The prairie dog is a rodent that is a member of the squirrel family. They are natively found only in North America. Five species of prairie dogs are found in the wild. These 5 species are the black-tailed prairie dog, Gunnison's prairie dog, Mexican prairie dog, Utah prairie dog and the white-tailed prairie dog. A prairie dog weighs from 1 to 4 pounds and are 11 to 17 inches in length with a 3 to 4 inch tail.
Prairie dogs live in groups called coteries. Each coterie will have 1 male and 2 or 3 breeding females along with the pups. The land size of 1 coterie can be an acre large with up to 70 different burrow entrances. A prairie dog town is a group of coteries.
The wild diet of a prairie dog consist of grasses, leaves, seeds, roots and insects.
Prairie dogs in the wild will live on average of 3 to 4 years of age. In captivity, they can live 8 to 12 years old.
Prairie dogs do make good pets. They are naturally a social animal and will enjoy human companionship. Also being an animal that is active during the day will make it easier to live with as you will not have the noise of them awake at night as you would with nocturnal pet animals. Care and cleaning is minimal and they have very low to no odor. They do not need a large area to live in and do not require going on walks so a prairie dog is great as an apartment pet. The best age to buy a prairie dog is between 6 and 8 weeks old.
A great cage to keep a pet prairie dog in is a ferret cage. The larger the better as with any animal. Prairie dogs do burrow in the ground out in the wild so it would be beneficial to provide a box or tube for your dog to go into. You can build a cage outside that is dug down into the ground and have soil or sand in the cage to allow your pet prairie dog to dig its own burrows.
There are commercially made diets available for your pet. A few of these are Brisky's Prairie Dog Pellets and Exotic Nutrition Prairie Dog Diet. Rodent block food can be used also. It is important to feed a pellet or block food to help wear down their incisors as with other rodents, the teeth continuously grow and need to be worn down. Fruits and vegetables can be given in small amounts along with hays, grasses, nuts and seeds.
Bones and other hard dog chews can be provided as toys that will help keep their teeth worn down and healthy.
Prairie dogs do not require any vaccines but still is best to have a yearly exam by an exotic animal veterinary. Prairie dogs can get external parasites like fleas and ticks which needs to be treated if any are found on your pet dog. A fecal sample should be tested to check for any internal parasites at least once a year. Spaying or neutering can be a surgery that can save your dog from health issues later on in life. It is something that should be discussed with your vet. The teeth need to be examined to make sure they are wearing evenly and enough, if not, it can be a sign of health or diet issues that need to be corrected.