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.
The Virginia opossum is the only marsupial native to North America. Although veterinarians are allowed to provide humane care to any injured or orphaned wild animal, it is important to know your state laws as it is illegal to keep a pet opossum in many states. This client education handout reviews the basics of a pet opossum diet, caging, behavior, as well as health concerns.
Proper management of the pregnant sow requires an understanding of the risk factors associated with pregnancy-related disease and an ability to recognize early signs of problems. This client education handout explains proper care of the breeding and pregnant sow and provides tips for careful monitoring. Download the PDF version to distribute to veterinary clients or modify the Word document for your hospital’s needs.
Basic equipment for high-quality exotic companion mammal practice focuses on supportive care, such as fluid therapy, appropriate housing and nutritional support, as well as equipment needed for physical examination and basic techniques. This detailed equipment list also includes supplies recommended for surgical and anesthetic procedures as well as advanced diagnostic techniques.
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.
Get ready now to care for exotic pets during an accident or natural catastrophe that causes great damage or even loss of life, such as blizzard, earthquake, fire, flood, hurricane, mud slide, or tornado. This disaster relief client education handout was revised and posted with permission from “Ready-Pets-Go!” by the Humane Society of Greater Rochester.
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.
The amphibian examination beings with careful visual observation. Use of a small, transparent container can enhance the amphibian visual examination and minimize handling time. Download the LafeberVet Amphibian Physical Examination Form, available in PDF, DOCX and DOC formats.
A detailed history is mandatory for the amphibian patient as husbandry needs can have a tremendous impact on amphibian health. Download the LafeberVet Amphibian History Form available in PDF, DOCX and DOC formats.
The European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) is one of the most common species seen in wildlife rehabilitation in western Europe. Hedgehogs are potential carriers of zoonotic disease. Ringworm infection caused by Trichophyton mentagrophytes is the most commonly contracted zoonosis of wildlife rehabilitators in the United Kingdom. Other important medical conditions include ectoparasites infestations, gastrointestinal disease caused by Salmonella enteritidits or coccidiosis as well as bronchopneumonia associated with bacterial and/or lungworm infection.
Use our European hedgehog Information Sheet to review taxonomy, conservation status, physical description, diet and housing needs, anatomy and physiology, preventive care as well as important medical conditions. Login to view information sheet references.
The mud turtle (Pelusios castaneus) is native to West Africa and its natural habitat consists of aquatic habitat surrounded by dense forest floors or submerged savannah. Shared by Dr. La’Toya Latney of PennVet, this educational handout will help your client understand how to care for and maintain this aquatic turtle species in captivity. Recommendations for indoor and outdoor housing as well as nutrition are described as well as common problems seen pet turtles.
The leopard tortoise (Geochelone pardalis) is found throughout the southern edge of the Sahara and in Southern Africa from the Sudan to Ethiopia. Leopard tortoises inhabit hot arid desert, scrublands, and savannah. Shared by Dr. La’Toya Latney of PennVet, this educational handout will help your client understand how to care for and maintain this tortoise in captivity. Recommendations for indoor and outdoor housing as well as nutrition and breeding are described as well as common clinical problems.
The charming Chinese box turtle (Cuora flavomarginata) is native to the rice patty and pond environments of Taiwan and southern China. Shared by Dr. La’Toya Latney of PennVet, this educational handout will help your client understand how to care for and maintain this semi-aquatic turtle in captivity. Recommendations for indoor and outdoor housing as well as nutrition and breeding are described as well as common clinical problems.
Sulcata or African spurred tortoises (Geochelone sulcata) are “gentle giants” found throughout the southern edge of the Sahara in Africa. Sulcata tortoises inhabit hot arid desert, scrubland, and savannah. Shared by Dr. La’Toya Latney of PennVet, this educational handout will help your client understand how to care for and maintain this popular tortoise in captivity. Recommendations for housing as well as nutrition, breeding, and common clinical problems are described.
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.
The Egyptian tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni) is also know as Kleinmann’s tortoise or Leith’s tortoise. The native habitat of the Egyptian tortoise consists of desert and semi-desert scrub, although this species is also found in salt marsh margins, sandy gravel plains, as well as the rocky escarpments of the “wadis”, a stream bed that is usually dry except during the rainy season.
Use our Egyptian tortoise Information Sheet to review taxonomy, conservation status and physical description as well as diet and housing needs of this chelonian species. Login to view information sheet references.
The Greek or spur-thighed tortoise (T. graeca complex) is a small to medium-sized tortoise. Subspecies are found from northern Africa through central Asia. Use our Greek tortoise Information Sheet to review taxonomy, conservation status, physical description, diet and housing needs, as well as important medical conditions of this chelonian species. Login to view information sheet references.
