Traditional veterinarian practices focus mainly on medical treatments for canines and felines, which means that a relatively large subset of animal companions may find themselves left without care options. Because of this, some vets decide to specialize in care for other pets and animals.
Types of Exotic Pets
When most people hear the words “exotic pet,” they probably conjure images of tigers, lions, and monkeys. But these jungle animals aren’t the only animals that require specialized veterinarians. Pretty much any animal that isn’t a house cat or dog is considered “exotic” in the animal medicine world. This is because veterinarian school usually only covers the foundational aspects of animal care, with a focus on domesticated dogs and cats.
Some pretty common pets that can be found on the “exotic” list include:
- Spiders and other insects
- and more!
Farm animals may not share the family home, but they are still considered domesticated and may require special care. With this, you can add sheep, cows, ducks, turkeys, chickens, and more to the list.
Of course, exotic pet care can get more exotic, with veterinarians specialized in the anatomy of care for large cats, wild dogs, bears, monkeys, giraffes, rhinos, sloths, kangaroos, and more. These vets usually tend to work in Zoological medicine or dedicate their career to conservation efforts.
Becoming an Exotic Pet Vet
There are many reasons why a vet might want to enter the world of exotic animals. It could be due to a passion for a particular type of animal, to address a gap in care in their local community, or to enhance and grow their veterinarian offerings.
Each group of animals has its own unique anatomy, physiology, health issues, and treatment options. To stay on top of the latest knowledge and continuously-evolving treatment options, many exotic pet vets attend conferences and lectures, consult with other specialized vets, subscribe to veterinarian journals, and perhaps even conduct research on their own.
Benefits and Challenges of Treating Exotic Animals
Vets who expand their practice beyond cats and dogs to include exotic pets such as small mammals, birds, or reptiles can increase clientele and see a real boost to their bottom line.
On the other hand, vets who exclusively handle exotic animals may experience a less stable career path. Lower pay is more common with exotic vets working in non-profit and conservation roles. These types of vets are more likely to bounce from project to project and work for organizations that rely on donations or a limited income. However, if your passion is there and you love what you do, most exotic vets will tell you it’s worth the tradeoff.
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