New Year’s diet resolutions for your pet!

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METAIRIE, La. (WGNO) — This is the time of year when many people start reassessing the diet resolutions they made at the first of the year. But even if you don’t keep your own diet goals, you should keep your pet on the right diet — especially if it’s an exotic pet.

At West Esplanade Veterinary Clinic and Bird Hospital, Dr. Gregory Rich emphasizes the importance of pet nutrition.

For instance, an Amazon parrot can live to be 50-years-old — with the same age-related cholesterol damage a 50-year-old human might have, from eating too many fatty foods. But as Dr. Rich points out, veterinarians “can’t do balloon catheters, we can’t do heart catheterizations, and we certainly can’t do bypasses.”

Dr. Rich recommends a variety of vegetables for exotic pets, making sure the pet eats enough essential nutrients.  For birds, he recommends bird “bread” — commercially produced soft food for birds that’s made with the right ingredients, but without a high fat content.

An associate at Dr. Rich’s practice, Dr. Leslie Pence, says diet problems are especially common in rabbits and guinea pigs.  She says too many owners rely on “pellets” and neglect to also feed their pets the cruciferous vegetables.  “The stem on kale or romaine,” she says, is “not a quick bite and swallow.”  Rabbits and guinea pigs must thoroughly chew those greens, which keeps their teeth from growing too long, while providing fiber for their digestive systems.

And there are some fruits and vegetables that are actually toxic to animals.  Cherry pits, for instance, contain arsenic in an amount that won’t hurt humans, but can poison small pets.

Those are just a few examples of the importance of a proper diet for pets. For much more information on the nutrition needs of many exotic animals, go to