Exotic Animal Vet

It is not as common to come across an exotic animal veterinarian. There are more veterinarians providing care to domestic animals. However, there has been a growing interest in exotic animals and that has upped the demand for exotic animal veterinarians. Exotic animals are no longer limited to rabbits, ferrets, snakes and hamsters. Many people are adopting exotic birds and other species that are not traditional pets.


The growing popularity of exotic animals has prompted exotic animal vets to treat a wide range of exotic mammals, amphibians and reptiles. Moreover, these animals are no longer limited to a wildlife or a zoo setting. People are keeping exotic pets in their homes. That has also led to more exotic animal hospitals sprouting up all over the country. Exotic animal vets are not limited to practicing in a zoological or wildlife setting any more.

The duties of an exotic animal vet include issuing vaccinations, performing surgery and providing emergency care when needed. The popularity of exotic animals has also led to advanced techniques that help to diagnose and treat all kinds of ailments. This includes treating ferrets with adrenal gland disease, attending to lizards with bladder stones, remedying rabbits with dental disease and fixing fractures in birds.

One of the most exciting parts of being an exotic animal vet is that presents the chance to treat so many varieties of animals. Providing medical care to rodents, such as hamsters and guinea pigs, takes a different approach than treating reptiles, such as turtles and lizards. Because of the unpredictability of many exotic animals, sedation is extremely important. That is why exotic animal vets are well trained in the proper precautionary measures to take when administering medical treatment.

Where do Exotic Animal Vets Work?

As previously mentioned, exotic animal hospitals are beginning to become more common in cities throughout the United States. While these hospitals treat exotic animals and birds, it is up to the discretion of the veterinarian to decide what kind of animals will not be treated. For example, venomous reptiles and primates could be turned away.

There are also lots of opportunities for exotic animal veterinarians to work in a wildlife setting. That does not mean all vets go out into the wild. Wildlife rescue facilities require the services of exotic animal veterinarians to treat wounded and ailing wild animals.

Zoos are also a popular workplace for exotic animal vets. In this setting, veterinarians get to treat all kinds of animals that go beyond the scope of what they would see while working in an exotic animal hospital. Aquariums and wildlife conservations are a couple of more places where an exotic animal vet can establish a long-term career.

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Education Requirements to Become an Exotic Animal Vet

The educational route to becoming an exotic animal vet begins with a Bachelor’s Degree that provides a strong background in the sciences. Graduates must then begin veterinary college, although competition for admission is extremely competitive. During that process, applicants will be asked to provide their prior work experience in a veterinary setting. Veterinary colleges are seeking to admit applicants who’ve already accumulated a good amount of experience working with animals. Applicants who are looking to specialize in treating exotic animals, should attempt to find some kind of work-related experience with exotic animals.

Once an applicant is accepted into veterinary college, a four-year education begins. There are some veterinary colleges that offer exotic veterinary programs. This provides students with a more detailed exposure to the ways of treating exotic animals. Since there are not a great abundance of exotic animal vets, those who are looking to enter into this field should consider applying to one of those particular veterinary colleges. Some of those colleges have teaching hospitals which facilitate the educational process.

Veterinary colleges are set up so that the first three years are geared towards classroom and lab work, while the fourth year is spent doing a clinical rotation. During that final year, students have the chance to actually work on exotic animals in a real veterinary setting. Upon the completion of that four-year curriculum, graduates earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.). This distinction will enable graduates to seek out employment, although they could be required to take on an internship to gain more experience before earning a position as a full-time exotic animal veterinarian. Residencies are also offered to help recent graduates enhance their abilities as an exotic animal vet.

Salary/Job Outlook

Because of the uniqueness of the profession, exotic animal vets make a broad range of salaries that check in between $60,000 and $100,000 per year. It is also important to note that salaries increase with experience. The setting also factors into the salary as some exotic animal hospitals bring in clients who are willing to pay higher amounts for treatment for their exotic pets. Meanwhile, a wildlife conservation center may not have the same kind of funding, which results in a lower pay rate for exotic animal vets.

The job prospects are opening up, particularly since exotic animal vets make up the smallest contingent of practicing veterinarians. The movement towards purchasing more exotic pets has upgraded the demand for exotic animal vets. While there are not as many exotic animal vet jobs, there is also a smaller pool of candidates for those jobs. Based on that equation, it may be easier for exotic animal vets to gain employment over small animal veterinarians.


The licensing procedure for exotic animal vets is the same for other types of veterinarians. Veterinary Boards from each state set the guidelines that need to be met before a license is issued. Candidates must earn a passing score on a statewide examination, while some states have other stipulations that need to be met as well.

Board certification is new to the exotic animal veterinary field. Exotic animal vets with a minimum of six years’ experience in a high-quality practice now have the opportunity to become a diplomate under the new Exotic Companion Mammal Practice category. This has recently been established by the ABPN (American Board of Practicing Veterinarians). There are only a couple dozen diplomates thus far as this distinction requires a lot of time, experience and commitment. This is the only way for exotic animal vets to become board certified.


Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians

This association was formed in 2000 to further the treatment and study of exotic animal care. This association also publishes the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine.

American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians

The latest news, resources and events affecting wildlife veterinarians are brought together on this association’s website.

Association of Avian Veterinarians

Vets who focus medical care on avian species can turn to this association for an abundance of resources and information.

Association of Zoos and Aquariums

Exotic animal vets can look to this site for employment opportunities and can also learn more about exotic animal care and management.