In August Dr. Lennox traveled to the annual meeting of the European College of Zoological Medicine (www.eczm.eu) in Athens, Greece; on the way she stopped to visit a colleague’s veterinary clinic in Paris. Dr. JF Quinton was gracious enough to give a tour of the beautiful new veterinary facility - www.advetia.fr. Dr. Quinton runs the exotics section of the hospital. The clinic is very large, beautiful and impressive. And what kinds of patients does Dr. Quinton see on a daily basis? In the clinic were a handful of rabbits, a turtle, and this lovely little pet chicken! It was good to learn that pet chickens are becoming more and more popular all over the world!
While human deaths from rabies are rare in the US and much of the developed world, it’s still a huge problem in developing countries, with children the primary victims.Vaccination of pets (dogs, cats and FERRETS) is a huge contributor to rabies management. Learn more here at http://www.who.int/rabies/WRD_landing_page/en/
Vaccination of ferrets for rabies is required in Indiana, and much of the US. There is a single approved rabies vaccine for ferrets-call us if you need more information.
Can you name some of the most famous rabies victims in literature and the movies? See how many of these you remember:
“Old Yeller”, in the 1957 Disney movie of the same name “Mad Dog” in the famous book/movie “ To Kill a Mockingbird” “Cujo” in Stephen King’s 1981 book/movie of the same name Elaine, a popular character in the TV series “Seinfeld” season 5 episode 3 (she doesn’t really have it!)
For more, go to this link on rabies in popular culture: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabies_in_popular_culture
AEAC is proud to announce the certification of another of our Avian and Exotic Animal Clinic family; after graduating and now passing his licensing test, Jack is officially a registered veterinary technician. This brings the number of our registered veterinary technicians to 7. If you aren’t familiar with the term, registered veterinary technicians are skilled professionals who work alongside veterinarians playing an important nursing role. In fact, there is a national effort to change their title from veterinary technician to veterinary nurse, as this more accurately describes their role within the veterinary clinic.
Congratulate Jack the next time you see him - it will be easy to pick him out! (See our staff page!)
This month we saw a cute little patient, an axolotl (Mexican salamander) named Axolotl! To see pictures of other axolotls and learn more about them, see this Wikipedia entry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axolot
Unlike other amphibians, the axolotl starts out like a tadpole, and never trade their gills for lungs; instead they live their entire lives in the water.
Axolotls have a bad habit of eating small rocks and other material in their enclosure. In fact, this is the number one health problem of axolotls in general (in both pet and laboratory settings), as they have very few illnesses if they are fed and cared for correctly. For this reason, it’s recommended to house them in a plain aquarium, or with objects too big to get into their mouths.
This axolotl decided to eat a fairly large number of rocks of all sizes. His owner quickly removed the gravel, and he proceeding to “eliminate” most of them…except for 6 really large rocks far too big to come out that way. They were also too big and irregular to simply pull out of his stomach with an endoscope.
So how does one anesthetize an aquatic axolotl?
Some interesting current publications show that the best way to keep them asleep for surgery is to bathe their skin and gills with an anesthetic water bath.
Hopefully the sutures will stay secure, and he will make a full recovery-and NO more rocks!
The axolotl was sent home the next day, and we hear he is already eating small meals.
We were stunned, as some of you may have been, about the news story of the women taking baby raccoons from the wild and trying to sell them on Craig’s List as pets. http://fox59.com/2018/06/20/two-women-charged-after-selling-baby-raccoons-online/
This is not a good idea for lots of reasons.
Firstly, all Indiana wildlife is protected, and belongs to the people of Indiana. It’s not legal to take any wild animal, bird or reptile from the wild. It should be kept in mind that ALL birds, like songbird and hawks and owls are actually protected by the federal government as well as the State of Indiana (there are a few exceptions of invasive animals that are not native to the US, for example pigeons and starlings).
Secondly, very few wild animals actually make good pets. Most are adorable and cute and babies, but are challenging, and even potentially dangerous as they mature. Most wild mammals cannot be examined by veterinary staff without sedation, and the risk of bites is particularly high. Some have complicated diets and other needs and actually don’t do well in captivity.
Thirdly, animals taken from the wild may have parasites and other diseases that could be dangerous to people
And finally, some of our native wildlife is actually at risk, in particular some species of turtles and other reptiles.
