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Home > General > Why Is Vet Care for Exotic Pets So Complicated & Expensive? 4 Reasons

Why Is Vet Care for Exotic Pets So Complicated & Expensive? 4 Reasons

exotic pet python examined by veterinarian in his hands

Anyone that has owned an exotic pet can vouch for two things: it’s exceedingly difficult to find a high-quality exotic veterinarian, and veterinary care is much pricier for an exotic animal. In most cases, you won’t be able to take your sun conure to the same vet that treats your Beagle. So, if you’re considering welcoming an exotic pet into your home, specialized veterinary care is something you need to (A) find and (B) budget for.

Read on to learn why health care for exotics is so expensive and complicated.


What Animals Are Considered Exotic?

The term “exotic” refers to almost any animal other than cats, dogs, or farm animals. This will include critters from parrots to guinea pigs, bearded dragons to sugar gliders, and anything in between. If you’ve never kept an unusual pet before, you’d probably be surprised at how many exotic pet species there are and shocked at the types of animals some people keep as pets.

For example, fennec foxes are a tiny fox breed that grows to be around the size of a Chihuahua. Wallaroos are Australian marsupials, similar to the animals it gets its name from (kangaroos and wallabies). Jerboas are strange little hopping rodents and one of the very few bipedal mammals in the world.

The Long-eared Jerboa (Euchoreutes naso) on rock
Image Credit: Lauren Suryanata, Shutterstock

The 4 Reasons Why Vet Care for Exotic Pets Is So Complicated

1. Each Species Is Unique

In human health care, certain conditions and body systems need to be treated by specialists. You wouldn’t visit a plastic surgeon if you needed spinal fusion surgery; you’d see a neurologist. If you have a broken leg, you will need an orthopedist specializing in treating broken bones. The same applies to exotic animals; if you have a unique species, you need to see a doctor that specializes in treating it.

The scope of exotic animals is huge. A veterinarian who can care for hedgehogs might not be trained to care for jerboas or bearded dragons. The most significant reason your exotic pet needs specialized care is that each species is unique, and these highly trained vets know that they cannot extrapolate from one species to the next.

2. Handling Knowledge

Exotic vets must know how to handle each species they’re trained to treat. In addition, they need experienced and highly qualified veterinary technicians and assistants to aid them in their practice. For example, taking blood samples or X-rays of certain species can require a lot of patience and experience. You can imagine how much more difficult it would be to take radiographs of a parrot than a dog.

Vet takes blood from a Friesian horse from the neck vein with vacutainer blood tubes
Image By: Henk Vrieselaar, Shutterstock

3. Specialized Equipment

Veterinary care for exotics will often require the use of specialized equipment. Surgery equipment, especially, must be tailored and specific to the animals treated. Clinics that treat exotics will need special dental instruments for animals like rabbits and oxygen cages to maintain the body temperature of little critters. Since some exotic pets are less tolerant of anesthesia than cats and dogs, clinics will need properly-sized tubes and IV catheters to minimize the stress on the patient.

4. Stress Tolerance

A busy veterinarian clinic full of barking dogs and meowing cats is not a stress-free environment for any sick animal. This is especially true concerning exotics, which may be less likely to adapt to new, strange atmospheres and more prone to react poorly to high-stress situations.

border collie visiting a vet
Image By: Kamil Macniak. Shutterstock


Why Is Exotic Veterinary Care So Expensive?

Veterinary care, regardless of whether you have a cat, dog, or exotic pet, is expensive. But exotic veterinary fees are often extremely high, and there are several reasons for this.

Exotic veterinarians need additional schooling, skills, equipment, and staff of highly-trained individuals to provide their services and make their clinic operate effectively.

Another reason is that time is money. Most small animal clinics that treat cats and dogs can see four appointments in an hour. Assuming a 15-minute check-up is $50, that would be around $200 per hour just in office fees alone. This excludes additional income from flea sprays, heartworm treatments, or vaccines that vets can fit into those short check-ups.

Now, an exotic vet has a much different schedule for check-ups. A good avian hospital, for example, schedules appointments every 30 minutes to give the vet enough time to examine each patient properly. So, if an exotic vet wants to make the same income as a small animal clinic, they must charge twice as much. Even if the exotic clinic charges $65 for an office exam, they’ll only bring in $130 per hour compared to the $200 of other traditional clinics.

In addition, not many pet insurance companies will provide coverage for exotic animals, thus increasing your out-of-pocket veterinary expenses exponentially.

Vet performing ultrasound on chinchilla
Image By: O_Lypa, Shutterstock


Final Thoughts

Though exotic pet care is pricey and complicated, it’s a non-negotiable part of owning a unique pet. If you plan on adopting an exotic pet in the future, ensure you have a specialized veterinary clinic in your area to ensure your pet will have the best care possible if it ever gets sick or injured.

Featured Image Credit: Andrii Zastrozhnov, Shutterstock

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