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Pet Hygiene Questions

Marc Morrone offers tips for bathing pets, removing mites, and cleaning fish tanks.

Martha Stewart Living Television

I have a 3-month-old shar-pei with a strong doggy smell. I bathe her two or three times a week with an oatmeal shampoo to keep the odor from getting too strong. I am wondering if too much bathing will give her skin or paw problems, and will she outgrow the odor?
Bathing a dog three times a week will definitely remove a good portion of his or her natural skin oils. It's also likely that your dog will outgrow the odor as she gets older. If it persists, see a vet to be sure there isn't a medical problem. Your vet can also recommend some omega-3 fatty acids to help keep her coat and skin in good health.

What is the best way to keep a guinea pig clean? Should you bathe them like you would a dog?
Guinea pigs are naturally hygenic animals who lick themselves clean everyday, so it's rare that one would get dirty enough to require a bath. If it is necessary, use a gentle puppy shampoo.

I have a pet rabbit named Fat Boy. Should rabbits be washed and, if so, with what kind of cleaner? Also, what does it mean when your rabbit grunts at you?
Rabbits, like guinea pigs, rarely need baths. If kept in a clean cage and brushed daily, it's doubtful that you'd ever need to bathe your pet. If it does become necessary, a mild puppy shampoo should do the trick. As far as the grunting, such noises are usually signs of displeasure, and can be prompted by any number of reasons, such as being put back in his cage before he's ready.

I've got a 3-foot green iguana who has red and black mites. How do I get rid of them?
Mites that infest reptiles are notoriously difficult to get rid of. For years, one common treatment was to rub a reptile all over with olive oil, but it unfortunately doesn't work very well. Today, vets have a drug called Ivermectin, which is much more effective. Take your iguana to a vet who specializes in reptiles and see if they would recommend a course of treatment with that particular drug.

What is the easiest way to clean the gravel in a fish tank? Also, what is the ideal water temperature for the tank?
The best way to clean the gravel is to use a gravel siphon. Turn the siphon on and run the end of the tube through the gravel in the tank. It will suction out all the uneaten food and other debris stuck in the gravel. The ideal temperature depends on the kind of fish you're keeping. Goldfish like cool water of about 70 degrees, while tropical fish prefer a warmer 78 degrees.

Do hamsters need to have their nails cut?
It's rare that hamsters require a pedicure, but on the occasions when it is necessary, a tiny bird nail trimmer will suffice. Placing a rough bit of lava rock or brick in your hamster's cage for climbing should help keep its nails short.

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