The natural habitat of Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni) includes evergreen and oak forests with arid, rocky hill slopes and scrubby vegetation, as well as herbaceous scrub and grassy hillsides.
Use our Hermann’s tortoise Information Sheet to review natural history, taxonomy, conservation status, physical description, diet and housing needs, as well as important medical conditions of this chelonian species. Login to view information sheet references.
The marginated tortoise (Testudo marginata) is found in Greece and Sardinia, as well as Italy, southern Albania and the Balkan Islands. This species was also introduced into Turkey. Its natural habitat consists of dry scrub, woodland, and hillside.
Use our marginated tortoise Information Sheet to review taxonomy, conservation status, physical description as well as diet and housing needs of this chelonian species. Login to view information sheet references.
Leg bands are sometimes used for identification of birds. Band removal is indicated as a medical treatment when the band is associated with tissue swelling due to trauma or a build up of keratin. Prophylactic band removal is recommended by some veterinarians because of the danger of the band catching on wire or toys. There is some controversy, however, as to whether bands truly pose a significant risk. Most clinicians agree that closed bands pose less risk of injury compared to…
Body condition scoring or BCS is a useful tool for assessment of a patient’s general health status and evaluation of a patient’s food supply. The BCS system described below is based on scores between 1 and 5, with 1 being emaciated and 5 being obese for the “generic” bird. Currently there is no universally agreed upon BCS system for the avian patient due to…
The site visit allows the veterinarian to appreciate intricate facility details. Unless there is an emergency, schedule visits during the non-breeding season and only visit one site daily to prevent potential iatrogenic contamination of facilities. I usually schedule appointments in the morning prior to going to the clinic. An aviary map or blue print of the aviary layout will help you visualize where birds are in relation to each other.
Fennec foxes (Vulpes zerda) are the smallest members of Order Carnivora. Females or “vixens” weigh approximately 0.8 kg. Adult males or “reynards” reach up to 1.5 kg and stand 18 -22 cm at the shoulder. Its most distinctive feature is characteristic large pinnae, which function to dissipate heat and enhance hearing. Fennec foxes are highly specialized to desert life and found almost exclusively in arid, sandy regions. Densest populations are found in the central Sahara desert region of North Africa.
Use our Fennec fox Information Sheet to review taxonomy, conservation status, physical description, diet and housing needs, anatomy and physiology, preventive care as well as important medical conditions. Login to view information sheet references.
Quarantine is a basic component of good preventive medicine. The purpose of quarantine is to protect both the existing collection and the new arrival. New birds are usually stressed and may be more susceptible to infectious diseases. The quarantine period also allows the new bird(s) to acclimate to its new environment, food, and owner. Proper client education is paramount to minimize and/or eliminate the risk of infectious disease outbreaks.
The most widespread mineral in the body, calcium is required for normal metabolism and bone mineralization.
Calcium homeostasis is under the control of calcitonin, which is produced by the ultimobranchial gland, vitamin D, and parathyroid hormone. In laying hens, most dietary calcium is used for egg production. Rising estrogen levels promote increased intake of calcium supplements like cuttlefish bone and calcium-rich foods, however the quantity of calcium ingested daily is insufficient for the massive deposition of calcium required for eggshell calcification.
In 1998, an expert committee met to discuss the nutritional needs of companion birds. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss and develop nutrient profiles for companion birds, focusing on profiles for formulated feed.
The expert panel developed maintenance guidelines for two broad groups of birds: psittacines and passerines (regardless of size or genus). These conservative, generalized guidelines are extrapolated from the National Research Council requirements for poultry and…
Psittacosis or ornithosis is caused by Chlamydophila psittaci, an obligate intracellular bacterial infection of birds. Chlamydophila psittaci may be excreted in feces and oculonasal discharge. Chlamydophila is environmentally labile but remains infectious for months in organic debris. Latently infected birds appear healthy but shed the organism intermittently for months to years. Stressors such as breeding, shipping, crowding, or climatic extremes may activate shedding.
Pediatrics is one of the most fascinating and rewarding fields of avian medicine. The key to hand raising healthy psittacine chicks is a strong preventive medicine program based on sound husbandry practices. Physical examination is an important part of preventive health care.
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.
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…
Insufficient dietary fiber can turn a happy, healthy rabbit into a HUGE, potentially catastrophic, clinical problem. Read about the basis for a healthy diet in Hay: Feeding Small Herbivores, reviewed by forage extension specialist, S. Ray Smith.
