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Ask the Vet: Surprise Children With Chocolate or Plush Easter Pet, Not Live One

Dr. Lee Pickett on

Q: My two young grandchildren are visiting this Easter, and I'd like to get them a special gift. Do you recommend a bunny or a couple of chicks or ducklings?

A: I have a better suggestion: baskets full of marshmallow Peeps, chocolate bunnies and plush toy animals with synthetic fur. Depending on their ages, your grandchildren may also enjoy robotic or virtual pets.

Giving live gifts requires your grandchildren and their parents to make a lifelong commitment to the animals that join their family. Too often, the novelty of Easter pets wears off after a few weeks and the children become bored with them.

When this happens, the pets are taken to a shelter or, worse, abandoned to fend for themselves in the wild. Since bunnies, chicks and ducklings are domestic animals that don't know how to find food or defend themselves, they suffer before they die.

Rabbits are the most commonly given Easter animals because many parents erroneously believe they make good starter pets for children. In truth, rabbits must be handled gently because their fragile spines break with exuberant play or if they're dropped. Furthermore, most bunnies don't like to be held, preferring to sit beside their people.

Domesticated rabbits live indoors and are sterilized to prevent urine spraying and uterine cancer. Their diet and exercise needs are complex, and their living spaces require daily cleaning.

 

If your grandchildren's parents are considering Easter pets, recommend they do some research. Good websites for rabbits are http://makeminechocolate.org/ and https://rabbit.org/. To learn about caring for chickens, visit https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/adopting-and-caring-backyard-chickens. Information on ducks is available at https://www.caringpets.org/how-to-take-care-of-a-pet-duck/.

If the parents decide you may give Easter pets to your grandchildren, adopt from a shelter or rescue organization, and treat the family to their first appointment with a veterinarian who regularly sees that species.

Q: When my dog Missy suddenly got sick, the veterinarian diagnosed a uterine infection and said she needed emergency surgery to remove her pus-filled uterus. The surgery was successful, and Missy is back home full of energy again. How common are uterine infections in dogs? Could I have prevented it?

A: The medical term for a uterine infection is pyometra (PY'-oh-MEE'-trah), from the Greek language where "pyo-" means pus and "-metra" refers to the uterus.

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