Click on any of the services below to learn how we take special care of your exotic pets
Exotic Pet Care
What is an “exotic pet?” Usually this term refers to any companion pet that is not a dog or a cat. Some of these alternative pets, such as rabbits and parakeets are quite common but veterinary care of these species, and others, frequently requires special knowledge, training and equipment.
Ocean County Veterinary Hospital recognizes that exotic pets have become popular because many people enjoy the unique qualities these animals possess. Our knowledge and experience with exotic species combines clinical expertise with a personal touch.
At OCVH we regularly treat birds, reptiles (such as lizards, snakes, turtles and tortoises), ferrets, rabbits, small mammals (gerbils, guinea pigs, mice, rats, hedgehogs and sugar gliders), amphibians and other species.
Why choose an avian and exotic veterinarian?
Traditional veterinary education does not include extensive training for the specific needs of exotic pets. For that reason, some veterinarians who have a special interest in treating these animals commit to additional continuing education and learning about the latest advancements in exotic pet care.
Our doctors firmly believe in the value of the human-companion animal bond and the exotic patients of OCVH prove that this bond is not limited to dogs and cats. They strengthen this bond through a strong wellness-care plan for all patients.
OCVH is the regional choice for the sometimes unique and unusual pets that many dedicated and conscientious people call their own. Our doctors and staff are trained to provide high quality medical care for all of our patients. Our goal is to deliver this care in a compassionate way for all patients - furred, feathered, scaled or otherwise.
You and your special pets will receive personal, individualized attention in a professional environment. By offering veterinary services for our non-traditional companion animals we share your goal of providing special care for the pets you love.
“My cordon bleu finch Julian suffered what was an apparent fracture or otherwise sever injury to his left leg. After a lot of worrying and no real experience with orthopedics injuries to my birds, I decided to call OCVH. Dr. Briggs was recommended to me by my dog’s vet, Dr. Glenn Behan at Barnegat Animal Clinic…from the moment I called OCVH, everyone was very accommodating – with Dr. Briggs even telling the receptionist that he would wait for me if I wanted to come to see him (I am almost an hour away, on LBI). I was very worried about my little bird and Dr. Briggs was just wonderful with him. He gently examined him, showed me where his injury was and also showed me a comparison to the other healthy side, so that I could get an idea how severe the bruising was. He also clearly showed me how Julian had no stability in his knee, which was where the injury was. He explained my options and also explained the possible outcomes of the treatment. He was very kind and gentle with Julian and absolutely put my mind at ease after seeing him. We decided on a course of treatment and after 3 days on the medication, I called Dr. Briggs as he suggested, and was very pleased to tell him that Julian was already ‘adjusting’ to his life with an injured leg and also that the bruising to the injured area was significantly decreased. Dr. Briggs was very happy to hear this!
Today was the first day of the second course of treatment and when I took him out to give him the medication he was SO ‘feisty’ that he escaped 2 times and was freely flying around my house---he was clearly feeling SO much better. When I held him to give him his medication I took the opportunity to examine the injured area again and I can hardly see any bruising or swelling at all! I am not expecting his leg to heal in the proper ‘placement’ as it was broken in such a way that it couldn’t be set, but he has clearly made remarkable improvements. I am happy to have found someone that I like and trust, as well as someone that is so kind and gentle with the birds. My birds are very small (about 7-8 grams) so this is very important to me. Overall, I cannot begin to express how happy I am with my decision to bring Julian to see Dr. Briggs and I want to thank all of you at Ocean County Veterinary Hospital for your kindness and great care! THANK YOU again, to everyone at OCVH!"
-Robin & Julian, North Beach, NJ
"We are so very happy to have found OCVH and Dr. Briggs. We have been parrot owners for many years and just locating an avian vet has been arduous. Our macaw is over 20 years old and we have had her since infancy. About 2 years ago she began feather plucking. We immediately took her to an avian vet, who placed her in an enormous heavy acrylic collar. She was deeply unhappy, to the point where we finally snapped the collar off because we couldn't stand to see her in such abject misery. The plucking began again, this time so severe that our once beautiful blue and gold macaw resembled the Thanksgiving turkey. Dr. Briggs was a godsend. With our first visit, our macaw no longer exhibited the fear and loathing with which she had greeted our former vet. The staff was terrific - everyone was pleasant and caring. Our bird was fitted with a small starter collar and on the second visit, with a larger, yet very lightweight ring that enables her to move about her cage and bite me with great relish! Dr. Briggs follows up with her through photos and email, keeping a watchful eye out for new problems. Our very grateful avian family will never have to find another animal hospital or vet! "
-Dick & Ellen I.
