Services for Other Exotics

  • Amphibians

    This is a fascinating class of animals which includes frogs, toads, newts and salamanders, and has over 6,000 different species. The species most commonly kept as pets and seen at the clinic include African clawed frogs (Xenopus species), White’s tree frogs (Litoria caerulea ) and Ornate frogs (Ceratophrys species)   Many children have kept tadpoles and watched them grow  and change into little frogs before setting them free.

    An important point to understand about amphibians is that although they are lumped with reptiles as “herptiles”, actually they are not that similar. Generally speaking, amphibians are less tolerant of husbandry problems than reptiles. Amphibians do not tolerate temperature changes well and are very, very sensitive to water balance problems and environmental poisons due to the permeable and sensitive nature of their skin.

    CARE

    They are not easy pets to keep as their needs are so specific and they generally do best when housed in a natural vivarium or tank based on the natural history of the species.

    Ornate frogs can and are often kept in a simple glass bowl but this is not fair to them as it is a very empty and boring environment.

    Water quality is very important, and must be clean and free of toxins. As tap water contains chlorine this is not acceptable.  Water ph, salinity and water hardness will vary according to the species, as will the temperature and lighting requirements.

    Most amphibians are very sensitive to overheating, and they do not like temperatures changing too quickly, most live in rivers and lakes where there is only slow change with the seasons.

    DIET 

    Most species are carnivores and insectivores, and it can be difficult to find appropriate live food especially when they are very small.

    They are often quite greedy and will gulp up food which has two problems, firstly they can get far too fat, and secondly they can swallow stones in their enclosure

    HANDLING

    It is important to understand that as their skin is so sensitive we can injure them just by touching them, and we should always wear gloves when handling them.  The tank should not have rough textures or sharp points as they may injure themselves.

    DISEASE

    Skin disease is very common due to the very sensitive care and the difficulty of keeping the water quality perfect.  It can be very difficult to medicate a slippery frog so the best way to prevent disease is by making sure the husbandry is correct

    SPECIAL CARE

    Amphibians and reptiles can both carry the salmonella bacteria in the gut without showing symptoms. Humans, especially children, can become quite sick if infected with this bacteria.

  • Goats

    CARE : They need a good sized outdoor enclosure with a strong fence, which needs to be high enough to stop them jumping over, and strong enough to stop dogs from digging through (both dogs and pythons will kill and eat goats). This enclosure should have platforms or rocks so the goats can climb and jump around on. Trees for shade are important but you must protect the trunks or the goats will strip the bark and kill the tree. Goats enjoy a tree with low overhanging branches as they will stand on their hind legs and stretch up to nibble on any leaves within reach.

    Goats should not be kept singly as they are social creatures, two males will normally fight so either 2 females or castrated males and one or more females is ideal.

    A solid house to protect them from wind and rain is essential. The floor of the house should be smooth and easy to clean to prevent the build-up of parasites. You must regularly clean poo from the enclosure to prevent the build-up of parasites.

    Clean fresh water must be available in the enclosure daily.

    DIET: goats are not grazers like cows, they are browsers, which means they prefer to eat the leaves of trees and bushes. Hay can be used for a base diet, along with branches cut from deciduous trees.

    They are very fussy animals and will not eat what they consider to be dirty. A rack should be used to hold their feed up off the ground otherwise they will not eat it. Another alternative to buy a horse ‘hay net’, this can be filled with hay and hung from a tree. Goats that have to eat their food form the ground will develop parasite problems.

    If you need to purchase large quantities of hay you can call your local horse riding school and ask if they will sell you a whole bale. This is much cheaper than buying hay packed for rabbits from a pet shop.

    Goats will happily eat plants which are poisonous therefore it is important to avoid evergreen trees, and many garden plants. If you keep goats in your garden do not assume that they can just eat the grass, supplementary food in the way of hay and browse must be provided.

    Check carefully before offering new foods, and always make changeovers slowly.

    Bread, biscuits, chicken feed, and grains are all unsuitable; the goat will not have a healthy gut and will run a high risk of developing bladder stones. This can easily kill male goats

    HEALTH CARE: Parasites are a common problem, both worms and lice. You will need veterinary advice to help deal with these.  Injuries can easily lead to fly strike (maggots) and must be quickly attended to.

  • Mini-Pigs

    We have a few that we see here, but we estimate that 90 % of the pigs purchased  will die because of poor care and disease, or the owners will give up on them as it is too difficult to care for them. They can live for 10 – 15 years.

