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Published by Zoological Education Network, 2011, 38 MB, 624 pages, US$75.00, ISBN: 978 0 970639 53 0

They say that human medics have it easy dealing with only one species. They may be right. With an increasing number of unusual or “exotic” species being kept as pets, the omnicompetency of the veterinary practitioner is ever more stretched by the multitude of creatures great and small turning up on the practice doorstep.

The aim of this quick reference guide is to provide the veterinary practitioner, nurse or student with useful, easy-to-read information for the initial veterinary consultation with an unfamiliar species. From the conventional pet rabbit to the once-in-a-career tomato frog, the guide provides information on 39 small mammal, 32 reptile, 15 bird, 9 amphibian, and 4 fish species. While the small mammal section is comprehensive, other sections are missing common exotic pets including African Grey parrots, raptors, mediterranean spur-thighed tortoises and goldfish. This may reflect a difference in the species kept in the US and UK as the majority of the authors are US-based exotic pet veterinary practitioners.

The guide opens in a pdf format with a simple navigation bar arranged by species. Each species is allocated an approximately six page summary of information on its behaviour, vital characteristics, sexing, housing, diet, restraint, blood collection, injection sites, physical examination, haematological and biochemical references ranges, common disorders, and zoonotic potential.

The restraint, physical examination and vital statistics sections are clear and concise and contain ample information along with images to enable the unfamiliar practitioner to perform a physical examination. Given that the majority of conditions seen in exotic pets are associated with inadequate husbandry, the housing and diet information is particularly useful. Photographs of suggested environmental layouts and enrichment are included and could be employed as visual aids in the consulting room when discussing husbandry improvements with owners.

Blood collection and injection sites are listed alongside at least one clear photograph of the preferred site for each species. An anaesthesia section is not provided for all species and differs in content, covering anaesthetic considerations in some species and listing suggested protocols in others. Information provided on common conditions is also variable. Some chapters list the names of common diseases while others have a concise review including aetiology, clinical signs and treatment. Haematology and biochemistry reference ranges are included for some but not all species and the origins of the reference ranges are not always cited.

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Differences between US and UK law, drug availability and disease status mean that some of the recommendations, particularly vaccination protocols, are not relevant in the UK. Certain practices may even be contraindicated or illegal, the descenting of ferrets being a noteworthy example. Advice regarding food-producing animals should be carefully checked against UK legislation.

The quick reference guide to unique pet species undoubtedly fulfils the role it sets out to achieve as an easy-to-read, accessible resource of information for the busy practitioner faced with an unfamiliar species. One can certainly envisage using this on the practice computer between consultations. However, a number of common exotic pet species are not included and some of the information provided may not be directly relevant for UK-based veterinary practitioners making the guide most useful as an adjunct to other resources rather than as a sole source of information.

Stephanie Jayson graduated from Cambridge University in 2012 with BA (Zoology) and Vet MB degrees. As a vet student, she worked with exotic pet, zoo and wildlife vets in the UK and USA, and was President of Cambridge University Veterinary Zoological Society. Stephanie undertook a research project on feather plucking in African Grey parrots and cockatoos during her final year and has presented talks at conferences and at Cambridge Vet School. She joined the Animal Health Trust in 2012 as a rotating small animal intern and hopes to specialise in exotic animal medicine.