Report from ExoticsCon 2019

Sarah talks about how the five senses can affect a patient’s recovery.

Sarah talks about how the five senses can affect a patient’s recovery.

This week, several AEAC team members and friends attended ExoticsCon in St. Louis. Exoticscon is an amazing gathering of mammal, bird, reptile and zoo practitioners from all over the world.

-Dr. Lennox gave several lectures and taught 8 hours of labs on all the alternatives for spaying and neutering exotic companion mammals.

-Technician Amanda and veterinary student Sara Lennox assisted in the lab.

-Technician Sarah assisted in the intubation lab, and taught technician sessions on safe post surgery recovery and stress free handling.

Katie with her medical reference poster

Katie with her medical reference poster

-Technicians Sarah, Amanda and Hayli attended sessions.

- Dr. Lewis attended DVM sessions.

-Videographer Katie worked in the exhibit hall selling our clinic's first medical reference poster (see this poster here!)

-Special friend Dawn Sailer from Indiana House Rabbit Society was there representing the national House Rabbit Society as their president!

Dawn Sailer and Joy Gioia sit at the House Rabbit Society booth

Dawn Sailer and Joy Gioia sit at the House Rabbit Society booth

-Many, many of the clinic's visiting students, current students, visiting veterinarians and colleagues were there as well, enjoying an outstanding week of learning, networking, and reconnecting with friends.

We look forward to next year’s ExoticsCon in Denver, Colorado!

Halloween Costume Contest 2019!

Time for Terror, Exotic Pet Style! Halloween doesn't have to be scary-it can be cute adorable and just plain creative, too! Time to dress you exotic pet Halloween style and compete for a bag of species-appropriate prizes!

Submit your photos on Facebook by October 30th at noon; we will be voting at our staff meeting and announcing the winners the next day!

What's the Story on Grain Free and other Novel Diets.......for Exotics?


The quest for healthier foods for pets has taken some interesting turns with the introducing of raw foods, grain free diets, and diets made with all sorts of unusual ingredients, including sweet potato, rosemary, blueberries, pea protein, and much more. We already know some of these diets are producing a few cases of pet and human illnesses. The most obvious is bacterial infections in pets who eat and owners who handle some raw diets. New to the mix are reports that some diets made with novel ingredients may be linked to heart disease in dogs. (See "Unusual pet diets may be linked to heart disease in dogs" here, and an updated information post here.)

Some of these trends are trickling down to exotic pets, starting with "grain free" diets for ferrets, and more. How are pet owners and veterinarians supposed to know which diets are healthy, and which may eventually cause harm over time?

This becomes difficult when our owners ask advice about diets they found on the internet or were recommended by breeders-it is impossible for anyone to completely understand everything that needs to be known about a diet by simply reading the ingredients label. True analysis requires much more information than is on the label, and a PhD in nutrition!

Also, even if new diets developed from novel ingredients appear on paper to meet nutritional requirements, they may perform differently when the pet actually eats it. To complicate matters, many problems related to diets don't appear for months or even years. (This is why major manufacturers of canine/feline pet foods tested their products on several generations of dogs and cats over many years.)

Our general recommendations are to stay with manufacturers with years of experience and a track record of healthy pets consuming the diet; our next recommendation for less common pets is to follow recommendations of PhD zoo nutritionists.

This post was written for dog and cat owners, but we think it's excellent advice for owners of any pet.

If you are considering a novel diet, consider contacting the manufacturer and asking the important questions in this article.

Congratulations to Dr. Lewis!

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Last month we celebrated an important graduation at AEAC: Dr. Taylor Lewis completed her hours of clinical practice (2 year’s worth) for her residency requirements for the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP)! She is now one step closer to being a board-certified Exotic Mammal Specialist. Next comes the case reports, and an all day test!   

The Hogwarts-style celebration is not a residency requirement, but we thought it was more fun that way. Dr. Lewis will stay another year with us while she prepares.   

Want to learn more about exotic medicine specialties?  Click here: or

Dr. Lewis is given the potion “Draught of Peace.”

Dr. Lewis is given the potion “Draught of Peace.”

Our new veterinary resident, Dr. Moy, is given “ER Be Gone,” to help prevent after hours pet emergencies.

Our new veterinary resident, Dr. Moy, is given “ER Be Gone,” to help prevent after hours pet emergencies.

The Beauty of Donating Blood: another success story!


Last night, Lennie the ferret needed emergency surgery for a suspected bleeding mass and severe anemia.  He needed more blood before even having a chance of surviving surgery. Luckily for us, Willie the ferret was a guest at the Avian and Exotic Inn at that very moment-and Willie's family happily consented to the transfusion.

