Lakeside Animal Hospital, Leaders in Exotic Pet Care

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Lakeside Animal Hospital, Leaders in Exotic Pet Care

We See All Different Types of Pets at Lakeside...

It’s fairly unusual for an animal hospital to see all different types of pets, and here at Lakeside, we do it really well. In fact, of our six seasoned doctors, we have three veterinarians who are dedicated and knowledgeable in caring for exotic pets, as well as dogs and cats.

If you’re a pet parent of an exotic animal seeking expert care, someone who is thinking about owning an exotic pet, or simply curious about these fascinating animals, this article is for you! We will share what you need to know about providing care to an exotic animal, uncover a few interesting facts, and touch on some fun details about our qualified, compassionate team and services. 

*Did you know that our doctors have treated exotic animals from Discovery World Science and Technology Museum, Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, and the Urban Ecology Centers? That’s pretty cool.

What is an Exotic Pet?

Exotic pets are animals that reside with a person as a companion and they are generally not native to the pet owner’s location. 

According to The Spruce Pets, exotic pets encompass “many different species of animals, including pocket pets, birds, reptiles, fish, and amphibians, in addition, those animals that are less often see as pets, such as primates, kangaroos, pot-bellied pigs, and big cats.”

Did You have an Exotic Animal as a Child? 

Here’s an interesting observation...

We often find that children have an exotic animal for their first pet. If you’re a pet parent today, think back to your first pet. Was it an exotic animal? One of our clients recalls her first experiences as a pet parent.  

“As a kid, my first pets were rabbits, gerbils, fish, and I loved them all so dearly. These little creatures started me off on understanding the love and responsibility it takes to care for a living being. They also taught me the hard lessons of grief (click HERE to learn about grieving the loss of an animal). These animals have shaped me into becoming a smarter pet parent, today.” 

– Katy Corey, Lakeside Animal Hospital Client

Exotic pets can enrich our lives and broaden our understanding of the animal kingdom, in addition to the world we live in. There are numerous reasons to own an exotic pet:

  • Many species don’t take up much space. They can be especially perfect for a city dweller.

  • Exotic animals can be great for people with pet allergies. If you are allergic to furry pets, consider a reptile such as a lizard, tortoise, or snake that has neither hair nor dander on its skin.

  • Most exotic pets don’t need to be walked; however, they do need to be handled well and socialized with in order to have a good quality of life.

  • Many exotic pets live a long time! Large birds and some reptiles can live for 20 – 40 years or more in captivity. This should be considered when thinking about becoming a pet parent to an exotic animal.

*Are you familiar with the term animal husbandry? Click HERE for some interesting information from our accredited friends at Halifax Veterinary Hospital.  

Before You Embark Upon Your Exotic Pet Journey 

The needs of an exotic pet vary greatly from that of a dog or cat and require their own special kind of veterinary care to remain happy and healthy. Our focus here at Lakeside is to provide competent and compassionate veterinary care, in addition to educating pet parents on how to care for their exotic animal. 

We are happy to have a discussion about diet, husbandry, and behavioral considerations before you embark upon the journey of owning an exotic pet; nonetheless, here are a few things you should know before purchasing a pet bird, reptile, or small mammal. 


  • Most pet birds require daily attention, which includes training, feeding, and cleaning the bird’s habitat. 

  • Looking for a friend? Birds are social creatures and will certainly attach to you, so much that if you go away for a period of time, he or she may pluck their feathers. 

  • Birds have special dietary requirements, so you’ll need to invest in providing high quality formulated diets and fresh food.

  • Signs of illness are very subtle in birds, which is one of many reasons to have an annual veterinary health exam by an experienced veterinarian. Dr. James Frank is an avid birder and one of Wisconsin Society for Ornithology’s most active contributors to Seasonal Field Notes and Cornell University’s E-Bird (learn more about him HERE). He just might be the perfect Vet when it comes to learning how to care for your exotic bird. 

  • Some birds live only a few years, whereas others can live for many decades. The African Grey Parrot, for example, lives between 60 – 80 years!  


  • Reptiles, in general, do not tolerate frequent handling.

  • Nutrition is species-specific and requires background knowledge, so make sure you're scheduling an annual exam with an expert Vet, like our very own Dr. Rebecca Dallwig. She’s actually a pet parent to a Bearded Dragon named Oscar! Learn more about her HERE

  • Reptiles have complex care requirements that require specialized equipment and housing. You’ll want to consider thermal gradients, basking, daytime lightning, humidity provision, substrates, climbing, and hiding needs.

  • Ask about the risk of reptiles transmitting disease to people. 

  • It is illegal and inhumane to release unwanted pet reptiles into the wild.

Small Mammals

  • Rabbits, rats, mice, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, chinchillas, sugar gliders, ferrets, and hedgehogs require daily attention and exercise. 

  • Many small mammals are herbivores that require daily helpings of hay. Others might require a variety of chew toys, including wood and calcium.

  • Guinea pigs and rabbits need their bedding changed several times a week and most small mammals need at least once a week cleaning.

  • Nail trims are regularly required for many small mammals and grooming is needed for those with long hair.

  • Small mammals should have annual veterinary health exams by an experienced veterinarian. Dr. Jeffrey Kowitz has a superb way of communicating how to care for exotic pets of all types. Learn more about him HERE

*Did you know that rats can be more loving than a cat or a dog? It's true - they are extremely social creatures. If you can get past their long tails, they make for very good friends.

Looking for an Experienced Exotic Pet Doctor?

Drs. Frank, Kowitz, and Dallwig are experienced in working with a wide range of species, including rabbits, rodents, reptiles, birds, and other small mammals. If you’re looking for an exotic pet doctor, learn more about our compassionate team HERE or visit individual profiles by clicking on the names below: 

Dr. James Frank 

Dr. Jeffrey Kowitz 

Dr. Rebecca Dallwig

“When people go to a human doctor, they are going to a physician who understands one type of species. What’s fascinating about doctors who see exotic pets is that they are veterinarians who know and understand how to care for hundreds of species! It’s truly mindboggling what these types of doctors need to know.”

– Penn Engebose, Lakeside Animal Hospital Manager 

*We’re also an accredited animal hospital, which proves we know our stuff and continue our education and research. Congratulations to our team at Lakeside for passing the AAHA requirements in 2018 this August! Learn more about the significance of accreditation – and why we’re so proud – HERE

Connect with Us Today!

In many cases, caring for an exotic pet is far greater than caring for a dog or a cat, and we want to make sure you understand the importance of providing a healthy diet, husbandry, and keep you educated on best practices. Our team will happily offer any additional insight if you’re considering becoming a pet parent to any of the exotic animals out there. 

Or, if it’s time to bring your exotic pet in for an appointment, connect with us today to schedule an appointment. We’re excited to see you and get to know your exotic pet. 

Contact Us Today HERE!

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