    They make wonderful pets, similar to dogs in intelligence but do need lots of space, make lots of mess and need a very dedicated owner.  Dr Gail, one of the clinic owners is the proud owner of a Hong Kong mini-pig called Bacon, and, yes, she is dedicated to him. She even puts sun cream on him every sunny morning to stop him getting sun burn!   He weighs 120 kg – which is more than two average Hong Kong people!

    People are often told that they will be very small when they grow up, and can be kept in a flat; however this is absolutely not true.  They will quickly learn to open the fridge and cupboards to steal food, dig up the carpets and furniture and those which have not been house trained will poop and pee everywhere.

    CARE : Pigs must be kept in an outdoor enclosure for the majority of the time, and should have a house (or pig sty) to shelter in from the wind, rain and sun. They love to have a muddy bath (or wallow) to lie around in, and will dig up the land looking for roots and fungi. A very strong fence or electric fencing is necessary to prevent them escaping and to prevent dogs entering and attacking them. Dr Gails pig spends all day outside in his paddy field enclosure, at night after he has had his dinner he has a shower and then sleeps on his dog bed in the house.

    If your pig does not have significant daily contact with humans then they need another pig to be friends with.

    A license will be necessary from the Government to keep one – and they will make inspections. It is likely you would need to keep the pig on land designated for “agricultural use” rather than “village land” in order for the Government to allow this.

    DIET: pigs are omnivores and can eat a diet similar to humans, but it is difficult to get the balance right.We recommend feeding the Mazuri “mini-pig” compounded diet for pet pigs along with some vegetables and fruit. We do not recommend feeding any meat as diseases may pass this way.

    Pigs are naturally greedy and will try to eat everything, if they smell food they will do their best to find it and therefore become experts at breaking into cupboards and raiding garbage bins.

    TRAINING :  it is important to train your pet so you can handle and move it as necessary. We do advise this all males as this will make handling easier. Male pigs (or boars) can become very difficult and aggressive otherwise – as well as being very smelly.

    If you still think a pig is right for you, then we would love to help you keep your pet healthy and happy with annual checks, de-sexing and vaccinations as necessary.

  • Chipmunks and Squirrels

    These animals are rarely kept in Hong Kong, which is a good thing as they require huge amounts of space, which is not available in most apartments. They are all tree living animals and therefore they need to climb and run and require large high cages with plenty of branches to run around on.

    As they have not been fully domesticated they are often quite ‘wild” and difficult to handle, as well as needing peace and quiet (another item in short supply in most Hong Kong flats).

    They are extremely cute and this is why many people would like to own one BUT there are many problems and difficulties that you can read about below  that you MUST think about before you buy one !

    We do occasionally see chipmunks, or the Pallas squirrel which lives wild in Hong Kong, when babies have been found and hand reared.

    Diet

    Both animals require a special rodent diet like Mazuri Rat and Mouse food as thier base diet. This then neds supplemented with fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts. For further diet information please read teh ‘Care of Squirrels’ or ‘Care of Chipmunks’ handout in our ‘Home Care’ section.

    Housing

    Chipmunks and Squirrels both live in treetops and run and glide large distances every night to feed. Their cage requirements are far beyond what would be needed for a comparable sized pet, such as a hamster, gerbil, or small bird. A typical “healthy” cage would need to be the size of an outside aviary.

    Messy

    Chipmunks and Squirrels are indeed very messy animals. They will empty their bowels (poop) as they move around, while it is eating, out for play and running on you.  While in the cage, they spend much of their time climbing up on the bars and therefore they pee, poo and even throw food and waste outside of the cage.

    Biting

    Chipmunks and Squirrels are an exotic wild animal and some will bite, generally they are not tame enough to handle easily.

    Longevity

    In captivity, both animals can live up to 8-12 years.

    Health

    Chipmunks and Squirrels can develop health problems which can be bizarre as well as emotionally and financially draining. Many of the problems are related to the fact that they generally do not adapt well in captivity, especially in the Hong Kong environment where they are kept in small flats and do not have access to proper housing like an outside aviary. Due to this, as well as developing medical problems, many psychological problems develop.

    Overall we do not recommend keeping these types of ‘exotic’ pets as a companion animal.

  • Sugar-Gliders

    These animals are rarely kept in Hong Kong, which is a good thing as they require huge amounts of space, which is not available in most apartments. They are all tree living animals and therefore they need to climb and run and require large high cages with plenty of branches to run around on.