We have so many fabulous domesticated exotic pets that are wonderful pets. And, our rescues have many wonderful and beautiful pets who would love a permanent home.
Questions on wildlife (or other unusual exotic animals) as pets? Call us, or better yet, schedule your free “pre-purchase” exam, and we will share what we’ve learned over nearly 30 years of exotic pet practice.
This is a subject that’s tough to write about, but from time to time it deserves some attention, and that is risk of anesthetic death in our exotic patients. Anesthesia for humans, traditional pets and exotic pets has come a long way in the last 20 years. There have been huge advancements in exotic pet anesthesia even in the last 5 years, with safer drugs, and better monitoring and support techniques.
Even so, every anesthetic event invites risk for injury or even death. In all cases, the risk of anesthesia must be weighed against the disadvantages of not performing a needed procedure.
An example is anesthesia for spaying our pet rabbits. Risk of uterine cancer from not spaying rabbits is high, in some studies and rabbit breeds as much as 70 %. The risks of not repairing certain types of fractures is a lifetime of disability and potential discomfort.
But what is the actual calculated anesthetic risk? This is hard to know, as things that impact anesthetic risk include the condition of the patient, drugs selected, skills of the anesthetic monitoring team experience of the surgeon and ability to complete the procedure safely and as quickly as possible.
One 2006 study in the UK compared general anesthetic risk for dogs, cats and some exotic species, including rabbits and some birds. The entire document is over 250 pages, so we will summarize here: the overall anesthetic death rate in this study for rabbits (healthy and well) was 1.39%, meaning out of 100 procedures, less than 2 rabbits died during or within 48 hours of anesthesia. It should be noted that when death rates were examined for healthy rabbits alone, the death rate was less than 1%. The rate for guinea pigs was a bit higher than for rabbits, at 3.8%, and ferrets lower at 0.33%. More data for exotic pets is included here:
Anesthetic death rates calculated within 48 hours of anesthesia. Brodbelt D. The confidential enquiry into perioperative small animal fatalities. Thesis. Royal Veterinary College of London, 2006.
While these rates are relatively low, they are even lower in dogs and cats, and much lower in humans, meaning exotic medicine has much opportunity for improvement. In our 30 years of practice we’ve seen some amazing new techniques and accomplished surgeries we previously would not have thought possible. We look forward to many more great advancements in the years to come.
Last week one of our favorite friends and clients let us know they lost their wonderful pet cockatiel Popcorn last November. The family moved out of state years ago, but made sure to let us know about Popcorn’s passing. Popcorn was born in 1989, which would make him 29 years old!
His owner Sharon says he survived two Yorkshire terriers, two ferrets, a Dalmatian and a Golden retriever. Congratulations, Popcorn! Your family will miss you.
We generally see cockatiels living into their teens, but older than that is quite unusual!
Popcorn would not be the oldest cockatiel on record, however. The Guinness book of World Records lists “Sunshine”, who was reported to be 32 years old in 2016:
This patient presented for chronic respiratory disease. When diagnostic testing and antibiotics didn't work, additional testing was needed to help find the cause. Here is our patient under anesthesia, positioned with towels and undergoing a CT scan. The results showed a few interesting things that will help us choose the next step to help her.
For our second week, we will discuss the pet birds, from finches to larger parrots. There is some evidence parrots were kept as pets over a thousand years ago. “Cookie”, the world’s oldest parrot (a Major Mitchell’s cockatoo) died at the Brookfield Zoo in 2016 at the age of 83.
1. Rabbit Gastrointestinal Syndrome (RGIS):
3. Upper Respiratory Disease
What can be more fun that a silly baby ferret? For those of us with Ferret Fever, don’t forget your new purchase from the pet store is probably not fully vaccinated. Most pet store ferrets come from one or more commercial breeders who usually give baby ferrets the first of the required series of vaccines for distemper. Unless the pet store takes them to the vet for vaccines, the vaccine series is not complete. Also, only veterinarians can administer rabies vaccine, which is required by Indiana law for dogs cats and ferrets. If the pet store says the vaccines are all up to date, ask for proof of vaccination. And if you are not sure, give us a call and we will help you find out if your new baby is really protected. Don’t forget the Ferret 500 is coming up May 5th! For more information go here: www.theferret500.com
Story by Dawn Sailer
Easter is a very challenging time of the year for companion rabbit lovers and animal welfare advocates (https://rabbit.org/easter-and-rabbits-do-not-mix/). 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 (https://rabbit.org/rabbits-in-shelters-findings/). Each year, rescue groups (https://rabbit.org/independent-rabbit-rescue/) work tirelessly to save “the Easter Dump” rabbits.
