Vets offer expertise in exotic pets to Seattle members

Vets offer expertise in exotic pets to Seattle members

Shoreline members Julie Atwood and Matthew Wilson took their conure parrot, Maggie, to highly rated The Center for Bird and Exotic Animal Medicine in Bothell after she chewed her tail feather ragged. Dr. Adolf Maas prescribed Lupron, a hormone treatment to curb the behavior, possibly caused by a nesting instinct.

“She hasn’t chewed any more feathers since her first shot,” Wilson says.

By taking Maggie and their other conure, Niko, to a vet who specializes in avian care, Wilson says he knows the doctor understands issues specific to birds, such as their sensitive respiratory systems. The needs of owners of nontraditional pets, such as birds, reptiles and pocket pets, differ greatly from those of cats and dogs, according to Dr. Tracy Bennett, a vet at highly rated Bird & Exotic Clinic of Seattle. Bennett, a board-certified avian specialist, co-owns the clinic with her husband Dan Lejnieks, who is board certified in exotic companion mammals.

Vet education focuses on cats and dogs, but students can opt for board certification that requires additional training and passing board exams. Lejnieks recommends exotic pet owners look for a vet with appropriate certification, which could include avian, exotic, reptile or amphibian. “We’re specialists the same way an ear, nose and throat doctor is,” Bennett says. An office visit and physical at Bird & Exotic Clinic start at $54 for any pet.

Improper care could be fatal for exotic pets, which are fragile due to their small organs and unique health considerations. For example, penicillin works fine in cats and dogs, but is highly toxic and lethal to guinea pigs, Lejnieks says. “It’s really easy to overdose the little animals we see because they’re so small,” he adds. Bennett says exotic clinics typically contain smaller surgical instruments than a traditional vet’s office, special heart monitors to fit the tiny animals’ anatomy and heated rooms for reptiles and birds.

Dr. Cathy Johnson-Delaney, a veterinarian at highly rated Avian Exotic Animal Medical Center of Kirkland, offers her exotic expertise on health and behavior to owners of birds, rabbits — which suffer from dental, gastrointestinal and respiratory disease — and ferrets, which she says behave like a 2-year-old child and don’t slow down with age. “They get into everything,” says Johnson-Delaney, whose clinic charges $53 for a visit. “You have to keep them occupied.” Dental problems, GI tract and heart issues, as well as cancerous tumors tend to be health risks for the small mammals, Johnson-Delaney says. She recommends they receive an anti-hormone implant, which costs $190, to block adrenal disease that affects ferrets over 5 years old and prevents the growth of certain cancerous tumors.

“The chronic medical issues that Dr. Cathy mentions for ferrets can be expensive as they age,” says Kevin Farlee, a Maple Valley member who brings his seven ferrets to the Avian Exotic Animal clinic for care. “Most experienced ferret owners recommend having 
a ferret medical savings account 
of about $1,000.”


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Cammie is Bonnie Walker's 12-year-old Congo African Grey, who occasionally shouts out "big butt" when Walker is in the room. (Photo by Brandon Smith)
Cammie is Bonnie Walker's 12-year-old Congo African Grey, who occasionally shouts out "big butt" when Walker is in the room. (Photo by Brandon Smith)

Exotic and domestic species of birds require decades-long commitments from their pet parents, but these pets supply companionship and love for those willing to engage.

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