Good morning, CHS Supporters! We hope you are loving our look at all things exotic and wonderful on the blog this month. Today we’re bringing you a short article on exactly what an exotic vet is and why your exotic animal needs one!
Like all animals, exotic pets require regular vet care to ensure they are happy and healthy. Just like a cat or a dog, exotic pets will have different health challenges over their lifespan and yearly vet visits will give you the opportunity to catch the early signs of aging and take the appropriate steps to ensure your pet has the best possible life.
In addition to ensuring a good quality of life, visiting the vet with your exotic animal is extra important due to the space that many exotic pets occupy on the food chain. Most of the exotic animals that are kept as pets are either prey species or are both predators and prey. What you can own as an exotic pet will vary by location but in Alberta most of the apex predators (bears, tigers, sharks etc.) are restricted. What does this mean for the care of your pet? Well animals that are prey species (or those that are both predators and prey) will often hide signs of illness very well. Why? In the wild an animal showing signs of weakness/disease is a liability – they make it more likely that a predator will come sniffing around because they are sick or wounded and cannot move as quickly or efficiently. This means sick animals are often driven out of their flocks/packs or otherwise kept away from healthy animals to ensure the healthy animal’s survival. If you are a species that finds security in group living it is in your best interest to hide any signs of illness. Unfortunately owners of exotic pets often do not have the level of specialized knowledge required to identify subtle signs of illness and can wind up missing serious problems as a result. An exotics vet has years of specialized schooling and lots of knowledge on what could be a sign of illness for each species, so bringing your pet to an exotics vet regularly is an important part of proper care!
So what is the difference between an exotics veterinarian and your dog or cat’s vet?
Many ‘small animal’ veterinarians see only dogs and cats (though some may see the occasional rabbit – you would need to call around and check). They have all of the equipment needed to treat these species and they have spent years building up their knowledge base. If you have a dog or a cat a small animal vet is a great resource to learn more about not only any medical conditions your pet has but also the preventative care and daily care that will help keep your pet healthy. Similar to cats and dogs, exotic species also require routine care but the equipment and knowledge needed to care for exotic species is often very different from cats or dogs. An exotic’s veterinarian not only has all of the required equipment but they have also spent many years developing a knowledge of exotic pets to ensure they can provide proper care to these unique species.
You can compare these different types of veterinary medicine to human medicine in that human medicine has many different specialties. For example, if your child became ill you might take them to a pediatrician (a doctor who specializes in treating children) but if your grandmother was sick a family doctor who specializes in treating older adults would be a much better fit. Both of these physicians are excellent doctors, but they have different areas of knowledge and different strengths in their practice. Also, they probably have different equipment and medicines on hand based on what their patients are most likely to need treatment for. For example, a pediatrician would likely have smaller equipment for treating young children.
So how do you find or choose an exotic veterinarian? Doing a search on the internet or a look through the phone book should bring up any exotic veterinarian listings in your area. When choosing an exotics veterinarian make sure to consider the distance from your home. If your exotic vet is located far away from your home you will want to ask them where you can take your pet in the event of an emergency (ideally an emergency clinic closer to your home). Once you know what exotic veterinarians are in your area you can call around and find out if any of them are familiar with the species of exotic pet that you own. You can also use these calls as an opportunity to learn a little bit more about the clinic and the vets at each location. Use this information to narrow down your selections and set up a “get to know you” appointment or check up at the vet that you think will be the best fit. When you go to the appointment, bring any questions you have and take the time to get a feel for whether the vet you are seeing will be a good fit for you and your pet.
Do you have a topic you would like to see covered during exotics month or any other month on the blog? Do you have a crazy animal question you would like answered? Let us know by connecting with us on our Facebook page and you may see your question in an upcoming entry!