Harris County Veterinary Medical Foundation

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Caring for Your Exotic Pet

Many people now have more exotic species as their companions such as birds, reptiles, ferrets, rabbits, chinchillas, and other small rodents.  These pets are not only special and unique in appearance and behavior, but also have special and unique medical and husbandry needs.  Learning about the individual needs of your new friend and determining its health status is very important.

With exotics, it can be difficult to detect illnesses until very late in the disease process.  Therefore, it is very important that a thorough physical exam be performed by your veterinarian once you obtain your new pet.  Fecal tests, blood panels, and special gram stains may be run to determine if any underlying disease is present.  Your veterinarian can teach you how to recognize signs of illness in your pet too.

Some diseases specific to birds, reptiles, and other exotics can be transmitted to people (zoonotic disease).  These diseases need to be discussed with your veterinarian, and screening tests should be run as indicated.  For example, reptiles transmit salmonella to people, and birds can carry psittacosis and transmit it to humans. 

Regular visits to your veterinarian can help with general husbandry and dietary management for your exotic pet.  Exotic species have many unique needs necessary to their survival and well-being. Appropriate diet, caging environment, temperature, and humidity are among the special husbandry issues to consider with an exotic pet.

With the proper knowledge that your veterinarian can provide through annual health exams and through education in safe and proper handling, diet, and husbandry, your exotic companion can live a longer, healthier, and happier life.