Easy-to-build exotic ward offers 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.

You can create a small, successful exotic ward with no more space than an unused storage room and boost the service you offer exotic pets' owners, 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?'" she says. "Clients know these issues are important and will evaluate the practice on team members' responses."

Dr. Graham currently practices at the Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston, 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," she says.

To set up your own economical ward, Dr. Graham suggests using these household items:

  • secondhand aquariums for reptiles

  • plastic storage containers for induction chambers

  • small lamps and heating pads with towels to help 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. With this amount, you could purchase small caging, feeding tubes, heat 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," she says.

Although your revenue would depend on the number of cases you see and their complexity, Dr. Graham estimates you'd quickly recoup your investment. She says a basic exotics ward could bring a practice $2,000 to $5,000 a week.

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