How to Pick the Right Exotic Pet for your Family

June 6th, 2017 by Red Bank Veterinary Hospital

Traditionally, cats and dogs are the most common household pets. Most owners understand the social nature, time requirement, and cost of care associated with these popular pets and often make informed decisions before adopting a cat or dog. The same factors should be considered before adopting an exotic pet. It can be challenging to decide which scaled, feathered, or furry exotic pet best fits your lifestyle and family dynamic.


First and foremost: avoid impulse adoptions! While it can be very tempting to immediately bring home that baby bunny from the pet store, resist the urge. It is imperative to research the pet’s specific requirements to ensure that you can provide proper care for the entire life of the animal. Specific questions to research include:

  • What is the long term commitment? Many exotic species live 5, 10, 20, or over 50 years! Ensure that you have a plan for your pet if your living situation changes in the future.
  • How much time and attention will the pet require? Exotic pets vary from fish, requiring minimal social interaction, to large parrots that require multiple hours of daily interaction and should always be supervised when out of the cage.
  • What is the adult size of the animal? Baby iguanas are small, cute, and tempting, but keep in mind that these reptiles can grow up to 6 feet long!
  • What size cage is needed? Animals may require larger cages than are advertised at the pet store. For example, most commercial hamster cages are too small. In addition, many of these pets require out-of-cage exercise. For this reason, larger exotic pets may not be feasible in a small apartment.
  • When is the pet most active? Some pets are nocturnal, like hedgehogs and sugar gliders, and will stay up during the night jumping in the cage or running on their wheels. Other pets are diurnal and will be most active during the day. Picking a pet that is most active when you are home and available is recommended.
  • What other equipment is required? Certain species, including most reptiles, have very specific temperature, humidity, and lighting requirements. These pets may need additional heat sources, ultraviolet lights, thermometers and hygrometers.
  • What is the diet? Commercial diets may or may not be available for the species you are interested in. Diets of exotic pets range from frozen/thawed mice offered only once weekly to elaborate salads that need to be prepared fresh daily.
  • What are the social needs of the species? Some exotic pets, like sugar gliders, should not be kept solo while others, like most hamsters, should not have cagemates.
  • How much will this pet cost to maintain? Many exotic pets can be purchased cheaply or adopted for free, but the initial set-up cost for the cage and furnishings can be pricey. Depending on the species, the diet may also be costly. In addition, all exotic pets require veterinary wellness exams. Some species may also need vaccinations, heartworm prevention, and parasite prevention. Extra money should be available in the event of a pet health emergency.
  • Is this species compatible with children? Some exotic pets are delicate and could be easily injured by improper handling while other species could injure the child through biting or scratching. In addition, many exotic species are capable of carrying diseases that could cause illness in humans.
  • Is this pet noisy or destructive? Exotic pets may have a natural tendency to chew, dig, or scratch. This can lead to damage to your house and furniture or injury to the pet. Look into recommendations for “pet-proofing” your home- this may involve elevating electrical cords, removing poisonous houseplants, and changing cleaners. In addition, some pets are loud and could disturb family members or neighbors.
  • Is this pet legal in my state, borough, or town? Exotic pet laws vary by location and should be well researched prior to purchasing a pet.

Species Options


A large variety of bird species are kept as pets and can range drastically in size and personality. Species also vary significantly in cost. In general, birds are very social and highly intelligent, but they can also be noisy and messy. Some birds require daily interaction, while others- like canaries and finches- prefer minimal handling. Large cages are required for most species to ensure ample room to perform normal behaviors. When exercising outside of the cage, birds must always be supervised. Large windows and ceiling fans pose a potential risk to pet birds. In addition, birds are highly susceptible to household toxins, especially fumes from overheated nonstick cookware, cleaners, and smoke.



Ferrets are extremely playful and inquisitive pets that are highly entertaining to watch. These animals are usually easy to litter train and fairly quiet. Due to their mischievous nature, it is essential to always supervise ferrets when they are out of the cage to prevent ingestion of foreign objects, trauma, or escape. Unlike many other exotic pets, ferrets require yearly vaccinations and parasite prevention. A variety of diseases can occur in older ferrets that may require surgery or medical management. Despite most ferrets being surgically de-scented prior to sale, ferrets have a slightly stronger odor than most other exotic pets.




