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The Small-Pet Vet

Dr. Anthony Pilny, of the Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine, on hamster checkups and bird surgery.

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What are some of the most common ailments you treat?
We see a lot of gastrointestinal problems in rabbits. Ferrets are predisposed to adrenal disease, where they hypersecrete hormones and it causes problems. We see trauma. Animals fall or they get dropped, and they get stepped on. We see a lot of broken bones. And cancer happens across the board. People think, I only paid $10 for this hamster, I’m not going to bring it to the vet. We recommend all pets get a postadoption or postpurchase physical, especially if you have other pets that could be exposed to any infectious disease they might be carrying.

What’s the most complex surgical procedure that you perform?
Open-abdomen surgeries in birds are our most challenging by far. Birds are very complicated. Their respiratory system is bizarre and unique to them.

What are some of the more expensive surgeries?
Orthopedic surgeries, or anything that requires the placement of stainless-steel rods or pins to realign bones, can cost from $1,800 to $2,500.

What are some of the more common illegal pets you see?
Most of the pets we see are illegal. We see ferrets, iguanas, potbellied pigs. We never confiscate. We don’t judge an owner’s choice to have the pet. I will say, I won’t report you, but you need to know it’s illegal. We’ve had calls about baboons and crocodiles, but they’ve never actually come through the door.


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