IMPORTANCE OF VETERINARY CARE FOR EXOTIC AND POCKET PETS
Pocket pets and exotic pets can be great additions to your family. These pets are loving and loyal and some may have relatively simple care instructions. With such curious names, what exactly are “pocket pets” and “exotic pets”? Essentially, they are any animal other than a domestic dog or cat.
Pocket pets are small, household mammals, such as gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, rats, mice, chinchillas, degus, and sugar gliders. While we tend to group them into this broad category, it is important to remember that they are each an individual species with unique needs.
Exotic pets (think fish, birds, small mammals, and reptiles) have a rather misleading reputation as “low-maintenance” or “beginner” pets. Exotics, just like our domestic friends, require routine veterinary care, a rich diet, a stimulating lifestyle, and of course, a lot of love! Proper care for your exotic pet is a must for them to have a long, fulfilling life.
Pocket pets and exotics are increasing in popularity and just like dogs and cats, their care begins with veterinary wellness visits.
WHAT TO EXPECT: YOUR EXOTIC PET EXAM
Regular health check-ups, as well as annual nutritional and chronic conditions monitoring, are essential for any pocket or exotic pet’s well-being. Due to their unique medical needs and for some, relatively short lifespans, pocket pets and exotics should receive an annual wellness exam to prevent and treat any potential medical conditions. During your exotic pet vet visit, a doctor will:
- Perform a comprehensive physical exam
- Discuss, prescribe, and administer any necessary vaccinations and preventives
- Discuss behavioral training and proper nutrition
- Make recommendations regarding housing, environmental, and other living conditions
- Answer any questions and concerns you may have
Of course, an exotic pet veterinary visit may look a bit different than when you take your dog or cat. The first thing you’ll probably notice is much smaller equipment and some specialized tools better suited for your animal.
In addition to some of the smaller equipment, you may notice other differences in your pocket pet’s wellness visits. Depending on your pet, your exotic pet veterinarian will provide species-specific guidance and recommended tests and bloodwork.
AVIAN WELLNESS EXAMS
During an avian wellness exam, your veterinarian may discuss the pros and cons of clipped versus flighted birds, annual examinations, zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be contagious to humans), nail and beak trimming, avoiding household toxins, the importance of UV light, and more.
Your veterinarian may also recommend routine blood work as well as infectious disease testing. Your newly acquired bird should be tested for infectious diseases to ensure your bird is healthy and does not transmit diseases to you or any other birds in your home.
REPTILE WELLNESS EXAMS
During this appointment, your veterinarian should complete a thorough exam and discuss husbandry, including enclosure set-up, temperature and humidity, UVB lighting, substrates, and diet.
Your veterinarian may recommend additional tests including fecal, skin, and culture and sensitivity tests. These tests check for parasites, worms, microorganisms, and abscesses that could lead to illness.
SMALL MAMMAL WELLNESS EXAMS
During this appointment, your veterinarian will complete a thorough physical exam and discuss husbandry, including enclosure set-up, substrates, diet, exercise, and environmental enrichment.
Your veterinarian may also recommend additional tests to baseline the overall wellness of your pet and identify any conditions that could lead to illness.
In addition to some of the smaller equipment, you may notice other differences in your pet’s wellness visits. Depending on your pet, your veterinarian will provide species-specific guidance and recommended tests and bloodwork.
ARE POCKET PETS OR EXOTICS THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR YOU?
First and foremost, remember that each state has its own requirements for owning an exotic animal. And even if it is legal to own a specific type of exotic pet in your area, it doesn’t mean that you should! Exotic animals and birds need owners with the knowledge, resources, and available time to ensure they are happy and healthy.
If you are ready to bring a new small pet into your home, it is important to do your homework to decide which pet is best suited for your family and your lifestyle.
Housing – Depending on the species, your new pet may require special housing equipment to keep them safe from the dangers they may encounter if they should escape into your home. Different pocket pets have different space requirements and housing needs. Some may need the opportunity to climb, while others need plenty of space to hide.
Nutrition– Individual species have very specific needs. Understanding this for your pet of choice can make or break things.
Social habits – Certain species may do better with a friend. It is also essential to consider that some species may be more active at night. Some pocket pets and exotics enjoy human interaction and handling, while others prefer to be left alone.
Medical needs – Some pet species need more frequent visits to their local vet for needs like dental care. Spaying and neutering are often an important part of pocket pet ownership, particularly if you have more than one of the same species.
You may also need to consider the life span of your pet. While some smaller pocket pets have relatively shorter life spans, some exotic animals live very long lives. Parrots and tortoises are known for living as long as humans, sometimes even longer! These are life-long pets that will need your care every day.
See our list of virtual events and livestreams coming soon. Each one is hosted live, so you’ll get the opportunity to have your questions answered by our hosts in real-time.
Start your Journey
Pursue your passion for veterinary medicine working with exotics and pocket pets. Learn more about a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree today.