Throughout school, we learn about the four major domestic species: dogs, cats, horses, and cows. We spend less time talking about other species, but also cover animals like sheep, goats, pigs, and chickens. What about everything else? We had one optional course on exotic animal medicine (which I’m very happy I took), but that’s all we learned about the little creatures of the world.
Our school also offers a one-week rotation in exotics and wildlife medicine in which I was fortunate enough to be placed fourth-year. I recently completed this rotation and man! It is hard to fit in dozens of tiny creatures to learn about in one week. However, I think we covered a very large variety of species!
Here are some things I got to do on this rotation that were awesome:
- Learn how to handle bunnies (they scared me prior to this week)
- Draw blood from a turtle
- Heart ultrasound and blood collection from a snake
- Ultrasound on a ferret
- Catching an owl and administering eye medications to it
- Crop feeding a baby pigeon
- IV fluid administration to a Northern Gannet
Sometimes I’m doing these things, and I just think to myself, I could never have imagined this happening in my lifetime. But here I am drawing blood from a turtle, and I didn’t even know you could do that! There is so much to learn about so many different species of animals, but I think it’s really cool that there’s so much we can do with these little guys. I also think that, often, practitioners say they won’t look at a guinea pig or a bird because they don’t know things about their health. This may be true to an extent, but it’s also really amazing how much comparative medicine you can practice. Gastric stasis in a guinea pig is kind of like ileus in a horse, or a corneal ulcer in a guinea pig is just a corneal ulcer. Sure, there is extra stuff to know, like rodents can be sensitive to certain antibiotics or that birds have air sacs in some of their bones, but with a little bravery and some research I think anything is possible!