack ( see food section to see what snacks are suitable ) Once you have a gerbil eating out of your hand , they are on the road to trusting you.
. Once your gerbils will eat out of your hand you can try giving them ' elevator lifts ' a elevator lift is slowly lifting a gerbil about 6 inches of the surface of whatever they are on. Wait untill they are fully in your hand then slowly lift them too a height of 6 inches before letting them get of. Slowly increase this height until you are near to the top of your tank.
. Once your gerbils are comfortable with you lifts its time to propley lift them out the tank , keep them close to a surface ( eg your bed , a sofa , a play pen etc ) once there fully on your hand cup your other hand over their lower body , grip it so its not to tight but you have control over the gerbil. Once you are at your ' desired ' destination ( your place of handling eg the sofa ) then over lap hand and slowly let your gerbils explore ! Make sure you have some houses and toys out on the sofa to keep them occupied. They will often come over to you climb up you before running of to carry on playing. Gerbils wont cuddle with you , they're a ' its go play ' kind of pet so they dont hang around for long !If your gerbils fails with one step , then take a step back ! your negotiating on your gerbils terms so respect what they want to do.Happy Taming and youll be best freinds with your gerbils in no time !
Top 10 Gerbil Tips
1 - Remember that gerbils come from a sandy environment , a chinchilla sand bath should be provided once or twice a week to keep their coats shiny and clean. Chinchilla dust should not be used as it can cause breathing problems.
2 - Gerbils are very sociable creatures , they should always be bought in pairs. Females normally do best in pairs and males normally do best in groups of 2-6. Females seem to have dominance problems in groups of 3 or over.
3 - Gerbils will love to have at least one hour free range time a couple of times a week. Seal of any small gaps and cover all cables , gerbils are master chewers ! Also remove any plastic items that could be chewed on. Give them plenty of toys and activity's to do when out of cage to avoid them getting bored.
4 -NEVER Pick a gerbil up by its tail. It will deglove and can cause your gerbil serious damage and pain.
5 - Give gerbils some hay - they love it ! Chewing it and making nests with it ! Freeze all hay for 24 hours to kill of all the mites that may be in their.
6 - Try to find a glass water bottle , this will stop your gerbil from chewing harmful plastic.
7 - Be creative ! Any cardboard or wooden toys ( untreated ) can be made into a gerbil toy !
8 - Use the bath tub as a play ground, you can sit in it and interact with the gerbils !
9 - Look in £ shops. They often have cheap items like toilet roll for your gerbils to have fun with !
10- Ask freinds and family to collect cardboard for you , gerbils can never have to much of the stuff !
I Hope this long guide has helped you , i would very much appreciate it if you could leave me a rating.
If you would like to visit my website you can find it at http://curiougerbils.weebly.com/ it has more detail on gerbils , has lots of pictures and a DIY section.
Thank you , and happy gerbil owning.
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I have kept Leopard Geckos for 3 years. Here I will explain a little about them! Basic Set Up Needed Leopard geckos are fairly easy to keep. Before you bring your new lizard home you will need to buy the following: (more info on the following later in review) Vivarium This is the tank you are going to ... keep them in. Personally, I think the bigger the better. The minimum size needed is 24 x 12 x 12 inches to house 1 gecko. Obviously you will need bigger vivs if you are intending on keeping more than one.
Calcium Powder and Vitamin D3
Leopard geckos need extra calcium and vitamins as part of their diet, this will be used to dust their food.
Your gecko will need fresh water, mine quite often like to lay in their water bowls!
Such as crickets, mealworms and waxworms.
You can buy specialist lamps from pet stores but personally I use normal household lightbulbs.
This can be either in the from of a heat lamp or a heat mat but I prefer to use both.
Hides - lots of them including a humid hide which will help to aid shedding
Thermostat and two thermometers.
The thermostat will be used to keep the temperature in the vivarium at a regular heat, and the leopard gecko needs a hot and a cooler end to their viv, so you should have a thermometer at either end to keep an eye on the temperatures.
Picking a Leopard Gecko
Always check any animal you are wishing to buy thoroughly. It should be bright and active, with no obviously marks on its skin. The gecko is meant to have a rather fat tail and a fat tail is a sign of a healthy gecko. However, if you are buying your gecko from a young age, the tail will not be as fat while it is still juvenile. Check all its toes as they should all be intact. Ensure the tank they are kept in looks relatively clean and is not overcrowded.
There are many differing opinions on what substrate should be used with leopard geckos. Substrate is what you choose to use as the flooring of the viv. Many people use sand but I can heard that this can cause impactation (where the gecko chases the live food, catches it, and also gets a mouthful of sand). The sand can not be digested and over time it will build up inside your gecko and eventually kill it. My chosen substrate is newspaper. It doesn't look anywhere near as attractive as sand but I believe the healthy of my gecko is far more important that how their viv looks. The other advantage to newspaper is that its free (or at least very cheap) and can be replaced very easily when it gets dirty.
My geckos are kept in 2 foot long tanks which are a foot in width. I have 4 geckos and they are kept in separate vivs. Personally I think the bigger the better with vivs but I am restricted as to how much room I have so 2 foot was as big as I could go which is still suitable enough. As mentioned above, the minimum requirements are 24 x 12 x 12 inches. My vivs are made from wood and have sliding glass doors at the front. There are many style vivs to choose from but I prefer this style as the wood helps to insulate the tank and keep the heat in, and the glass sliding doors make access to the geckos very easy (this is especially useful during feeding time)
My vivs have the odd fake plant in them, which my geckos love to climb on. They also have a piece of slate in there which they use to bask on. They have a waterbowl which I change daily to ensure they always have a supply of fresh water. The all have a humid hide which is necessary to help them with shedding. Their moist hide is filled with vermiculite and I spray this 5 times a week to ensure it stays damp!
