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Avian & Exotic Pet Medicine

Exotic pets require just as much preventive and routine care as dogs or cats. Many health problems in exotic pets are not the result of injuries or contagious diseases but arise as a result of improper husbandry, diet and environment.

Routine examinations are critical in detecting and treating sickness and disease as early as possible. With a special interest in exotic and small animal care, our staff and veterinarians provide primary veterinary care including preventive care exams and full diagnostic and surgical services for the following exotic pets:

Birds

A veterinarian who has a special interest in avian care can be an invaluable ally in helping you maintain the health and happiness of your pet bird. Birds need more than just a loving home: to keep them stimulated and in the best health, they need an appropriate diet, a calm environment and proper husbandry. A knowledgeable veterinarian you can trust is an indispensable source of information for any bird owner.

Amador Valley Veterinary Center has a specialized team to provide you with correct information for the proper care your pet bird requires.

While birds do not receive annual vaccines, they do benefit from regular veterinary care. You should bring your bird in for annual exams to check for illnesses that may not be visibly apparent and to get an overall evaluation of your bird's health.

During an exam our doctors provide counsel on important husbandry questions:

  • Is the size of my bird's enclosure adequate?
  • Am I providing my bird with the appropriate light cycle?
  • Is there a particular formulated diet that is best for the kind of bird I have? This is especially important to ask because many of the major health problems in pet birds are associated with nutritional deficiencies.

Avian Services
At Amador Valley Veterinary Center we offer the following services for birds:

  • Annual physical examinations
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Husbandry counseling
  • Behavioral counseling
  • Fecal exams for parasites
  • Gram stains and cultures for bacterial and fungal analysis
  • Blood profiles
  • Radiographs
  • Surgery
  • Emergency and urgent care
  • DNA sexing
  • Grooming of nails, wings and beak
  • Boarding

Signs Your Bird Might Be Sick
Birds mask illness in an instinctive attempt to avoid predators. However, with many sicknesses subtle signs are usually displayed.

The key to early detection of illness – and successful treatment – is to learn to recognize the signs and symptoms.

Immediately call AVVC if you notice any of the following signs in your bird:

  • Closed or swollen eyes
  • Nasal discharge
  • Diarrhea
  • Sitting in one place for extended periods of time with feathers puffed out
  • Noisy or labored breathing, with wheezing or clicking sounds, tail bob associated with breathing
  • Scaling or crusting of the face/feet
  • Weakness, limping, wing droop
  • Lethargy
  • Regurgitation
  • Sitting at bottom of cage

Feeding Your Bird
One of the most important things you can do to ensure your bird lives a healthy and happy life is to feed it a nutritionally sound diet.

For example, most parrots should be on pelleted diets with a small amount of seeds or nuts and a wide variety of table foods and produce.

Other individual avian species have their own specific dietary requirements that should be discussed with your veterinarian. High fat and high starch foods should always be avoided.

Feeding a balanced, varied diet and ensuring your bird's food and water sources remain as clean as possible will help your pet bird live a long and healthy life.

Do not feed your bird the following foods--even small quantities of these can result in illness:

  • Alcohol or caffeine
  • Apple Seeds
  • Avocado (guacamole)
  • Chocolate
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Table salt

Useful Links

Ferrets

Today's ferrets are charming, gentle, and inquisitive, and love to burn off energy being playful. With their small and flexible bodies, they can scurry along walls, dash under furniture, squeeze through cupboard doors or curl up and hide in small spaces.

Pet ferrets have unique nutritional needs and require lots of attention and exercise to keep them healthy. The doctors and staff at Amador Valley Veterinary Center see ferrets on a regular basis and can advise you on all aspects of ferret health and lifestyle.

Ferret Services
At AVVC we offer the following services for ferrets:

  • Annual physical examinations
  • Complete medical work-ups
  • Blood evaluation
  • Vaccinations (Canine Distemper and Rabies)
  • Fecal exams for parasites
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Evaluations for Adrenal Disease
  • Ultrasound
  • Surgery
  • Emergency & Urgent care
  • Boarding

Signs your Ferret Might be Sick
A number of diseases can plague a pet ferret and can begin as early as the age of two years. These include:

  • Heart disease
  • Adrenal disease
  • Insulinoma
  • Intestinal disease
  • Various types of cancer

Ferrets are also notorious for ingesting inappropriate things like plastic and rubber, which can cause an intestinal blockage.