Lennie had a 4 inch diameter mass involving about 6 inches of intestine. The mass and affected intestines were removed, and normal intestine sutured back together.  Lennie did very well and Willie's blood help keep his blood pressures stable during surgery.

Fun Fact: did you know ferrets have no known blood types?  Any ferret can donate to any other ferret!  Another benefit of being a ferret!

Six little ducklings visit the AEAC Salon!


Today a Good Samaritan brought in six little ducklings who had fallen into a storm drain! There was no momma duck to be found. When held closely, the staff noted a burning sensation in their eyes-while there was no odor, there was some substance on the ducklings causing the burning sensation and reddening of the ducklings’ skin.

The ducklings immediately had multiple baths, complete with a nice blow dry in between. We are not sure what the substance was, but hopefully each duck will be fine!


The Trouble with Hedgehogs?

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We love hedgehogs as pets.  However, like ANY pet, there is always the potential for transmission of disease from the pet to owners.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 27 cases of Salmonella in the United States linked to pet hedgehogs. Six states have reported cases since 2018, including Indiana.

Does this mean we should we stop keeping hedgehogs as pets? If your doctor thinks you should because to your own personal health issues, that might be the best option.

However, CDC has some tips to keep you and your family safe:

  1. Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching, feeding, or caring for your hedgehog (or any exotic pet) or cleaning its habitat.

  2. Avoid snuggling and kissing pets, as this can spread diseases to your face and mouth.

  3. Avoid playing with hedgehogs or exotic pets in your kitchen or where food is prepared.

Hedgehogs can carry Salmonella in their feces even while showing no signs of illness. For this reason, it's best to be safe; wash carefully after handling hedgehogs and any pet!

More information about salmonella can be found here.


Very special visitors from St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf


We were thrilled to once again host our friends, the children from St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf. We gave them a tour of our clinic and they met lots of fun exotic pets. Dr. Lennox demonstrated a physical exam on John, the guinea pig.

AEAC's technician Sarah Dehn took some exotic critters on the road to visit kids participating in PAWS.


The Speedway Jr. High School PAWS Club stands for Plugs for Animal Welfare and Service.  Students learn about area rescue groups, adopting pets, and proper pet care.  They also learn how animals help people and we can help animals in need. 

Various guest speakers attend the meetings, along with trained, people-friendly animals.  Students have an opportunity to interact with the different animals and learn how to help animals live a better life.

On Tuesday Sarah visited the PAWS Club and brought with her rabbits, rats, guinea pigs, and parakeets, and a ball python. The students loved meeting the animals! They practiced giving the critters full examinations. We love encouraging young students to learn about S.TE.M. careers!

Look what the wind blew in!

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These two red tail hawk nestlings were blown out of their tree, nest and all, by the heavy storm that came through Sunday. The bird on the right was standing and vocalizing, but his/her friend on the left was quiet, and the reason soon became clear-a fractured humerus.

Fortunately, radiographs showed the fracture was simple and relatively easy to repair. On Tuesday morning, Dr. Lewis and Amanda came in before hours to prepare for surgery. With the assistance of the rest of the team, the fracture was pinned and nestlings went with our licensed wildlife rehabilitator on Wednesday. We expect a full recovery!

Storms with strong winds can be deadly for creatures nesting in trees. If you encounter a young bird without adult feathers out of the nest, it's OK to return the bird to the nest if the baby seems uninjured and the nest is within reach. If you find the entire nest and babies, the nest can be placed on a piece of wood or in a large basket and securely fastened to the nearest likely tree. Mom will be happy to continue caring for her young ones!

More questions on wildlife and what to do if you encounter them?  Go here

Stay tuned for updates on our little wind blown hawks.

Join us at the Ferret 500!

Ferret Fans, mark your calendar for the return of the Ferret 500 annual ferret fun show in Indianapolis!

Saturday, June 8, 2019
Open to the public from 9:30 am-6:00 pm


All proceeds will benefit Five Points Ferret Refuge. We had a lot of fun last year watching the shows, buying fun ferret toys and bedding, and just being a part of the action.  Plan to join us!

If you are considering showing your pet ferret, don’t forget you need proof of vaccination for canine distemper virus.  We will be happy to help you get those vaccines up to date and provide the records you need.

For more info, check out the Ferret 500 website here.

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The Sad Reality of an “Easter “ Bunny

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Story by Dawn Sailer

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Easter is a very challenging time of the year for companion rabbit lovers and animal welfare advocates (  Each year the market is flooded with cute, fuzzy baby “Easter” bunnies.  And each year when the rabbits hit sexual maturity approximately 2-3 months later, disillusioned rabbit owners surrender their rabbits to animal shelters.  

