What are the basics of avian medicine that a novice veterinary health professional should know before laying hands on the companion parrot patient? Upon completion of this learning aid, the participant will have a basic clinical understanding of avian anatomy, psittacine handling and restraint, history and physical examination, zoonotic concerns, nutrition, basic diagnostic and therapeutic techniques, as well as a few select presenting problems.
LafeberVet’s list of avian medicine links will assist your navigation of some of the avian medicine resources on LafeberVet. Educate yourself before laying hands on the avian patient by reviewing the basics of avian anatomy and physiology as well as important principles of handling and restraint. Then explore content on the examination and history, behavior, housing and nutrition, as well as supportive care techniques, diagnostics, basic therapeutics, and common presenting problems. Start with content listed in the rows titled, “Begin with…”, then expand your knowledge with other sections, such as “Learn more…”.
This RACE-approved, non-interactive webinar recording presented by Natalie Antinoff, DVM, DABVP (Avian Practice) explores radiography and sonography of exotic companion mammals. Topics covered include restraint and positioning, normal radiographic anatomy of ferrets, rabbits, and popular rodent species, as well as unique anatomic features of the sugar glider and hedgehog. Common pathologic conditions as well as typical radiographic findings are also explored, and case examples are used to emphasize key concepts.
Native to Lake Xochimilco, its canal systems, and a few neighboring waterways of Mexico City, the axolotl is a neotenic amphibian species closely related to the tiger salamander. This Basic Information Sheet reviews natural history, conservation status, and taxonomy, as well as a number of clinically relevant topics including diet, housing, behavior, restraint, and important medical conditions seen in the axolotl. Login to view references.
Exotic companion small mammals, such as rabbits, rodents, and ferrets, are popular pets, and are frequently presented to veterinary practitioners for several medical reasons. The RACE-approved recording of this live, 1-hour webinar was presented by Dario d’Ovidio, DVM, MS, SpecPACS, DECZM (Small Mammals). Dr. d’Ovidio first compares the value of chemical versus physical restraint and anesthesia versus sedation before discussing the use of specific sedative agents in exotic companion mammals. The presentation then moves to pain management, discussing systemic analgesia and locoregional anesthesia or analgesia.
The term “miniature pig” is used to describe a variety of smaller pig breeds as well as crossbreeds. There are at least 14 recognized breeds of miniature pigs, including the Vietnamese potbellied pig, the Juliana pig, the KuneKune, and others. This information sheet reviews natural history and taxonomy, as well as a number of clinically relevant information including (but not limited to) diet, housing, behavior, normal physiologic data and anatomy, restraint, preventive medicine, zoonoses, and important medical conditions seen in the mini pig.
Careful observation of avian body language can provide clues when a bird is receptive to play or handling. Download this client education handout to share helpful advice on interpreting psittacine bird postures and behaviors.
This live, interactive webinar was presented by Dr. Alicia McLaughlin, a certified Fear Free™ veterinarian who is spearheading the development of an avian-focused Fear Free™ course. This presentation explores the reasons stress should be minimized during avian veterinary visits and the challenges that must be overcome. Dr. McLaughlin also shares practical tips for clinical implementation as they relate to clinic design, staff training, client education, as well as tips for working with avian patients in an exam room or hospital setting. Alicia has also provided two client education handouts for download that she uses in her daily practice.
This client education handout reviews basic care of the miniature pig. Topics covered include diet, housing, training and proper handling, as well as common health problems and preventive care measures, like vaccination and surgical sterilization.
Mini pigs remain a surprisingly common pet, with a resurgence in popularity every few years. Owners typically have a “small animal mindset”, and as such, seek like-minded veterinarians, but lack of training and paucity of resources leads many veterinarians to shy away from these unique pets. This recording of the live, interactive webinar reviews handling and restraint as well as routine veterinary procedures, from physical examination, vaccination, and nutrition to therapeutics such as hoof trim, tusk trim, and deworming protocols.
The Virginia opossum is the only marsupial native to North America. This New World species is correctly called an “opossum” as opposed to the Old World “possum”. This information sheet reviews natural history, conservation status, and taxonomy, as well as a number of clinically relevant information including (but not limited to) diet, housing, behavior, normal physiologic data and anatomy, restraint, preventive medicine, zoonoses, and important medical conditions seen in the opossum.