It is important ferrets receive regular physical exams and you to be observant of any physical or behavioral changes. If you notice any of the following symptoms, consult your veterinarian immediately:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy, decreased play activity
  • Diarrhea
  • Straining to urinate or defecate
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive urination
  • Excessive drinking
  • Dazed look or staring
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at mouth
  • Tooth grinding
  • Loss of fur
  • Excessive itching or scratching
  • Weight loss
  • Development of lumps or skin changes

Feeding your Ferret
Ferrets are natural carnivores, evolved to eat meat, and in the wild their diet would consist mainly of small rodents like rats or mice.

They use fat, rather than carbohydrates, as their energy source and as a result, plants, fruits and vegetables are not a significant part of a natural ferret diet.

In fact, ferrets should never be fed carbohydrates or fiber.

Ferrets need a highly digestible meat-based protein and should be fed a balanced raw carnivore diet specifically designed for ferrets.  Do not feed your ferrer cat or kitten food.

Both raw diets and whole prey diets are commercially available for ferrets. There is some controversy over the safety versus benefit of raw and whole prey diets so it's best to consult with your AVVC veterinarian. 

Feeding your ferret the proper diet is critical in helping them live a long and healthy life.

Useful Links
The American Ferret Association

Ferrets Anonymous


Articles and Information
Small Mammal Health: Ferret World

Rabbits

With their friendly and social nature pet rabbits have become integral members of the family. Curious, playful and affectionate, rabbits love being the center of attention and there is no end to the entertainment provided by their mischievous personalities!

Rabbits are often mistakenly thought of as low-maintenance pets. In reality they require as much attention as a dog or cat. Because they are prey animals, rabbits are experts at hiding their illnesses.

At AVVC our goal is to help educate you about which signs to look for should your rabbit become ill. Our veterinarians will provide you with information about proper dietary needs, perform complete physical exams and perform routine procedures such as spaying or neutering your rabbit.

Rabbit Services
At Amador Valley Veterinary Center we offer the following services for rabbits:

  • Annual physical examinations
  • Spay and neuter surgeries
  • Fecal exams for parasites
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Complete medical work-ups
  • Blood evaluation
  • Surgery
  • Radiographs
  • Anesthesia, including IV fluids and use of an endotracheal tube
  • Dental care
  • Emergency & Urgent care
  • Boarding

Signs your Rabbit Might be Sick
When determining if your rabbit is sick, it is important to remember rabbits by nature hide their illnesses for fear of being harmed by predators.

This may be a good survival tactic in the wild but for domestic rabbits, hiding their symptoms only misleads their owners and prevents prompt medical attention.

If you notice any of the following signs or symptoms, call your AVVC veterinarian immediately.

  • Lethargy or other changes in behavior
  • Runny eyes or nose and sneezing
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drooling or dropping food from mouth
  • Head tilting or walking in circles
  • Scratching/itching/shaking head/fur
  • Lumps or abscesses
  • Irregular droppings, diarrhea, straining to
  • urinate or defecate, lack of feces
  • Change in urine
  • Constant teeth grinding

Spaying and Neutering Your Rabbit
AVVC offers routine spay and neuter surgeries on rabbits. There are many advantages to spaying and neutering your pet rabbit including helping prevent the problem of pet rabbit over population -- far too many bunnies end up at shelters and are in need of good homes. Other benefits to spaying and neutering your pet rabbit include:

  • Reduced Aggression
    As rabbits reach maturity, hormones tend to bring out aggressive and destructive behavior. Rabbits that are spayed or neutered tend to be calmer, easier to handle, and more affectionate with their owners.
  • Reduced Urine Marking
    Spaying or neutering your rabbit will greatly reduce territorial urine marking and will help make litter box training easier.
  • Eliminating the Risk of Uterine and Testicular Cancer
    In females, spaying eliminates the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer and reduces the risk of mammary cancers. Spaying also eliminates the risk of pyometra, a severe infection of the uterus. In males, neutering eliminates the risk of testicular cancer.

