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Case Study: Easy-to-Build Exotic Ward Offers the Next Level of Service

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You can create a small, successful exotic ward with no more space than an unused storage room and boost the service you offer owners of exotic pets, says Dr. Jennifer Graham, Dipl. ABVP. "Clients are beginning to ask, 'Are the exotics kept separate from the other pets?' and 'What special treatment can you provide?' " Dr. Graham says. "Clients know these issues are important and will evaluate the practice on team members' responses."

CASE STUDY: EASY-TO-BUILD EXOTIC WARD OFFERS THE NEXT LEVEL OF SERVICE

You can create a small, successful exotic ward with no more space than an unused storage room and boost the service you offer owners of exotic pets, says Dr. Jennifer Graham, Dipl. ABVP. "Clients are beginning to ask, 'Are the exotics kept separate from the other pets?' and 'What special treatment can you provide?' " Dr. Graham says. "Clients know these issues are important and will evaluate the practice on team members’ responses."

Dr. Graham currently practices at the new Veterinary Specialty Center, a 24-hour care facility in Seattle, where she enjoys a dedicated exotic ward. However, her former practice used an old isolation room to see exotics. "Our room was inexpensively modified with just a small space heater to regulate the temperature," Dr. Graham says. She also suggests using these household items to set up an economical ward:

• secondhand aquariums for reptiles

• plastic storage containers for induction chambers

• small lamps and heating pads with towels to regulate temperature

• a few small scales that weigh in grams.

You'll also need feeding tubes, an oxygen source, and proper medications, Dr. Graham says. For a beginning ward, she advises using one wall for birds, another for small mammals, and a third for reptiles, regulating the temperature for each species. "You must be aware of potential disease transmission and know what precautions to take when housing herbivores and carnivores," says Dr. Graham. "But with proper education, a successful ward is very doable. And clients will appreciate that you provide for their unique pet."

Dr. Graham estimates the initial cost for a basic exotic ward at $3,000 to $5,000--this covers small caging, feeding tubes, heat and oxygen sources, medications, and more. Setting up a full-service, 24-hour exotic ward would take tens of thousands of dollars and a lot more time, she says. "Of course having one room isn't ideal, but it's a starting point," Dr. Graham says. Although your revenue depends on the number of cases you see and their complexity, Dr. Graham estimates that a basic exotics ward could bring a practice $2,000 to $5,000 a week.

Once you've made your investment, you need to make sure pet owners know what you're offering. Dr. Graham suggests talking to organizations, rescue groups, and clubs in your area and offering educational presentations to get the word out. "Another possibility is volunteering," says Dr. Graham. "I volunteer at our local rescue shelter, and I make sure to carry business cards that highlight our hospital's exotic ward."

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