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Veterinarians' guide to hedgehogs, chinchillas and chelonians.....oh, my!

Ferrets, frogs and finches are becoming more common as pets, but the list of unusual species adopted into human households now includes some of the most exotic creatures on the planet.

The trade in exotic pets has become a multi-billion dollar enterprise, but expansion of the industry sometimes outpaces veterinary knowledge of how to treat the maladies that afflict these unusual animals.

The new “Manual of Exotic Pet Practice,” published by Elsevier and edited by veterinary experts at the University of Illinois and Louisiana State University, provides detailed information on all of the major exotic animal groups. The book devotes entire chapters to invertebrates, ornamental fish, amphibians, crocodilians, snakes, lizards, chelonians (turtles and tortoises), birds, marsupials, ferrets, rabbits, hedgehogs, chinchillas and guinea pigs. Rats and mice get a chapter, as do hamsters and gerbils. A final chapter offers guidance on the treatment of injured wildlife.

"We felt that there was a strong need for a general exotic pet textbook that could be used by veterinarians to manage any exotic animal that came their way,” the editors wrote in the preface.

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University of Illinois wildlife veterinarian Mark A. Mitchell co-edited the book with LSU professor of zoological medicine Thomas N. Tully Jr.

The manual includes a brief history of the age-old tradition of capturing or domesticating wild animals, and a chapter on how to prepare an animal hospital for exotic pets. Each of the other chapters lists common species kept in captivity, and offers guidance on their biology, husbandry, nutritional needs, preventive medicine, common diseases, and potential hazards to human health.

Want to know how to restrain a crocodile so you can give it a proper exam?

How do you know if a turtle is suffering from a vitamin A deficiency?

Is the lethargic rabbit in your waiting room a victim of heat stroke or cardiac disease? Did that frog swallow something it shouldn’t have? The book offers guidance on these and myriad other potential therapeutic challenges.

Diagnostic approaches and treatment strategies are described in every chapter, and each includes information about surgery and, when applicable, special instructions related to anesthesia.

The book includes hundreds of color photographs of the maladies and injuries that sometimes afflict exotic animals, with more photos of common examination and treatment techniques. An in-depth index allows quick reference to items of interest.

“Dr. Tully and I were interested in pursuing this book because we saw a real need for an ‘all-exotics’ text for the general practitioner,” Mitchell said. “Historically, veterinary texts for exotic pets have been group-specific (for example, devoted entirely to reptiles or birds). Although invaluable, many veterinarians have expressed a desire to have a single point, primary reference to obtain clinical information on these animals. We hope this text will serve the tens of thousands of veterinarians managing exotic pet and wildlife cases as an invaluable resource to manage their patients.”

Diana Yates | University of Illinois
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