Feeding Your Rabbit
Our veterinarians will work with you to determine the proper nutrition for your rabbit. In general a rabbit's diet should normally consist of the following:

  • Unlimited Timothy or grass hay, not alfalfa, which accounts for the majority of their natural diet
  • A nice selection of vegetables (ideally 3 different veggies per day). Recommended vegetables include:
    A limited amount of high quality Timothy hay pellets
    • Broccoli
    • Beet Tops
    • Carrots
    • Parsley
    • Mustard Greens
    • Collard Greens
    • Sprouts
    • Endive
  • A small amount of fruit intermittently
  • Unlimited water

Foods to Avoid
You should not feed your rabbit the following foods:

  •  Lettuce
  •  Cabbage
  •  Parsnips
  •  Potato tops
  •  Tomato leaves
  •  Chocolate

Table scraps should also not be fed to your rabbit. If in doubt, call us to see which foods are appropriate for your rabbit.

Useful Links
House Rabbit Society
AAHA Rabbit Care

Reptiles

Reptiles can be great pets. Some have very basic, uncomplicated husbandry and dietary requirements, while others have more complex care requirements for heating, lighting, humidity and nutrition.

The doctors and staff at Amador Valley Veterinary Center have years of experience in treating a variety of reptiles, including geckos, iguanas, snakes and all types of turtles and tortoises.

Our doctors are able to advise you on how to properly create and maintain your reptile's habitat and what types of foods are necessary to keep your reptile healthy.

Our services for reptiles include:

Physical examinations

  • Fecal exams for parasites
  • Full diagnostic work-ups, including blood panels and radiographs
  • Surgery
  • Husbandry counseling
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Emergency & urgent care
  • Boarding

Signs Your Pet Reptile May Be Sick
One of the most important things to do for your pet reptile is to research its natural behavior as well as its needs while in captivity.

Unless you are aware of what constitutes natural behavior for your reptile, you may miss the early signs of disease and not realize it until it is too far advanced. Use the following list as a general guideline for signs to monitor so you can take your reptile to the veterinarian if needed.

  • Changes in eating or drinking
    Increased or decreased appetite, and vomiting or regurgitation.
  • Shedding problems
    Incomplete, prolonged or lack of shedding.
  • Changes in stool or urine production
    Any changes in stool appearance, straining to urinate or defecate or an increase or decrease in waste production.
  • Lumps or bumps
    Any unusual blisters, scabs, bruises, inflammation or redness of the skin.
  • Changes in general appearance
    Any changes in weight, skin color, swelling of the limbs or jaw, soft spots or any other lesions on the shell.
  • Change in activity levels
    For example, acting more lethargic or more active than usual or hiding or staying in one corner of the cage.
  • Behavioral changes
    Any changes in behavior, including aggressive behavior, tremors, seizures or excessive digging.
  • Unusual breathing
    Unusual breathing includes open-mouth breathing, wheezing or squeaking, excessive saliva, bubbles coming from nostrils, or listing while swimming.
  • Limping or lameness
    Observe closely for any signs of trauma and monitor to be sure they climbing as much as usual.


Useful Links
The Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians
Melissa Kaplan's Herp Care Collection
AAHA Healthy Pet

Articles and Information
Reptile Brumation

Small Mammals

Owning an exotic pet can be rewarding. However, the exotic pet owner must not only find a veterinarian who is medically qualified to treat their pet, but who also has the facilities, equipment and resources to do so.

The staff at Amador Valley Veteriary Center offer exceptional veterinary services to: chinchillas, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, and rats.

Our veterinarians have years of additional training in the field of exotic pets. We offer a broad spectrum of advanced care for small mammals and use the latest in diagnostic capabilities for our exotic patients, such as digital radiography and ultrasound.

Signs your Pet Might be Sick
Poor hygiene and nutrition are the main causes of illness in small mammals. If you notice any of the following signs or symptoms, please call your veterinarian immediately:

  • Small lumps or bumps, which may be tumors or abscesses
  • Discharge from mouth, eyes or nose
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea or "Wet Tail"
  • Skin infections
  • Unusual hibernation or self-isolation
  • Difficulty eating, drooling or dropping food
  • Bloody urine or blood on the fur
  • Fur loss or itchy skin
  • Weight loss

Useful Links
Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians (AEMV)
AAHA Healthy Pet


Articles and Information
A Domestic Rat Can Be an Ideal Pet

Caring For Your Guinea Pig
Caring For Your Chinchilla