    As they have not been fully domesticated they are often quite ‘wild” and difficult to handle, as well as needing peace and quiet (another item in short supply in most Hong Kong flats).

    They are extremely cute and this is why many people would like to own one BUT there are many problems and difficulties that you can read about below  that you MUST think about before you buy one !

    Diet

    Sugar gliders require a special diet that cannot be bought in a pet shop like dog or cat foods – they cannot be healthy on dry pellet type foods. Sugar gliders are an exotic wild animal and they require an exotic diet that can get complicated. If you are squeamish around mealworms, crickets and other bugs, you should not own a sugar glider. Please read our ‘Care of Sugar-gliders’ handout under ‘Home Care’ to learn more about the speical diet that must be prepared for them.

    Housing

    Sugar gliders live in treetops and run and glide large distances every night to feed. Their cage requirements are far beyond what would be needed for a comparable sized pet, such as a hamster, gerbil, or small bird. A typical “healthy” cage would need to be the size of an outside aviary.

    Smell

    Sugar gliders are very scent-driven and can be smelly animals. They have scent glands on their bodies which they use to ‘mark’ their territory (which may include their owner!). They also mark constantly with their urine.  If they are kept in a small cage it becomes very smelly and messy after a few days and needs to be constantly cleaned.

    Noise

    Sugar gliders are noisy, and what is worse, they are noisy all night long. Being nocturnal animals they are awake when you are sleeping and they are sleeping when you are awake. Owners miss most of the pet’s awake time, but their barking and squeaking and hissing and various cage noises, including clanks, bangs and constant exercise wheel’s running, may keep you awake

    Messy

    Sugar gliders are indeed very messy animals. They will empty their bowels (poop) as they move around, while it is eating, out for play and running on you.  While in the cage, they spend much of their time climbing up on the bars and therefore they pee, poo and even throw food and waste outside of the cage.

    Reproduction

    Sugar gliders in captivity have the capability to breed constantly. It is common to have a litter of 1 to 3 babies up to 3 times a year. This is a strain on the female and certainly becomes a problem for the keeper when there are too many animals to care, especially when the male is housed in a cage with a number of females. Overpopulation has become a very big issue with many unwanted sugar gliders living in bad conditions.

    Biting

    Sugar gliders are an exotic wild animal and some will bite. Some people have needed to get stitches because of how deep a sugar glider can bite. Their teeth are designed to peel bark off trees, therefore when they bite their owner they can easily cause a deep wound.

    Longevity

    In captivity, sugar gliders can live up to 15 years.

    Companionship

    Sugar gliders are a social animal and are not meant to be alone. Human contact is absolutely not a replacement for a family of their own kind. A minimum number of animals is two, do not ever plan to have just one.

    Solitary kept Sugar gliders frequently develop problems such as self-mutilation or biting due to depression. There is no replacement for sleeping with and interacting with their own kind.

    Health

    Sugar glider health problems can be bizarre as well as emotionally and financially draining, especially the psychological problems that develop.

    Overall we do not recommend keeping these types of ‘exotic’ pets as a companion animal.

  • Rats

    Vaccinations

    We do not currently recommend vaccinations for rats.

    The main disease risk to your pet are other rats, particularly those in pet shops as infectious disease is more common here. If you go to a pet shop please do not touch any, even though they are very, very cute! Wild mice and rats could also carry disease so do make sure your house is rodent proof.

    Only let your precious pet come into contact with other animals that you know to be healthy.

    Think twice before going to an animal party or show.

    If you bring a new pet into your house it is VERY important to quarantine, or separate the new pet in a different room for at least 2 weeks [and preferably after a vet check].

    Health Checks

    A NEW PET Congratulations !

    We hope your new family member will bring you much joy and happiness

    We recommend a health check shortly after bringing your new pet home.

    Bring in details of all foods and any supplements or medicines you may be using.

    Collect samples of urine and faeces from that morning if you can.

    Take videos of any behaviours that you are worried about or confused by.

    Isolate from the rest of your animal family at home (that means do not introduce or let them play together) until after the first check up and the vet has assessed the pet as being healthy.

    If you do wish to introduce then please ask us how and when this should be done.

    At the ‘Health Check’ we will perform a full physical examination, and we will be assessing your new pet’s overall condition, the muscle and fat levels, hydration and checking for anaemia.

    We will be paying particular attention for parasites & for signs of any infectious diseases. We will be focusing on gut function and on the diet, whether is it appropriate and the amounts suitable. We may not perform a full dental check on young animals if the incisors look normal.