Rabbits are incredibly cute and quiet pets that can be either very active or very docile. While many rabbits do not prefer to be picked up, most will readily accept petting. Rabbits require a large amount of room to run and exercise when not in the cage. In addition, due to their natural desire to dig and chew, they should only be allowed into “rabbit-proofed” rooms with elevated or covered electrical cords and should always be supervised. Rabbits need a very specific diet to ensure adequate gastrointestinal function and grinding of their teeth.




Rats are incredibly intelligent, social, and interactive pets. Their movements are slower and more predictable than mice or hamsters, making them ideal pets for children. Rats typically do best in multi-rat households. While mice are similarly playful and intelligent, they are more skittish than rats and can easily escape through small gaps. A variety of hamsters are sold as pets, and each species has a unique appearance and personality. Syrian hamsters are recommended for households with children as they are typically calmer. Unlike other rodents, most hamsters should be kept solitary as they may fight if housed in groups. Hamsters tend to be nippier than some of the other pet rodents.




Fish can fit into almost any lifestyle. They are quiet and beautiful. Start-up cost for equipment and supplies can be pricey depending on the type of tank desired. Water quality needs to be monitored closely for these pets.




Reptiles have very specific requirements regarding temperature, humidity, nutrition, lighting, and enclosures that vary greatly between species. Most reptile species are quiet and produce minimal odor. In general, reptiles are not very social and most species prefer to be housed alone.

Lizards make fascinating pets and range in size and personality. Some recommended species for a first-time owner include leopard geckos or bearded dragons due to their calmer demeanor and comparatively reduced care requirements. Iguanas are difficult pets that require a very large cage and a very specific fresh diet. These lizards can become very aggressive inflicting a painful bite or tail slap making them less suitable for homes with children or inexperienced owners.

Snakes are typically docile and easy to handle making them ideal pets. The enclosure must be secure as snakes are escape-artists. Most species kept as pets eat frozen/thawed mice, so the owner must be comfortable feeding this item. Ideal starter snakes include corn snakes, ball pythons, and some king snakes.

Pet chelonians- turtles and tortoises- are often favored because of their sweet personalities. However, these pets have very specific requirements that must be met to maintain health. Some species can grow very large, and lifespans of pet turtles and tortoises range from 10-100 years making this pet a huge commitment. An ideal species for a novice is a captive-bred Eastern box turtle. Care of aquatic turtles is more complex and should be reserved for more experienced owners.


Other Species

hedgehog with catYou may come across a variety of other exotic pets available for sale ranging from scorpions to pet skunks. As with all other species, in-depth research is recommended to determine if you are capable of caring for the animal properly. In general, invertebrate pets such as tarantulas have relatively low care requirements. However, these pets are not very social and can be easily traumatized with improper handling. Hedgehogs are cute, quill-covered nocturnal pets that are fun to watch but difficult to handle. These pets are illegal in some areas. Sugar gliders have increased in popularity recently. These marsupials are nocturnal, require a highly specialized diet, and should be kept in multi-pet groups to avoid behavioral abnormalities. Compared to similarly-sized rodent pets, sugar gliders require much more attention and care. Primates do not make good pets and are not recommended.

Hedgehogs are cute, quill-covered nocturnal pets that are fun to watch but difficult to handle. These pets are illegal in some areas. Sugar gliders have increased in popularity recently. These marsupials are nocturnal, require a highly specialized diet, and should be kept in multi-pet groups to avoid behavioral abnormalities. Compared to similarly-sized rodent pets, sugar gliders require much more attention and care. Primates do not make good pets and are not recommended.

Before and After Adoption Day

Once you have decided on which species is right for your lifestyle and home, purchase the cage, supplies, and diet required prior to adopting. This will help reduce stress for both you and your new pet on adoption day! Exotic pets can be adopted through rescue groups, shelters, humane societies, or purchased from pet stores or private breeders. More information about shelter groups for different species can be found at:

New pets should be quarantined, or kept separate, from any pre-existing pets in the household for a certain amount of time to prevent spread of any diseases. The recommended time interval is 1-3 months depending on the species involved. Veterinary examination of the new pet is recommended to ensure overall health, review care requirements, and perform any necessary diagnostic tests. For more information about what to expect during an avian health exam, visit:

How Physical Rehabilitation Helps Pets Recover & Live Fuller Lives

April 26th, 2017 by kevin

Veterinary physical rehabilitation is a medical field devoted to enhancing the recovery of a debilitated or injured animal. It involves an understanding of the pet’s metabolism and how the pet is affected by exercise, disease, and injury. It also requires an in-depth understanding of the healing process. Anytime an animal is sick or has been injured, the body undergoes a period of deconditioning. Humans also experience this after being sick or injured and it takes a while before we are able to be active again at a normal level.

