Do You Want to Become an Exotic Animal Vet?

To begin with, we will go over what is an exotic animal vet. In addition, how to become one will also be discussed. Firstly successful veterinarians in any field must show a great deal of empathy.  Secondly comes patience, knowledge, and confidence. Namely, these are just a few of the successful traits. That is to say, an exotic animal vet must share all of these qualities and more.

Moreover, they are a  veterinarian who has gone through extensive training and education. Much more than the standard 8-10  years that a general veterinarian goes through. To illustrate an exotic animal vet must first earn a DVM degree. Subsequently, they must then pass the NAVLE.  Afterward passing state licensure exams might be required. Following this, they will complete continuing education (post-DVM) coursework. Finally, they will complete a  residency in their preferred field.


Foundationally exotic animal vets also follow the One Health interdisciplinary model. Primarily, the goal of One Health is to achieve optimal Heath for humans, animals, and the environment.


Unlikely Companions: The Adventures of an Exotic Animal Doctor (or, What Friends Feathered, Furred, and Scaled Have Taught Me about Life and Love)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Hess, Laurie (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 11/01/2016 (Publication Date) - Da Capo Press (Publisher)


The preferred field of an exotic animal vet can fringe on providing medical care for a wide range of species. Furthermore, exotic animal vets treat any animals that are not common household pets. 


Importantly do you want to work in a practice that specializes in exotic animal pets? Additionally, have you thought about opening your own practice? Primarily you will learn how to medically treat a wide range of animals. To illustrate the animals you treat can include African grey parrots, chinchillas, turtles, iguanas, ball pythons, cockatiels, and so many more. An important factor to note is that much of the knowledge gained will be obtained after you earn a DVM degree.


How Does an Exotic Animal Veterinarian Learn All of the Different Species?


You might be wondering how in the world can one person learn how to treat so many different species? Likewise, each group of animals is made up of unique anatomy and physiology. Moreover, the histology, parasitology, toxicology, can all be species-specific.  How does one learn all of that? During your DVM degree, you will learn a little bit about avian and other exotic animals.  However, the primary focus will be on cats, dogs, horses, and livestock. More importantly, it will be up to you, as a veterinary student to join the various exotic animal clubs at your vet school. In fact, this will allow you to begin getting hands-on experience. To put it briefly the clubs will provide wet labs and guest speakers.


Ultimately it isn’t until after vet school that you will really begin to specialize.  All in all, you can choose any exotic animal species or discipline that you are interested in. Accordingly, there are residency programs for avian vets, amphibians, exotic mammals, and more. You might be wondering how long it takes to become an exotic animal veterinarian. This article lists many veterinary specialties. Similarly, it also lists the length of time required for each residency. 

Gorilla's work with exotic animal vets

As an example, if you want to become an avian veterinarian, the residency program is three years. Notably, after residency, you will need to work in an avian veterinary practice for six years. Following the six years, you will then be able to sit for the avian board exams. More importantly, by joining the Association of Avian Veterinarians you will have access to online education resources and forums. This is where you can discuss cases with other avian veterinarians.


Salary Can Vary


To sum up, exotic animal vets can expect to earn between $60,000 and upwards of $200,000. Hence, this will all depend on the veterinarian’s experience, certifications, published journals, and location. Foundationally as an exotic animal vet, you should plan on being flexible. Additionally, you should be willing to move to where the job prospects are. Unless of course, you plan on opening your own practice in the city of your choice. Indeed dot com, has quite a few job listings for exotic animal veterinarians. The listings just happen to be all over the US. Specifically ranging from Vermont to California. 


Job Prospects for an Exotic Animal Vet


Pathology of Wildlife and Zoo Animals
  • Hardcover Book
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 1136 Pages - 09/14/2018 (Publication Date) - Academic Press (Publisher)


This list mentions some of the many job opportunities available for an exotic animal vet.


  • Exotic animal veterinarian practice owner.


  • Associate veterinarian at an exotic animal practice.


  • Emergency veterinarian. Specifically at any of the worldwide emergency veterinary hospitals.


  • Marine mammal veterinarian. For example, working at an aquarium.


  • Fish veterinarian. You can follow in Dr. Loh’s footsteps. He specializes as a fish veterinarian. In addition, he holds an advanced degree as a veterinary pathologist.


  • Zoo veterinarian.


  • Poultry farm veterinarian (USDA veterinarian)


  • Wildlife veterinarian in a city. Example: The Wild Bird Fund in NYC is a wildlife rescue organization. The Wild Bird Fund has Exotic animal veterinarians on staff.


  • Wildlife veterinarian in a remote location. Example: Dr. Soto who works in the rainforest of Costa Rica.


  • Animal sanctuary veterinarian.


  • Laboratory animal veterinarian.


  • Professor at one of the worldwide veterinary colleges.


  • Author. Write a book on your exotic animal experiences like Dr. Laurie Hess. Her book: Unlikely Companions: The Adventures of an Exotic Animal Doctor (or, What Friends Feathered, Furred, and Scaled Have Taught Me about Life and Love).  Specifically, you can read all about what a day in the life of an exotic animal vet is really like. The clinic might see 10 different species of animals on any given day.




  • Research. Do you have a passion for learning and research? A veterinary research scientist can specialize in any species of their choice. Are there certain medical conditions that fascinate you? Why not take it to the next level and become a research scientist!


How Do You Know if You Should Specialize in Exotic Animals?


In conclusion, if you have a deep passion for exotic animals then committing the extra years of residency and continuing education will be worthwhile. Whether your passions lie with a particular bird species, a particular mammal, reptile, or any other species, rest assured there will be room to study and help these animals.

As an exotic animal vet, you might find yourself working deep in the jungles at a wildlife sanctuary. Such as  Dr. Soto who is a veterinarian to primates and possums. Considering this, Dr. Soto works at the Kids Saving Rain Forests Wildlife Sanctuary.  Furthermore, a wildlife vet can also work in a city.  For example, take a look at the veterinarians who work with the Wild Bird Fund in NYC. The options are endless and it all depends on your dreams and aspirations. 

Lastly, if you work for a non-profit as an exotic vet the money might be less than working at a standard vet clinic.  Undoubtedly if you are happy then that is all that matters. Following your true passions within the veterinary field can drive happiness. Ultimately, this can ensure that you are less likely to deal with burnout fatigue.  Unfortunately, burnout fatigue can happen to many small animal veterinarians working within a clinic. An exotic animal vet will have a wider range of unique cases.  Primarily this can be a perfect match if you have been labeled an ultra-high achiever!