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Exotic Pet Diseases

As part of our wellness services for avian and exotic pets, we diagnose and treat dozens of diseases. Below is a list of the most common diseases we treat as well as some of the common symptoms of each. Click on the headers below to learn more about the diseases for that specific species. For more detailed information, including additional symptoms to look for, please Contact Us.

  • Feather destructive behavior: involves self-inflicted damage to feathers and may be a symptom of an underlying disease, behavioral issues, hormonal imbalances, nutritional imbalances, or lack of skin/feather moisture
  • Nutritional imbalances: symptoms may include nasal discharge, wheezing, seizures, white plaques in the mouth, feather discoloration, or diarrhea, depending on what nutritional component is imbalanced
  • Fatty liver disease: characterized by weight gain, loss of appetite, lethargy, and/or depression
  • Respiratory diseases: signs may include respiratory difficulty, open mouth breathing, a voice change, watery eyes, and/or nasal discharge
  • Kidney disease: excess water component to droppings and/or vomiting
  • Intestinal disease: symptoms may include mushy stools, smelly stools, stool stuck to feathers around cloaca (known as the rectum in mammals)
  • Reproductive problems: may be indicated by egg binding, chronic egg laying, and depletion of calcium stores


  • Nutritional imbalances: characterized by muscle weakness, lethargy, and fragile bones depending on the specific deficiency
  • Intestinal parasites: clinical signs include poor growth, decreased egg production, poor feed absorption, and/or diarrhea
  • Marek’s disease: viral infection that may be manifested with tumors, leg paralysis, eye lesions, and/or reproductive disorders


  • Adrenal gland disease: symptoms may include hair loss, loss of appetite, lethargy, loss of abdominal muscle tone, and/or itchy skin. In males, blocked urination may occur.
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood glucose): commonly due to pancreatic cancer (insulinoma) and characterized by excessive sleeping, nausea, muscle twitching, unsteadiness, and hind end weakness. Often progresses to seizures.
  • Heartworm disease: initial signs include difficulty breathing, pale or grayish gums, a rapid heart rate, and possibly green urine
  • Lymphoid cancer: indicated by weight loss, hind leg weakness, nodular swelling of lymph nodes, and in many cases, palpable nodules on the spleen
  • Skin cancer: usually characterized by a raised, abnormal mass that may bleed from time to time
  • Diseases of the intestinal tract: common symptoms include urgency to defecate, abnormal stool formation, abnormal stool color or consistency, and often times a malodorous stool
  • Dental disease: common signs include loss of appetite, excessive tear production, wet hair from saliva collecting under the chin, and tooth grinding
  • Intestinal diseases: characterized by diarrhea at first, then total lack of fecal production, loss of appetite, and a rough coat. Abdominal distension may also be noted.
  • Infectious diseases: symptoms include abscesses, pneumonia, reproductive tract infections, diarrhea, nasal discharge, and extreme lethargy
  • Ear mites: indicated initially by itching ears, frequent head shaking, excessive scratching, and progresses to crusty spots in ear canal
  • Skin mites: usually visible with the naked eye as specks in the fur and often accompanied by dandruff
  • Pasteurella infection: also known as snuffles and characterized by watery nasal discharge, yellowish nasal discharge, and loud snoring
  • E. Cuniculi: clinical signs include a head tilt, severe postural imbalance, urinary incontinence, and/or eye disease
Guinea pigs/chinchillas
  • Dental disease: characterized by excess salivation with wet hair under chin, misaligned teeth, mouth bleeding, and difficulty eating
  • Intestinal imbalance: characterized by diarrhea at first then total lack of fecal production, loss of appetite, and a rough coat. Abdominal distension may also be noted.
  • Lice and skin mites: symptoms include severe itching, hair loss, and flaky skin
  • Ringworm: indicated by reddened, irritated, or flaky skin and itching
Rodents (hamsters, rats, mice, and gerbils)
  • Ringworm: indicated by reddened, irritated, or flaky skin and itching
  • Skin mites: signs include inflammation of the skin, excessive itching, and visible white specks in the fur
  • Ovarian/uterine cancer: characterized by a distended abdomen and bloody vaginal discharge in some cases
  • Mammary Gland Cancer: Firm, nodular swellings on underside and behind front legs. May occur in males as well as females.
  • Quill mites: visible white dots on the skin characterized by excessive scratching, dandruff, and loss of quills
  • Skin cancer: signs may include weight loss, quill loss, lack of appetite, and lethargy
  • Cancer of oral cavity: symptoms include bad odor from mouth area, loosened teeth, swelling on the gums, and weight loss
  • Obesity: characterized by a round or bulging body instead of teardrop shaped, inability to roll up in a ball, and fat deposits in the armpit and around rear legs
Sugar gliders
  • Nutritional imbalances: indicated by weakness, muscle tremors, abnormal swelling, pale mucous membranes, and bruising
  • Intestinal infections: signs include anemia, lethargy, and diarrhea
Turtles and tortoises
  • Nutritional imbalance: characterized by shell deformities, muscle weakness, weight loss, nasal discharge, swollen eyelids, and/or raw skin
  • Shell disease: characterized by softening and/or malformation of shell
  • Respiratory tract infections: signs include labored breathing, runny nose and/or eyes, sneezing, lethargy, and weight loss
  • Intestinal parasites: commonly visible in the stool and characterized by weight loss, diarrhea, and vomiting
  • Trauma: evident by noting shell fractures and cuts/bleeding on the skin
  • Ear disease: indicated by bulge noted at tympanic membrane (side of head)
  • Nutritional imbalances: indicated by softening of the jaw, tremors, firm swelling of the bones of forearm and/or rear legs and muscle twitches of the limbs
  • Intestinal parasites: signs include regurgitation/vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss and lack of appetite
  • Skin infections: symptoms include swellings of the mouth, jaw, eyes or feet, pus-filled cavities or fluid-filled pockets on the skin, thick crusty plaques on the skin, and/or retained shed (dysecdysis)
  • Respiratory tract infections: characterized by oral or nasal discharge, difficulty breathing, weight loss, and wheezing sounds while breathing
  • Skin infections: signs include sores, incomplete shedding, and abscesses
  • Intestinal parasites: symptoms include anorexia, weight loss, diarrhea, gas build up in intestines, and in severe cases, intestinal obstruction
  • Trauma: evidenced by bite or burn wounds

