Pet Talk
Columns, Pet Talk

Pet Talk

June 13, 2018

By Maneka Gandhi

In this week’s Pet Talk, Maneka speaks about parrot lice, horse shoe and lifespan of a pet rabbit.

What do I need to know about parrot lice?

Lice are one of the most common parasites found on pet birds like parrots. Often an infestation is not visible until the bird is in severe discomfort. Still, some birds show no visible signs of infestation. Some lice will bury themselves into the skin of a bird, and live off the host’s blood, while other forms of lice will feed on feathers and dead skin. Monitor birds for restlessness, increased pruning, and agitation. These are signs that there could be a lice infestation. Because lice are extremely hard to see, use a magnifying glass and visibly inspect the bird. Look for elongated, dark brown insects on the bird’s feathers. The lice will be about 3 mm long when fully grown and do not have wings.

Remove all material used for nesting from the bird’s cage. Thoroughly clean the bird cage and toys with a bleach-and-water solution, if a visit to the vet is not immediately possible. Boil toys and perches in water and allow to air-dry prior to placing back in the cage. The vet may prescribe or recommend a strong cleaning solution. Clean the surrounding cage area, as lice may be on a nearby table top or window sill. Disinfect all areas to avoid re-infestation.

Treat the bird with the proper insecticide approved by the vet. Always check with a vet to ensure treatment is safe, as the substances used to kill lice are highly toxic. Common treatment includes use of dusting powder and sprays on the bird and cage. Avoid contact of insecticide with the bird’s eyes and any mucous areas. Misuse of lice control treatments can cause your bird severe pain and even death. Observe your bird for signs of lice returning.

How to give emergency first-aid for a loose horse shoe?

If your horse’s shoe is only a tiny bit loose you can leave it on, binding it with self-adhesive or duct tape until the farrier can get there. But if it’s very loose it needs to be removed. Not doing so means the horse can hurt itself by stepping on the shoe with another hoof, ripping the shoe off even more and leaving a sharp metal object, full of sharp toe clips and nails, flapping around under its hoof. Some horses may end up chipping and breaking the hoof wall if the shoe rips off accidentally. Loose shoes are best removed as soon as they are noticed.


The first step is to remove the clinches. These are the ends of the nails that are bent over when the shoe was applied. You’ll see the clinches as shiny squares on the outside wall of the hoof. With the rasp, file down the clinches until they’re flush with the hoof wall. This is done by sliding the rasp back and forth over the top of each clinch until they’re thin enough that they can be snipped or broken off easily. If you file from the top, you may not need to snip them. After you’ve gotten rid of the clinches, you can start prying off the shoe. Pick up your horse’s foot as you would for cleaning. Use the clippers to pry between the hoof wall and the heel of the shoe. Keep working the clippers further towards the toe of the shoe, lifting the shoe away from the hoof. Be careful not to put any leverage against the sole of the foot as that might make your horse uncomfortable.

Also, to avoid leaving big nail holes that may cause chipping, try to pull the shoe straight off and not wiggle it side to side. Place the edge of the cutter underneath the bottom-most edge of clinch and use the hammer to tap and pry the end of the clinch up. With the clinches lifted away from the hoof wall, you’ll be able to clip the ends of the clinches flush with the hoof. Be careful as you work.

The clinches, as they stand away from the hoof, are quite sharp, and if the horse suddenly pulls its hoof away from you, could cause injury. Make sure all the nails are pulled out of the hoof too. You don’t want any to work their way into the hoof and cause damage. After you’ve removed the shoe, you may have to protect the hoof, especially if you’re not removing the shoes and leaving them off to let your horse go barefoot. Protecting the hoof may help prevent chips and splits until the farrier can get there to replace the shoe. You can try wrapping the hoof thickly in duct tape or self-adhesive tape. If you plan to leave the shoes off, your horse may need to have its hooves trimmed to maintain the proper angles and prevent the hoof wall from splitting and chipping.


How often does a horse’s shoes need to be reset or re-shod?

Shod horses need to be re-shod every four to six weeks, irrespective of whether they have worn the shoes out or not. The hooves grow continuously and, when shod, the hoof cannot wear down as it can with an unshod horse. Six weeks is a general guideline for good hoof health. Some horses may need to be reset sooner, and some longer. Don’t leave shoes on for months. This can damage the hoof, and overgrown hooves can lead to soft tissue damage like strained tendons and ligaments.  So, make sure you have a regular appointment with your farrier so that your horse does not go too long between shoeing.

How long do pet rabbits live?

On an average, domestic rabbits usually have a lifespan of 8-12 years. But in some cases, with proper care, rabbits can even live longer to see their teenage years. Oldest known pet rabbit has been documented to have lived for 18 years.

The lifespan of a pet rabbit depends on:

Diet: A quality high fibre diet full of leafy vegetables, hay, fruits and a constant supply of fresh water, can help the rabbit live a healthy life.

Space: Rabbits need a spacious environment to move around and also need regular exercise.

Temperature: Hot temperature should be avoided as rabbits are very sensitive to it.

Spaying/ neutering: Spaying and neutering can also increase life expectancy, as females are at high risk for uterine and mammary cancer.

Veterinary care: Take your rabbit to a vet familiar with handling rabbits as soon as you get it and return for yearly check-ups.


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