Exotic pets in Ireland: 2. Provision of veterinary services and perspectives of veterinary professionals’ on responsible ownership

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Background: There has been increasing concern expressed about the welfare of exotic pets worldwide. For the purposes of this article, an exotic pet is considered to be a non-domesticated species, where there are knowledge gaps on good practice (minimum standards of care), veterinary diagnostics and treatments. The categories of exotic pets included in this study were: small mammals (< 20 kg), large mammals (> 20 kg), birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates. Dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, mice, rats, and ferrets were excluded from the study. An online survey of veterinary professionals conducted between July and August 2020 provides the first empirical data for Ireland. In this pilot study (the second in this thematic series) we aim to characterise the provision of veterinary services to exotic pets from the veterinary professionals’ perspective, explore the main concerns of veterinary professionals towards exotic pet ownership, and their recommendations to support responsible exotic pet ownership. Results: Using an online survey this pilot study gathered evidence from 63 veterinary professionals currently working in private practice in Ireland. The prevalence of veterinary services for exotic pets in Ireland was determined to be 82% of small and mixed animal clinics of respondents’ practices ranging from 9.1 to 100% for different categories of exotic pets. The most common issues encountered in practice with exotic pets were related to nutrition, environment, and behaviour followed by clinical diseases such as respiratory, infectious, and gastrointestinal issues. The most common concerns veterinary professionals had with exotic pet ownership related to the lack of owner knowledge as well as the lack of veterinary knowledge and accessible resources. The most common strategic initiatives indicated by veterinary professionals included black or white lists (to prohibit and permit the keeping of exotic pet species respectively), licensing for owners and increased availability of CPD for veterinary professionals. Conclusions: More than four in every five veterinary professionals in small or mixed animal practices surveyed were willing to treat exotic pets and in many cases they already were. A scaffold for best practice is required to support the health and welfare of exotic pets and responsible ownership. Keystones include veterinary education to support veterinary professionals with daily practice, establishing a white list of exotic species that are suitable as pets, registration at the point of purchase to enable traceability for biosecurity purposes and research to identify care standards to support the health and welfare of exotic pets.




Goins, M., & Hanlon, A. J. (2021). Exotic pets in Ireland: 2. Provision of veterinary services and perspectives of veterinary professionals’ on responsible ownership. Irish Veterinary Journal, 74(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13620-021-00191-5

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