Life as an exotics DVM: The short version
Heres what I wish everyone at veterinary practices knew about exotics veterinarians.
As I'm sure any exotics veterinarian would tell you, exotic pet owners tend to be a little more exotic themselves. But just like dog and cat practitioners, exotics veterinarians are there to help their patients. The difference is, sometimes, due to the small size, short lifespan and inexpensive replacement cost of certain exotic pets, the exotics veterinarian's goal of saving the patient doesn't always match the client's desire to spend as little as possible as quickly as possible to save their pet's life. This can be a big source of frustration for exotics veterinarians. It takes a lot of patience and positivity on the part of exotics veterinarians to remember exactly they chose to go into this field of veterinary medicine. On the other hand, there are some wonderful exotic pet owners who adore their unusual pets as much as any dog or cat owner loves his or her pet. These are the people who make the exotics veterinarian's struggle to convince owners that their pets need ongoing preventative medical care worth it.
The one thing I wish other veterinarians knew about us is that we take exotics medicine as seriously as small animal veterinarians take dog and cat medicine. We work up cases in as detailed and systematic ways as dog and cat practitioners do.
Our biggest challenge is to keep up with new diseases and treatments for all the species we care for. With all the technological advances and research done in exotics over the past 20 years, we're now able to care for these pets in ways we never have before (I know you can relate). No longer are we limited to just a shot of antibiotics and subcutaneous fluids to treat sick exotic pets. We can perform surgery, endoscopy, ultrasound, CT scans and laser therapy.
So, while we encourage all veterinarians to care for birds and exotics, we hope veterinarians who are not comfortable treating these species will refer them to exotics practitioners who are more knowledgeable about these pets' care. The pets will fare better, the owners will be happier, and the veterinarians who refer will be well respected for the referral. It's a win-win for everyone.
Dr. Laurie Hess, DABVP (avian), is the owner of Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics in Bedford Hills, NY.