Exotic Animal Medicine and Surgery
Exotic animals are defined as any pet other than the traditional dogs and cats. People keep an incredibly wide variety of exotic pets, and we at Vernon Hills Animal Hospital are experienced with the more typical ones commonly kept as pets.
Dr. Barten has been keeping small mammals, reptiles and amphibians as pets ever since he was a child. He has written numerous chapters in textbooks and articles in scientific journals on exotic pets. He frequently lectures and chairs sessions on exotic pets at national veterinary conferences. Dr. Sneed has special interest in small exotic mammals and has over a decade of experience treating them. Dr. Cheung came to work with us because of her strong interest in exotics, especially reptiles and small exotic mammals.
A big part of keeping exotic pets healthy is providing proper housing and nutrition. We are experienced keeping these animals ourselves and have good advice and written handouts on proper care. An important step during each first visit is going over in detail the diet and housing of each pet, and recommending improvements whenever possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What species of Exotics do you treat? Are there any species you don't treat?
A: We treat most exotics, with the exception of those that are illegal to own in Illinois, as well as those that require extensive special equipment and facilities to handle and house. We also don't see birds. We love to see rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, prairie dogs, rats and mice, gerbils, hamsters, hedgehogs, and the like. Dr. Barten especially likes all manner of reptiles and amphibians.
Animals we don't treat include those considered illegal to own in Illinois. The list includes wild mammals native to Illinois (raccoons, opossums, skunks and so on), bears, big cats (lions, tigers, ocelots, bobcats), wild members of the dog family (foxes, wolves, coyotes), and venomous reptiles. Animals we don't treat because they require extensive special equipment and facilities to handle and house include domestic pigs, monkeys, fish and invertebrates.
Q: What can you do for my exotic pet?
A: We always start with a patient history. We need to know where the patient came from, how it is housed, and what it is fed. We offer advice on recommended housing and diets. We then perform a thorough physical examination and discuss our findings. Often we will recommend blood tests, parasite checks, bacterial cultures or radiographs (x-rays) to make a more definitive diagnosis. Treatment options, potential benefits, and estimated costs are discussed before actual treatment is begun. We offer surgery and hospitalization when indicated.
Q: Is it worth it to treat my pet?
A: We believe that every life has value. We recognize that all pets have an emotional value to the owner far beyond the purchase price. We treat every pet, no matter how tiny, common, or inexpensive, as if it were our own. We keep pets like these ourselves and know what it feels like when one of our little buddies gets sick. At the same time we never pressure a client to accept more aggressive treatment than they are comfortable with.
Q: What if the disease is serious or life threatening?
A: We can't cure every patient, but our goal always is to prevent suffering. In some cases we can offer palliative treatment to make sick patients as comfortable as possible for as long as possible. When that is no longer an option we can offer humane euthanasia.
Q: What if I have questions?
A: Please call or contact us and we will tell you as much as we can over the phone. Some questions are complex and we may refer you to a book, society or web page for detailed information. Remember that it is usually impossible to make a diagnosis over the phone. It surprises us how often we expect one disease from the described symptoms, only to find something completely unexpected when we see the patient.