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What to Expect at Veterinary Exams for Exotic Animals

Here at Fairview Animal Hospital, we see many different types of exotic animals and small mammals. No matter the size or the species of animal, we do a thorough examination to ensure your pet is as healthy as they can be.

At the beginning of the exam, we will ensure your animal’s posture and movement looks normal. This can be different depending on the species; a guinea pig should be able to move around freely and stay low to the ground, whereas a bearded dragon or a leopard gecko should have their chest held high and be able to hold their upper body up to look around. A snake should be able to contract their entire body to move around. We also look for your pet’s breathing patterns from afar. During your pet’s visit, their respiratory rate may be elevated, which is a normal stress or excitement response, but if the effort of each breath changes or the sounds are louder than usual, this can be abnormal.

Although there are so many different species that we see, some parts of the exam are the same for them all. We start from the nose and end at the tail, to ensure a thorough examination. Eyes should be clear of any discharge or scratches, ears should be clean, body condition score should be optimal (not underweight or overweight), etc.

For our reptiles, skin is examined for any retained sheds (reptiles shed on a regular basis and should shed in large, healthy pieces). For small mammals like guinea pigs, rats and rabbits, their skin should be healthy and pink, free of scaling, mats in the fur, lice or fleas (this can be common in newly adopted small mammals and small mammals housed in larger numbers). We also examine all nails to ensure that they are at an adequate length. Long nails can cause discomfort while walking. Range of motion is also an important part of the exam, ensuring all limbs can move normally. We examine the muscle mass of each animal as well, as older animals can develop “muscle wasting”, which means losing muscle due to arthritic changes. Teeth are examined in our reptiles and snakes to ensure healthy gums and that there are no broken teeth. In small mammals like guinea pigs, rabbits and rats, we examine all of the teeth for proper wearing as they have teeth that continually grow. We also examine the molars of each rabbit as they can develop spurs, causing pain and inappetence.

There are many other aspects to an exam that we make note of to ensure a thorough exam is performed, but these are the main points. We also discuss basic husbandry and ensure proper nutrition is being offered as these are an extremely important aspect for any exotic animal’s health.

Do not hesitate to give our team a call today to discuss your exotic animal’s needs today!


Written by Victoria Jones, RVT


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