    Once we have examined your pet hopefully we will have found nothing seriously wrong, and we will then make whatever recommendations we think are necessary for the diet and care of the pet. If there is time we will talk to you about handling and training as this is the right age to be teaching your pet !

    ANNUAL HEALTH CHECK

    Once your new pet is settled in and any health problems have been solved, then we recommend a yearly general health check.

    Please ensure you know the brands of foods your pet is on, and any supplements or long term medications.

    Bring urine and faeces from that morning if you can. We would also like to see a photo of the cage set up.

    At this check we will assess body condition, muscle and fat levels, hydration and check for anaemia. We will check the eyes, ears, and perform the very important dental examination. We will feel the lymph nodes, palpate the abdomen for any abnormalities and listen to the heart and lungs.

    We will search for parasites, and examine the skin, and look for any pressure sores or ‘sore hocks’ on the feet and also assess the nail length.

    Once we have examined your pet hopefully we will have found nothing seriously wrong, and we will then make whatever recommendations we think are necessary for the diet and care of the pet.

    Geriatric Health Checks

    Rats have short life span with the reported life span being 2-3 ½ years, A pet rat survey in UK showed an average lifespan of only 21.6 months. Once your rat is older, or ‘geriatric’ we advise moving to checks every six months as it is safer. (6 months for a rat is roughly equal to 15 years for a human.)

    We believe this ‘geriatric’ to be over 18 months although just like humans, animals age at different rates! If you are worried or would like a check every 3 months, that’s fine with us. We do understand that many of our owners worry very much.

    At this check we will assess body condition, muscle and fat levels, hydration and check for anaemia. We will check the eyes, ears, and a dental examination. We will feel the lymph nodes, palpate the abdomen for any abnormalities and listen to the heart and lungs.

    We will check the whole body carefully as growths are one of the most common problems in older rats.

    We will search for parasites, and examine the skin, and look for any pressure sores or ‘sore hocks’ on the feet and also assess the nail length.

    We will also be paying particular attention to the ‘gait’ or movement of the pet, and the flexibility as mobility problems become more common in the older animal. As they are often too nervous to move freely in here a video of walking and running, and self grooming can be very helpful.

    We may suggest taking a blood test every 6-12 months to monitor the blood cells, and  organ function. We usually collect the blood from a vein in the tail, we use a small needle and collect about 3 drops of blood, and it should be over in a few seconds. We often give some anaesthetic gas and oxygen as it makes this quicker and easier.

    Once we have examined your pet hopefully we will have found nothing seriously wrong, and we will then make whatever recommendations we think are necessary for the diet and care of your older rat.

    Nutritional Advice

    The wild rat lives on a diet of anything he can find, however we do not recommend a diet of dropped French fries and fish balls.

    The best diets are those that have been specifically designed for rats- such as lab rat food or Mazuri Rat and Mouse diet. These can be hard to find though, and  if not fed since the rat is young then may be difficult for the rat to adjust to.  Seed & cereal mixes are a reasonable choice as long as the rat is not overfed them. If they are overfed they will pick out all the tastiest high fat seeds first. You must not keep adding more food into the bowl as your rat will carry it away and hide the not-so-delicious stuff for later – but eat the favourite straight away!  Feed a restricted volume 2 x a day – a large teaspoonful morning & night should be plenty. Offer a mix of several different vegetables and fruits every day – we suggest 5 types, and try to vary as much as possible.

    For example   Monday – Broccoli, cucumber,pumpkin, strawberry, apple.

    Tuesday    Sweetcorn, carrot, choi sum, tomato, orange

    Vegetables may be cooked or raw.   A small amount of dry pasta is good for keeping the teeth short.

    Remember any diet changes MUST be slow and gentle. Upsetting the gut causes bacterial imbalances. Please take a week or two to gradually introduce a new vegetable or a new brand of pellets.  Rats are reluctant to change, and it is important to get them onto a good quality pellet plus the missed veg/fruit when they are still young.

    One of the major health problems we see is obesity from loving owners over-feeding and under-exercising.

    Husbandry Advice

    Water.

    24 hour access is essential.  A sipper bottle is best. We believe Hong Kong tap water is safe, but of course you may boil it first if you prefer. Do not change water abruptly (i.e. to a bottled water) as it may taste different and your rat may not drink it. We have seen animals dehydrated or in gut stasis for reasons such as the water sipper ball getting stuck, and because the animal did not like the taste of the new water.  Rats do like to play in water and floating a few peas in a shallow tray of water ( like a painting tray) will give them lots of fun – and make lots of mess !

