There are a wide variety of animals that can be kept as domestic pets. However, while some, like cats, dogs, and rabbits are fairly common, others are much less popular. In the past, an exotic animal was a species that was considered to be ‘wild’ in nature and not usually kept as a pet. However, today, an exotic pet is pretty much any animal that isn’t a cat or dog, although obviously, some types of animals are still much more exotic than others.
Types of exotic animals that we see:
Birds – including budgies, parrots, and birds of prey.
Reptiles – such as lizards (including dragons, geckos, and chameleons), snakes, tortoises, and turtles.
Rodents – there are a huge number of animals classed as rodents including chinchillas, hamsters, rats, gerbils, and guinea pigs.
One of the main reasons that these animals are classed as exotic and should only be treated by a veterinarian with experience of the species is because their anatomy is so completely different from that of a cat or dog. In addition to this, the behavior that they might exhibit when sick or in pain, as well as the effects the illness or injury has on her body, can vary widely. For example, a vet will need specialist knowledge to diagnose and treat a bird with a fractured wing successfully. A specialist veterinarian with unique knowledge of the body and behaviors of your species of pets is necessary for an accurate diagnosis and subsequent treatment to be obtained.
Equally, the medications that will be required will vary greatly compared to those drugs that would usually be administered to a canine or feline pet. Only a specialist veterinarian will have an understanding of these medications and how they should be used to treat your pet.
Exotic animals also have specific nutritional and environmental needs that vary greatly from the more basic living requirements of dogs and cats. If they are to remain healthy, they demand their owners to most closely replicate the habitat that they would live in if they were still in the wild. For example, animals that are used to hot, humid weather like lizards and snakes are best kept in vivariums that can be heated sufficiently. A specialist exotic vet will have the knowledge and experience to be able to make recommendations relating to these aspects of your pet care.
Exotic animal medicine is a specialist area and if you have an exotic pet, you must seek out a veterinarian who has sufficient training and experience in dealing with your variety of animals if he is to get the best care possible. Ask local owners of similar animals for recommendations or go online to search out exotic vets in your area.
Birds may be slightly more exotic as pets go, but they are still wonderful companions for people who are looking for an alternative to a furry friend. However, the physiology of a bird is very different to that of a cat, dog or another mammal. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that you register your feathered friend with a veterinarian who has the unique training and experience to be able to understand and manage injuries and health problems that may arise in birds.
As you might expect, the types of services that are usually included in avian vet care are very similar to those offered in standard veterinary offices that deal with less exotic pets. Some of the most common include:
Routine and comprehensive wellness examinations and assessments
Imaging tests including digital x-rays, CT scans, and ultrasound scans
Minor fracture and beak repair
Behavioral consultations for undesirable behavior problems such as aggression
Diagnosing and treating a wide range of medical conditions, with in-patient care if required
Locating a veterinarian that specializes in birds will almost certainly not be as easy as locating a regular vet. One good resource to consider is the Association of Avian Veterinarians, who maintain a list of vets qualified to help care for pet birds. If you know someone who also has pet birds, you could ask them who their vet is and if they would recommend them.
Once you have found one or more veterinarians that have the training and experience to handle birds, it is important to schedule an appointment to meet them and reassure yourself that they are the best person to support you in caring for your bird. To do this, some of the questions that you could ask include:
How long have you been treating birds? Obviously, the greater the amount of experience the professional has, the more likely they are to be able to offer knowledgeable, comprehensive service.
What species of birds are you familiar with? Different types of birds react differently to certain medical procedures, so you need to find a vet that is knowledgeable about specific treatments that will work for your bird.
Do you offer emergency or after-hours care? Sometimes accidents and illnesses arise outside of office hours. If these are serious enough to warrant immediate medical care, you need to be sure that your vet, or an alternative specialist vet, is available.
Do you offer house calls? Birds are not great travelers and the experience can make them extremely stressed. This can exacerbate whatever illness or injury is ailing them. Many specialist avian vets offer house calls for both emergencies and routine veterinary care.
What costs are involved with the services you offer? Unfortunately, since birds are more specialized than other animals, the cost of caring for them can be greater. Ask your vet for information about their fees so that you can understand what costs you will be liable for, should your feathered friend become unwell.
With the right care both at home and from a qualified and experienced avian vet, your bird can enjoy a long, healthy and happy life with you and your family.