Healthcare Blog

AVMA Convention Helps Veterinarians Deal With New Growth In Pocket Pets

October 22, 2017

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) will be educating veterinarians to treat some popular little animals-pocket pets-at 147th Annual AVMA Convention July 31 to August 3 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Hedgehogs, rabbits, mice, ferrets, prairie dogs and rats-the growing popularity of so-called "pocket pets" has created new challenges for veterinarians. A lab held from 8 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. August 1 at the 147th Annual AVMA Convention in Atlanta, Georgia will offer veterinarians hands-on training on how to treat these tiny patients.

The new Exotic Companion Mammal (ECM) specialty was granted provisional recognition by the AVMA Executive Board on April 12, 2008, following recommendation from the AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialties (ABVS) and Council on Education. According to the 2007 AVMA U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, an estimated 2 million pet rabbits, 1.2 million hamsters, 1.1 million ferrets, and a million guinea pigs are a rapidly expanding area of pet ownership. The new ECM practice area includes these and other more unusual small pets, including hedgehogs and sugar gliders, but doesn't include illegal pet species-sometimes referred to as "fad pets"-which have been linked to the spread of zoonotic diseases. In 2003, prairie dogs and Gambian giant pouched rats kept as pets were linked to a serious monkey pox outbreak.

Dr. Doug Taylor, who is running the lab, said the lab will introduce veterinarians to the small scale of pocket pet medicine.

"If you've never drawn blood or handled an animal of this size, it can be challenging, so this will really just be an opportunity for veterinarians to get more familiar with these animals," Dr. Taylor said. "Mice are fascinating to veterinarians because they are so small, so many veterinarians really enjoy this lab. It's a great opportunity to learn to offer better treatments for some of their smallest patients."

The lab will give practitioners experience in a number of procedures commonly performed on a select group of pocket pets--mice, rats and rabbits. These will include handling and physical exam, injection techniques, blood collection and anesthetic techniques. The vast majority of this session will include hands-on work with actual animals.

Dr. Taylor will be available for interview during the convention.

American Veterinary Medical Association