Heat and Lighting
Geckos are cold blooded so they require a heat source. This can be provided with a heat mat and heat lamp. I use both heat mats and a heat lamp. The heat mat enables to geckos to absorb the heat through their belly which aids digestion and they are also able to bask under the heat of the heat lamp. I also use 40 watt light bulbs in the roof of their tanks but this is mainly for my benefit, so I am able to see them during the day. During the day I use normal white light bulbs, and then at night-time I switch the bulbs to 40watt red bulbs (Geckos are unable to process red light so to them it seems dark but still allows me to see them). As already mentioned earlier, your gecko will need a hot and cold end to their viv. The hot end should be between 31-32 C and the cooler end should be between 22-23 C. I have heat either end and then the section in the middle varies between the two temperatures. I use a thermometer at either end of the tank so I am able to keep an eye on the temperature. I also have a thermostat connected to the hot end which means the heat source will switch off once the hot end reaches maximum temperature and will them switch on again when it begins to cool down.
As Leopard Geckos are nocturnal, they do not require a UV light.
I have all my tanks on timers which makes my life a lot easier. I used to switch the bulbs manually from day time to night time and found this to be a bit of a pain. I work shifts so this often meant that the times I swopped lights varied each day. The timer, means that the lights come on, and go off at the same time every day which is a lot more suitable for my Geckos.
This was the part of keeping geckos which I used to hate. I used to hate feeding the poor little crickets to my Geckos and watching them eat as to me it just felt so cruel, but I choose a pet which required being fed live food so I soon got used to it (kind of anyway) Geckos can have a varied diet of crickets and mealworms. Personally I prefer to fed crickets as often as possible as mealworms contain a lot of chitchin (hard out skin) which is difficult for leopard geckos to digest. Also, if the mealworm is not killed properly before being eaten, it will eat its way out of the gecko which is a horrifying though.
A couple of my geckos also eat superworms (also known as giant mealworms). My other 2 geckos will not eat them though so these are not the most popular choice.
Waxworms can be given as an occasional treat. They are great for feeding breeding females as the help them to put weight on which is very important during breeding season. Waxworms give geckos the same feeling that chocolate gives to humans so these really must only be fed as an occasional treat otherwise your gecko may get addicted and will refuse to eat other types of food (you then have to starve them to get them hungry enough to except other types of food!)
Pinkies (day old mice) can also be fed to your Geckos. These must only be fed to breeding females though. When I bred my Geckos last year, I gave my females pinkies (which felt rather cruel to me) but it is vital to keep them with as much weight as possible while they are laying eggs.
I buy my live food from eBay (strange but true) and it costs me £2.65 for a tub, this price includes postage. I find this seller looks after the live food to a very high standard and posts it to me which saves me rushing around trying to get live food as my nearest shop is a 40 minute drive away.
I believe it is very important to look after the live food as much as the reptiles. What you feed to the live food, is eventually transferred to your Gecko. It is important to 'gut load' your live food. For the crickets I feed them fresh fruit and veg and they also have fresh water everyday. You can also feed them special granules which include calcium and vitamins.
Live food MUST be dusted with calcium (I use Calypso pure calcium powder) and also vitamin power (I use Nutrobol) I also leave a dish of calcium power in with my geckos so they are able to help themselves to it when they wish.
Watching your gecko shed is truly fascinating. They actually pull their skin off their backs like a t-shirt and then eat it! I was so shocked when I first saw this happening as I had no idea they actually ate it! Apparently it is full of calcium and good for them! When they shed, ensure you check they have shed properly, especially on their toes. If they do not shed properly, skin will eventually build up and restrict the blood flow to their toes and they will drop off. If you notice the skin has not shed properly on their toes, then soak their toes in warm water and help to pull the skin off (this must be done extremely gently though!)
The Leopard Gecko As A Pet
The Leopard Gecko is considered to be a great beginner pet for anyone wishing to own a reptile. This is mainly down to the geckos docile nature, they can be handled (I actually think my Geckos enjoy being handled).
Geckos tend to sleep a lot of the time during the day as they are nocturnal but when they come out they are fascinating to watch, the way they stalk their food and the little characters they all have. Each of my geckos has a favourite food and it's amazing how the same creature can be so different in so many ways. Geckos tend to use one section of their tank as their toilet which means if you put extra paper in that corner you can just take a sheet out every time it gets messy without having to clean the whole tank out.
You can tell your Gecko is healthy if it has a fat tail. Geckos store excess fat on their tail and a healthy gecko will have a big fat tail that comes to a small point at the end
Morphs are basically the different varieties of leopard geckos that are available.
You can get very many different morphs of Geckos and there really are some beautiful colours available now. At present I have a high yellow (lot of yellow colour on body) a normal (just one with normal markings) and a trempor albino (an albino) I bred my geckos last year and the babies were a mixtures of the above. Normal leopard geckos cost around £30 but albinos and some of the rarer morphs can cost anything from £60 upwards.
Leopard geckos are relatively easy to keep as long as you stick to the few basic rules. Vets bills can be expensive if something goes wrong so this is something you will need to bare in mind. It is vital that you do as much research as possible before purchasing one to make sure you are able to keep up with the specialist care they require.
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