The goals of any rehabilitation program are to:

  • Return the patient to prior function
  • Enhance healing
  • Prevent re-injury
  • Minimize pain

There has been a growing awareness of veterinary rehabilitation and how it benefits pets after surgery.  Studies have shown that patients who participated in a rehabilitation program had more improved postoperative outcomes compared to those who were placed only on cage rest or restricted to a walking program.

Rehabilitation programs can be developed for canine and feline patients for a variety of medical conditions, including:

  • Post-operative rehabilitation programs
  • Arthritis
  • Neurological disease
  • Soft tissue injuries (muscle and tendon)
  • Obesity

Rehabilitation programs typically include:

The first step to developing a rehabilitation regimen is to define the primary problem and all of the related issues. The speed of recovery is based on beginning with the correct diagnosis. Otherwise, primary problems can lead to secondary issues. For example, a problem with the stifle (back of the knee) can lead to muscle atrophy and hip and/or back pains. It’s also important to be aware of subtle signs of discomfort since pets are unable to communicate the source of their aches and pains.

Once all the problems are identified, the rehab program can be designed to assist the patient with recovery as well as any related problems. The regimen may include utilizing low-level laser therapy, neuromuscular electric stimulation, therapeutic exercises, or thermotherapy (cold or warm packs). Ultimately, enhancing a patient’s recovery also improves their overall quality of their life and enables them to be more active and responsive in their daily activities.

A big part of physical rehabilitation in animals is motivating them to participate. While humans can use reasoning to see the benefits, animal patients need positive reinforcement to create a positive rehabilitation experience. For example, a reward or treat given after each set of repetitions in a workout creates a positive mindset in the patient toward the rehabilitation program. At the same time, pet owners are more reassured and encouraged by seeing their pet being receptive to the treatment process.

To learn more about the Physical Rehabilitation & Sports Medicine Departments at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Tinton Falls, NJ, please call (732) 747-3636.

Rodenticides Containing Bromethalin have Deadly Outcomes for Cats and Dogs

March 15th, 2017 by Red Bank Veterinary Hospital

Red Bank Veterinary Hospital has seen a recent increase in cats being accidentally poisoned by rodenticide. Medical diagnostics for these cats show damage to their nervous systems which is consistent with the reported effects of a type of rodenticide containing bromethalin. What makes this over-the-counter rodenticide even more dangerous is that there is no antidote, meaning there is no specific treatment designed to counteract the effects of the poison once it begins to affect the body. Read the rest of this entry »

Treating animals with acupuncture

September 26th, 2016 by Red Bank Veterinary Hospital

matisse-10-4-11-30While acupuncture may seem like a new age trend, it is an actually an ancient form of healing and disease prevention that is over 4000 years old. It was initially developed for humans but the ancient Chinese learned to apply acupuncture to animals such as dogs, horses, and cattle. Acupuncture can even be applied to many other species including cats, birds, rabbits, and even wildlife, with great success. Today, treating animals with acupuncture is becoming increasingly popular.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a form of medicine which encourages the body to heal itself. Fine, sterile needles are inserted into the skin and underlying tissues at specific locations called points. This process sends a signal to the nervous system telling the body to heal and return to normal function.

Acupuncture is best used in conjunction with other eastern modalities and western medicine. There is a synergistic, or added effect, when acupuncture is used with other services offered by your veterinarian such as medication, physical rehabilitation, and surgery.

Acupuncture is one of the many areas of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) that also include:
• Herbal therapies
• Food therapy
• Tui-Na

Applying acupuncture to animals

Acupuncture may be used for any condition whether chronic, acute, or atypical and can be used alone or in conjunction with Western medicine. It is often found to be helpful with:

• Musculoskeletal conditions: especially osteoarthritis or after a major surgery such as a TPLO or TTA which are knee surgeries very commonly performed on dogs.

• Neurological disease: such as disc disease in the neck or the back, even those that require surgery benefit greatly from acupuncture

• Gastrointestinal diseases: such as irritable bowl disease (IBD) and gastroesophgeal reflux disease (GERD)

• Behavioral troubles: such as anxiety and hyperactivity

• Side effects from chemotherapy: including nausea, vomiting and anorexia. While chemotherapy may be necessary regime to help treat your pet’s cancer, acupuncture can help with common side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and anorexia.

