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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!