When people I meet find out I’m a veterinarian, they often ask what kind of animals I see. They will ask if I work with this, that, or the other strange and exotic species. The truth is the large majority of my patients are cats and dogs. Most days, that’s all I see. However, some days get a special surprise!
The most common “exotic” animals I see are rabbits. I can’t even keep track of how many different rabbits I’ve seen over these past 2 years. Probably coming in as second most frequent would be rats. Most of the rabbits I see are for teeth problems, occasional parasite issues, general health checkups, infections, and some other random problems. The rats have been mostly general health checks, couple respiratory issues, and maybe a lump or two.
Also in the small mammals category I have seen a couple guinea pigs, a couple chinchillas, a hamster, a hedgehog and a sugar glider. The hedgehog was probably my favourite. What do I see them all for? Urine problems, teeth problems, respiratory infections, lumps, and an injured foot.
Moving from fur the feathers, I have seen a few birds. Not very many, but a few. I’ve seen a budgie, a cockatiel, a dove, and a french finch. The problems I’ve seen are a lump, a broken wing, an eye infection, and a broken foot.
This finally brings us to scales, which I see the least often, but I get the most excited about! I’ve seen two different geckos, and a chameleon. I’ve taken calls regarding lizards, and might be seeing a snake (ball python, specifically) in the near future.
Whenever any of these critters come in, I’m all over the textbooks and internet trying to figure things out . . . there’s over a dozen things that can be wrong with any of these animals, and if you’re keeping track I haven’t seen nearly that many of any one species (except the rabbits. I don’t have to always look things up with rabbits.) We learn comparative medicine in school, but we only have one year to cover all of the ‘exotic’ species, such as birds, fish, rodents, and beyond.
So why would you bring your ‘exotic’ pet to see inexperienced me? Well, sometimes you have no choice – if you live in Newfoundland, there aren’t a whole lot of veterinarians who have experience or are even willing to see you. I’m at least willing to see anything, and will take the time to figure out what we should do, and get in touch with specialists as applicable.
That’s right, specialists. There are definitely vets who see a lot of different species and are much more experienced and knowledgeable. If you have one of these unusual, or less usual, pets you might be in luck if you live in an area where such a veterinarian is practicing. If you don’t know, I’d recommend that you look into the situation. Better to know while your pet is well who you can call in case it gets ill. You don’t want to be stuck on a mad hunt for a vet while your rabbit is having a seizure, or your finch is bleeding all over its cage with a broken leg. You probably know where to go if you accidently chop your own thumb off, good idea to know where to go it your sugar glider chews its own foot off!