Rabbits are the third most commonly surrendered animal to US shelters (  Each year, rescue groups ( work tirelessly to save “the Easter Dump” rabbits. 

If you see a cute baby “Easter” bunny, please consult the “Make Mine Chocolate” website ( to see if a rabbit is the right pet for you.  If a rabbit is a good fit for your family, please obtain a rabbit from a shelter or rescue organization (same url as above).

Calling all expert foragers!

We are in the process of making an advanced foraging video for birds.  If your bird is an expert forager, send us videos showing him or her at work!  We want to see boxes, cups, commercial foraging toys and anything else you’ve invented, and a movie of your clever bird using it.

If you aren’t sure what foraging is, you and your bird should give it a try and send us the results!

Here are two of our beginner foraging videos:

For cockatiels, budgies, finches and canaries, watch here.

For all larger birds, watch here.


Tips for optimal filming: 

  • Be sure the background is free of clutter and anything you don’t want the public to see. 

  • Be sure there is plenty of light.

  • Shoot your video holding the camera horizontally. 

  • Try your best to hold the camera or phone still!

  • Avoid showing brand names or logos.

  • Don’t worry about audio - we will remove all sound from your video.

Please email your foraging clips to our videographer Katie –

Lights, camera and foraging ACTION!

Spring is Almost Here!


Believe it or not, spring is a common time for exotic pet care "whoopsies"-here are the most common that may result in an emergency trip to the vet:

  1. Turning off the heat as the day time temperatures rise, only to forget to turn it back on in the evening, when it's still really chilly at night.

    • Without an independent heat source, our heat-loving species like reptiles, sugar gliders, and African Hedgehogs may get cold enough to go into torpor (a temporary state of decreased activity and lethargy-some pets may actually appear to be unconscious or not even alive!)

    • While torpor is a normal way some species in the wild respond to cold rainy environments, it's not recommended at all for our pets.   Prevent inadvertent chilling by having a constant heat source independent of central heating for all heat loving species.


2. Taking pets that are not acclimated to warm weather out into the spring sunshine.  Some pets are more sensitive to overheating, for example chinchillas and guinea pigs. Also be extra careful with pets that are overweight and not in good general health.  It's always better to gradually adapt pets to warmer temperatures over a few weeks.

3. Forgetting how hot the car can get, even in early spring when the sun is out.  We remember one unfortunate guinea pig who didn't survive a trip to the vet in a non air-conditioned car when it was only 70 degrees out.  This pet had respiratory disease, which made him particularly vulnerable to overheating.

If you have any questions on ideal ways to maintain temperature, and safely manage outdoor weather, we are here to help.

We wish you and your pets a wonderful spring!


World Spay Day

According to the Human Society, February 27th is officially World Spay Day. (Check out more about the campaign and ways you can help HERE.) 
Did you  know spaying  and neutering can be an important part of your exotic pets health as well?
For example, female rabbits have a high risk of uterine cancer if not spayed.  Some male exotic pets get along better when neutered.  Even reptiles can benefit: many female chameleons and bearded dragons suffer from reproductive disease which can be deadly. Spayed guinea pigs are free from debilitating ovarian cysts which are common as they age.
While spaying and neutering exotics is now considered routine, there is always some risk.
Here is what we do to keep stress and surgical risk as low as possible: 
-Part of the pre-surgical medication includes drugs to reduce fear and anxiety
-We offer preanesthetic blood work to check for signs of infection, anemia, and to check organ function
-When practical, we place an IV (or IO) catheter to give fluids during surgery, and allow quick administration of emergency drugs, in rare cases where CPR is necessary.
-Every patient receives at least 3 kinds of medication for discomfort, including a local block of the surgical site.  Many take additional medication home in case it's needed.
-We focus on surgical approaches that reduce post-op pain and speed recovery, for example, a flank or side approach for spay instead of a larger abdominal incision.
-Our team includes a dedicated recovery nurse monitoring the patient immediately after surgery, up until the patient is ready to go home
-We encourage patients to bring some of the comforts of home along, including familiar bedding, toys and treats-in some cases, a bonded cage mate can come along, too!

Sara's letter from Vet School


Hi there! My name is Sara (and this is my hamster, Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All). The last time I wrote, I was just starting my undergrad career at Purdue University with a major of Animal Sciences. Today, I am a second year student in the vet school here at Purdue. I can’t believe it has been almost 6 years since I first wrote “So you think you want to be a vet?”      As I reflect on my journey to vet school, I want to take a moment to thank all those who taught me invaluable lessons about hard work and discipline. Many thanks to the veterinarians who allowed me to spend time in their clinics and to my coworkers who helped me transform from a clueless high schooler to a slightly less clueless (but always confused) vet student! ?

