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Find information on animal health topics, written for the veterinary professional.

Introduction to Prairie Dogs

By Katherine E. Quesenberry, DVM, MPH, DABVP (Avian),
Kenneth R. Boschert, DVM, DACLAM, Associate Director, Division of Comparative Medicine, Washington University

Black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) are a type of ground squirrel kept by some people as pets, although not without some controversy. Although wild-caught prairie dogs can adapt to captive indoor environments and even bond with humans, especially if handled properly when young, they may also be stressed or injured when removed from their natural setting and social hierarchy. It should be noted that as of November 2003, it is now illegal in the United States to capture wild prairie dogs, especially with the intent of keeping them as pets. Prairie dogs will bite and may have diseases, such as monkeypox, that can be transmitted to people. Several prairie dog species are listed as threatened or endangered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.