• General Wellness: acupuncture is a great form of preventive medicine. Incorporating it along with a yearly health exam, vaccinations, exercise, and a proper diet, pets can reap great benefits with regular acupuncture to maintain health.

Can acupuncture be harmful?

Acupuncture is very safe and there are no negative side effects when administered by a trained professional. Some possible contraindications include pregnancy (certain points should be avoided), open fractures, and extremely weak or debilitated animals. Placing needles close to tumors is also avoided.

How will my pet react to the needles?

Most animals do not mind the needles. Some of the acupuncture points may be sensitive, however, very few animals react negatively to the experience. Pets may choose to walk around during the session or lay down and relax. The needles stay in for approximately 15 minutes, and owners are always invited to watch and be part of the appointment.

Types of acupuncture

The insertion of small needles placed under the skin is sometimes referred to as
“dry needling”. However, acupuncture includes other variations:

In this form of acupuncture, needles are not used. Instead, a veterinarian applies gentle pressure to the areas where a needle would otherwise be inserted. This is beneficial for animals who may be extremely sensitive to the needling because of its very gentle and soothing nature. It can also be used with traditional acupuncture where needling is used to give additional benefits.

This incorporates a water-based solution, typically with a vitamin formulation, that is injected into the points where needles would otherwise be inserted. This can give a much longer-lasting version of the acupuncture treatment.

This is the most commonly used form of all acupuncture techniques. Once traditional acupuncture needles are placed, wires are attached to the needles and connected to an electro-acupuncture stimulation unit. The unit is controlled by your veterinarian and delivers a gentle electrical current to the needles. Most animals absolutely love electro-acupuncture! In fact, many fall asleep. This type of acupuncture is commonly used on people as well. The electrical current feels like a gentle tingling sensation that promotes relaxation and improves the potency of the treatment.

Your veterinarian will determine which form of acupuncture is most appropriate for your pet by taking into account your pet’s history and any current medical problems.

To learn more about veterinary acupuncture, visit the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society website, talk to your pet’s veterinarian, or call Red Bank Veterinary Hospital at (732) 747-3636 to make an appointment. You can also click here to view a list of our acupuncturists.

Getting to Know Your Pet’s Skin

August 12th, 2016 by Red Bank Veterinary Hospital

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 1.08.59 PMDo you know which organ is the largest one in the body? I’ll give you a hint: most people don’t think of me as an organ!

If you guessed the skin, give yourself a high five!

The skin is part of the integumentary system, the organ that provides the protective covering of a person or animal. For animals, this includes the skin, haircoat, scales, feathers, nails, horns, and hooves. Read the rest of this entry »

Warm Weather Tips for Exotic Pets

July 26th, 2016 by Red Bank Veterinary Hospital

When the weather turns nice, most pet owners like to bring their pets outdoors to enjoy the warm sunshine and pleasant breezes. This is also true for owners of birds, reptiles, and small mammals. Here are a few warm weather tips for exotic pets so everyone stays safe and healthy. Read the rest of this entry »

RBVH is now AAHA Specialty Accredited

July 21st, 2016 by Red Bank Veterinary Hospital

member_cover10Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Tinton Falls has earned a new certification from the American Animal Hospital Association! We are now specialty accredited!

After much planning and preparation, in December 2015 we proudly achieved AAHA referral (specialty) accreditation! This is great news for patients and pet owners. Currently, there are only 150 veterinary referral practices who have earned this top honor!

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Getting to Know Your Pet’s Heart

June 3rd, 2016 by Red Bank Veterinary Hospital

HeartLub dub, lub dub, lub dub…
Do you know what that is? That’s the sound of me…your pet’s heart! And actually your heart too.

I am part of the cardiovascular system which includes me and all of the blood vessels in the body. Together, we form a circuit, or a loop, through which the blood travels around and around (but it never gets dizzy!). Read the rest of this entry »

Getting to Know Your Pet’s Kidneys

May 13th, 2016 by Red Bank Veterinary Hospital

HiResHi! In our last blog, you met me, Liver. I would now like to introduce you to my neighbors, Kidneys.

Thanks, Liver, there are 2 of us, Right Kidney and Left Kidney. We are also a vital organ for normal body function in dogs and cats.




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Getting to Know Your Pet’s Liver

May 4th, 2016 by Red Bank Veterinary Hospital

Hi! Nice to meet you!

You probably don’t think about me much but I’m an extremely important organ in the body called the liver.  Take a moment to get to know me!

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