Exotic pets need annual checkups, too. .

 
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Pet owners have lots of love for their animals, no matter if they have scales, fur, beaks, or pouches. Frequently, though, people who own nontraditional pets, including exotics, don't plan for regular wellness visits as do cat and dog owners, cautions Lori Corriveau, a veterinarian at the Wellness Clinic in Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine, West Lafayette, Ind.

"We often see nontraditional pet owners wait until their pet is sick before they ever bring it to a veterinarian. People in the veterinary profession want pet owners to know that we care for more than just cats and dogs. Often, pet owners are not aware that this kind of care is out there for their snakes, hamsters, or parakeets." Nontraditional pets, which are anything other than a cat or dog, can include rodents such as mice, guinea pigs, rats, hamsters, gerbils, or degus, as well as birds and reptiles. Other popular nontraditional pets are rabbits, ferrets, sugar gliders, prairie dogs, pot-bellied pigs, and frogs.

Some people may not take the animal to see the veterinarian because it is easier to replace a $5 hamster than pay for a chronic or life-threatening condition, Corriveau indicates. In contrast, she has seen the owners of a beloved pet rat invest more than $1,000 for its care. Regular wellness visits can prevent greater health problems and, over the long term, keep medical costs down. "Many nontraditional pets, especially small mammals, are prey species. These animals often don't exhibit signs of an illness to prevent displaying their weaknesses. It may be too late when they show their symptoms. Any exotic animal exhibiting signs of illness should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible."

Wellness visits can help a variety of animals. For example, if a...

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