Annual Physical Examination
We strongly believe that a skilled staff, together with quality diagnostic tools, represents the key to preventative health care. OCVH recommends annual physical and wellness examinations for your exotic pets to help them live long and healthy lives. During a physical examination, your OCVH doctor will review many aspects of pet care, discuss ways to detect early disease and minimize preventable illness and share any new advances in exotic pet care that might benefit your special pet. Dietary and husbandry consultations are crucial in helping you care for your exotic pet.
At OCVH, we believe that client education is a vital part of preventative medicine and this is especially true for exotic pets. Clients recognize and appreciate our sincere commitment in partnering with pet owners to help provide their special pets with the optimum of health.
Our non-traditional patients require just as much, if not more preventive and wellness care than their dog and cat.
The resQ chip is an easy, inexpensive way to identify your pet and maximize the chances of recovering them should they become lost or stolen. Developed by a veterinarian, the resQ chip is the high-tech and professional method to permanently identify your pet. A tiny microchip no larger than a grain of rice and encoded with a unique ID number is injected under the skin by a hypodermic needle. The implantation of the chip, which remains safely under the skin, is usually performed without anesthesia or sedation. When scanned by a special electronic device, the chip will transmit a code that, like a Social Security number, identifies the animal.
Thousands of shelters and veterinary practices throughout the USA and the world have resQ chip-scanners and use them to help identify stray animals and those reported as lost. resQ chip maintains a 24-hour toll-free hotline seven days a week to reunite microchipped pets with their owners.
Sometimes surgery is recommended as a way to minimize future health problems or as a life-saving procedure for an exotic pet. The decision to have anesthesia and surgery performed on a beloved pet can sometimes be difficult. By explaining the procedure, the benefits and risks, we can help you decide what is best for your pet.
The types of surgical services offered at OCVH can vary as widely as the patients themselves. Everything from spaying (ovariectomy), neutering (castration) to fracture repair to advanced soft-tissue surgeries are all part of exotic animal care at OCVH.
Many exotic animal patients are small and delicate and therefore require refined surgical techniques. Advanced planning, exactness, speed and a steady hand are necessary prerequisites for avian and exotic animal surgery. The exotic animal surgeon must be adept at handling delicate tissues, operating with miniaturized instruments in constrained spaces and using magnification equipment. Due to the small blood volume of many of our patients, even minor hemorrhage can be life-threatening unless adequately controlled. Minimal anesthesia time is extremely important as longer surgical procedures carry greater risks of complication.
OCVH has diligently incorporated these important factors into the design of our surgical suite and operating protocols. Patients are first thoroughly evaluated pre-surgically to insure that they are appropriate surgical candidates. Once a patient has been approved for surgery, anesthesia is begun, typically consisting of a modern inhalation anesthetic, in combination with other anesthetic agents. Standard surgical techniques are enhanced with the use of electrosurgery and special magnification and micro instrumentation.
Advanced computerized monitoring of heart rate, tissue perfusion and oxygenation, electrocardiogram (ECG), respiratory rate and body temperature is available to the surgeon and the experienced Veterinary Technician who assists. Proper body temperature is maintained by the use of special thermal blankets and warm IV/IO fluid administration when indicated.
The doctor will order a pain relieving injection for your pet at the time of surgery to increase its comfort during recovery. The doctor may also recommend that a pet continue pain medication for the duration of their recovery at home. This medication will vary depending on the pet’s size, the type of medication and the dosage.
Diagnostic Imaging (X-rays, Ultrasound, Endoscopy)
OCVH’s Radiology, Ultrasound and Endoscopy equipment allows us to perform detailed, noninvasive evaluations of our patient’s vital organs and systems.
Complete cardiac diagnostics are available including ultrasound with colorflow doppler, B and M mode imaging and ECG. This means, when necessary, we can perform thorough cardiac evaluations on your exotic pet.
Ultrasound is also useful to evaluate the liver, kidneys, reproductive tract and other abdominal organs.