Unfortunately the sedentary lifestyle of the companion bird makes obesity one of the most common forms of malnutrition seen in clinical practice. Pet birds are fed too much food or they are fed diets rich in sources of fat, such as sunflower seeds .
The average small animal veterinarian may easily become comfortable with ferrets. Ferrets are hardy and relatively stoic, and as members of the order Carnivora, ferrets are predator species that approach the world in a manner similar to cats and dogs. A relatively small number of medical problems are seen very commonly in ferrets. Careful study of these conditions and attention to the unique aspects of ferret anatomy and behavior will prepare the veterinarian for basic emergency care of the ferret.
Snake behavior will vary with the species, however the normal snake tends to be alert, responsive, and curious. Frequent tongue flicking is a sensory gathering behavior used to deliver scents to the vomeronasal organ. The normal snake is generally active, often coiling or twining its body. This is particularly true for smaller species. Signs of aggression in the snake may include…
Download LafeberVet’s Rabbit Dental Chart for use during clinical procedures ranging from standard dental examination to major orofacial surgery.
Acquired dental disease is an important problem in pet rabbits and rodents. Clinical management of dental disease is complex, frequently involving invasive technical procedures, therefore it is preferable to promote dental health, rather than treating dental disease. What are five things you can do to promote dental health in small herbivores?
Normal bird droppings consist of three components: feces, urine, and urates. Urine and urates are the products of the avian kidney. The medullary or mammalian nephron of the bird kidney produces urine. The more numerous cortical or reptilian nephron produces a soluble form of uric acid or…
Most small herbivores like the rabbit, guinea pig, and chinchilla possess a simple, non-compartmentalized stomach paired with a large cecum and colon. To feed the small herbivore gastrointestinal tract, provide insoluble dietary fiber to stimulate gut motility and maintain gastrointestinal health. A balanced small herbivore diet contains adequate fiber (minimum 25%), minimal starch, and moderate protein levels. Among small herbivorous non-ruminants, the gastrointestinal tract of the rabbit is the most specialized and this manuscript will focus on unique features of this species’ anatomy and physiology.
Pet ferrets are routinely vaccinated against canine distemper virus and rabies virus. Anecdotally, hypersensitivity reactions to vaccines are common in the ferret, and can potentially be fatal.
“Normal Body Weights in Birds” is a collection of normal reported weights in common companion birds and birds of prey presented in table format. Keep in mind that reported normal body weights for a given species can vary significantly…
The European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) has been domesticated for hundreds of years. Companion animals may be housed indoors as house rabbits or outdoors in hutches. Rabbits are also used as show animals, producers of meat and wool, and in laboratory settings. Use our European rabbit Information Sheet to review taxonomy, husbandry needs, normal physiologic values, anatomy, preventive care as well as important medical conditions. Login to view information sheet references.
Hay is essential to a rabbit’s health. Rabbits should also be fed a small amount of high fiber pellets, and a variety of vegetables including leafy green like…
When approaching a baby bird for physical examination, keep the following facts in mind:
First, this may be your patient’s first veterinary visit. Set the stage for a positive veterinary relationship. Puppies and kittens are obviously juveniles, but a fully-fledged baby bird can look a lot like the adult bird to the uninitiated. Nevertheless this fully feathered creature is a baby and should be approached as such. Strive to create a benevolent, protective atmosphere, and never…
Signs of avian polyomavirus type 1 in the budgerigar parakeet can be quite variable. Feather dystrophy or abnormal feather growth can lead to deformed flight feathers. Affected birds are unable to fly and are called “runners” or “creepers”. “French molt” is a term sometimes used for this slow, debilitating disease in parakeets characterized by progressive development of abnormal feathers. Bleeding is another hallmark of clinical avian polyomavirus infection…
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…
With proper care, pet rabbits can live long, happy lives. In this client education handout, we explore the aging changes that can be expected in the senior house rabbit including common health problems. Veterinary screening as well as home care of the geriatric rabbit are also explored.
Depending on breed and gender, body weight can vary widely among adult rabbits. Small breeds like the Netherland dwarf can weigh as little as 1 kg while large to giant breeds can exceed 5 to 7 kg. Many pet rabbits are mixed breeds that fall somewhere in the middle weighing between 2 to 5 kg. Body condition scoring is a technique used to assess body condition in many species. Although no official scoring system exists for rabbits, evaluation of rabbit body condition can be adapted from methods used in cats, dogs, and large animals.
The White’s tree frog is indigenous to Australia and Indonesia. Also known as the Dumpy tree frog or the Australian Giant Green tree frog. This species is captive bred in large numbers. Wild-caught frogs from Indonesia are also still in the pet trade…
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…