Guinea pigs are small, docile rodents, that must be approached with great care. Accurate evaluation of patient health status requires a thorough history, careful visual examination, and a detailed physical examination. Like most prey species, the guinea pig frequently hides signs of pain and illness. To improve clinical success, take measures to minimize stress by maintaining the animal in a quiet exam room and approaching the patient in a slow, quiet manner. The hospitalized guinea pig can also benefit greatly from the presence of a bonded cage mate. Monitor appetite and eliminations carefully in the guinea pig, and offer the same diet as fed in the patient’s home whenever possible as guinea pigs establish strong food preferences early in life.
Diagnostic and therapeutic procedures cannot be administered until you and your staff can safely handle and restrain the lizard patient. This article reviews patient transport and defense mechanisms of the lizard, including tail autotomy, as well as protective gear and restraint techniques.
Diagnostic and therapeutic procedures cannot be administered until you and your staff can safely handle and restrain the turtle or tortoise patient. Many chelonian patients presented to the veterinary hospital are ill and therefore their temperament and strength level can be reduced. Normal, healthy chelonians tend to be bright, alert and very strong, making them extremely challenging to restrain. Gaining control of the head can be particularly difficult, however multiple techniques have been described.
Veterinary practices are often more hesitant to deal with snakes than with other pet reptiles, yet for the most part snakes are probably the easiest reptile patients to capture and restrain in clinical practice. This article reviews the defense mechanisms of snakes as well as transport, restraint techniques, and potential complications.
With the help of a handy infographic, this client education handout reviews the basics of a good rabbit diet as well as housing, including “bunny proofing”, and handling.
In 2023, Ms. Nugent-Deal shared an updated video recording on this topic: Exotic Small Mammal Anesthesia. View this new, RACE-approved webinar recording.
Authored by experts in the field: Terry Norton, DACZM, Director/Founder of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, and Jeanette Wyneken, PhD, this article is part of a unique series on sea turtle veterinary medicine and wildlife rehabilitation. Physical examination of the head and neck are covered including eyes, adnexa, ears, nares, beak, the oral exam, throat, and cervical vertebrae. Normal findings that reflect adaptations to a marine lifestyle are reviewed and unique findings seen in green (Chelonia mydas), flatback (Natator depressus), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempi), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), loggerhead (Caretta caretta), and olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) turtles are discussed. LOGIN to view references.
Sea turtles are adapted to their marine environment, and they possess unique anatomic and physiologic features that influence their restraint and handling in a veterinary medicine or wildlife rehabilitation setting. Techniques for handing small and large sea turtles are described as well as recommendations for handling aides and cautions to prevent iatrogenic injury. LOGIN to view references.
Mediterranean tortoises belong to family Testudinidae and genus Testudo and include: Testudo marginata (marginated tortoise), T. weissingeri, T. horsfieldii (Russian tortoise), T. graeca ibera (Greek spur-thighed tortoise) not to be confused with the spurred tortoise, Geochelone sulcata, T. hermanni (Hermann’s tortoise), and T. kleinmanni (Egyptian tortoise).
Use our Mediterranean tortoise Basic Information Sheet to compare taxonomy, physical characteristics, differences in diet and housing needs, as well as preventive care and diseases of this group of chelonians. Login to view information sheet references.
Behavior is the most direct tool a wild bird has to respond to its environment, and it ultimately determines whether it survives and breeds in its natural environment. There are two functional categories of avian behaviors: self-maintenance behaviors and social behaviors.
Exotic animal medicine requires a delicate balance between medical concepts true for all living creatures (“one medicine”) and species-specific information and this is true for lizards.
Lizard behavior varies with the species, however the normal lizard tends to be alert, responsive, and curious. Some species, like the bearded dragon and leopard gecko tend to be particularly active and animated while most chameleons are more…
The lethargic, weak chelonian may exhibit a lack of carpal or truncal lift. It may sit flat on the exam table instead of lifting up on all four feet, and it may not be able to retract its head into the shell with the expected degree of strength. It can be challenging to…
Restraint collar devices are also referred to as ‘neck collars’ or ‘safety collars’. The most common restraint collar is the Elizabethan collar (or e-collar). Many different manufacturers sell e-collars and modified e-collars designed for different species and for specific purposes. Restraint collars are widely used to prevent undesirable behaviors and self-injury. Clinically, veterinarians have used restraint collars in birds to prevent self-mutilation or self-trauma and to prevent animals from removing intravenous catheters, bandages, and other external devices.
