Are You Emphasizing Enrichment for Exotic Pets?

Zoo keepers and other experts are convinced enrichment benefits nearly every captive animal, birds, exotic mammals and even reptiles.  AEAC staff introduces and reinforces foraging and enrichment as part of every wellness examination.
Here are some resources for you and your clients:
  • For movies on the basics of foraging for parrots, smaller birds such as cockatiels and finches and rabbits, click here

It is Spring, and Romance Is In the Air, For Parrots


Increasing light cycles can lead to elevated reproductive hormone levels in some pet birds, especially birds receiving unintended stimuli from well-intentioned owners.  Reproductive activity in pet birds can be temporary and of little serious consequence; however, in many cases chronic stimulation in female birds often leads to disease of the reproductive tract, which can be severe, and in some cases life-threatening.

Client education is key to prevention. See the following link to view a client educational video that gives a general overview of this topic:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZ7FPB4vIcQ

 Some birds benefit from GnRH agonists such as leuprolide or deslorelin in addition to behavioral modification.  Email us for more information on this important topic.

Euthanasia of Exotic Pets: What Are the Options?


Human euthanasia of exotics pets can be challenging, especially in smaller patients, and when owners wish to be present. Methods typically used in traditional pet species, in particular the use of IV euthanasia agents in the conscious pet, are often too stressful for exotics. The AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals: 2013 Edition contains a wealth of useful information on the entire process,  While guidelines have existed since 1963, the 2013 version greatly expanded specific species recommendations, including those for exotic pet species such as birds, reptiles, small mammals, fish and even crustaceans and fertile eggs:


Our preference uses two steps: the first is simple IM injection of anesthetic agents. Once the pet is completely anesthetized (which may require additional doses), euthanasia solution can be delivered IV, IO, IP, intracardiac or into kidney or liver. It should be noted AVMA guidelines does not recommend the use of inhalant agents alone to induce anesthesia (this technique is stressful and should be strictly avoided for any purpose); euthanasia solution also must not be delivered any route other than IV or possibly IP in the conscious patient.

Questions on stress free euthanasia for exotic pets?  Email or call, and we can help.

Highlights from NAVC 2017


Dr. Swisher attended the exotics session at the North American Veterinary Conference in February, 2017.  Here are some highlights from the Exotic Companion Mammal (ECM) sessions:     a)  Endocrinology:  Some endocrine diseases have long been recognized in ECM, including adrenal disease and insulinoma in ferrets, cystic ovaries in guinea pigs, pituitary adenomas in rats, and diabetes mellitus in hamsters and degus.   However, in recent years, there has been increasing recognition of other, less common endocrine diseases, including hyperthyroidism in guinea pigs and rabbits, Cushing's disease in hamsters, adrenal disease in rabbits, and disorders of the pancreas (DM or insulinoma) in many species.       b)  Idiopathic hematuria in guinea pigs:  While hematuria in guinea pigs is typically attributed to urinary tract infection or urolithiasis, there is increasing evidence that guinea pigs may also develop sterile cystitis of unknown etiology.  This emphasizes the importance of performing appropriate diagnostics, including urinalysis, urine culture, and imaging.  Note that previous studies have demonstrated that almost all free catch samples from guinea pigs are contaminated with bacteria, so this is not an appropriate technique for diagnosis of UTI.  Some guinea pigs with sterile cystitis may respond to NSAID therapy and husbandry changes to increase water consumption.

Liver Lobe Torsion in Rabbits


A 3-year-old female rabbit presented for vague signs (decreased appetite and stool, less active), and physical examination findings (mild abdominal discomfort upon palpation) consistent with Rabbit Gastrointestinal Syndrome (RGIS). What is your next diagnostic or treatment step? Many underlying disease conditions can cause this clinical presentation, some mild, and some potentially catastrophic, e.g. GI foreign body obstruction.

For this reason, rabbits presenting with RGIS should ideally undergo a diagnostic work up, including abdominal radiographs and a biochemistry panel. Dr Jennifer Graham’s excellent article (below) found that the overwhelming majority of rabbits with liver lobe torsion had a similar presentation, but showed an elevation in liver enzymes; in each case, diagnosis was confirmed by use of hepatic ultrasound with Doppler assessment. Rapid surgical intervention and liver lobectomy was curative.

Read more here.

Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine 23(3); 2014.                                                                              

Liver Lobe Torsion in Rabbits: 16 Cases (2007 to 2012)                                                                

Jennifer E. Graham,DVM, Dip. ABVP (Avian; Exotic Companion Mammal), Dip. ACZM; Connie J. Orcutt,DVM, Dip. ABVP (Avian; Exotic Companion Mammal); Sue A. Casale,DVM, Dip. ACVS; Patty J. Ewing,DVM, MS, Dip. ACVP; Jessica Basseches,DVM, Dip. ACVR

Meloxicam in Rabbits


Anesthetic and analgesic pharmacokinetic studies are continually helping us to revise our dosages and protocols for exotic species. A recent example is Meloxicam use in rabbits; while earlier formularies suggest a dosage of 0.2 mg/kg PO, a 2013 pharmacokinetic study suggested clinically useful dosages are likely much higher. See the following article for more information: Am J Vet Res. 2013 Apr;74(4):636-41                                                                 Pharmacokinetics of meloxicam in rabbits after oral administration of single and multiple doses.                                                                                                                                             Fredholm DV1, Carpenter JWKuKanich BKohles M.

Our current dosage recommendation for short-term use of Meloxicam in well-hydrated, normovolemic rabbits without evidence of renal dysfunction is 0.8-1.0 mg/kg PO. The authors of the study conclude:

"Plasma concentrations of meloxicam for rabbits in the present study were proportionally higher than those previously reported for rabbits receiving 0.2 mg of meloxicam/kg and were similar to those determined for animals of other species that received clinically effective doses. A dose of 1 mg/kg may be necessary to achieve clinically effective circulating concentrations of meloxicam in rabbits, although further studies are needed."

Biennial Pet Bird Symposium at PVM


Want 9 Avian Medicine CE credit hours close to home? Join us for the Biennial Pet Bird Symposium November 13-14 at Purdue University. Featured topics include: “Commonly Kept Parrot Species and Their Characteristics,” “Update on Viral Diseases and Chlamydophila,” “Sedation, High Risk Anesthesia and Critical Care Management,” “Cloacal Prolapse Management,” “Dermatologic Conditions,” “The Geriatric Parrot,” and “Renal System Disorders.”

Speakers include Purdue Veterinary Medicine clinicians: Dr. Steve Thompson, clinical associate professor and director of the Pet Wellness Clinic, and Dr. Lorraine Corriveau, wellness clinician in the Small Animal Community Practice; as well as ABVP Board Certified Avian Specialist Dr. Angela Lennox, and Dr. Bianca Zaffarano, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine faculty clinician.

In addition to lectures, the program will include a variety of case-based discussions.  Topics are suitable for both veterinarians and veterinary technicians. Click here for more information, and to register.

Nine continuing education (CE) credits will be offered for this symposium.

Click here for more information.

Highlights from April Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine


The Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine (JEPM) is an outstanding resource for exotic practitioners with peer reviewed case reports clinical briefs, research and more; species include birds, exotic mammals, reptiles and even fish. The next few e-messages we will summarize highlights from that issue. Sedation and Local Anesthesia as an Alternative to General Anesthesia  in Three Birds

Lee A, Lennox AM.

SedateRadsThis article featured 3 cases of the use of midazolam and butorphanol combined with lidocaine for treatment of a dermal cyst, amputation of a digit and repair of predator wounds in a conure, cockatiel and pet chicken. Sedation plus local were effective and safe. Sedation should be considered any time general anesthesia is not absolutely indicated.



Abnormal Buoyancy in a Convict Cichlid Associated with an Ovarian Carcinoma Invading the Swim Bladder.

Lewis S, Pinkerton M, Churgin S, Slaky K.

Buoyancy problems are common in fish, and there are multiple etiologies. This case report demonstrated invasion of ovarian carcinoma into the swim bladder as a cause of lateral recumbency. Diagnosis of buoyancy disorders requires a thorough approach in order to formulate a possible treatment plan.

RACE Approved Exotic Companion Mammal CE Coming to Indianapolis


12063888_972860812780053_2897260571617361034_nOxbow Animal Health provides reasonably priced, single day exotic mammal CE several times per year all over the US. In October, an Oxbow Exotic Companion Mammal Symposium is coming to Indianapolis. The October Symposium features Dr. Angela Lennox, Dr. Micah Kohles and Dr. Vladmir Jekyl, and will cover rabbit and rodent dentistry, GI disease and more. More details will be available soon:  http://www.oxbowanimalhealth.com/vets/exotic_symposium

Veterinary Technician vs. Veterinary Nurse?


