Wangford vet launches exotic pet service

Vet Catherine Thomas has set up a mobile exotic pet service. She will be doing regular surgeries at

Vet Catherine Thomas has set up a mobile exotic pet service. She will be doing regular surgeries at Wangford Vets. Catherine with her Bearded Dragon 'Izzy' - Credit: Nick Butcher

We are said to be a nation of animal lovers.

But our taste in pets is becoming ever-more exotic – and caring for them can require specialist skills.

To meet this demand, Catherine Thomas has started holding weekly clinics at Wangford Veterinary Clinic for everything from sickly snakes and lethargic lizards to poorly parrots and rundown rats.

The 32-year-old, from Saxmundham, has worked as a vet in Suffolk for eight years and said she always wanted to specialise in exotic creatures, particularly as few vets knew how to treat them.

Her aim is not just to help people whose pets may have fallen ill, but to carry out health checks and to give advice on looking after more unusual animals.

'When I was younger I had lots of exotic pets such as birds, snakes, lizards, rats and chinchillas,' she said. 'When I wanted to be a vet, these were the animals I wanted to work with. Since seeing all the problems there are with exotic pets it had spurred me on even more.

'Not that many vets know what they are doing with these exotic pets.

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'A lot of them either get ignored or they just get given a course of antibiotics to see if it improves rather than trying to deal with the cause properly like they would with a dog or cat.'

Ms Thomas, who is studying for a certificate in zoological medicine, said every pet that was not a dog or a cat could be classed as 'exotic'.

This could include certain birds, amphibians, lizards, snakes and various raptors, as well as more common pets such as rabbits, hamsters, rats and ferrets.

She said problems with exotic pets often stemmed from the fact they were not as domesticated as dogs and cats and needed to have their wild habitat replicated to thrive.

'A lot of the problems with reptiles relate to husbandry,' she said. 'Most exotic pets are ones which, not many generations ago, would have been living in the wild, so it is more important for them to have as natural an environment as possible.

'Birds are particularly sensitive to things and have problems because of their high intelligence. They need stimulation to keep them happy and healthy. Their airways are quite sensitive to disease and quite often they have breathing problems.

'A lot of people take them on and think 'that's a cool animal' and don't actually research what it requires.'

?Ms Thomas holds her exotic animal clinic at Wangford Veterinary Clinic on Tuesdays at 10.30am and runs a similar session at a practice at Trimley St Mary, near Felixstowe, on Thursdays. For more information, visit

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