Lizards, Snakes and Rats–Oh My
Most veterinarian clinics are equipped to cure your dog or cat, but many pass on exotic creatures. Lizards, snakes, ferrets, rats or other unique pets need specialized care for sickness or injury and finding this unique service can be difficult. Andrew Rambo, D.V.M. at the Gladstone Animal Clinic offers this unconventional service.
Rambo is the only veterinarian of seven at his clinic that will perform this type of specialized work. He generally gets cases other than dogs or cats and stays away from anything with gills or hooves. Reptiles and certain other animals are his specialty.
“I have three lizards, two turtles, one snake, and two rabbits waiting for surgery,” Rambo says. “I just finished a bird’s nail and beak trim. I get a lot of ferrets, hamsters and rabbits, all important to their owners. Each is a life worth saving.”
The talented and engaging veterinarian is occasionally surprised when people bring in wildlife. Possums, squirrels and other mammals are brought in, most hit by cars. Some are routed down to the Lakeside Nature Center, located by the Kansas City Zoo. Some refuse to drive that far and Rambo checks to see how injured each bird or animal is and if medical attention is possible. Hawks or owls are common visitors to Rambo.
“We had a red tailed hawk come in a few years ago inside a Winnebago mobile home,” Rambo says. “The bird passed through the engine’s grill and was perched on the cooling hoses. We removed the bird and were surprised to find it only had a damaged wing. We sent the hawk down to Lakeside Nature Center where they cured and eventually released the hawk.”
Remarkably, most mammals are checked and treated the same because their anatomy is similar. This is a huge edge to treating unique pets.
“Mammals are mammals and they have the same heart and lungs,” Rambo says. “Dogs and cats have some variations and a ferret is a long, stretched out cat on the operating table. I have done very few operations on gerbils, but I have operated on rats and they pretty much have the same body structures. There are some differences with medicines for animals most text books don’t explain what types of medicine to give. But we have sources where this type of information is available. I figure it out to cure each pet.”
Surgery is a part of Rambo’s practice and some tend to be more unique than others. Recently a bearded dragon presented a strange case.
“The bearded dragon was not eating or acting right,” Rambo says. “We took an x-ray and there was a funny little crescent-shaped item in the dragon’s stomach. Surgery turned up a Barbie plastic toy banana the dragon found and ate in Barbie’s Dream House.”
Rambo had a recent visit that he would rather forget.
“A customer brought a big python inside a trash can,” Rambo says. “It took three of us to handle the 12-foot snake and it had a problem with its mouth. The mouth was wider than both my open hands together. The snake opened its mouth and hissed at me. No one could have stopped that snake from grabbing my head. We cured the snake’s problem and happily sent it home.”