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Exotic Species

In recent years, nontraditional “exotic” species have become increasingly popular household pets.

Veterinarians, therefore, must contend with an ever-broadening number of poisons and must learn the biology, natural history, medical treatment, and physiologic idiosyncrasies of an ever-enlarging number of species.

Practitioners cannot be expected to be familiar with every hazardous substance. Still, they must understand that toxicology is an essential part of veterinary medicine, and they must come to recognize the most presented toxicologic syndromes in most, if not all, “common” exotic species.

Avian and Exotic Veterinarians must keep current as new information about these species and new poisonings becomes available.


Common emergencies:

Because in reptiles, most emergencies are secondary to inappropriate husbandry or poor diet, you need to have detailed information of

  • What the pet is fed,
  • How is fed,
  • How often is fed?
  • and where food and water are acquired.
  • Where and how the pet is hydrated (water)
  • and how often and with what products the cage, food and water bowls and environment are being cleaned.

This information is vital to the reptile veterinarian to get closer to the cause of the problem.

Please stay calm and be ready to answer questions like these below:

  • Animal’s name, species, breed, sex, intact/neutered.
  • Age, weight.
  • Medications presently receiving.
  • Other pertinent medical history
  • Suspected poison involved.
  • The maximum amount of toxin suspected (worst-case scenario)
  • Was the original container found?
  • Suspected route of exposure
  • When did possible exposure occur?
  • When were clinical signs first noted? Be able to describe them to the best of your ability, and record videos if possible!
  • Could other poisons be involved?
  • Could other animals have been exposed?
  • Describe the animal’s environment (where the animal is kept, how long the animal was left alone, hobbies of the owner, anything that might lead to poisoning)

The following list of poisons, by no means complete, focuses on the most common poisonings of reptiles.


  • Vitamin A toxicity
  • Vitamin D toxicity
  • Vitamin B6 (pyroxidine)


  • Gentamicin
  • Amikacin
  • Chloramphenicol
  • Enrofloxacin
  • Metronidazole


  • Amphotericin B
  • Griseofulvin
  • Ketoconazole, Itraconazole, Fluconazole

External Antiparasitic:

  • Organophosphates.
  • Pyrethrins and pyrethroids.
  • Ivermectin


  • Fenbendazole


  • Chlorhexidine
  • Bleach


  • DSS
  • Zinc
  • Smoke
  • Rat Poison
    • Anticoagulants
    • Bromethalin
    • Cholecalciferol
  • Metaldehyde (Snail Bait)
  • Mushrooms (Amanita most common)
  • Plants:
    • Heaths (azaleas, laurel, rhododendrons)
    • Yews (Ground hemlock, Florida yew, English yew, Pacific yew, and Japanese yew)
    • Lillies
    • Plant Seeds (apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, plums, and the jetberry bush)
    • Avocado
    • Ricin
    • Cycad (sago) palms
    • Holly, mistletoe, and poinsettia
    • Glycosides (oleander (Nerium oleander), foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), and lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis)
    • Ivy
    • Smoke
    • Oak
    • Grapes and Raisins
    • Marijuana
  • Other Animals:
    • Venomous Snakes
    • Poisonous Lizards
    • Amphibian Toxins
    • Firefly Toxicosis

First Aid: “Be patient and don’t give up”

  • Hydrate: Sick reptiles nearly always benefit from fluid administration. (The oral route is feasible for most reptiles; soak them in lukewarm water. DO NOT DO THIS IF YOUR PET IS TOO WEAK TO MOVE as it can drown if it cannot lift its head from the water to breathe)
  • Keep them Warm: For most reptile species, a range of 72°F to 82°F is reasonably safe but be careful! Debilitated reptiles are too weak to move away from heat sources and may overheat or even have thermal burnsUse only safe heat sources, such as small heating enclosures, overhead heat lights, and under-tank heating systems. Provide a gradient of temperature in the cage.
  • Support: disciplined and persistent nursing care can do much to help save severely poisoned reptiles. Diets and dietary supplements are available to help support the animals as they recover.

Prompt Veterinary care is paramount if you wish to improve the chances that your poisoned, intoxicated or envenomated reptile is saved back to health.

If you believe your pet has been intoxicated, do not hesitate to give us a call. We will be happy to schedule an appointment with our Exotics Certified Veterinarian.

