Tonawanda News — If it walks like one, talks like one and looks like one — it must be one.
Of all the pets I have cared for, ducks have definitely brought me the most attention. I am not talking about getting ducklings on a whim for Easter either. I kept ducks as pets from fifth grade through college. In sixth grade, my science teacher named me “Duckboy,” which remained my nickname until high school graduation.
In the mornings the ducks would be led out to their pens. In the evening I would return them to the barn for the night. Although I haven’t kept ducks in a few years, and live at a different house now, when it gets dark I still get a desire to go outside and put them in for the night.
They had kiddie pools for swimming in their enclosures. They had above-ground pools and in-ground pools. After a few years of keeping them, my father installed pipes and drains to assist in the maintenance.
In the warmer months we would have to do a full water change in their pools every couple of days to keep it clear. I would have to clean it more often if I placed some of their favorite treats in the water: goldfish. They would suck down $8 worth of feeder fish in a few minutes. I can still see the fish tails wiggling in their bills. The ducks would dive into the pool and propel themselves out of the water like dolphins.
Ducks, of course, aren’t the only animals that like to play with water. My family’s red border collie, Ginger, also enjoyed kiddie pools. She would place her front paws into the pool, splashing her stomach and biting at the water. Sometimes she would completely lay down making it easy for us to bathe her.
Not all dogs are natural swimmers, even though there is a swimming style named after them — the doggy paddle. Swimming can provide an increase in range of motion and stamina. It can also be a great outlet for high-energy dogs. Showing a dog where to enter and exit the water may be all that is needed to encourage them to swim. Others, like human children, may need some treat or toy encouragement.
Cats, on the other hand, are notorious for not enjoying getting wet. One of my cats, however, likes to jump on the counter and stick his paws in the dirty, wet dishes. My solution is to not have dirty dishes and to clean his water bowl more often.
It doesn’t matter how clean the water was initially, stagnant water grows harmful bacteria and mold quickly. Changing the water daily and investing in a pet fountain or filter is a good idea. In a 2006 veterinarian study, an increase of water consumption was found to reduce the occurrence of urinary tract diseases in cats. The same is believed to be true for dogs. Cats and dogs tend to drink more when they have access to clean water.
Fish and amphibians are sensitive to changes in the water parameters. Checking the pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate weekly will alert you before any serious problems arise. These repeatable tests can be purchased at any pet store for less than $10. Vacuuming or siphoning out part of the water — 10 percent to 35 percent a week — will keep the water healthy.
Poor water quality for these animals is associated with an increase in disease and algae. Amphibians, like frogs, are known as environmental indicators. Amphibians can breathe and drink through their skin. Pollutants affect their bodies quicker because of this adaptation, which alerts scientist when there is an environmental problem.
Humidity is very important for some animals. For pet birds, skin, feathers and respiratory problems can be reduced if the humidity is kept higher. My birds bathe standing on a perch in the shower, stepping in large bowls of water or leaning into a spray bottle when I am misting plants. Reptiles also benefit from high humidity. The moisture will aide in your reptile’s overall health, most notably when they shed.
Increasing the humidity can be achieved by increasing the surface area of a shallow bowl, wetting the ground cover or investing in a misting system. With high humidity in closed terrariums, ventilation is important to prevent fungi and mold.
Hydration is an important issue year round, particularly in a hot summer. Clean water, heavy un-tippable bowls and water based grooming options will keep your pets happy as a duck in water.Kenny Coogan has a B.S. in animal behavior. Email your questions to email@example.com, or search for "Critter Companions" on Facebook.