Thinking of adding exotic mammals to your case load? Equipment needs (Proceedings)


Thinking of adding exotic mammals to your case load? Equipment needs (Proceedings)

Aug 01, 2011

Exotic mammal equipment list
For the dog and cat veterinarian, making the transition to include exotic companion mammals in the practice caseload is not difficult. The extent of special equipment needed varies with the degree to which the veterinarian plans to pursue this field of interest. Minor changes in physical plant that provide an ICU, special cages or an exotics ward, and extra storage for foods appropriate to the species the veterinarian plans on examining is a great start. Converting an exam room to reflect your interest exotic mammals is an option that improves upon equipment utilization and efficiency and demonstrates this special interest to your clients. An initial investment in syringes, catheters, surgical and dental instruments, and anesthetic equipment all designed for these small patients will be necessary. More sophisticated equipment can be added as the interest in exotic mammals grows and finances allow. Please see the attached equipment list (Table 1) for more information on equipment discussed in this paper


Every veterinary visit with an exotic mammal begins in the exam room. A general discussion on husbandry, behavior and nutrition is part of every initial exam and being organized helps this discussion go more smoothly and efficiently. The author prepares in-house information packets full of client education handouts addressing various topics on the species being seen. These handouts are also required reading for all staff members so that they are able to initiate husbandry discussions. Having an educated and well-trained staff capable of helping with client education, patient restraint and diagnostic sample collection is a real time saver. Check lists are provided to remind staff members on topics of importance and also serve to notify the veterinarian in charge of what has already been discussed with the client.

Inappropriate feeding practices are a common problem in many exotic mammals and part of every new patient office visit should be devoted to this topic. Many veterinarians stock a variety of exotic mammal diets in order to allow the client the opportunity to start making immediate dietary changes. Showing the client a bag of food that meets the nutritional needs of their pet gives a more memorable impression than just discussing these products alone. Oxbow Animal Health ( supplies the veterinary market with a variety of legume and grass hays for herbivores and pelleted diets for herbivores and rodents. Zupreem ( makes reliable ferret, rabbit and guinea pig diets and Mazuri ( offers pelleted diets for ferrets, guinea pigs, rabbits, rodents and insectivores such as hedgehogs and sugar gliders. Keeping fresh, leafy greens on hand is not only a great way to show clients appropriate produce to provide herbivores but also serves as an aid in testing patient inappetence in suspect ileus cases.

For precise pharmacological dosing and for monitoring body condition, accurate body weights are important. Two portable scales are ideal: for example, a Mars MS-6 for smaller exotic mammals that measures patients in grams up to 6.6 kg, and a Shoreline feline digital scale used to weigh larger exotic mammals in kilograms.

Each exam room is stocked with towels in a variety of sizes to aid in patient restraint and to help ensure footing and prevent heat loss on stainless steel exam tables. Some practitioners prefer to use a rubber bath mat with suction cups on the exam table. The rubber provides traction and increased security for anxious rabbits and guinea pigs during exams and the mats are easily washed and disinfected. FerreTone, a palatable oily supplement designed for ferrets, serves as a nice distraction device that when offered in a syringe keeps busy ferrets occupied so that they may be more readily examined. Feline /avian nail trimmers are provided for all staff members to encourage patient nail trims. A wire mesh aquarium top can be used as an aid when trimming nails on hedgehogs or sugar gliders as they cling to the wire mesh. For initial dental exams on rabbits, chinchillas and guinea pigs a small animal otoscope or an illuminated Welch Allyn bivalve speculum can be used. We have a separate set of cones set aside for this purpose, as the pets gnawing action during oral examination will damage the plastic leaving rough edges. Magnification loupes such as the Optivisor can be a great aid in the general examination of mice, hamsters and gerbils as well as an aid in viewing close-ups of skin and other lesions. For auscultation of the heart and lungs a pediatric or infant stethoscope helps with clarity and function.