Telephone: 786-361-9344

It is not infrequent at our hospital to receive calls or to see nonhuman primates (NHP / Monkeys) because the owners are afraid that their pet has ingested medications, recreational drugs, toxic plants or other toxic liquids or solids or they have gotten in trouble and are injured.

If you are experiencing this type of emergency, your calm and swift response can significantly affect your pet’s outcome. Here are some tips for pet first aid that can potentially save a life:

  1. Always have a pet first aid kit handy: Gauze, adhesive tape, bandaging material, cotton balls, a digital thermometer, tweezers, hydrogen peroxide, and a leash. Having these items readily available can make a difference in an emergency.
  2. Understand your pet’s normal behavior: Knowing what is normal for your pet can help you recognize when something is off. Any changes in eating habits, energy levels, or behavior can be a potential red flag.
  3. Learn basic first aid procedures: For instance, do you know what to do if your pet is choking? Educating yourself about basic pet first aid procedures can be incredibly beneficial in a crisis.
  4. Keep emergency contacts accessible: Having your vet’s contact information and the number for a pet poison control center can be crucial in an emergency.

However, it’s important to note that pet first aid should not replace professional veterinary care. Its purpose is temporarily stabilizing and relieving your pet until you can reach a veterinarian. Despite your best efforts, there is no substitute for the knowledge, experience, and equipment that vets possess to diagnose and treat your pet properly. No matter how well-prepared your first aid kit is or how quickly you respond, it cannot replace a comprehensive treatment plan from a certified veterinarian. Therefore, in any emergency, the priority should always be to seek professional care as soon as possible. Remember, being proactive is always better than reactive when it comes to your pet’s health.

We believe every pet owner, especially monkey owners, should have a readily available and well-stocked emergency medicine cabinet. Here’s a list of essential items to keep in your cabinet:

  • Basic wound bandages and wrapping materials.
  • Cleaning and antiseptic solutions
  • Antibacterial cream
  • Activated charcoal (such as Toxiban or medical-grade charcoal from the drugstore) – a universal absorbent used to inactivate common toxins.
  • Syrup of ipecac to induce vomit (compounded and not pleasant-tasting) – please note that ipecac fluid extract or tincture should not be used, as they can cause serious side effects or even death. Only ipecac syrup contains the proper strength for treating poisonings.
  • Hydrogen peroxide (3%) is used to induce vomiting.
  • Ensure you have your regular monkey vet number and emergency after-hours vet numbers readily available and easily accessible to you, your family, or friends so they can be contacted and informed immediately. We recommend printing these numbers and keeping them handy in the cabinet.

For regular business hours at avian and exotics pet hospitals (including most housekept non-human primates), you can contact:

  • Paws and Claws Medical Center(786) 361-9344 (Please note that we do not attend to after-hours emergencies.)

Additionally, it is essential to have a poison control number readily available:

  • ASPCA: (888) 426-4435
  • Pet Poison Helpline: (855) 764-7661
  • Florida’s Poison Control Centers (for animals): (800) 222-1222

By following these recommendations, you can provide initial aid to your monkey while you make your way to the vet.

Please note that these recommendations are not listed in order of importance. Applying them using your common sense and only when applicable is crucial. They are general advice and should not substitute a veterinarian’s diagnosis or care. Only a licensed veterinarian can provide an accurate diagnosis and the appropriate treatment plan for your pet monkey.

For injuries:

a. Keep your monkey calm and stable. Please place it in a comfortable crate or wrap it in a cozy blanket before heading to the vet.

b. If bleeding, apply pressure with a tourniquet while rushing your monkey to the vet. (You can find tourniquet devices on in different sizes suitable for adults and pediatric use. Choose the size that fits your NHP.

In the case of open wounds or sores, it is crucial to prevent your monkey from self-inflicting or aggravating these wounds, as they can lead to infection and become life-threatening if left untreated. Use cones, clothing, distractors, or wraps to prevent access to the wound, ensuring that the blood supply to the area is not affected. Handle the wound gently and avoid wrapping it too tightly.

In case of ingestion of toxins, drugs, poisons, or other harmful substances:

a. Do not delay! Call poison control immediately.

b. Inducing vomiting can be done using agents like Ipecac Syrup and 3% Hydrogen Peroxide.