If you see a cute baby “Easter” bunny, please consult the “Make Mine Chocolate” website (http://makeminechocolate.org/mission) 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).
Story by Brie Worrell
Many people do not know what an RVT or Registered Veterinary Technician is and what they do on a daily basis. An RVT is comparable to a nurse in human medicine. The daily tasks of an RVT include: taking histories on patients that come in for exams, setting up patients in the hospital to make sure they are comfortable, drawing blood from patients, medicating/performing treatments on patients, taking radiographs, filling medications, setting the patient up for surgery, monitoring them during surgery, and recovering the patient after surgery. At our clinic, there are several different positions our RVTs can fill each day including Surgery, Recovery, and Appointment Tech roles. Today, we are going to highlight the last couple of tasks that a Surgery Tech performs almost on a daily basis.
A surgery tech starts the day by making sure that all patients who have a procedure scheduled that day are set up in their holding cages and are comfortable. They then discuss the schedule of the day with the surgeon and decide what order the patients go in. After the first patient is selected, the tech sets up the surgery table with all of the supplies needed for the procedure from the drape to keep the table clean to the sterile surgery instruments for the procedure. They receive the sedation drugs from the recovery tech and sedate the patient. Once the patient is sedate, the tech preps the patient for surgery by taking radiographs if needed, drawing blood for blood work, placing a catheter, intubating the patient (placing an endotracheal tube down the patient’s airway so that the tech can breathe for the patient during the procedure), shaving and cleaning the surgery site, administering a pain block around the surgery site, and placing monitoring equipment on the patient. The monitoring equipment helps the tech monitor the patient’s heart rate, breathing rate, blood oxygenation, CO2 levels, temperature, and blood pressure.
Once all of this is complete and the tech is happy with the patient’s status, the surgeon enters the surgery suite and performs the procedure. During the procedure the tech is constantly keeping track of all of the patient’s vitals and making adjustments as needed. The tech is running the anesthetic gas administered to the patient the entire time and makes adjustments to levels whenever needed making sure the patient is at a quality level of anesthesia. They also open any sterile instruments the surgeon requires throughout the procedure.
Once the procedure is finished, the tech wakes the patient up by stopping the anesthetic gas and administering oxygen to help the patient wake up smoothly. Once the patient is starting to wake up, they extubate (remove the endotracheal tube from the patient’s airway) to allow the patient to fully breathe on their own. They make sure the patient is clean and dry from the procedure and able to fully function on their own before leaving the surgical suite. They take the patient back to the hospital and hand them off to the recovery tech who wakes them up the rest of the way and monitors the patient till they go home. The surgical tech then has to clean/sterilize the surgical instruments and surgical suite before repeating the process for the rest of the procedures throughout the day.
At the end of the day, when patients go home, the surgical technician takes the patient to the client and lets the client know how the procedure went, what to expect as the patient recovers at home, and demonstrates how to medicate the patient if medications are sent home. They then deep clean the surgical suite from top to bottom and re-sterilizes all of the remaining surgical instruments used throughout the day.
It is a full day for a surgical technician but one that is fulfilling! Seeing the patients go home at the end of the day with a medical problem resolved is a great feeling.
We look forward to sharing more about what our hospital staff does each day for the care and health of our patients!
This little Chinese Water Dragon went for a car ride to come see us recently. Since it’s safest for him and all other pets to travel in secure carriers and we require all pets to be contained in the waiting room, he came to the clinic in the best carrier his owners had on hand. To make him comfortable, his owners put in a nice fleece blanket and something to hide in. However, when he arrived at the clinic and his carrier was opened, he was missing! We quickly called his owners. They carefully checked their car and found him hiding out. Luckily, there was no harm done and he did well for his visit. Next time, we’re sure he will come in a carrier with much smaller bars! Are you unsure about what kind of carrier your exotic pet needs? We have seen just about EVERYTHING, so we can always let you know what works best! Give us a call and we would be happy to give you some recommendations!