    Cage.

    Size is important. We advise at least  45x 60  cm 2 floor space per rat.

    The floor of the cage should be solid, not wire, as wire may cause ulceration of their feet.

    If you leave a corner of the cage with wire, many rats will use that corner for the toilet. You may also put a special toilet in.

    Of course you must keep the cage clean and dry. Newspaper may be used to cover the base as the inks are soya based and non toxic. You should then use bedding such as hay or paper bedding like care fresh. We don’t like woodchips here as they can be dusty, irritant and even poisonous.

    A hide box in the corner will help keep ratty feeling safe.  A solid wheel will help with exercise.

    Several layers, hammocks, swings, climbing ropes, tubes and boxes will keep them active and playing. All surfaces should be solid.

    Friends. 

    We would like all rats to have at least one companion as they are a very social species. Bonded rats will groom each other, talk to each other and play together. They can be kept in larger groups as long as they are “single sex”

    Having a friend or three will make all those hours in a cage, waiting for you to come home go quicker.

    A young rat should take quickly to a companion, but adults may not and they may fight and cause injuries. Please ask us during a consultation how best to introduce your adult pet to a potential companion.

    Desexing   We recommend chemical desexing of female rats rather than surgical, and are happy to discuss this in consultation.   We would desex a male rat to allow a pair to live together without breeding, although we do recommend same sex pairs.

    Hospitalization

    We have a ward dedicated to our exotic patients who like warmth, such as rats, reptiles and birds.  It was designed by our vets to keep these special animals as relaxed and comfortable as possible during their stay here.

    This ward is kept warm to 25-30 ‘C degrees to keep them comfortable. The cats and dogs which are potential predators (and therefore very scary) are kept in separate wards out of the sight and smell of these nervous creatures.

    We try to keep it calm and quiet in this ward and most animals settle down quickly.

    We have a wide range of pellets, and vegetables available to tempt the appetite, but if you would like to pack a little lunch box of the home foods you are very welcome. If necessary we will support feed with a liquid food.

    You may also bring in your pet’s own water bottle too.

    We have a wonderful nursing staff, all with British and Australian qualifications, who are very experienced with the care and handling of these nervous creatures. This is particularly important when they are not eating and need support fed, as many of our sick patients do.

    Preventative Care

    Parasites are rare.  The main health problems we see are respiratory disease, obesity and growths.

    Weight Monitoring

    Many of the pets we see become overweight as they mature. They have an easy and comfortable life with food available every day and often not enough exercise.

    If you feel that your little darling is overweight (or if the vet tells you this!) you are welcome to make an appointment for a ‘Weight Consultation’ with one of our veterinarians.

    The vet may also discuss this and recommend a weight loss diet during a health check or consultation and give you advice on the right combination of foodstuff for weight loss for your pet as well as how to encourage exercise.

    The vet will set a target weight & a time span to lose this weight over.

    Losing weight too fast is not healthy, and as these animals are much smaller than us, we may plan for them to loose a few grams per week.

    Once the diet plan has been set we will then be happy to make free “weight monitoring” checks for you to follow up, usually every month or two months, and these will be with one of our British Vet nurses or our Australian trained Vet Assistants.

    It can be very rewarding to see a little fattie regaining a slim healthy shape and becoming more active and flexible!

    Enrichment

    Rats are active, intelligent animals that really enjoy and need enrichment. They are social animals so a companion is very important for them. If not you must spend time every day playing & interacting with your pet and providing a variety of different enrichments.

    They are very keen on their food so a wide variety of vegetables will keep them happy. Make a foraging tray which you can fill with pieces of cardboard or old hay (hay that the best bits may have already been eaten but is not dirty or mouldy) and hide their vegetables in here so they need to search for them.

    They are inquisitive and like exploring so let them out of the cage every day to explore, making sure there are no electrical cables they can chew on. A big pile of boxes and tunnels will be a castle for them.  Provide them with a hide box for when they need to sleep.

    Always offer them chew toys made out of safe woods so they always have something to nibble on.

We have different consultation fees depending on your pet and the situation.

Please call:
Tai Wai Small Animal & Exotic Hospital : 2687 1030 (9 am - 9 pm)
Island Exotics 2858 9388 (9 am - 7 pm)

Please only call out of these hours if there is a real emergency , to keep our night staff free to save lives.

Please inform our receptionists how many pets you will bring as each animal needs its own consultation.