Manual restraint of exotic companion mammals is a challenging but necessary part of veterinary practice. The webinar recording of this live, interactive, web-based course is RACE-approved for veterinary technicians and veterinary nurses. Ms. McClellan reviews the approach to predator and prey species as well as the principles of capture and handling of several species of small exotic companion animals in a hospital setting including from rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas to small rodents, hedgehogs, and sugar gliders.
Veterinary nurses and veterinary technicians take the post-test. With a passing grade of 70% or higher, you will receive a continuing education certificate for 1 hour of continuing education credit in jurisdictions that recognize AAVSB R.A.C.E. approval.
New to chinchillas or has it just been awhile since you’ve seen this species? Review LafeberVet’s list of the Top 10 things you should know before entering the examination room.
So a frog hops into your exam room…
Know just enough amphibian medicine to feel dangerous? Read Assessing the Sick Frog or Toad for practical information that will help you–and your patient–in the exam room.
Always happy to see frog and toad patients? ‘Hop to’ our brief quiz!
Waterfowl belong to Order Anseriformes. Virtually all anseriforms belong to family Anatidae, which consists of ducks, geese, and swans. If you are comfortable with psittacine anatomy and physiology, then many features of waterfowls will be familiar. LafeberVet has listed twelve interesting and clinically significant facts about waterfowl…
Be prepared for your next bird patient. Review the basic approach to the avian physical examination, including history, review of signalment, and visual examination. Key parts of the exam will vary, but generally include a body weight in grams, the oropharynx, crop, sternum, coelom, and vent. The fundus should be routinely evaluated in trauma patients…
According to the Humane Society of the United States,17 deaths and many more injuries have been related to large constrictors since 1978. Given the tens of thousands of large constrictors sold, the incidence of fatalities and injuries is relatively low, however every incident—including the death of four babies in their cribs and three additional children—is particularly tragic since these cases are completely preventable. In this client education handout, safety tips involving snake feeding, housing, and behavior are discussed.
The veiled chameleon is indigenous to Yemen, in the southwestern region of the Saudi Arabian peninsula. This species is found in extreme environments ranging from arid desert to seasonal “wadis” or streams that form in the desert after rain. Pets may be captive bred or wild caught and imported.
Uromastyx spp. are also known as dabb lizards or spiny-tailed lizards. This latter name comes from its thick, short tail covered with large, spiny scales. The Moroccans spiny-tailed lizard or agama is native to the deserts of northern Africa. Colorful specimens of the pet trade are often captured from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Mauritania. The range of the ornate spiny-tailed agama is restricted to the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. Wild-caught animals are more common than captive bred in the pet trade, this is particularly true for the…
The Savannah monitor is native to the savannahs of eastern and southern Africa. In the wild these monitors are scavengers covering large distances as they search for small prey items. Savannah monitors in the pet trade are…
Red-eared sliders are native to the eastern and central United States river valleys. Most pet sliders are captive bred and hatched. Red-eared sliders are hardy and outgoing. Although pretty and personable as pets, red-eared sliders occupy a niche of dark history in herpetoculture, first as transmitters of Salmonella bacteria to small children, second as an invasive species that have disturbed ecosystems throughout the waterways of the world. The former problem is the result of husbandry and marketing practices of large-scale commercial producers; the latter due to illegal release of unwanted pets.
The panther chameleon is indigenous to Madagascar. Most specimens in the pet trade used to be wild caught, however with changes in Madagascar’s export regulations and better understanding of the care of these exquisite lizards, most are now captive-bred.
Leopard geckos are originally from the grassland and desert regions of India and Pakistan. The vast majority of pets are captive bred and hatched. Leopard geckos are nocturnal, terrestrial, long-lived lizards that make excellent pets.
There are several species of kingsnake and their habitat and range vary. The Eastern kingsnake is found in humid forests of the eastern seaboard states and as far west as the Appalachians and Alabama. The California kingsnake is native to desert, arid grassland, and rocky hillsides of Baja Mexico and the western United States. Pets may be bred in captivity or wild-caught. Kingsnakes are fairly docile, medium-sized, hardy reptiles, that make…
Jackson’s chameleons comprise three distinct subspecies native to the montane regions of Kenya. Large feral populations are found in Hawaii where specimens are often caught for the pet trade. Small numbers are also captive-bred.