Using our telemedicine networking system we are able to instantly transmit images obtained by X-rays and ultrasound to specialists around the world. These advanced diagnostic capabilities enable us to quickly formulate the best therapeutic plan of action for our patients thus saving time and resources.
OCVH is equipped with advanced rigid endoscopy capabilities. This minimally invasive diagnostic and therapeutic tool has a wide variety of applications including but not limited to the surgical sex determination, exploratory laparoscopy for organ biopsies, foreign body retrieval as well as advanced dental procedures.
The laboratory at OCVH was specifically designed to handle the needs of exotic pets. Our equipment was selected based on speed and accuracy in handling exotics samples. We process samples rapidly, often within minutes, and produce accurate results crucial to a quick diagnosis and appropriate therapy. When dealing with sick patients, obtaining results immediately can determine the difference between success and failure.
OCVH’s laboratory services for avian and exotic pets include:
- Complete Hematological and Chemistry Profiles
- DNA Sexing
- Biopsy and Histopathology
- Clinical Pathology: Cultures, Gram-Stain, Cytology
- Chlamydiophila (Psittacosis) Analysis with other Serology Tests (Polyoma, PBFD)
- Urine and Fecal Analysis
- External Parasite Checks
OCHV uses Zoogen to provide the safest, fastest and least intrusive way to have to accurately determine your bird’s sex. Zoogen is associated with the University of California at Davis, which is well renowned for its work with exotic pets and animal husbandry.
During a wellness visit, one drop of blood is taken from your bird, processed and forwarded to Zoogen for analysis. In approximately two weeks, you will get a call from OCVH with the results of your bird's sex and you will also get a certificate from Zoogen for your records.
Infection, anemia, liver function, and kidney function are among a few of the things that can be evaluated with a blood sample analysis.
Protein electrophoresis is evaluating the types and amounts of protein present in the blood which may give clues as to causes of liver, kidney and respiratory diseases.
Many times an apparently healthy exotic pet is discovered to have an underlying disease. By doing diagnostic tests in addition to the physical exam, we can more accurately evaluate your pet’s total health. In general, a disease process which is discovered early has a much greater chance of responding to treatment. This is especially important in the more fragile, exotic species.
The frequency and type of grooming required for an exotic pet varies according to the species and their environment. Some grooming procedures are done for cosmetic reasons and others are needed for health reasons.
At OCVH we perform grooming procedures on a wide variety of animals, including birds, small mammals, reptiles and more. Grooming is done on an appointment-only basis.
Flight management (wing trimming), nail trimming, and occasionally beak shaping are an important part of maintaining a pet bird in captivity.
Some owners prefer to have their bird's wings trimmed to prevent flight and injury. Wing clipping is a non-permanent and painless procedure, much like getting a haircut. It is a simple way to prevent tragic escapes and inhibit undesirable flight in the home. It is important to identify any blood feathers when trimming wings as one of these can bleed profusely if cut below the pulp cap. OCVH does not recommend owners try these procedures at home.
Proper trimming of the nails is important to prevent them from becoming broken or ingrown and the claws from being deformed or painful. Perches of varying diameters and materials help to keep the nails and beak in normal wear. However, some animals in captivity don't wear their nails properly and need an occasional manicure. Sharp nails can be very uncomfortable to an owner when the bird is perching on the hand. Additionally, long nails can hinder a bird's normal balance and ability to perch or even feed properly.
Beaks may need to be trimmed or rounded to insure correct alignment and the ability to eat properly. Beak trims may be necessary in birds that have become overgrown or improperly worn. Abnormally long beaks can sometimes be an indication of liver disease, and in these cases we recommend a thorough medical evaluation. Beak trims on large birds, such as Macaws, may require anesthesia.
Rabbits and other small companion animals, commonly need nail trims, and occasionally a bath or a hair trim.
The doctors and technicians are highly skilled at these grooming procedures and we are happy to assist you in this aspect of preventative medicine.
Boarding your exotic pet is a service we are pleased to offer. Leave your pet in the hands of expert caretakers when you go out of town and relax knowing your animal is safe and comfortable with us.
Full boarding services are available for birds, small mammals and reptiles throughout the year.
Please speak to one of our Customer Service Representatives or Doctor for more information about boarding your exotic pet.
Unfortunately, dental problems are quite common in rabbits and small mammals. OCVH is equipped with a state-of the art dental suite with specialized tools for working with the small, delicate mouths of our exotic patients.
Avian Patient History