Why take your exotic pet to the vet?


You're on your way home with Fluffernutter, your newly adopted rabbit from the animal shelter. You are all stocked up with supplies and well-intentioned advice. Why should your next step be to schedule an appointment with your local exotic veterinarian?

Published: Tuesday, Dec 20, 2022

For the purpose of this article “exotic” pets refer to rabbits, rats, mice, guinea pigs, chinchillas, hamsters, birds, and reptiles.

Your pet’s visit:

During your pet’s visit with the doctor a thorough history will be obtained and a full physical exam will be performed. If your pet is healthy this visit provides important baseline information that can be used for comparison if your pet falls ill. Your veterinarian will listen to your pet’s heart and lungs, evaluate and record weight and body condition, check skin, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Any behavioral concerns will be noted and addressed. Once a year you may be asked to bring a fecal sample to be evaluated for the presence of parasites.


Husbandry involves providing the appropriate environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, bedding etc) and diet for an animal.

Your veterinarian is perhaps the most valuable resource to guide you on appropriate husbandry for your exotic pet. The vast majority of health and behavioral issues stem from inappropriate husbandry which means many of them can be prevented!


You benefit from stimulation from the world every day through work, education, game play, social interactions, variety in diet, and exercise. Our pets deserve opportunities for enrichment as well. Your veterinarian can give you ideas on how you can create such opportunities in your own homes. They can tailor suggestions for your unique housing situation based on the species and temperament of your pet. If you would like to learn more about enrichment, check out my detailed article about this topic.

Dental Care:

Exotic pets can suffer silently from dental problems. Unlike our teeth, the teeth of many animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs continue to grow throughout their lives. Your veterinarian will carefully examine your pet’s oral cavity for signs of abnormal tooth wear. 


Not all the foods offered for sale are actually appropriate for your pet. It is important to understand the specific dietary needs of your pet and how best to meet them. Your veterinarian will go over your current feeding protocol and advise you of any adjustments you should be making.

Reproductive Concerns

Did you know that the vast majority of unspayed female rabbits will go on to develop uterine pathology (hyperplasia or cancer) later in their lives? Or that most of the mammary tumors that rats develop are hormonally influenced and spaying can greatly decreased their incidence? Your exotic vet can advise you on the benefits of spaying and neutering and help you decide if surgery is the right decision for your species of pet.


Many exotic pets require some degree of grooming such as nail trims or wing clips. Exotic vets and their staff are trained to do these procedures in a safe way.

Make your vet part of your team BEFORE problems arise.

In the event that your exotic pet should fall ill it is preferable that you already have an established relationship with an exotic veterinarian that you have confidence in and trust. You don’t want to waste valuable time searching for a veterinarian when your bunny suddenly stops eating or your rat can’t catch his breath. Veterinarians that treat exotics do so because they have a special interest in these species and have undergone special training to treat them. Like you, they are fully committed to exotic animal health and well being.

How to get the most out of your visit to the vet:

  1. Bring photographs of your pet’s housing setup

  2. Provide a list of all the food items and treats you offer to your pet (types and brand names)

  3. Write down a list of questions or concerns

  4. Bring a sample of your pet’s feces. Your vet will want to visually examine them and if appropriate will send the feces out to screen for parasites. For birds the best way to collect droppings is by putting wax paper on the bottom of the cage a few hours before your visit

  5. Bring any prior records you may have

  6. Ask your veterinarian what you should do if an emergency arises after hours with your exotic pet

So what are you waiting for? Make an appointment today!