Translate This Blog

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Exotics Week: Practice Builder

Today's entry is specifically directed at veterinarians and veterinary students.  But the rest of you can get some insight into running a veterinary practice.

I know that as veterinarians we don't get much practice in exotic pet medicine in school, and some vets simply don't like seeing these pets for personal reasons (such as s snake phobia).  However, I've known many vets who don't see exotics because they feel they don't have the right training for it and are unwilling to take the steps to get the training.  Those vets are missing out on a potential practice builder.

I'm one of the few vets in my area who will see just about anything you can bring in (other than livestock and large animals).  I don't consider myself an expert, but I can certainly see many kinds of animals with skill.  Because of the variety of animals I'll see, I've had many clients drive long distances and pass other vets in order to come to my practice.  Sometimes this don't go far, depending on the health of the pet.  But other times it leads to far bigger things.

Many people with hamsters, reptiles, and other exotics also have dogs and cats.  And most people don't like driving to different vets for different pets.  More than once I've had a client bring in a hamster or other small pet, get to know and like me, and then start bringing their dogs and cats to me.  It's not that I'm better than their previous vet...I'm just willing to see ALL of their pets, not just some of them.  Wherever I've lived I've been able to develop this kind of reputation, and it's helped grow my practice.

I would encourage anyone going into small animal medicine to develop at least some basic skills with exotics.  You may not get much experience in vet school, but all major continuing education events have seminars on exotics medicine.  There are also several organizations and journals available that can give training in basic skills.  Most of my knowledge is self-taught, going to these meetings and reading all available resources.  Then it's a matter of just jumping in and doing your best.  Very quickly you'll develop the skills you need to see these little critters.  Not only will you be able to provide care to pets that might otherwise not get any, but you'll also see your practice grow a bit.  It's a win-win for everyone!


  1. I used to work on birds, but I got bit too many times! I stick to mammals now!

  2. Good advice. Do you feel that just from reading information and going to seminars you got enough information to dive in and start working on a live pet?

  3. Honestly, for most of the cases you will see in private general practice, self-education is absolutely sufficient. There are many vets I know who had a smattering of training in exotics in school (if any at all) but had a strong desire and sought out the education opportunities once they were in practice.

    And to be very frank, there is no way you are going to get training for every concievable situation or case in ANY field of medicine. No matter how thorough your training or experience, you will often be faced with situations that you simply have to jump in and do your best.

  4. A similar thing might be said about other specialties. Any additional skill can increase what services you can provide clients and grow your business. Compared to other specialty areas (cardiology, orthopedics, etc), how often do you refer exotic patients to specialists? What sorts of exotic cases should be seen by specialists?


  5. Excellent point, Jordan. The more skilled you are, the more you can keep cases in your own clinic and not refer them. However, you need to make sure you can accurately judge the cases you can't handle, and realize that specialists are very highly trained.

    One of the problems with exotics is that specialists are not as easily found as with orthopedics, cardiology, dermatology and so on. So there may be fewer places to refer. What cases need to be referred? Honestly, it depends on the equipment and skill of the practitioner. I know a highly skilled non-specialist in another state who works with Galapagos tortises, alligators, mambas, and pretty much anything that moves. I can't imagine him ever referring to an exotics specialist. Myself, I'm rarely going to refer a mammal, but am not going to do extensive internal surgery on birds and reptiles so I'd refer them.


Thank you for making a comment on my blog! Please be aware that due to spammers putting links in their comments I moderate every comment. ANY COMMENTS WITH AN EXTERNAL LINK NOT RELATED TO THE TOPIC WILL LIKELY BE DELETED AND MARKED AS SPAM. If you are someone who is posting links to increase the traffic to another website, save me and you the time and hassle and simply don't comment. To everyone else.....comment away! I really do enjoy hearing from readers!