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Prairie Dogs

Prairie dogs are very unique pets who have  way of winning hearts and attaching themselves to their owners. Most people who see prairie dogs for the first time are intrigued by their roly-poly appearance, habit of sitting straight up, chirping voices and playfulness.

They are very family oriented by nature.  In the wild, they form vast colonies known as "towns" which are subdivided into smaller territories called "neighborhoods" and even smaller family groups. They have an intense need for socialization which they demonstrate by physical displays like neck rubbing, kissing, and grooming.

One prairie dog, or more?

Because prairie dogs are very social animals, they appreciate living in pairs or groups, but a single one will do well with plenty of attention from its owner. If obtaining two very young animals at the same time, keep them separated and pay each plenty of attention until they bond with you, then you may put them together.  You don't want them to bond with each other so strongly that they don't bond with you.

Feeding

A basic diet for your prairie dog should include a healthy portion of hays & grasses.  Timothy hay is a good choice and readily available at Pets Plus. They may also be given small amounts of fruits and vegetables as treats and are known to like sweet potatoes, apples, carrots, broccoli and green beans.  They can also eat certain commercial rodent food and food blocks, millet, corn, oats or wheat.  They can also be given small amounts of seeds or nuts as treats. Prairie dog incisors never stop growing, so chew treats like beef bones, antlers, pig ears or dried corn cobs are essential for keeping their teeth worn down to a comfortable length.

Housing

Prairie dogs do not need large amounts of space so long as they have some space they can consider their own territory.  They do well in multilevel wire cages like those for ferrets where they can climb and play. They should have plenty of room in the bottom for nest building as they are quite elaborate builders. They will use extra hay, shredded paper, non-loft polyester batting or any lint-free material to weave into their nests.  Be sure to avoid lint-causing materials as they may cause respiratory problems.  You can use corn cob, pine shavings or newspaper for bedding materials, but do not give your prairie dogs cedar as its high phenol content will also cause them respiratory problems.

Accessories

Prairie dogs need a water bottle, food dish, and toys. A large ferret exercise wheel can be a good choice of play equipment as well as large-diameter PVC pipes for them to run through.

Sanitation

Once your prairie dogs are litter trained, you can simply line their cage with bedding and clean the cage, bedding and accessories weekly.

Health Care

Prairie dogs are generally very healthy animals when fed properly. Because they are rodents they carry very few diseases.  As mammals, it is possible for them to contract rabies if bitten by an rabid animal, so be sure you know their playmates.  They are sensitive to low temperatures, so be sure to keep young pups warm.

Prairie dogs can also be poisoned by items you would not traditionally think of as harmful (azaleas, African violets, goldenrod, caffeine, tobacco, etc.) so never leave them unsupervised outside the cage. 

They can be desexed at around six months, so if you are obtaining a young animal, be sure you make plans to see to this.  We can recommend vets in the area who have experience with these unique animals.

Life Cycle

Prairie dogs can live 5-10 years in captivity. They undergo behavioral changes during mating season if not desexed, and some can be quite aggressive so neutering at six months is recommended.

Expert Help

If you have questions about your paririe dog, do not hesitate to contact us. You, your veterinarian, and the staff here at the store will form the team which will be responsible for your pet’s well being.

Supplies Checklist:

  • Large cage
  • Litter
  • Water bottle
  • Food dish
  • A variety of fresh foods
  • Exercise wheel
  • Chew toys and other toys