The green iguana is native to the tropical rain forests of Latin America. Most pet iguanas are raised on farms in El Salvador and Costa Rica although wild-caught imports and domestically captive-bred lizards are also available.
Native to the tropical rain forests of Central and South America, tiny poison dart frogs secrete lipophilic alkaloid toxins through their skin. These toxins serve as a chemical defense against predation. Some native tribes are renowned for dipping arrow tips in the toxins from these frogs. These beautiful, active frogs are outgoing and diurnal, making excellent “look but don’t touch” pets. Many but not all specimens in the pet trade today are captive bred. Frogs bred for several generations in captivity fail to synthesize…
The corn snake is also known as the red rat snake. Corn snakes are found in woodland and forest regions of the southeastern and central United States as far west as Kentucky and Louisiana and as far south as Mexico. Pets may be wild-caught but most are captive bred and many color morphs are now available in the pet trade.
Green water dragons are native to tropical forests or areas near the river’s edge in southeast Asia. Pets are primarily wild-caught and wild-caught adults can have a difficult time adjusting to captivity. Water dragons are beautiful lizards that make stunning display animals in naturalistic vivaria, however these lizards are inexpensive and imported in large numbers. These flighty lizards then end up in private homes where…
The African bullfrog lives in a variety of arid and semiarid habitats in central and southern Africa. This frog has long ridges on the skin of its back and a huge head.
The pet trade is supplied by captive-bred and wild-caught specimens. African bullfrogs are often called “Pixie” frogs (derived from their genus, not their size). It is theorized that a number of different subspecies or species are now sold in the trade as African bullfrogs.
The group of snakes called “boas” consists of over 40 species. Most popular pet boas are New World species, however boas are also found in Africa and Asia. Most boas live in environments that range from tropical rain forest to dry woodland and scrub forest. Sand boas (Gongylophis spp.) may be found in desert and savannah land and Rosy boas (Lichanura spp.) live in dry, rocky habitats.
Pythons are found in Africa, Australia, and Asia under conditions that range from rain forest to desert. Some species are primarily ground dwellers, but most can be found in bushes and trees. The larger species are often found near water and are strong swimmers.
Pet boas and pythons may be…
The blue-tongued skinks are represented by a variety of species, subspecies and races native to Australia, New Guinea and Indonesia. Two of the more common varieties in the pet trade are the northern, Tiliqua scincoides intermedia, and Irian Jaya, an undescribed T. scincoides. These ground-dwelling diurnal skinks have tiny legs and feet, heavy bodies, and a large, blue tongue that can be bared as a warning to potential enemies.
Some blue-tongued skinks are domestically bred, however many are imported from Indonesia and New Guinea.
Native to the central deserts of Australia, the Bearded dragon’s name comes from its practice of extending the flap of skin under the jaw or “beard” in a defensive posture.
The most common pet mouse is the standard white laboratory mouse, although pet mice are not as inbred as some strains of lab mice.
Hamsters are short, stocky rodents with an abundance of loose skin. Today’s pet or laboratory hamster, known as the Syrian hamster, was bred from a small group of hamsters removed from a burrow near Syria in 1930 as well as 11 more collected in 1971 and three in 1978.
Gerbils are omnivores. In the wild the diet consists of grasses and seeds with small amounts of insects. A captive diet consists of a high-quality pellet supplemented with…
Degus, also known as brush-tailed or trumpet-tailed rats, are natives of central Chilean open scrubland where they are routinely exposed to droughts. Degus survive on very poor diets in the wild.
Wild degus feed on grasses, seeds, cactus fruits, tubers, and local crops. The captive diet should consist of…
Cottontail rabbits eat a wide variety of plant foods including grasses, sedges, sprouts, leaves, fruits, buds, and bark. During the summer months, cottontails primarily eat grasses, legumes, succulent annuals, weeds, as well as the occasional garden vegetable. The winter diet includes small grains, as well as twigs, bark, and buds of shrubs and trees. Favorite food items often include white and crimson clover, Bahia grass, and green succulent vegetation like alfalfa, wheat, barley, ryegrass, and winter peas.
A captive diet frequently consists of…
Sugar gliders are small, nocturnal marsupials native to Australia and New Guinea.
