Emergency prep for your exotic pets

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LANSING – From slick roads to power outages, Michigan’s harsh winter weather prompts residents to prepare for the worst. Staying warm is a primary concern, not just for people, but especially for those critters that require extra care.

Preuss Pets makes it their business to know how to care for exotic animals in winter emergencies.

An outside shot of Preuss Pets in Old Town.

Homemade heat

You can’t rely on heat lamps or space heaters to regulate your exotic animal’s ambient temperature without power. You can, however, use simple household items as insulation, no purchase necessary.

“[Have] extra blankets on hand you can wrap around your tank,” said Christian Plumm, a small animal breeder and pet care provider at Preuss Pets. Towels, foam and even bubble wrap function as temporary insulation, she said. To maximize the insulation’s potential, it’s helpful to have your animal’s tank on an inner wall.

“The tank isn’t going to be as cold from outside drafts,” Plumm said.

If you have more than one animal and several tanks, this can be used to your advantage as well, according to Kasheena Martin, a reptile and small animal caregiver at Preuss Pets.

“Keep them in the same room…or stack tanks…because the heat rises,” Martin said.

A couple of gerbils snuggle up at Preuss.

Store-bought solutions

You can ensure your pets warmth with a couple of necessities found at most convenient stores.

“Styrofoam containers and 72-hour heat packs become your next best friend,” said Jason Loren, another pet specialist and self-proclaimed “Lizard Wizard” at Preuss Pets. Depending on how many pets you are trying to protect, you can keep your animals in a safe temperature range for quite a while, he said. You must make sure, however, that your animals do not lie on the heat packs directly.

These guinea pigs have a nice cozy hut to keep warm.

“They just realize that it feels really good and it’s warm, and they get burns sometimes,” Loren said.

To protect your animals against potential harm, put the heat packs inside a sock. Another option is taping them to the top of your pet’s tank, said Plumm.

You can also put a small thermometer inside your pet’s emergency container to monitor the temperature, Loren said. Since many exotic pets are not Michigan-native species, it’s important to mimic their natural habitat the best you can.

This Green Chinese Water Dragon is just one of the exotic pets at Preuss.

This green Chinese water dragon is just one of the exotic pets at Preuss.

A second home

Press Pets became experts at keeping exotic pets safe during cold weather. The ice storm last December left thousands of homes without power—no heat. Lansing’s residents scrambled to keep warm, and so did their pets.

Preuss sheltered animals in the wake of the storm, supplying the electrical equipment and warmth they needed.

“They were on the floors, on the tables, all over. We had hundreds of animals here. It was pretty cool,” said Plumm. No animal was turned away.

“We would let everyone know that we would find a place for them,” said Plumm.

Know your pet

Without taking the proper emergency precautions, winter weather can be fatal to your exotic animal.

Canaries sing happily in their warm Preuss environment.

“Birds…can catch colds pretty fast,” said Stacy Allen, a pet specialist at Preuss Pets. If you must transport them, keep out the chilled air and warm up your car completely before hitting the road. Fish get their oxygen through the water’s current, so they need immediate tending when the aerator stops. Cold-blooded animals shouldn’t go more than a few hours without proper habitat care in the cold weather, according to Allen.

Fish tanks at Preuss are kept at optimum temperature.

Fish tanks at Preuss are kept at optimum temperature.

“It just depends on the type of animal you have,” Martin said. “You have to be very cautious.”

If you have questions about how to care for your animal, call Preuss Pets at 517-999-PETS.


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