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The Dog Doctors Youth Outreach Program

Animal Doc

Exotic Animal Medicine—We're the Wild Ones!

There are several types of exotic animals treated by exotic animal veterinarians: wildlife, zoo life, and exotic pets. What these animals have in common is that they are considered non-domesticated. This means they are not usually bred by humans as pets, like dogs and cats, or as livestock, like cows and chickens.


Believe it or not, there are some animals we know little about! Like the tapir, a 600-pound, nocturnal, solitary, herbivore (plant eater).


The tapir is the largest land mammal in Central America. It lives deep in the jungles of Central and South America.

A team of biologists and veterinarians got together in Costa Rica to learn more about this animal, so they put radiocollars on them, to study them from far away.

Dr. Sonia Hernandez-Divers was the head veterinarian for the team. She helped biologists anesthetize these large animals to put radiocollars on them.

She used a dart gun to dart them from platforms built on trees. Once they were asleep, she took samples to find out what diseases they had. They learned that tapirs can get diseases from horses and cows that live on farms at the edge of the jungle.

Napping in the mud

The team also discovered that Tapirs love to sleep in the mud all day! When they are awake (mostly at night) they eat leaves and stems.

Tapirs live near rivers or streams. They love the water and are very agile swimmers.

Cool Cases

This one-month-old fawn was hit by a car. Unfortunately, one of its legs was broken during the accident. It was taken to the veterinary hospital, where the doctors in the exotic animal department did surgery to repair the leg.

After surgery, it was kept in a padded hospital cage for a few days until it learned how to walk on its injured leg again. Then after several days, the bandage was removed, and a few weeks later it was released back into the wild!

Most injured or ill wild animals are treated and returned to the wild.

However, this bald eagle had a wing that was so badly injured that it had to be removed. He now lives at the Athens Zoo.

Zoo Life

Bennett's Wallabies

Marsupials (mammals with pouches) are fun and interesting zoo animals. Bennett's Wallabies look like small kangaroos.

In the wild, the Bennett's Wallaby lives in Australia, Tasmania and the nearby islands. They generally live in grasslands, brush and scrublands.

These grazing animals, usually prefer to graze in open plains where they can see predators coming. Bennett's wallabies, also known as Brush wallabies, are commonly kept in zoos.

We are staff veterinarians for the Athens Zoo. Once a year, the zoo veterinarian gives them a complete physical so they can keep hopping along without any problems!

Most zoos keep different types of primates, like the ring-tailed lemur, found in south and southwestern Madagascar. They are about the size of a house cat.

Ring-tailed lemur

In the wild, lemurs live in social groups of 3 to 25. In zoos, they are also typically kept in groups.

Just like us, lemurs need to be examined on a yearly basis to be certain they are not sick.

Veterinarians that work with zoo animals weigh them, take blood samples, and sometimes take X-rays of these animals as part of the routine preventative medicine program.

Preparing a lion for surgery

When animals do get sick or hurt, we may help out other vets in treating them. For example, we also work in conjunction with Riverbanks Zoo in South Carolina and Zoo Atlanta.

Here we are preparing to do knee surgery on a lion.

Exotic Pets

Many of the problems that we see in exotic animal medicine are due to lack of proper care when living in captivity. So it is our job as exotic animal veterinarians to know all about proper husbandry, as well as all the medical facts, of many different species.

Here at the UGA Vet School, we also work with many different wildlife species, including birds, reptiles, rabbits, and rodents.

Remember to respect and preserve the special creatures that share the earth with us. If you own an exotic pet be sure to learn everything you can about proper diet, caging, and care.

Small Animals

Small mammals include ferrets, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, and rodents.

A ferret

Looking more domestic than
exotic, here is a mouse

This rabbit just had an operation and is wearing a collar to prevent him from bothering the surgery site.

He also had a problem with his front teeth being too long, as you can see in this x-ray picture.



Some of the birds we work with live in the wild or in captivity like this baby owl and these cockatoos.

Owl chick

Cockatoo chicks

We also work with exotic birds that come from far away places like Australia and Africa.

Below is a baby hyacinth macaw. Can you believe in a few months he will look like these adult birds?

Baby macaw

Adult macaws



Do you know what kind of reptile this is? Do you know what he eats?

This is a chameleon. It has a long tongue and likes to eat bugs.

Chameleons can change color to blend in with their environment, when they want to protect themselves.

Here are some galapagos tortoises. They are from the Galapagos Islands.

We also see many amphibians on our service.

This is a toad that had to have several hours of surgery to fix a stomach problem.

The tube you see going into his mouth delivers a gas into his lungs that makes him sleep through the surgery.

When he awoke, he was able to start eating his favorite food, which includes mice and goldfish.

Aquatic Mammals & Fish

Sometimes exotics vets get to work with aquatic mammals or fish like this goldfish.


Last Updated April 10, 2007

The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the administration of the University of Georgia or the University System of Georgia.

Contact Us

Office for Academic Affairs
College of Veterinary Medicine
The University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602-7372
Phone: 706.542.8411
FAX: 706.542.5828

Note: Treatment of animals should only be performed by a licensed veterinarian. Veterinarians should consult the current literature and current pharmacological formularies before initiating any treatment protocol.

Exotic Animal Links

University of Georgia Wildlife Treatment

Zoo Atlanta

Riverbanks Zoo

The Georgia Aquarium