Latest news and conversation around the news from Westchester, Rockland and the Hudson Valley.
BloggersSarah Armaghan Nik Bonopartis John Dyer Meghan E. Murphy Timothy O'Connor Matt Sartwell Kenneth Schachter Jillian Sederholm Christian Wade Thomas Zambito Ryan Chatelain Mae Cheng Karl de Vries Nirmal Mitra
Westchester hospital is for the birds, and other exotic pets
Finding a vet to treat Fido and Whiskers is an easy enough task, but where do you go when your hedgehog gets an ear infection or your wallaby breaks a leg?
Paging Dr. Laurie Hess, owner of the Veterinary Center of Birds & Exotics in Bedford Hills, the only all-bird-and-exotic-animal hospital in Westchester County and one of the few accredited specialty animal hospitals in the country.
The hospital's waiting room looks more like a zoo than a typical vet's office. There are no puppies or kitties here; Hess' more than 4,000 patients include an array of less common and downright unusual pets.
PHOTOS: Exotic vet in the Hudson Valley
"We treat everybody other than cats and dogs, so lots of birds, ferrets, rabbits, rodents like guinea pigs, chinchillas, and hamsters and gerbils. All kinds of reptiles: turtles, tortoises, snakes, lots of lizards. Some amphibians like toads and frogs, and then some fun things like sugar gliders, hedgehogs, an occasional wallaby," Hess said.
Hess has worked in the exotic animal field for 19 years and has made several television appearances, including "The Martha Stewart Show," "The Doctors" and "Good Day NY."
Hospital services range from regular checkups to intense medical treatment for the animals. On Tuesday, the doctor was in surgery to remove part of an iguana's dewlap, the flap of skin that hangs on the underside of its jaw, that had become infected.
Although there are regular veterinarians in the area that see exotic pets, Dr. Hess emphasized that she wanted to create a place that was dedicated exclusively to such creatures.
"Unfortunately, people don't think to take care of them like a cat or a dog. You naturally take your cat or dog to the veterinarian for shots or for a heartworm test, and that's really not the case with a cockatiel or a turtle," she said.
Hess explained that many people buy exotic pets on a whim because they are "cool or different" without realizing what it takes to care for the pets.
"Our goal is to really educate the public that owns these animals that they need regular preventative medical care just like cats and dogs, and you shouldn't wait to establish a relationship with a veterinarian until they're sick," Hess said. "You should do it beforehand and learn how to take care of them properly so you can prevent them from getting sick."