The Savannah monitor is native to the savannahs of eastern and southern Africa.
Native to South America, the guinea pig is a lively, lovable rodent that requires relatively easy care. This client education handout reviews housing and diet recommendations as well as the basics of safe handling, enrichment, and grooming. Download the PDF version to distribute to veterinary clients or modify the Word document for your hospital’s needs.
The long-tailed chinchilla is native to the mountains and foothills of the Andes Mountains in South America. These rodents are known for their large ears and soft, luxurious fur. Chinchillas make charming pets, but they are naturally skittish and are not considered a good choice for small children because of their delicate bones and their hyperactive natures. Most pet chinchillas live 6-10 years.
This client education handout reviews basic husbandry recommendations, including diet, housing, dust bathing, exercise, as well as handling and behavior.
At the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre, previously the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre, we encourage private practices, emergency clinics, and rehabilitation centers to aid in the initial treatment of these injured turtles. We admit turtles from across the province, and it is extremely beneficial to the turtle to get immediate care locally before transfer. Snapping turtles are incredible in their ability to heal (albeit slowly!) and we cannot stress enough that the injuries can appear horrific, and yet can go on to heal, with subsequent release of the turtle back into the wild…
Grooming in the bird can refer to clipping wing feathers, trimming nails, and smoothing and/or trimming the beak. Grooming can be performed by the veterinarian or an astute, skilled veterinary technician, however before the procedure begins one must always ask should the bird be groomed and should the bird be groomed at my practice?
The rabbit has a relatively short prothrombin time and whole blood quickly clots at room temperature. To minimize the risk of clot formation, it can be helpful to pre-heparinize the needle and syringe by drawing heparin into the needle and expelling the excess from the hub. The total volume of blood that can be safely collected typically ranges from 0.5% to 1.0% body weight. Collect smaller volumes from geriatric patients or those suspected to have anemia or hypoproteinemia.
Use this video clip or article with still images to review equipment needed, and potential venipuncture sites including the jugular vein, lateral saphenous vein, and ear vessels.
Pet ferrets are easily handled using minimal restraint and a little petting. And with the exception of nursing females, ferrets rarely bite although young ferrets or “kits” may nip. Manual restraint is required for these lively, active creatures during uncomfortable procedures like obtaining a rectal temperature or during procedures that call for the animal to remain still like abdominal palpation. Use this video clip or text with still images to review handling techniques such as scruffing and stretching.
Rabbits possess a relatively lightweight, delicate skeleton paired with extremely strong, well-developed back and leg muscles. If improper restraint allows the rabbit to struggle or kick powerfully, they are in danger of breaking their back or a leg. Use this video clip or text with still images to review the equipment needed and techniques involved in rabbit handling and restraint.
Manual restraint is required for virtually any medical procedure in the songbird or passerine. Warn owners of the inherent risk of handling the critically ill bird. Minimize handling time so the bird does not overheat or become overly distressed, and monitor the bird closely for any change in strength, breathing, or attitude. Use this video clip or text with still images to review equipment needed as well as handling and restraint techniques.
Manual restraint and handling is required for most medical procedures in the companion parrot, also known as the psittacine or hookbill. Warn owners of the inherent risk of handling the critically ill bird and minimize handling time so the bird does not overheat or become overly distressed. Also monitor the bird closely for any change in strength, breathing, or attitude. Parrot handling also carries potential risk for veterinary medical staff since even friendly birds may bite if they feel threatened.
Chinchillas, like many small exotic mammals, are prey species that can become easily stressed in a hospital setting. Approach these patients calmly and quietly. Fortunately most pet chinchillas are relatively docile. They are typically used to being handled and will often come out of their cage voluntarily. Use this video and text with still images to review the cautions or potential complications of chinchilla restraint and handling well as the technique involved.
The African pygmy hedgehog is a native of West and Central Africa. When threatened, the hedgehog curls into a ball, extends its spines, puffs up, and hisses. When exposed to a new object, hedgehogs may exhibit “self anointing” or “anting”. The new object is licked until thick, frothy saliva collects and is then…
In the best of captive situations, wild birds are still subject to significant stress. This is particularly true during phases of rehabilitation that require frequent capture and treatment. Experience with individual patients will dictate your approach to capture and restraint, but be aware that a slow, careful approach to capture followed by restriction of vision during restraint will generally yield best results.