What should we calls the licensed professionals who assist the veterinarian? brie pic"Technician" is the traditional term in the United States; however, there is a move to change that designation to "Nurse", which many believe more accurately describes the role of these well trained and compassionate professionals, and is in alignment with much of the rest of world, and with human medicine.

The North American Veterinary Technician's Association is pushing to make the change official.  Some of the reasons cited are that "technician" sounds too mechanical, like a professional that works with machines or cars.

See more information on the debate here; http://www.navta.net/page/Vet_Techs_In_Action

What do you think about the name change?  Do you support or oppose an official name change from Veterinary Technician to Veterinary Nurse?   Let us know what you think on our Facebook!

Exotic Hats for All


hatsAt our last staff training we welcomed Shirley the Hat Lady, who goes around to various medical facilities offering her custom made surgical bonnets. They are beautiful, well made, and best of all, reasonably priced.  We were her first veterinary clinic, and she was glad to make us a batch featuring all of our favorite exotic animals.  By the way, her bag also contained hats featuring comic book heroes, Disney characters, Doctor Who and much more. Interested in a house call from our new friend the Hat Lady?   Give us a call and we will pass on her contact information. Your staff will love it!

Bunny Whisperer


DSC04296Last week we welcomed our "Bunny Whisperer" Mr. Bill Lee to help socialize and brush some of the many EARPS rescue rabbits. Bill is a retired builder, who actually built most of our clinic additions, but is enjoying a well deserved retirement. What better way to spend that time than as a Bunny Socializer?

Bill was able to give the EARPS placement coordinators valuable information on each rabbit's personality.

EARPS has lots of volunteer opportunities; to find out more, email volunteer@earps.org

Oxbow Animal Health Vet Connect

Looking for more FREE resources to improve your exotic animal practice?  Consider logging into Oxbow Animal Health's Vet Connect.

From the Oxbow website: Oxbow Vet Connect puts valuable educational resources and product information at the fingertips of busy veterinary professionals.  Whether you’re in need of precise, one click dosing recommendations for our Professional Line products, informational videos and educational articles, CE credit opportunities, or easy ordering for all Oxbow products, Oxbow Vet Connect is there to help.  Access these resources and more at www.OxbowVetConnect.com

Sign up and log in to see videos on blind intubation of rabbits, and incisor extractions in rabbits, and more:

Professional Line Dosage Calculator

From alpacas to wallabies, our Professional Line Dosage Calculator provides accurate, one click dosaging information for over 150 species of carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores.  Simply enter species, age, weight, and current nutrition source to calculate dosage information in grams and tablespoons.  With the calculator, accurate professional line dosaging is available whenever critical cases present themselves, day or night.

Educational Content from Industry Experts

At Oxbow, we applaud every veterinarian’s oat to the continued improvement of professional knowledge.  To help you fulfill this oath, we are proud to offer our ever-growing library of educational videos and articles.  Our video library features high definition content relating to procedures, diagnoses, treatment plans, and general exotics care.  Printable resources include articles, case studies, and client education materials.

Continuing Education

Continuing Education coursework helps you further your professional knowledge and grow as a veterinary professional.  Oxbow Vet Connect’s intuitive eLearning platform allows you to log on, complete coursework, and receive your RACE-approved credit all in one session.  Log on to Oxbow Vet Connect today to view and enroll in our growing library of Continuing Education courses.

American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in New Orleans


November marked the 20th Conference of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in New Orleans. The focus of the exotics program (Avian, Exotic Companion Mammal and Reptile/Amphibian) was Evidence Based Medicine, and how we can critically evaluate information sources. This is of special importance in exotic medicine, which despite advances, lags behind other traditional pet species. One entire presentation focused on critical evaluation of drug dosages published in exotic animal formularies.  Most dosages from these sources are anecdotally-derived only, with very few pharmacokinetic or efficacy studies.  This is especially concerning when we learn that existing pharmacokinetics  show differences in how parrots metabolize the same drug. So a drug dosage found to be useful in one type of parrot may not be useful in another.Other presentations focused on how to interpret current information on hot topics such as E. cuniculi in rabbits, the use of GnRH agonists in various exotics and diagnose of liver disease in birds using so called "liver enzymes" (not a good idea by the way!). Consider ABVP in 2016 in San Antonio October 6-9th for CE for canine/feline/shelter medicin/exotic species and more .  Check out www.abvp.com for more details.

