The art of adding exotic animals to your practice (Proceedings)
Nontraditional animal medicine is rapidly becoming an integral part of most companion animal practices. While traditional veterinary medicine is concerned with approximately eight species (and many veterinarians limit themselves to only one or two of these), exotic animal veterinarians are generally expected to be proficient in the care, husbandry, and medicine of hundreds (thousands?) of species. Following are the estimated number of vertebrate species (world-wide):
In addition to these species, there are countless numbers of invertebrate species in the world, some of which are occasionally seen by exotic animal veterinarians.
In the U.S., the number of pet-owning households is now 64.2 million, up 10 million from 1992, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association's 2003/2004 National Pet Owner's Survey. These pets include 77.7 million cats, 65 million dogs, 16.8 million small mammals, 17.3 million birds, 8.8 million reptiles, 7 million saltwater fish, and 185 million freshwater fish. Based on a 2002 survey, the percentage of pet ownership among U.S. households is: small mammals, 5%; birds 6%; reptiles 4%; saltwater fish, 0.7%; and freshwater fish, 13%.There are many factors influencing the surge in interest and ownership in exotic animals. Restrictions on pet ownership in urban areas, in apartments and condominiums, and in dormitories, are often more lenient for selected nontraditional animals which are often confined to cases or aquaria. Many exotic animals (i.e., fish, reptiles, passerines, etc.) do not require much interaction and so are more compatible with our mobile and active lifestyles. Also, there is an increased interest in nontraditional animals because of television shows such as the "Crocodile Hunter" and "Animal Planet."
Because it is impossible to become expert in the medicine of such a large number of species, the emphasis in exotic animal medicine is on developing a logical approach to clinical problems rather than memorizing common disease presentations and treatments for a few species. The keys to success in nontraditional animal medicine are a firm understanding of basic disease processes and the ability to apply that knowledge to novel situations; the ability to extrapolate in a rational manner, a creative and open mind; and a sense of adventure.
Adding exotic animals to your practice: general information
The decision to add exotics to your practice is very important and requires a great deal of commitment. There are certain physical aspects (i.e., facilities, equipment, drugs, diets, grooming materials, etc.), that you will have to invest in before you start to see exotics. You cannot decide you want to "try it for awhile" and will invest in the tools "if things work out" and the endeavor remains refreshing and profitable.