There are a wide variety of animals that can be kept as domestic pets. However, while some, like cats, dogs, and rabbits are fairly common, others are much less popular. In the past, an exotic animal was a species that was considered to be ‘wild’ in nature and not usually kept as a pet. However, today, an exotic pet is pretty much any animal that isn’t a cat or dog, although obviously, some types of animals are still much more exotic than others.
The following animals tend to be classified as exotic animals and represent some of the more unusual pets in need of specialist veterinary care:
Amphibians - this includes frogs, newts, toads, and even salamanders.
Birds – including budgies, parrots, and birds of prey.
Crabs – in particular hermit and fiddler crabs.
Farm animals – including goats, llamas, and pigs.
Insects and millipedes – including cockroaches, stick insects, praying mantis and even ants.
Reptiles – such as lizards (including dragons, geckos, and chameleons), snakes, tortoises, and turtles.
Rodents – there are a huge number of animals classed as rodents including chinchillas, hamsters, rats, gerbils, and guinea pigs.
Scorpions - in particular the emperor scorpion.
Spiders – the tarantula is the most commonly kept pet spider in the world.
One of the main reasons that these animals are classified as exotic and should only be treated by a veterinarian with experience of the species is because their anatomy is so completely different from that of a cat or dog. Not only are they so different from the more commonly kept pets, the behavior that they might exhibit when sick or injured, as well as the effects that the illness or injury may have on their body, can vary greatly in different species that fall under the umbrella of exotic pets. For example, a vet will need specialist knowledge to successfully diagnose and treat a bird with a fractured wing. A veterinary specialist with unique knowledge of the body and behaviors of your species of pets is necessary for an accurate diagnosis and subsequent treatment to be obtained.
Equally, the medications that may be required will be vastly different from the drugs usually administered to a canine or feline pet. Only a veterinary specialist will have a solid understanding of these medications and how they should be used to treat your pet.
Exotic animals also have specific nutritional and environmental needs. If they are to remain healthy, their owners will need to closely replicate the habitat that they would live in if they were still in the wild. For example, animals that are used to hot, humid weather, such as lizards and snakes, are best kept in terrariums that can be sufficiently heated. An exotic veterinarian will have the knowledge and experience to be able to make recommendations relating to these aspects of your pet's care.
If you have or are looking to adopt an exotic pet, be sure to seek out a veterinarian who has sufficient training and experience in handling your variety of animals so that your pet may get the best care possible. Ask local owners of similar animals for recommendations or go online to search out exotic vets in your area.