Your Bird or Exotic Pet's First Trip to the Veterinarian
By Christopher Stancel, DVM
You just picked up your first rabbit, or that cute little baby ferret, beautiful little bird or your really cool lizard or snake. Hopefully you have its cage set-up, the proper diet picked out and learned lots of information on the proper care of your new exotic pet. So now what? ...... A trip to your local avian and exotic animal veterinarian would be a great place to start. Traditionally, dogs and cats have been brought to veterinarians for regular check-ups, vaccines, fecal testing, heartworm testing, any other necessary blood work and preventative care. Your bird, reptile, small mammals and pocket pets also need care.
An initial check-up shortly after your pets purchase is a good way to ensure that the pet is healthy. Regular exams are recommended so a trained veterinarian can examine your pet for any physical abnormalities; monitor its weight and growth. Fecal testing is important for all ages but especially for your newly purchased exotic pet as they can be carrying parasites that can make them sick. All avian and exotic pets should have their fecal samples brought to your veterinarian to get checked for parasites. Birds' stools not only need to be checked for parasites but also for proper bacteria that aids in digestion or have the potential to make them sick. There are many other routine tests that may be recommended by your veterinarian. Birds for example are often tested for such diseases as Psittacosis, Beak and Feather Disease as well as Polyoma virus. It is often recommended to culture reptiles to make sure they are not carrying any harmful bacteria, especially salmonella that can not only make your pet sick but you as well. This is especially important in households with children or the elderly.
Ferrets should also receive vaccines as well. They too should be vaccinated yearly against Rabies as well as Distemper. Usually, newly purchased ferrets have received only one vaccine from the breeder prior to shipment to the pet stores therefore they need to complete a series of vaccines just like a little puppy or kitten. Ferrets should also be tested for heartworm disease and placed on appropriate heartworm preventative. Heartworm disease is spread via mosquitoes so even though ferrets are kept indoors, they too are at risk just like dogs and cats.
Your veterinarian can make any necessary recommendations as needed. Always remember, preventative medicine is always the best medicine. Regular check-ups and routine testing should start with babies and continue through adulthood. These precautions are essential to their general health care, prevention of disease and key to your pet living a long healthy life. Bringing your new baby exotic pet to a veterinarian is the start of providing a long lasting loving home for your pet.