Just an­other day in the an­i­mal house

From snakes to chee­tahs th­ese pa­tients are re­ally wild

7 Days in Dubai - - NEWS - By Shoshana Ke­dem @B_shosh shoshana@7days.ae

For staff at the British Vet­eri­nary Hos­pi­tal, no two days are the same. One mo­ment they’ll see a lion cub rushed in with snapped paws from run­ning into gar­den fur­ni­ture. The next, they’ll have to op­er­ate on a 12m snake with mouth ul­cers that could claim its life.

With all man­ner of wild an­i­mals widely avail­able at pet shops and mar­kets, vets say the cases they treat are be­com­ing ever more ex­otic.

Dr Sara El­liott, founder of the British Vet­eri­nary Hos­pi­tal, has taken on two new vets that spe­cialise in ex­otic an­i­mals like lizards and big cats.

Her cen­tre will also host an open day this Thurs­day to ed­u­cate ex­otic pet own­ers on nu­tri­tion and hous­ing re­quire­ments and of­fer tests and vac­cines.

She said: “We’re start­ing to see more ‘ex­otics’ – that’s par­rots, rep­tiles, am­phib­ians, mar­su­pi­als and var­i­ous sorts of mam­mals. Yes­ter­day we had some fer­rets in.”


The first pa­tient of the day is a non-poi­sonous snake with ‘mouth-rot’ – a po­ten­tially lethal mouth in­fec­tion that would lead to pneu­mo­nia if left un­treated.

El­liott said: “If you look at the snake with the mouth-rot, which is the equiv­a­lent of hav­ing a mouth full of ul­cers, and you imag­ine they be­come in­fected, you’ve now got a bac­te­rial in­fec­tion that changes into fun­gus in your mouth.

“What then hap­pens is that every time they breathe in, bac­te­ria trav­els up and down the air­ways, so even­tu­ally they trans­fer to the chest and they end up with pneu­mo­nia.” The most com­mon prob­lem she and her team sees is mal­nu­tri­tion – al­most al­ways be­cause own­ers to not feed their an­i­mals the right diet.

She de­scribed it as the lead­ing cause of death.

Chee­tahs can­not di­gest cat food but she and her staff con­tinue to see such cases. El­liott said: “It is the wrong bal­ance of nu­tri­ents. It gives them di­ar­rhoea and does not have suf­fi­cient pro­tein for their body mass.”

The hos­pi­tal also sees tor­toises – a favourite of many young chil­dren – that have de­vel­oped soft shells.

She said: “Tor­toises get a soft shell from be­ing kept away from UV light be­cause they’ve not been al­lowed out­side.

“If they de­velop a soft shell, it starts to col­lapse, and then dam­ages and crushes their lungs.”

The list goes on, El­liott said.

“We see a lot of su­gar glid­ers,” she said, re­fer­ring to a tiny, ham­ster-faced, fly­ing mar­su­pi­als with fluffy tails. “We saw one last week that had in­sec­ti­cide poi­son­ing. The owner had the house sprayed and didn’t re­alise how sus­cep­ti­ble th­ese lit­tle beast­ies are to in­sec­ti­cides.”


“The big­gest prob­lem with own­ing ex­otic pets is the word ex­otic means wild – dif­fer­ent and un­known,” said El­liott. “Peo­ple just don’t un­der­stand them. And if it’s not un­der­stood fully then you’re not go­ing to be giv­ing it the best care.”

Dr Marie Mon­chaux Az­ma­nis and Dr Lenka Prikrylova were re­cruited by the hos­pi­tal to deal with the surge in wild an­i­mal pa­tients.

“Most of the ex­otic pa­tients we have are here be­cause of health is­sues due to wrong hus­bandry, diet or ori­gin, of­ten bought in over­crowded places with low hy­giene,” said Mon­chaux Az­ma­nis.

“This is so sad and some­thing that can be eas­ily changed with a lit­tle knowl­edge.”

HAN­DLE WITH CARE: Dr Marie Mon­chaux Az­ma­nis holds a boa con­stric­tor

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