Unique, Colorful, Fun: Exotic Pet Care for Birds, Reptiles, Pocket Pets
Exotic pets are unusual and fun, but it can be challenging to care for them without proper information and guidance.
Animal Care Unlimited offers comprehensive exotic pet care by experienced veterinarians, including:
- Ferrets—Medical and surgical management of insulinoma and adrenal gland disorders, skin conditions, hair loss, seizures, comprehensive dental care
- Rabbits—Urinary disorders, treatment for chronic respiratory disease, abscess care and treatment, comprehensive dental care
- Reptiles—Seizures, eating concerns, metabolic bone disease, egg problems
- Guinea Pigs—Itchy skin, eating concerns, dental care
- Hedgehogs—Quill loss, masses, itchy skin
- Birds—Beak, wing, and nail trimming, egg binding, DNA sexing, Chlamydia testing, feather plucking
Exotic services include husbandry and housing, nutrition, behavior, routine medical care, general wellness, soft tissue surgery, and diagnostics for all species.
Getting Ready for Your Exotic Pet's Appointment
Exotic pets (for our purposes here, anything other than a cat or dog) typically require special handling and exceptional care. To give you the best recommendation for proper husbandry and nutrition, we need to know as much as possible about their current living environment.
Please complete the appropriate Exotic Pet Information Sheet and submit it online 48 hours prior to your appointment:
If this is your first visit to Animal Care Unlimited, complete the New Client Form and stop at our New Client Center for more information.
Bring a Picture
It is helpful to have a photograph of your pets’ living quarters at home for the veterinarian to review and include in the medical record. If possible, snap several photos, print them out, and bring them along, or send the photos to us via email.
For birds, the day before your appointment, place clean cage paper on the cage floor. Fold up and bring the newly soiled paper to your appointment. We will use this sample to evaluate the visual condition of your bird’s stool, as well as possibly performing a microscopic evaluation for intestinal parasites.
For reptiles, if your pet voids a fresh stool sample within 24 hours of your appointment, please place it in a small sealable bag and bring it along to your appointment. We will use this sample to evaluate the visual condition of your reptile’s stool, as well as possibly performing a microscopic evaluation for intestinal parasites. A small sample of the cage bedding is also helpful.
In addition, bring a small sample of your pet’s most commonly fed dry food (pellets, seeds). It is also helpful if you can provide the brand name of the feed.
Protect from Cold, Heat, and Other Stress
Don’t forget to protect your pet between the car and home or hospital. Pre-warming or cooling your vehicle is a good idea. Use towels or other cloth covers over carry cages to avoid drafts or heat and cold stress.
Large reptiles may benefit from adding a warm—not hot—water bottle to their travel container, to help maintain normal body temperatures. You may use a clean, one-quart plastic milk or soda container, and secure the bottle to prevent rolling. For smaller reptiles, a temporary “waterbed” consisting of a sealable plastic bag of warm water, with a small towel covering the bag inside the travel container.
Whenever bringing your exotic pet in for an appointment, use an appropriately sized pet carrier or secure travel container to maximize safety and minimize environmental stress.
An examination of a newly acquired bird is recommended within the first 3 days after purchase, to identify and prevent diseases or conditions and to educate the owner about appropriate care for the specific type of bird. For medical history, we want to know background of your bird: its age, sex, origin, length of time in the household, diet, and caging.
Depending on the bird's history, results of physical examination, species, age, and general condition, we may perform some of these diagnostic tests to assist in evaluating patient health:
- Appraisal of droppings and fecal exam
- Chlamyophila Test for psittacosis or parrot fever, a zoonotic disease
- Blood Tests for disease or parasites
- Microbiology, such as a culture of the choana (throat), cloaca (vent), or crop
- Radiographs to assess the internal condition of your bird
- Virus Screening
Annual exams are also advised, for early identification and management of developing conditions and diseases.
The AAHA offers this guide for Pet Bird Care.
For everything from choosing a bird to health care advice and products, visit the Bird Channel website.
Reptiles & Amphibians
Reptiles and amphibians offer a variety of pet options including lizards, snakes, and turtles, excellent for those who are allergic to pets with fur or feathers.
The care of reptiles and amphibians varies by type, each requiring specific care, diet, environment, and equipment. Because they cannot control their own body temperature and require precise environmental conditions, a heat-controlled setting with regulated moisture is often required.
The risk of exposure to salmonella is high in these pets and can cause illness in your family members, especially children. Proper education, good hygiene, and regular veterinary care are critical to the health of these pets and their owners. Visit the CDC Healthy Pets, Healthy People website for more.
The Reptile Series from Veterinary Partner offers helpful articles about caring for these unique pets.
Small Mammal Care
Small mammals include a variety of wonderful pets including ferrets, rabbits, chinchillas, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, mice, and rats. These small mammals are often called “pocket pets” because they are cute, relatively inexpensive, and many can fit in your pocket.
Each type of small pet has specific requirements for proper diet, housing, and handling, demanding as much care and attention as a dog or cat. Some require vaccinations, such as ferrets and skunks, while others need a basic checkup. This annual exam includes weighing your pets and monitoring for species-related conditions and diseases.
Many of these smaller pets live only two to eight years. This means they age at a high rate, experiencing physical changes in the span of 1 year equaling 40 years of a human life. Because their health can change so rapidly, regular veterinary exams are essential for these small mammals.
- Distemper—Beginning at 6 weeks; repeat every 3 weeks until 14 weeks; then booster annually.
- Rabies—Beginning at 12 – 14 weeks with an annual booster; we recommend separating vaccines by at least 1 week on annual visits.
- Distemper—Beginning at 6 weeks; repeat every 3 weeks until 16 weeks; then booster annually.
- Rabies—At 16 weeks and annually.
The Small Mammal Series from Veterinary Partner offers helpful articles about caring for these delightful pets.
Visit the experts in small animal health and download these helpful pet care guides for chinchilla, gerbil, hamster, guinea pig, rabbit, and rat pets: Oxbow Pet Care Guides.
AAHA offers this selection of articles about small animal care.
Please call ahead to schedule an appointment, so we may properly prepare for your unique pet. If you own any type of exotic pet, contact our hospital to discuss your needs.
Visit our Ohio Wildlife Center for more about the care of wild birds and animals.