Most pet owners know that cats and dogs benefit from annual wellness visits that consist of a physical exam, vaccinations, preventive care, and screening tests. But, did you know the same level of care is equally important for your exotic pet? While you may think of exotic pets as tigers, lions, and bears, they are actually small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and more. Pocket pets, such as guinea pigs, hamsters, and mice, are common pets for small children, while lizards, snakes, frogs, and fish can also be fun pets.

Exotic pets require as much preventive and routine care as dogs or cats. Many exotic pets have health problems as a result of improper husbandry, diet, and environment, rather than injuries or contagious diseases. Therefore, routine examinations are critical for detecting and treating sickness and disease as early as possible. Regular visits with our Wales Animal Clinic veterinary team will allow us to review your husbandry techniques, and make recommendations to help you provide optimal care for your unique pet.

Let’s investigate the top three reasons why exotic pets need regular veterinary care as much as your cat or dog.

#1: Exotic pets are masters at hiding illness signs until their condition is advanced

If you’ve ever owned an exotic pet, you know how skilled they are at hiding—not only themselves, but also any abnormalities. Typically, exotic pet owners won’t know their pet has a health issue until the condition has advanced, which can lead to a poor prognosis. Small or exotic pets can experience a rapid health decline once a problem develops, which means prompt illness identification is essential for their health and well-being. 

#2: Exotic pets typically become ill because of husbandry issues

Cat and dog owners have it easythey need to provide only food, water, and the appropriate environment. For exotic pet owners, this is often more difficult, because habitat, food, humidity, lighting, substrate, and temperature play a huge role in their pet’s health and well-being. However, with proper education before you bring home your exotic pet, you can prevent many health issues that may befall your special companion.

  • Environment Exotic pets require a specialized environment to remain happy and healthy. An inappropriate environmental temperature can lead to a lowered immune system, slower digestion, heat-related injuries, or decreased reproduction ability.
    • Substrate or bedding that is too dusty or wet can pose risks to their respiratory tract, while inappropriate substrates can be a choking hazard, or cause a gastrointestinal obstruction.
    • The habitat must be large enough to accommodate your exotic pet. For example, aquatic pets typically require a much larger area than you’d expect to stay healthy.
    • Some exotic species cannot be housed together, and should remain safely isolated to prevent fighting, so do your research before putting multiple pets in the same enclosure.
  • Diet Exotic pets also have specialized dietary needs unique to each species.
    • Pocket pets whose teeth grow continuously (e.g., rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters) need a daily supply of timothy hay to help wear down their teeth to the correct length, and to promote healthy digestion. Guinea pigs also need a vitamin C supplement to prevent scurvy.
    • Certain lizard species must have their prey items dusted with a balanced vitamin and mineral supplement prior to eating. 

#3: Regular wellness exams can spot illness signs in exotic pets before they become serious

Schedule your exotic pet’s wellness visit soon after welcoming them home. This will allow our Wales Animal Clinic team to evaluate their habitat and diet, and make any recommendations necessary for their optimal health. If we find any concerns on your pet’s physical exam, we’ll discuss recommended diagnostics, and treatments needed to restore their health. Then, future annual wellness visits will allow us to monitor your pet’s health as they age, by spotting subtle changes in typical behavior, attitude, and screening test results. 

Through routine wellness care performed regularly—some exotic species may require more frequent veterinary care than others—together, we can keep a close eye on your special pet’s health. Regular veterinary care can help prevent costly, and possibly deadly, health issues in exotic pets, so call Wales Animal Clinic team, to schedule an appointment.