     The journey has not been an easy one, and vet school certainly isn’t a walk in the park, but they say that if you love what you do then it isn’t work. Ever since I was little my mom used to say, “you should wake up every day and love your job.” That isn’t to say that there will never be difficult days or times when you don’t love your job, but I encourage you to find a career that is rewarding, if not always enjoyable. Don’t discount your abilities and the good you could bring to the world, even if it’s just in the lives of those you work with!

     To those wanting to go to vet school, I won’t lie. Vet school is hard. I’m always tired, never feel entirely ready for exams, and constantly wonder how I’m ever going to remember it all. But then I have an exciting moment when I hear someone in the medical profession talk about a topic and it’s suddenly not gibberish to me anymore.

     It also helps to keep things in perspective. I try my best in school but at the end of the day I know that there is so much more to life and I know that I will be okay even if I get a C on a test (not speaking from experience or anything…).

     Yes, I’m a vet student but I’m also Sara. I love playing instruments, drinking tea, and watching movies with my sisters. I am terrible at board games and pretty much anything competitive, but I love having game nights with my roommates and friends. My newest addictions are animal crackers, Agatha Christie novels, and “The Great British Bake Off.”

     Work hard on your journey to vet school but don’t forget to enjoy it along the way. When I was younger I used to think that I will have succeeded in life once I got to vet school, almost as if my life wouldn’t truly begin until I got there. That is dangerous and false thinking. Your life is happening now. Don’t forget to appreciate the amazing people and things you already have! Your career will just be a bonus on top of that.

     As always, my best to you and your endeavors. Good luck, and remember:

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Winter Emergency Planning Tips


Thankfully we are through the polar vortex and heavy snow of last week! Unfortunately, it looks like temperatures will soon be dropping again, though. If you don't have one in place, now is the time to be sure your bad weather/power outage plan is ready! Many exotics pets do not tolerate temperature decreases well, especially tropical reptiles and small birds such as finches (especially the Gouldian finch). So, before the next cold snap, be sure you have the following:

  • A backup source of heat, such as a generator or wood-burning heat source, with proper ventilation to protect pets from fumes
  • An alternative backup location (boarding facility/hotel/friends' homes) that will temporarily house your pets if you have to leave the house
  • A labeled, safe and secure carrier for each and every pet for transport
  • A travel container with pet foods, bowls and medications
  • Portable chemical heaters (for camping, hunting or cold weather sporting events) that can be placed close enough to provide warmth, but protected from chewing and puncturing.

Call us for advice and emergencies, should the need arise.

We wish you a safe and warm winter season!  We will update you with what to do when the weather is too HOT in about 6 months!


“You! In here!” Be sure cages for emergency evacuation are clean, safe and secure.

Traveling tips for cold weather!


While it’s best to travel with exotic pets when the weather is nice, lots of our patients still have to come to see us when it’s not so great!  A few precautions can help make cold weather travel safer and more comfortable. 1. Warm up the car first.

2. Use a travel warmer under the cage or under a blanket in the cage. These can be chemical warmers you can find at stores selling outdoor equipment, or something as simple as a sock filled with rice heated in the microwave, or a microwaved potato!  With chemical warmers, be sure the pet can’t find it and chew it up during the trip.  We will be happy to re-microwave your rice or potato for you for the trip home.

3. Cover the cage with a warm blanket for the short walk from the house-car and car-clinic.

4. Don’t forget to buckle up-you and your pet!  We highly recommend pets travel in a secure carrier that is secured with a seat belt. This will help protect the pet and passengers in case of an accident.
















Case Study: Moondance the Pig


The internet is absolutely overflowing with cute pictures and videos of odd couple animals who get along well and really seem to enjoy each other's company. While this can be adorable, it can be really dangerous as well, especially for our exotics! Many would be considered prey species for traditional pets, like dogs and cats, and this can make interactions between the two risky. While some combinations appear to tolerate each other well, others can be deadly. We regularly treat cat and dog bite injuries to rabbits, rodents, birds and even reptiles. Moondance's case shows some of the worst of what can happen. In this instance, it was an unfortunate accident that the pig and dog were together and was never intended. Luckily for Moondance, his owners were able to intervene quickly! Unfortunately, injuries to his head were so severe that he ended up losing his right ear.

While injuries can happen when any pets get together, it’s especially risky when predators such as dogs, cats (and even ferrets) meet prey species. Even the behavior of pets that appeared to get along in the past can change very quickly. Always exercise care, and when you are not sure, be there to supervise!