June B.

Dr. Rich is winner of the Oxbow Exotic Mammal Health Award, lecturer at many Exotic veterinary conferences, and deeply involved in local area projects. Twenty years have passed and in that time I cannot begin to count the number of rabbits treated there, all with the best of care. My job as a rescuer of rabbits has been made easier with the support of Dr. Rich, Dr. Pence and the Staff.

Rick R.

I have been dealing with the Avian & Exotic Animal Hospital of Louisiana (formerly West Esplanade Veterinary Clinic), Dr. Rich and Dr. Pence, since 2006. They are the premier exotics only vet in the Gulf South and one of a small handful that are experienced with chinchillas. Every chinchilla surrendered to us is taken there for a comprehensive wellness check-up. Many have been treated for a variety of conditions, both minor and serious. After having more than 100 chinchillas seen there, I could not be more pleased with the competency, courtesy and caring exhibited by everyone there. Many of our animals are enjoying happier and healthier lives because of Dr. Rich and Dr. Pence.

Tom and Tracey L.

We have been breeders of exotic parrots since 1998. Dr. Rich and staff are our first and only stop to make sure the breeders we buy are healthy. The professionalism of Dr. Rich and his staff far exceed our expectations. Regardless the outcome of the exam we know we can trust the results and advice given by Avian & Exotic Animal Hospital of Louisiana (formerly West Esplanade Veterinary Clinic). The clinic is always clean and the staff friendly. We highly recommend all clients set up an appointment to meet Dr. Rich and/or Dr. Pence. Don’t wait until it’s an emergency. Well visits are very important to maintain healthy happy animals. We are very fortunate to have such well respected, professional and caring exotic veterinarians in our area.

Ashley G., DVM

Dr. Rich is the avian expert! The clinic is state of the art, the boarding facility has large, clean cages and the team is very caring. It's with great confidence that I refer my avian patients to Avian & Exotic Animal Hospital of Louisiana (formerly West Esplanade Veterinary Clinic).

Karen and Steve M.

My family and I have been associated with Avian & Exotic Animal Hospital of Louisiana (formerly West Esplanade Veterinary Clinic) for 14 years now. Dr. Rich has received countless awards for his many accomplishments. He is forward-thinking; always in touch with the latest technology and procedures. His leading edge approach has kept my exotic pets healthy and happy!

Maurice G. and Brenda B.

In June 2013 we opened Bon Temps Ferret Rescue and shortly after contacted Dr. Rich at Avian & Exotic Animal Hospital of Louisiana (formerly West Esplanade Veterinary Clinic). Living almost three hours away, we had questions before making the trip with some of our little ones rescued from various situations. Dr. Rich, Dr. Pence and their staff have taken time to return our calls regardless of what day of the week. We have brought in ferrets with varying degrees of medical needs and have always been served in the most professional and caring manner, not only for the ferrets but for us as well in some critical times."

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