Please read the entirety of this general notice to all new prairie dog pup owners. It is written due to annual consulting performed in many countries where people are getting new pups and are relatively new to the species or pup ownership, or it has been a long time since they had babies. After 20+ years of specializing in this species, it is strongly recommended to obtain a free consultation in advance BEFORE you get a prairie dog. It is crucial for many reasons. One, so that you acquire the best gender-pairing for the hormonal chemistry of all species in your home. Two, so that you have all the tools in advance for their initial setup and nutrition. And three, so that you know how to best work with them behaviorally to get the best bond possible at onset instead of learning through trial and error at the prairie dog's expense.
Pups often grow quickly; it is part of a prey species' nature that they are forced to grow fast for risk of predation. There will be some that do not grow nearly as quickly as others. Growth progression is one area where all new owners should pay attention and observe for certain factors taking place.
1. Have they consistently grown since you've got them and not dropped weight? Yes, owning a digital kitchen scale long-term for use over their lifespan to track such things quarterly and more frequently (once a month with pups) is worth it.
2. Are you monitoring daily food and water intake? They should be eating a great deal during this stage of development, and if you are feeding correctly according to the Captive Nutrition document guidelines, you should have a good response.
3. Are they eliminating prolifically? There should be plenty of fecal output each day, and they should progressively grow large in size and quantity as they grow. Fecals should be packed with traces of hay throughout and slightly moist, like small jelly beans as pups but growing into larger jelly beans as adults. FECAL OUTPUT IS THE KEY TO THEIR HEALTH, AND IF THEY ARE TINY AND DRY, YOU NEED TO SEEK CONSULTATION ASSISTANCE SOONER THAN LATER TO FIND OUT WHAT MAY BE CAUSING AN ISSUE IN YOUR SITUATION.
4. Are they maintaining their body temperature (similar to our own but ranges from 35.3-39C or 96-102F) when in deep sleep when they drop most metabolically? This is also an indicator of health. Their temperature should be checked by the touch daily.
5. THIS IS IMPORTANT!!! While I understand everyone is in love with their baby and wants to spend endless hours cuddling them, BABIES NEED REST FOR PROPER GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT! They need time to eat, drink, rest, and play with their cage mates. This is very important to their long-term development. It is fine that you spend lots of time with them. I want that very much, but make sure to give them at least two hours at a time in several periods throughout the day where they are not distracted by you peering at them or handling them to allow them to focus on eating, drinking, and getting good rest for proper growth to take place.
6. Please monitor that they are not running on a wheel excessively. It needs to be limited to no more than one hour per day. The issue becomes when they burn off more calories than they are taking in when they are in the growing phases of development. You must watch for obsessive use of the wheel in adults, but it is crucial that wheel use does not impact growth at this stage.
I have some clients who have their pups with them non-stop, and then they see that growth has slowed markedly or health concerns have cropped up. This has been predominantly due to what is stated above and not considering that babies need their sleep!
You do not know how much I want your babies to grow up in good long-term physical and behavioral health. Attending to some of these items will help you to help your babies accomplish just that.
As usual, it is free to contact me privately by private message at any time if you have concerns about any of the above with your pup or even concerning the care and behavior of your adults. You can also contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 425-870-1729 for assistance free of charge. I'd rather talk to you before a problem is severe and we're reacting instead of as soon as you notice something is off, which is more proactive. That allows for prompt resolution before patterns become habitual and more challenging to correct.
If you obtained your pup without advanced consultation about positive behavior strategies, bonding, habitat, and nutritional needs with the importance being placed on longevity, please feel free to reach out to me as it costs you nothing but a bit of your time, but the benefit to your prairie dogs will be worthwhile as your prairie dogs reach geriatric stages of 10 years or more with proper care. Thank you!