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How to Choose an Exotic Vet in New York City & Long Island

Choosing an exotic vet can be a really difficult decision, since there are so few board certified ones to choose from, especially here in the New York City area. You will definitely want to find a great veterinary center for exotics with qualified vets near you before an emergency ever happens. Keep in mind the following list of criteria when choosing an exotic vet.

Veterinary assistant holding parrot and Avian and Exotic Pet Vet

What is an Exotic Vet?

An exotic vet is a veterinarian with highly specialized training in the treatment of any species of animal not considered to be a common pet (companion animal, such as a dog or cat) or domesticated livestock species.

Animals such as rabbits, parakeets, guinea pigs, iguanas, snakes and even backyard poultry animals, like chickens and ducks, as well as wild animals such as crocodiles and lizards are seen by exotic vets. The needs of these kinds of animals, especially when kept as a pet, are very distinct, so you want to make sure to find an experienced board certified exotics veterinarian close to home.

One highly regarded and experienced board certified avian and exotics veterinarian located in the New York City area is Dr. Shachar Malka of Long Island Bird and Exotics Veterinary Clinic in Great Neck, Long Island. He has more than 15 years of experience working primarily with birds, exotic species and wildlife. Dr. Malka completed four additional years of advanced training in this field after graduating from veterinary school, making him a real specialist, plus his clinic takes emergency cases 24/7.

Here’s what to look out for when choosing an Exotic Vet near you:

1. Make sure they take emergency cases

Many exotic vets have such limited space and so few specialists on hand that they just aren’t capable of caring for your pet during an actual emergency. Plus, most vets do not have the necessary equipment on hand for exotic animal emergencies. This is a very important point that many pet owners forget to consider when choosing a veterinarian for their exotic pet.

Exotic animals like rabbits, ferrets, parrots, chinchilla, turtles, sugar gliders, songbirds and the like, often do have emergencies. It’s sometimes hard to tell when your bearded dragon or cockatiel is sick, as many exotics are good at hiding their illness, so it can go unnoticed and get much worse until there’s an actual emergency. It happens all too often.

Avoid an emergency by giving your pet annual exams.

2. Choose a board certified specialist

Most regular vets don’t have experience with a wide range of animals, even if they claim to be an exotic vet.

  • The vast majority of vets claiming to be an exotic vet see primarily dogs and cats, which is a very harsh environment for your pet and can induce a great amount of stress on your rabbit, gerbil, canary, and other small, frail animals and pets.

  • These veterinarians also do not have as much training and experience with exotics as a board certified specialist would.

  • Nonspecialist vets often misdiagnose your pet.

  • An exotic vet lacking the necessary training and experience can actually do more harm than good.

Exotic animal specialists that are board certified by the state have an additional 1-4 years of extra training over and above veterinary school. Without this certification you’re getting a vet that has minimal education in exotic pets, which is like going to see a general practitioner to get brain surgery. Definitely better to see the neurosurgeon instead.

They’re similar, but completely different fields of expertise. Just because they took a quick crash course on exotics in veterinary school, doesn’t mean they have the experience and skill required to diagnose and treat your pet’s symptoms.

3. Be sure they use specialized equipment

So many exotic vets in New York City only carry the standard dog and cat medical equipment. Because of that the quality of care for your pet will be sub par, and you’ll likely then be referred to an actual specialist afterwards anyway. There’s also a major concern with anesthesia. Many veterinary clinics claim that exotic animals “can die” when anesthetized, but a specialized exotics medical center will be well trained in complicated anesthesia and be perfectly able to refute that claim.

The equipment used should be designed specifically for birds and other exotic animals, and not larger animals like dogs and cats.

You’ll want a clinic that uses CT (CatScan=computed Tomography) so you’ll never have your case referred to another location. Also be sure your exotic vet performs special surgeries that others are unable to do. Especially endoscopic surgeries.

4. They should perform operations and surgeries on site

Performing surgery on animals is a tricky task. Each animal requires something different and it’s crucial that the care your animal receives is from an experienced professional. Therapeutic endoscopies for animals allow the vet to get a firsthand look at what the problem is, and is incredibly valuable when the patient is an exotic animal. Endoscopies can limit the time and trauma that standard operations take, or can replace them altogether, as it allows the vet to access the internal organs without needing invasive surgeries.

It's an excellent sign if your vet is capable and willing to do the following surgeries, and not refer you to another hospital: Orthopedic surgeries, adrenalectomy, lump removal, and alters/spays/neuters. You should also look out for temperature regulation and mechanical ventilation or endoscope-guided intubation as signs of an experienced, professionally-trained exotic vet specialist.

Ultimately, a board certified exotic veterinarian will understand the unique needs/diseases/anatomy and physiology of your exotic pet better than any of the myriad of so called “exotic vets” littered throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. The best real board certified exotic pet specialists are located in Long Island and will see patients from all over the Greater New York City area.

When all is said and done, you want to put your trust in a board certified exotics veterinarian well trained in in all aspects of exotic animal medicine. They will be better able to quickly diagnose and treat your pet’s illness. Putting the care of your exotic pet in anyone else increases the chance of a missed diagnosis, costly medical bills, and ultimately a referral to a board certified specialist. Save yourself the time, money and most importantly the health of your pet!

Check out these amazing exotic vets in New York City and Long Island!

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