Thinking out of the box

Often in exotic pet practice, we face cases that puzzle us because symptoms don’t match anything previoulsy described in the literature; or we can’t test the disease we think our patient has just because there is no test available; or maybe we already have a diagnosis but the treatment has been only described for cats and dogs, or there are no published doses for the species we are dealing with.

I’m sure that, if you still don’t know what I’m talking about and you are an exotic pet vet, you will sooner or later.

What can be done in these situations?

Get out of the exotic field, think out of the box. If a disease, test or treatment is not described in the literature it doesn’t necessarily mean that in can’t exist, or be diagnosed, or can’t be treated. It doesn’t even mean that no one else has seen it before, it just means that nobody has written about it. Thus, you can
Check the cat and dog, laboratory animal and even farm animal literature; human medicine literature as well. If animals can be used as models for human disease, humans can also be used as models for animals diseases.

Try to adapt a test that has been designed for a species different from our patient’s. Sometimes it’s just a matter of adapting an existing equipment, as it has been done with MRI in rabbits using a human knee coil (if you want to know what I’m talkig about, click here).

Look for simmilar drugs with known doses for the species you’re working with, adapt surgical techniques that have been described for other species.
Invent, innovate: If whaterver we need does not exist, we can make it up; if the causes that until now explained a certain pathology can’t be applied to our case, maybe there are other casuses. Tools, techniques, surgical approaches, etc. We must keep an open mind to improve the things that have been already done, to see what hasn’t been seen yet (like the ferret systemic coronavirus, here). Emerging diseases have often been there for a while, but you only diagnose them when you star looking for them.
In exotic pet medicine there are many things to discover and learn, and if we limit ourselves to what has been described we will never discover new things. And, between us, isn’t this the funniest part of our profession?

What do you do when you face these situations? Share your experiences in the commets!

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