Exotic and Pocket Pets

Drs. Heather Toyne and Justin Starnes care for your exotic and pocket pets.

They Can See:

  • Small mammals
    • Guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, ferrets. rabbits
  • Reptiles
    • Lizards, turtles, tortoises, and non-venomous snakes

Services Provided:

  • Annual evaluations (really important!)
  • Illness exams not requiring surgery or hospitalization

Did You Know?

Husbandry refers to addressing an exotic pet’s environment, nutrition, and sanitation.

Husbandry is relatively simple for dogs and cats since they are accustomed to living side by side with people, have convenient, packaged food that is nutritionally complete and are easily potty trained. Most exotic pets are not adapted for this lifestyle and need their owners to create an environment that is similar to what they would experience in the wild. The amount and type of UV light, temperature, humidity, hiding spots, size of enclosure, type of substrate, cagemates, and amount of handling required or tolerated are just some of the elements that need to be correct. Some packaged diets are available but, even if they are, most exotic pets require some of of additional supplementation. If these things aren’t just right, health problems can arise. Here are just some examples:

  • Guinea pigs require a high level of vitamin C and can get scurvy if it is lacking in their diet.
  • Rodents have teeth that continuously grow and if not fed enough roughage, these teeth will not wear down properly and can cause mouth sores and even an inability to close their mouth.
  • Pets housed on cedar or pine shavings can develop pneumonia due to the volatile oils in the wood.
  • Reptiles need varying degrees of humidity. Those that naturally live in very humid places will not shed properly if their enclosures are too dry. Toes can even be lost due to improper shedding!
  • UV light is important for metabolism and reptiles often develop a syndrome called Metabolic Bone Disease without proper UV exposure.
  • Some birds (mainly the parrot type birds) need lots of companionship and mental stimulation or may resort to self-mutilation out of boredom or frustration. Other birds get extremely stressed and can even pass away from handling.
  • It can be difficult to determine how plump a chicken is due to their pronounced pectoral muscles and fluffy feathers, but pet chickens are commonly obese and can be predisposed to developing bumblefoot because of this.
  • Poor nutrition or even a slight calcium imbalance can case egg binding in pet birds.

For reasons like these, it is even more important to have annual evaluation for these small pets as it is for dogs and cats. A husbandry consultation is part of the annual evaluation for every exotic pet because, as stated above, the conditions should be near what they pet would encounter in the wild and this can be very difficult to achieve. Sometimes husbandry is not enough and additional measures should be taken, for example, even if rodents have adequate roughage, dental maintenance and treatment are often still needed.  – Heather Toyne, DVM

Did You Know?

A specialist is a veterinarian who has spent 3-4 years of additional training and has additional credentials in a specific area of veterinary medicine or surgery.

Specialists exist in many of the same areas that exist in human medicine such as cardiology, surgery, internal medicine, radiology, and oncology. There are even extra certifications for veterinarians who are considered experts in a particular species.

Exotics specialists are veterinarians who have undergone years of additional training and testing in order to call themselves a diplomat of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (avian or exotics field) or the American College of Zoological Medicine. They use the abbreviations ABVP or ACZM in their name. There are less than 300 of these individuals in the world. Many of these specialists work in academic settings or zoos and don’t provide services to the general public. If you are interested in seeing an “expert”, there is one of these specialists at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

Who is qualified to see my exotic pet?

All veterinarians are licensed to treats all species of animals (except humans of course!). So why is it so hard to find a vet who is willing to see a pet gecko? Most veterinarians place limitations on themselves in order to be more adept at treating a few species because it is extremely difficult to become an expert in treating dozens of species. Some veterinarians only see horses and cows, a majority wish to see only dogs and cats, and very few see only exotic species.

The veterinarians at PCAC typically see dogs and cats but Dr. Toyne and Dr. Starnes also see exotic pets. They cares about their well-being so much that they will always tell people that they would love the opportunity to see their exotic pet, but in the same breath tell them about exotic pet specialists if their friends need extra care. Often, because most of these critters are prey species, by the time your little friend is displaying signs of illness they are very sick and may need extra care.

Please give us a call today if your exotic or pocket pet needs veterinary care.