However, please be aware that inducing vomiting may cause seizures and additional injury to the throat, aspiration into the lungs, suffocation, or pneumonia in some instances, such as with strychnine ingestion, corrosives like lye and strong acids, or petroleum distillates like kerosene, gasoline, coal oil, fuel oil, paint thinner, or cleaning fluid. If ingestion of caustics has occurred and vomiting is contraindicated, dilution is the preferred initial treatment. You can give milk, yogurt, and water orally to dilute the caustic and reduce potential damage. Administer small volumes (0.25 to 0.50 teaspoon) to avoid causing spontaneous vomiting.

If induction of vomits is necessary:

When administering hydrogen peroxide, it is generally more effective if food is present in the stomach. If the pet has yet to eat, feed a small meal before inducing vomiting. Check the potency of hydrogen peroxide before usage by observing for bubbling or foaming when a small amount is poured into a sink. The recommended dose of hydrogen peroxide is approximately 1 ml (cc) per 1 pound of body weight. It can be mixed with Kool-Aid or another liquid to encourage ingestion and should be given quickly to prevent foaming before drinking. After administering hydrogen peroxide, encourage the pet to be active to increase agitation and ensure it bubbles in the stomach, inducing vomiting. Most animals should vomit within 10 to 15 minutes. If the initial dose is unsuccessful, a second dose of hydrogen peroxide can be administered. After emesis, rinse the mouth to remove any remaining hydrogen peroxide. Ensure that the pet does not re-ingest the vomit.

If you use syrup of ipecac, please know that it takes longer to work than hydrogen peroxide, and there is a risk of cardiac toxicity if emesis does not occur. The syrup of ipecac has been taken off the market, so it is unlikely it will be available in the future. One study found that vomiting in pets occurred at doses of 1/4 to 1 ml(cc) per every 2 pounds of body weight. Other agents, such as diluted liquid dishwashing detergent or dried mustard, can be used in an emergency if nothing else is available; however, they are unreliable. Salt should never be used as an emetic because it can cause life-threatening hypernatremia, especially if the animal does not vomit.

The most common (this does not mean the only ones) exposures reported to the Animal Poison Control are:

  • Miscellaneous medications
  • Cleaning products (including bleaches)
  • Insecticides
  • Flea products
  • Ibuprofen
  • Anticoagulant rodenticides
  • Chocolate
  • Acetaminophen
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • Bromethalin
  • Toxic plants
  • Paint and other petroleum derivates.
  • Soaps and shampoos

The behavior of monkeys and many other exotic and domestic pets may predispose them to toxic exposures. In many cases, their small size places them at a higher risk of severe intoxication. Treating toxicity in monkeys and other exotic pets should be approached like in other species. Stabilizing general treatments should be started at home, and specific therapy for a toxicant should be quickly done at the veterinarian’s office when available.

As a rule,

If small amounts of low-toxicity substances like some cleaning products happen, it is enough to dilute it with Kool-Aid and water; if symptoms like vomiting occur, it can usually be managed symptomatically by withholding food and water for a few hours.

If, on the other hand, something like Bleach or Lye is ingested, they cause tissue damage ranging from irritation to corrosion, and injury depends on the concentration of the corrosive agent. At the same time, dilute solutions may be irritating, concentrated solutions may be highly dangerous, and because pain is not immediate, animals may consume large amounts of the agent. The injury may extend beyond the oral cavity and include damage to the esophagus and stomach. In addition, the full extent of the injury may not be evident for 24 hours.

Immediate care for alkaline corrosive ingestion is dilution with milk or water; vomiting is contraindicated; sadly, activated charcoal does not bind these agents and may impede the healing of ulcers. In cases like this, any attempts to neutralize an alkaline substance with an acid and vice versa are contraindicated, as this may lead to the release of heat, which can further damage the soft tissue.

These examples reaffirm the importance of taking your pet to the veterinarian as soon as an accident happens. Treating at home helps slow the process in most cases, but something other than professional veterinary care will not offer a safe and complete treatment plan,

Always seek professional veterinary care from your exotic veterinarian.

Immediate and appropriate action is crucial when dealing with injuries and potential toxic exposures in monkeys and other exotic pets. Open wounds and sores must be kept clean, and the monkey should be prevented from further irritating these areas to avoid infection. Using a gentle approach, employ items like cones, clothing, or wraps to restrict the monkey’s access to the wound. Caution should be taken to ensure the wound is not wrapped too tightly, as this can disrupt blood supply to the area.

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