exotic animals Archives | Broadview University

What Animals are Considered Exotic Animals?

Person working with an exotic animal

A career as a vet tech offers exciting and unusual opportunities for anyone who loves animals. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to work in a zoo or animal sanctuary, working with exotic animals as a vet tech may be the right career for you.

What Are Exotic Animals?

An animal that originates in a foreign country or an animal that’s introduced into a new country from abroad is considered to be an exotic species. Another definition is an animal that’s an unusual species that someone keeps as a pet. Some animal experts believe any animal that’s not domesticated, like a dog or a cat, to be exotic.

A species is considered to be animals if they’re domestic pets, or used for teaching, research, testing, experimentation, or in exhibits. The exceptions to the rule depend on the legal designation of an animal. Domesticated exotic animals include:

  • Birds
  • Horses not used for research purposes
  • Mice and Rats in research

Animals raised on farms aren’t considered to be animals if they’re raised for their fiber, as food, or various types of research in agricultural settings.

Where Will Vet Techs Work with Exotic Animals?

A vet tech that’s interested in working with exotic animals must first earn a vet tech degree. After qualifying as a certified vet tech, they may take specialty courses that focus on exotic animal care. Between two and four years of additional studies and fieldwork is necessary to become an exotic animal vet tech.


Zoo vet techs provide support to veterinarians that care for exotic zoo animals. Vet techs assist veterinarians with procedures and exams. They have the expertise to care for hundreds of different species. Zoo vet techs are qualified to work in environments, including research labs and aquariums. They may also take positions in various other fields of exotic animal care.

Among the many duties a zoo vet tech may be required to handle include administering first aid, running diagnostic tests, and preparing animals for surgery. They must understand how to keep themselves and the exotic animals they care for safe. Extensive fieldwork is a requirement for any vet tech who wishes to work in a zoo.


The demand for specialty vet techs is on the rise and is expected to continue for the next several years. One of the options open to a vet tech is to work in a sanctuary or wildlife rehabilitation center. Working in an animal sanctuary allows a vet tech to care for exotic animals that have been rescued. These animals require special care to rehabilitate them so they can be released into the wild.

In some cases, the animals will live out their lives in a sanctuary. A vet tech is responsible for assisting with routine examinations as well as caring for animals that have health problems. A veterinary technician must know about the nutritional needs of the animals in their care and how to prepare their food. A sanctuary vet tech may assist with spay or neuter surgery, perform first aid on injured animals, and assist the veterinarian during rounds.

Avian Vet Tech

Although some vet techs may work with avian veterinarians in wildlife sanctuaries or zoos, many pet owners love exotic birds and keep them as pets. Nearly three percent of all pet owners in the country own an exotic bird like a parrot or cockatiel, which equates to about 3.5 million pet owners that have at least two birds, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Domesticated and wild birds require veterinary care for routine checkups and the occasional injury. The most common reason a pet owner takes their exotic bird to the veterinarian is due to an injury to a wing. An exotic vet tech may be the person that evaluates the bird’s injury to determine the most effective treatment.

Animal Hospital

Although most vet techs provide care for domestic pets, in the last few years, there’s more interest in exotic animals. These pets require wellness checkups, special nutritional needs, and compassionate care like domestic pets do. Pets that are considered to be exotic have traditionally been reptiles, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rabbits.

A vet tech that specializes in the care of exotic animals will assist with and restrain animals for examinations, administer medications or vaccines, provide first aid, and assist with a surgery. Vet techs that care for these animals must have extensive knowledge of different exotic species.

It’s vital that an exotic animal vet tech understands how different species react when treated for injuries or given medication. Even domestic animals can be unpredictable, and the same applies to exotic animals. Administering anesthesia to exotic animals requires knowledge of the species and possible reactions.

How to Take Care of Exotic Animals from a Vet Tech’s Perspective

Caring for cats and dogs is something that every vet tech understands and can share with a pet parent. However, there are many species of exotic animals, vet techs must have education beyond the two-year program required to work in the field. The following are the needs of exotic pets and what vet techs should educate owners about:

Exotic Pets Require Different Habitats

Domesticated pets like cats and dogs can adjust to their living conditions in an owner’s home. As long as they have a warm, comfortable place to sleep, plenty of nutritious food, and time with their owners, they’re usually happy. However, exotic pets have unique needs. For example, reptiles can’t adjust their body temperature and may need a lamp that provides heat to keep them comfortable. A vet tech should explain the type of habitat an exotic pet needs to thrive and stay healthy.

Dietary Needs

Exotic animals didn’t live in captivity before people decided to make them pets. Cats and dogs have different nutritional needs, and so do all exotic species. For example, rabbits love Timothy Hay, vegetables, and pellets, while Sugar Gliders are fond of fresh vegetables and fruits, especially those that are sweet.

Activity and Interaction with Owners

Dogs and cats naturally interact with their owners and love to play. If a pet owner has an exotic pet like a parrot or cockatiel, they love to interact with their owners and are very affectionate. A vet tech should explain to an owner what type of activities different exotic species like so they’re happy and content.

Love and Affection

A vet tech can’t stress too strongly how much any pet needs a lot of affection and love from their owners. Exotic pets may not express themselves as a dog or cat does, but they still need a lot of attention. Small mammals love playing with toys. Exotic birds like to be let out of their cages and fly around the house. Owners should be cautioned only to allow a bird out when it’s safe, since they can escape outside.

How Does a Vet Tech Interact with Exotic Animals?

A lot of vet tech students are intrigued by the possibility of caring for exotic animals in a veterinary hospital, sanctuary, or a zoo. Vet techs must understand that priority is always given to the welfare of each animal they care for. An exotic animal vet tech must be agile and have a lot of strength and stamina.

Animals can be unpredictable, especially when they’re scared or injured. Vet techs must know the proper way to handle large animals to keep themselves and the animals safe. Even the gentlest animal doesn’t always behave well when they’re sick or hurt. A vet tech should always be calm and approach an animal cautiously. They should speak in a soft, soothing voice that can help to allay an animal’s fears.

An exotic animal vet tech must be prepared for unusual circumstances. For example, the veterinary technician who works with zoo animals may have to stay with a pregnant animal that’s about to give birth or monitor an animal recovering from surgery. The main requirements for any vet tech are that they have love for all animals and are prepared to do whatever it takes to care for them.

Are you interested in learning more about exotic animals? Do you have the qualities needed to become a good vet tech? With an Associate Degree in Veterinary Technology, you’ll gain the knowledge, qualities and skills you need to start an entry-level career as a veterinary technician. Broadview University has been part of the community for more than 40 years, so we’ve developed connections that can help move your career forward. After completing our accredited degree program, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Passing the VTNE allows you to become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), a designation that will give you a competitive advantage when you enter the job market.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a veterinary technician and working in veterinary technology.