The Avian & Exotics Department at Red Bank Veterinary Hospitals provides primary, referral, and emergency services for many exotic pet species. Our staff members are specially trained in caring for exotic pets and responding to their individual requirements.
Pets That We See
- All birds
- All rodents: Rats, Mice, Gerbils, Degu, Hamsters, Guinea pigs, Chinchillas, Prairie dogs, Flying squirrels
- All reptiles (except venomous snakes): Snakes, Lizards, Turtles, Tortoises
- All amphibians: Frogs, Toads, Salamanders, Newts, Caecilians
- Sugar gliders
- Small exotic felids (servals, lynx, bobcats)
- Pot-Bellied Pigs
Many exotic animals kept as pets are considered prey species in the wild. Prey species often hide their signs of illness as a means of survival. Exotic animals showing symptoms at home are often already very sick. Regular wellness examinations are important to help identify early signs of disease that could otherwise be missed. During wellness visits, your pet will receive a thorough physical examination, routine blood work, and preventive medicine. Our staff will also discuss the specific husbandry requirements, including caging, care, and diet, of your pet. We strongly recommend annual wellness examinations for exotic pets should be evaluated twice yearly.
Preventive medicine requirements vary by species but can include vaccination against common or harmful diseases, flea and tick prevention, and heartworm prevention.
The Avian & Exotics Department provides grooming for your exotic pets, including nail trims, avian wing trims, and beak trims for birds and turtles/tortoises. Bathing exotic pets at home is not recommended due to stress and the risk of injury and hypothermia, or becoming too cold. If your pet needs bathing or coat care, please schedule an appointment. An annual examination is required for all patients requesting grooming services.
Diagnostic options are available for your exotic pet:
- Blood work: This includes evaluation of the white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets, electrolytes, and indicators of organ function.
- Fecal Analysis: To evaluate feces for parasites, bacterial overgrowth, and yeast.
- DNA Sexing: Non-invasive genetic sexing for pet birds.
- Imaging: Digital radiography (x-ray), ultrasound, fluoroscopy, CT and MRI
- Endoscopy: Minimally-invasive evaluation of the oral and nasal cavities, upper and lower gastrointestinal tracts, and coelomic/abdominal cavities through rigid and flexible endoscopy.
- Consultations with Other Specialists: The Avian & Exotics Department works closely with other specialties in the hospital to provide the most well-rounded approach to your pet’s care.
- Prescription medications
- Therapeutic laser treatment
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer patients
- I-131 (radioactive iodine) treatment for hyperthyroidism in guinea pig
We offer a wide range of soft tissue and orthopedic surgical procedures using specialized anesthesia and monitoring equipment. Our exotics team is available for elective procedures, as well as emergency surgeries.
Rodents and rabbits have teeth that grow throughout their entire lives. Dental disease, or malocclusion, is very common in these exotic pets due to genetics, trauma, and poor diet. The Avian & Exotics Department offers advanced evaluation of small mammal dental health, routine occlusal adjustments (tooth trims), dental extractions, and abscess treatment.
Exotic pet species can have undesirable behavioral problems at home. Examples include feather destructive behavior in parrots and inappropriate urination in rabbits. We offer behavior consultations to help identify potential environmental stressors or cues and provide owners with tools to modify their pet’s behavior through positive reinforcement. A thorough medical work-up is recommended prior to a behavior consultation to help first rule-out possible medical causes of your pet’s undesirable behavior.
Despite recent advances in the field of avian nutrition, many birds are still being fed seed diets. Seeds are deficient in a variety of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids. Furthermore, seeds are very high in fat! A poor diet can predispose birds to a variety of diseases, including obesity, atherosclerosis, and severe nutritional deficiencies. If you are unable to convert your pet bird to a healthier diet at home, diet conversion can be performed in the hospital where your pet’s appetite and weight will be closely monitored.
Finding a pet sitter comfortable with exotic pets can be difficult! We offer medical boarding in our exotics-only, temperature-controlled ward. Your pet will be cared for by our dedicated exotics staff. A wellness exam must be performed within one year prior to the time of medical boarding.
Health certificates can be provided for pets traveling across state lines or out of the country.
Exotic Pet Emergencies
Most avian and exotic pets are prey species and do not show clinical signs of illness until they are very sick. If you are concerned that your exotic pet needs emergency care, it is often best to have the pet evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
What symptoms are considered an emergency?
- Anorexia >12 hours in small mammals or >24 hours in birds
- Persistent diarrhea or blood in the droppings
- Straining to urinate, defecate, or pass an egg
- Lethargy or weakness
- Unresponsive or inappropriate mental state
- Trauma including bite wounds, self mutilation, or fractured bones
- Active bleeding or recent blood loss
- Prolapsed tissues
- Toxin exposure (topical or ingestion)
- Respiratory distress
- Bloated abdomen
Honey Bee Medicine
Honey bee medicine is new in the veterinary field, and bee keepers will now be turning to veterinarians for hive inspections, as well as diagnosis and treatment of honey bee diseases. Recent federal regulations have mandated all antibiotics in honey bee hives must be used under the direction of a veterinarian (in the form of a Veterinary Feed Directive). Dr. Emi Knafo has been a beekeeper since 1998 and started the first honey bee medicine curriculum at any US veterinary school. She has directed CE courses and has spoken at national meetings on the subject. She is available to consult with veterinarians and beekeepers and to perform hive inspections.
What is a Board Certified Avian Specialist?
Veterinarians who are board certified in Avian Practice are trained to medically and surgically treat all bird species. In addition to undergraduate training and four years of veterinary school, Dr. McCleery completed a specialty internship in avian and exotic pet medicine followed by a 3-year dual residency in both Avian Practice and Exotic Companion Mammal practice. She then passed a rigorous examination from the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners to become a diplomate in Avian Practice. Dr. McCleery is currently completing the requirements to obtain board-certification in Exotic Companion Practice. Although Dr. McCleery is specialized in avian practice, her internship and residency trained her in all aspects of exotic animal medicine and surgery–from fish to tigers!
What is a Board Certified Specialist in Zoological Medicine™?
Dr. Knafo's specialization in zoological medicine (ACZM), makes her a specialist in all exotic (non-domestic) animals from invertebrates, fish, birds, reptiles, small mammals, and large mammals/megavertebrates (like elephants, whales, etc). She is the only DACZM specialist in the state of New Jersey, only one of 3 ACZM specialists in private practice in the entire USA (the others are at zoos and universities), and only one of 10 ACZM specialists with the subspecialty "Zoological Companion Animal" (aka exotics) in the world.