Pete the Vet on TV3’s Ireland AM discusses keeping exotic pets: watch the video here

The theme for this week’s vet spot on Ireland AM was snakes, following the story where a corn snake was found in a field in Co Meath. To watch the video of the vet spot, follow the link at the foot of this page.

We discussed snakes in general, but also made the point that snakes cannot survive in the wild in Ireland as there is not a sufficient supply of small prey, and the climate is too cool (apart from in summer). In theory, with climate change, it is possible that this may change over coming decades.

I brought in Kaa with me: he’s a 7 year old male  Burmese Python and he’s eleven foot long, but he is tame and harmless. He is fed on adult rabbits – he needs to eat one every three weeks. These are bought deep-frozen from pet shops. It all sounds very gory, but in reality it is no worse than people eating meat themselves, or indeed feeding other pets on tinned meat or biscuits.

Snakes are fascinating, attention grabbing creatures that are popular, but that they can be more to do with being “trophy pets” rather than cuddly creatures that become genuine friends. The best pets, generally, are animals that have been domesticated for many generations. Examples include dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice,gerbils, hamsters, budgies and goldfish. All of these creatures – and others too – have been familiarised with close contact with humans for many years and they have been selectively bred to be placid, easy-going animals that are easily tamed.
There are many other animals that are marketed as pets, but I would see them more as a specialist hobby than as a normal pet.

Examples that are readily available right now in Ireland include:

  • Reptiles and amphibians
  • Snakes – several types including pythons, corn snakes,
  • Lizards- including Leopard Geckos, Bearded Dragons, Chameleons
  • Tree Frogs
  • Chameleons
  • Terrapins and turtles
  • Spiders and creepy crawlies
  • Tarantulas
  • Giant Millipedes
  • Stick insects

Any of these pets can be kept properly and can make good pets, but it’s not always straight forward:

  • They tend to be a lot of work
  • They often suffer from welfare issues because their new owners don’t know enough about them, or aren’t properly prepared for them.
  • If they fall ill, it’s best to take them to a vet with a special interest in them.
  • All vets are trained in the basics of all animals, but it makes sense to go to see someone who sees these unusual specimens on a daily basis.

My main message is that for most people, it’s better to enjoy looking at these exotic types of creatures on tv and at the zoo, but if you want a pet to enjoy, choose one of the old reliables.

To watch the video clip, click on the link below.

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