The answer to this question depends on who you ask! The official answer from the United Egg Producers Animal Husbandry Guidelines for US Egg Laying Flocks, 2017 edition states 67-86 square inches of usable space per bird. These figures were established after research to determine what amount of space is large enough to reduce obvious stress behaviors, but small enough to keep egg production costs reasonable for consumers.Since pet poultry owners usually choose to emphasize cozy surroundings and environmental enrichment over costs associated with egg production, we recommend much more space per bird. Many hobby sites recommend 3 ft/bird in the enclosure, and minimum 10 ft/bird in the outdoor run. This sounds like a reasonable option. Here are a few more considerations:
- The cute ready-made coops you see online look great with a few chicks in them. However, once the chicks are full grown, they are usually way too small. Be sure the space reflects the size of the ADULT birds, and not the chicks.
- Even the most peaceful hens will establish a pecking order (this is actually where that expression is from!). Lower ranking hens need to be able to avoid the boss hens, and need enough space to be able to do just that.
- The ideal coop is well ventilated and easy to clean. If it’s tough to get in there and remove the mess, most people avoid doing it. We recommend emphasizing ability to clean over style and beauty of the coop.
- Most infectious diseases we see in pet poultry happen after owners buy birds from multiple sources, pick up birds at auctions, or fail to buy vaccinated birds. For the least chance of having an infectious disease in your flock, buy all birds from a “closed” hatchery, pay a little to have them vaccinated, and resist the temptation to add birds from any other sources.
The Indiana State Board of Health has great resources for both poultry producers and pet poultry enthusists. Go here: https://www.in.gov/boah/2721.htm <%22> We especially like the links on biosecurity, and a free program where you can have your flock’s eggs tested for diseases such as Salmonella.
Questions on pet poultry? Call us!
Fire preparedness is important for EVERYONE, but have you thought about a special plan for your exotic pets? We had a conversation with Nina Powell, Deputy Fire Marshall for the Pike Township Fire Department, and asked her advice. Specifically, we asked:
- Are those little window stickers that alert fire fighters to the presence of pets REALLY helpful? Will fire fighters look at them and try to find the pets?
- What if the pet is something unfamiliar and a little unusual, for example, a SNAKE? Will fire fighters rescue pets like that?
Nina assured us that the stickers are useful, and as long as the humans residents are safe, and fire fighters aren’t putting themselves and others in danger, they will make an effort to get pets safely out. She recommends using large stickers, and placing them prominently on both the front and rear doors right where they will be clearly visible. She laughed at our question about rescuing snakes-but quickly replied that all pets are important and special.
However, there are some things exotic pet owners can do that will really help fire fighters in these situations. We think her advice is excellent:
- Have carriers for each pet ready and easily visible, for example tucked under the cage or right next to it.
- Place a laminated instruction sheet on each carrier identifying and describing the pet, and any tips someone unfamiliar with that species would find useful. We made a couple of examples here:
So where do you get window/door stickers specifically for exotic pets? You can have them custom printed, or we’ve made a large stack of them; pick yours up any time during clinic hours.
Stickers are $2.00 and proceeds go towards the Veterinary Care Charitable Fund: https://www.vccfund.org/forms/donation-form/?ref=661&company=Avian%20and%20Exotic%20Animal%20Clinic
Nina also reminds us to check smoke detectors regularly and have an escape plan that all families know and have practiced! See this fun link where kids can help in the planning process: https://www.nfpa.org/~/media/files/public-education/campaigns/fire-prevention-week/fpw17/fpw17escapeplangrid.pdf
Avian and Exotic Animal Clinic loves exotic animal rescues. We work closely with Indiana House Rabbit Society (IHRS) http://www.indianahrs.org/ and Exotic Animal Pet Rescue and Sanctuary (EARPS) http://earps.org/. Today we would like to tell you about a rescue we love a little further from home, the Gabriel Foundation https://thegabrielfoundation.org/ in Colorado. Dr. Lennox has had the opportunity to visit and volunteer on several occasions, and the facility and staff, and their dedication to parrot welfare is exceptional. The quality of enrichment and access to beautiful spacious outdoor aviaries are just a few of the things we like about the Gabriel Foundation.
Like all rescues, the Gabriel Foundation struggles with so many birds and limited resources. The foundation is in the midst of transferring 44 birds from another rescue in Pennsylvania to their home in Colorado. The Lafeber Company has agreed to match donations, up to $5000.00 for the next few weeks. Join us in helping the newcomers settle into their new home.