From the ABVP website:

"ABVP certifies veterinary practitioners with exceptional knowledge, skill, and competency in the care of the total patient. ABVP Diplomates are certified in clinical practice for the species in which certification is granted. Clinical practice, as it pertains to veterinarians, is the art and science of applying medical knowledge to animals for their care and the alleviation and prevention of their diseases.

Most veterinarians performing broad-based clinical practice are not board certified. The ABVP board certified veterinarian has demonstrated they are capable of providing a level of clinical practice that is clearly superior to the norm of the profession."

Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland


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.


Teaching in Asia: Part 2


Dinner 1 The conference in Japan was hosted by the Japanese Society of Exotic Pet Medicine (JSEPM) http://www.jsepm.com/ and the Japanese Association of Avian Medicine


The first two days were all mammal topics, and the third day all avian topics.  In between we feasted on authentic Japanese cuisine and explored Japanese culture. Our hosts were very kind, enthusiastic, and best of all, had a great sense of humor.




Translator and MiwaIn order to lecture in Japan, my lectures were translated by the very talented veterinarian Dr. Masayuki Naoi.  It was interesting to hear what I said in repeated in Japanese. Here is Dr. Naoi on the left, and conference organizer Yasutsugu Miwa on the right.


Bird LecturerThe day in between the mammal and avian lectures, I bought a cute little budgie to bring back with me to the states.  I even brought him to the avian lectures the next day to show everyone. After the break I returned to find my hosts had given the bird permission to take over for me.


Teaching in Asia: Part 1


Hong Kong IMG_5655Our one day conference was well attended, and was scheduled from 3-10 PM, which makes for a late night.

IMG_5630The next day was a free day.  We started with breakfast: some chick pea curry with rice and bacon. But no worry, I was able to find a container of good old oatmeal and some gluten free toast. We met a group of veterinarians at the conference who practice 70% exotics at the Tai Wai Small Animal and Exotic Hospital Hong Kong, and we were invited to come see their clinic and  the Kaddorie Farm and Botanic Gardens, where some of the staff volunteer from time to time.

IMG_5660This wildlife facility at Kadoorie Farm sees all the kinds of wildlife you might expect, like hawk and owls, with some other, more unique critters like macaques, barking deer, small wildcats and probably the most DARLING animal in the world: pangolins. They also see reptiles, and lots and lots of .....snakes. Apparently Hong Kong is crawling with Burmese pythons, which is a pet species we see a lot in our practice, but they are native wildlife here.  And they have a dozen or more venomous snakes including cobras.  Every IMG_5662day, the police get calls about snakes that are found in places like people's porches, yards, the street, or even in the houses.  The police call a group of snake catchers who, years ago would catch the snakes and take them to restaurants for people to eat.  Fortunately, that is not the case now- the police pay these professionals to catch them, put them in special bags that go inside special boxes. The police then transport the box to this wildlife facility along with a description of what they think the snake may be, and how big it is. The staff carefully opens the box, gets the bag, opens it and peeks in.  Then they catch the snake with snake tongs and gloves and check it for injuries. If it's in good shape, the IMG_5665snake is put back in the bag and into a large box either marked "venomous" or "non-venomous".  I looked in the boxes and there were about 7 bags in the "venomous" box and 4 in the "non-venomous" box.  Then they are released eventually to safer places. The largest snake brought in this day was identified by the police as a "Burmese Cobra". The staff at the wildlife center asked us to leave the room for that bag, just in case it was a cobra!  Thankfully it was actually......a Burmese python!  We see these guys frequently in our exam room.  I took a good look at what a nice healthy wild caught python is supposed to look like. We also saw a lot of turtles, including some unusual species the wildlife center is trying to replenish in the wild.

Next stop: Tokyo!

An Unexpected Visitor


loon This beautiful bird visited us after getting into some trouble.  This is a common loon. His only injuries were multiple damaged and bleeding toes.  The loon is an amazing water bird, but can't actually take off from land, so if they accidentally mistake a shiny water covered road or parking lot for water, they can injure themselves during landing, and then not be able to take off again. This is what we think happened to this bird. Our visiting vet student Jennifer cared for his wounds, and he's off to heal and eventually be released again-onto a nice, full body of water this time.