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How do I Choose the Best Exotic Pet Veterinarian?

Elizabeth West
Elizabeth West

The owner of an exotic pet needs to find a doctor to provide regular care for the animal. A good exotic pet veterinarian will have additional training in specialist facilities during their schooling and will be board-certified. Calling exotic pet owners associations and recommendations from other pet owners are the best ways to find a good exotic pet veterinarian. The best time to check is before acquiring the animal.

Owners should consult reputable sources when searching for an exotic pet veterinarian. Most organizations devoted to unusual pets have websites, as do rescue organizations who can often recommend someone. Educated members of local pet clubs may know a good doctor. The local veterinary medical association may also be able to refer a specialist. Once a vet is located, credentials can be checked through the state licensing board.

Avian specialists are often needed to treat sick birds.
Avian specialists are often needed to treat sick birds.

The owner should schedule an initial visit to meet the exotic pet veterinarian and discuss the needs of the pet. This includes how often the doctor sees that type of animal and if the facilities are suitable for their handling. The owner should also check emergency coverage after hours and on holidays, and observe how the doctor and staff relate to both the owner and the pet.

Herpetology specialists can treat pet snakes.
Herpetology specialists can treat pet snakes.

Birds are the most common patients an exotic pet veterinarian will see. It can be difficult to tell what is wrong with a sick bird, and many small animal veterinarians will not know. An avian specialist is best suited to diagnose and treat a problem. Snakes, turtles, and other reptiles also need someone familiar with their specific health issues.

Rare pets such as large cats or monkeys may only be kept in certain jurisdictions with an approved permit. If an illegal pet is brought in for medical attention, the exotic pet veterinarian can refuse treatment and may be obligated to report it. In many areas, all veterinarians will need a permit to treat and retain injured wildlife brought to them, but may provide initial care without it. The animal is usually not allowed to go home with its finder unless that person has a wildlife rehabilitation license.

Before making an unusual pet part of the family, potential owners should check the laws in their area regarding whether it is legal to keep the animal. They should also consider if the amount of activity the pet needs and special requirements in caring for it are compatible with the family's lifestyle. An exotic pet veterinarian should be sought early to care for the new family member.

Frequently Asked Questions

What qualifications should I look for in an exotic pet veterinarian?

An exotic pet veterinarian should have specialized training in exotic animal medicine, which may include a board certification from the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP) in a relevant category such as Avian, Reptile and Amphibian, or Exotic Companion Mammal practice. Additionally, look for membership in professional organizations like the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians (AEMV).

How can I verify the experience level of an exotic pet vet?

Experience can be gauged by asking the veterinarian about their years of practice with exotic species, the variety of species they've treated, and the frequency of exotic animal cases they handle. A reputable vet will be transparent about their expertise and may provide references or case studies. Furthermore, reviews and testimonials from other exotic pet owners can offer insights into their experience.

What facilities and equipment should an exotic pet clinic have?

An exotic pet clinic should be equipped with specialized facilities tailored to the unique needs of exotic animals. This includes species-specific housing, advanced diagnostic tools like digital radiography and ultrasound, and surgical equipment suitable for small and delicate procedures. The clinic should also maintain a controlled environment to support the various temperature and humidity requirements of exotic pets.

How important is the location of the exotic pet veterinarian?

Location is crucial, as exotic pets often require prompt medical attention that may not be conducive to long-distance travel. A nearby clinic reduces stress for the animal and ensures quick access to care in emergencies. However, the quality of care should not be compromised for convenience; sometimes, the best care may require traveling a bit further.

Can I get a referral to an exotic pet veterinarian from a regular vet?

Yes, many general practice veterinarians can provide referrals to exotic pet specialists. They often have a network of colleagues and may know of reputable exotic veterinarians who have the expertise to care for your specific type of pet. It's always a good idea to consult with your regular vet for recommendations.

What should I expect during the first visit to an exotic pet veterinarian?

During the first visit, the veterinarian will typically conduct a thorough physical examination of your pet, review its dietary and environmental needs, and discuss its overall health and history. They may also recommend baseline diagnostic tests to establish a health profile. This visit is an opportunity to assess the vet's interaction with your pet and their ability to provide species-specific care.

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    • Avian specialists are often needed to treat sick birds.
      By: enens
      Avian specialists are often needed to treat sick birds.
    • Herpetology specialists can treat pet snakes.
      By: Alexey Kuznetsov
      Herpetology specialists can treat pet snakes.