A nutritious, balanced diet is essential to keeping your exotic pet healthy. Exotic pets’ nutritional needs are dependent mostly on three factors – Age, Activity level, and Ideal weight. Selecting the right food for your exotic pet that will keep the pet healthy and energetic, starts with knowing the pet’s eating habits and lifestyle. You should always give your pet a complete and balanced food. With over 20 million Americans owning exotic animals, it is, therefore, important to discuss the necessary nutrition to these pets.
1. Nutrition in reptiles
Factors such as temperature, humidity, substrate and the type of cage can affect feeding behavior and nutrient intake in reptiles. If you are feeding your exotic reptile pets with preys such as rabbits, rats or mice ensure that you buy from commercial breeding centers. There are different types of reptiles, and each has specific dietary requirement
i.Nutrition in herbivorous reptiles
Herbivorous reptiles should be given a lot of valuable vitamin products. They should be feed on vegetables that have a small amount of oxalate to prevent kidney stones. More than half their diet should not be fresh greens, fruits and vegetables. The amount of fruit should be less than 5%, and water should be available at all times.
ii.Nutrition in Carnivore reptiles
They are easy to feed and rarely develop nutritional problems. They feed on whole prey such as mice, rats, and rabbits. Avoid feeding them with immature prey animals since they lack appropriate calcium and phosphorous. Freezing the food before giving the pet will reduce the risk of parasite and disease transmission.
iii.Nutrition in Insectivores reptiles
They should be feed with a variety of insects such as flies and moths and given calcium supplement. Cat foods can also be given but monitor the fat and vitamin imbalance.
iv.Nutrition in Omnivores reptiles
Dog food can be fed to omnivores, but care should be taken on the amount of protein, fat, and vitamin taken by the reptile. Cat food and lean meat should not be fed to omnivores.
2. Rabbit and Rodents Nutrition
Rabbits should be fed on rabbit pellets, grass hay and small amounts of assorted vegetables. Processed rabbit diets are not advised because they have high amounts of calcium and may lead to conditions such as hypercalcemia and related orders. Feeding rabbits on pellets alone without roughage may lead to hairballs. Guinea pigs should be fed on fresh, good quality guinea pig pellets (rabbit pellets with added vitamin c) and fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid diets with a lot of calcium. Do not feed guinea pigs with rabbit pellets because they lack vitamin c, and its deficiency leads to scurvy and death.
3. Birds Nutrition
Carbohydrates are a primary source of energy but avoid sugars such as lactose since it is not digested. Galactose should also be avoided especially in amounts greater than 15%. Nutrition requirements used by mammals and poultry can be used in captive birds.
4. Nutrition in mammals
i. Ferrets nutrition
Ferrets are the obligate carnivores similar to cats and require high amounts of proteins and fats. Quality cat foods can be used. Their diet should contain at least 38% protein and 18% fat.
ii. Marsupials Nutrition
Their diet should include; 50% Lead beater’s mixture, warm water, honey, one hard-boiled egg with shell, 25g of high protein baby cereal and one teaspoon vitamin supplement. Meat, diced fruits, bee pollen, worms and insects can also be included.