The Exotic Animal History

Key Points

  • Improper diet and substandard housing are often major contributors to illness in exotic animal patients.
  • Some exotic animal species are sexually monomorphic, therefore always determine how gender was identified.
  • How long has the animal been in the client’s possession? New arrivals are more likely to suffer from stress and acute problems like infectious disease. Animals kept in a well-established cage setup are more likely to suffer from husbandry-related problems or chronic disease.
  • Obtain a detailed dietary history. If the animal is offered a wide variety of food items determine what is offered versus what is actually consumed.
  • Husbandry information for the reptile must be particularly detailed, and should include temperature, humidity, and how these parameters are monitored. What is the availability of full-spectrum ultraviolet light or exposure to direct sunlight for omnivorous and herbivorous reptiles?
  • If the pet is allowed outside of the cage, identify your patient’s potential exposure to environmental hazards. Is the pet supervised? Does the owner “pet proof” the environment?
  • For reptiles:  When did the animal last shed? Was that shed normal? And in large reptiles, when did the animal last eat and when did the animal last defecate?
  • Collect a thorough history whenever a new patient presents. During follow-up visits, tailor questions to the presenting complaint and any recommendations or changes since the previous visit.

Although patient history is important in all species, improper diet and substandard housing are often major contributors to illness in non-traditional pets. This means that a detailed and accurate history is often one of the most critical diagnostic tools for the exotic animal patient. This review focuses on birds, reptiles, and small exotic companion mammals, beginning with the signalment and presenting complaint, before moving onto the environmental history, dietary history, and of course the medical history . . .


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