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ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS FOR PETS

 


Environmental conditions have a significant effect on the health and welfare of animals. Some pets have very specific environmental requirements, and will die if they are not kept properly. Responsible pet owners must provide the correct environmental conditions for their pets to live a peaceful, healthy, normal life.

Pets have many different specific environmental requirements, but the main ones are :

Environmental temperature

Some species of pet can adapt to a wide range of environmental temperatures - eg most mammals including dogs and cats. Other species eg reptiles, birds, fish have very specific requirements for environmental temperatures. A few species eg hamsters will undergo hibernation if temperatures fall too low.

  • Fish can be either be cold water, or require heated water - if necessary water temperature needs to be maintained within an optimal range by the use of thermostatically controlled heaters. 
  • Reptiles usually require quite specific environmental temperatures, and this can provided by the use of thermostatically controlled heated pads, or heat generating light bulbs 
  • Birds can be very susceptible to cold temperatures, and many require heated accommodation especially during the winter months.
  • It is important not to overheat animals. Some species, eg dogs, have quite poor heat loss mechanisms (they can panting, but are unable to sweat) and death due to hyperthermia is common in dogs kept in enclosed environments (eg in cars) during hot weather. Reptiles become increasingly active with increased environmental temperature and they can waste a lot of stored energy moving around.

Ultraviolet (UV) Light

  • Most pets require exposure to ultraviolet to synthesise  vitamin D in their skin. 
  • This can provided by exposure to natural daylight, OR
  • By providing an artificial ultraviolet-emitting light source
  • Excess exposure to ultraviolet light can be harmful (particularly in light skinned animals eg white cats, white collie noses) and lead to the development of sunburn, allergy or even skin cancer (melanoma or carcinoma) 

Humidity

  • Many exotic species of pet such as reptiles or amphibians (eg frogs) require high humidity in their environment to mimic the natural conditions under which they live in the wild.
  • If these species are kept as pets special humidifiers may be needed to ensure that there is enough moisture in the air. However, it is important not to over-humidify the environment as this can cause problems for the animal.
  • Some animals (reptiles/amphibians/insects) require water droplets in their environment to provide the water that they need, so spraying their body surfaces or the vegetation in their environment may be required in addition to maintaining a high humidity level.

Oxygen

  • All animals require an oxygen source. Animals with lungs require sufficient oxygen to be present in the air that they breath - so entirely air-tight containers are inappropriate to keep animals in for any period, otherwise the available oxygen is used up quite quickly, and they will asphyxiate. 
  • Fish and other water dwellers with gills require oxygen to be present in the water. In tank housing the oxygen will be exhausted over a period of time, and so it needs to be replaced. Even in large surface area environments such as man-made ponds it is usual to provide oxygenation through air pumps.

 

 

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