Zoological Medicine

Welcome to VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital's Zoological Medicine and Surgery Department

Zoological medicine, or ZooMED, is the branch of veterinary medicine that treats zoological companion animals, also known as exotic pets.

We understand that zoological companion animals (a.k.a. exotics) are unique and delicate. Their anatomy and physiology is vastly different from dogs and cats yet they require the same amount of expertise and care. Our ZooMED Department is prepared to meet their unique needs with specialized equipment as well as the expertise to help diagnose and treat your pet. We have dedicated hospitalization areas and examination rooms to keep your special friend safe and comfortable. Everything about our department was carefully planned to provide you and your unique pet with the utmost compassionate and specialized care.

One might think that zoological companion animals refer to the animals we see in a zoological institution (elephant, giraffe, sea lions, zebras, among others). But the definition is much broader and include all the lovely unique pets you have at home!

Avian, Exotic, Zoological companion animal? I am confused.

You are not alone when it comes to understanding the official name for this group of animals, often referred to as “avian and exotics”, “exotics” or “zoological companion animals”. Different associations and colleges use different names, but for the most part we are referring to the same group of animals. VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital has chosen our department name, “Zoological Medicine and Surgery” because it best reflects the entire scope of the different species we treat.

We are committed to promote the health and wellness of your best friend!

Zoological companion animals is the nomenclature officially used by the American College of Zoological Medicine (ACZM). That includes small mammals (rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, ferrets), birds (parrots, love birds, cockatiels, cockatoos, finches, macaws, toucans, chickens), reptiles (turtles, tortoises, lizards, snakes), amphibians (frogs, salamanders, caecilians), fish (fresh and saltwater), and invertebrates (tarantulas, praying mantis, hermit crab).

Is zoological medicine and surgery the same as avian and exotics?

Yes. These two service names are interchangeable.

What animals does the Zoological Medicine and Surgery Department see?

We are trained and equipped to see virtually all zoological and zoological companion animals, from a tiny rodent to a large tiger. Our clients include pet owners, zoos, specially licensed exotic animal rescues, and the movie and film industry, among others. Below is a small example of the animals we see. If you are uncertain if we will be able to help your pet, just give us a call and we will be happy to answer your questions.

  • Mammals:  rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, mice, rats, hamsters
  • Birds: parrots, love birds, cockatiels, cockatoos, finches, toucans, chickens
  • Reptiles: turtles, tortoises, lizards, snakes
  • Amphibians: frogs, salamanders, and caecilians
  • Fish: goldfish, koi carp
  • Invertebrates: tarantulas, praying mantis, hermit crab


What services does the Zoological Medicine and Surgery Department provide?

We are very proud to offer the best and latest treatments and technologies. In addition, at VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital our specialists have a unique team approach in helping your pet and are ready to assist with our cases. That means that your pet will have access to our entire team of specialists, including our boarded surgeons, radiologists, criticalists, internists, behaviorists, neurologists, cardiologists, ophthalmologists, and oncologists, among others. We work together to provide the best possible care for your special and unique friend! We are equipped with the latest technology, including digital radiographs, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), linear accelerator, state-of-the-art anesthetic equipment and well-appointed surgical suites, intensive care unit (ICU), and endoscopy and endosurgery equipment.

Our services include (among others):

  • Primary care and wellness exams: We are happy to be the primary veterinarian for your pet! Just call us and schedule an appointment.
  • Referral care: We know we have great colleagues in the veterinary community that sometimes may need help with a complicated case or advanced diagnostic testing performed. We are happy to assist at any time! Just ask your veterinarian to contact us!
  • Beak and nail trim: We use small trimmers and special rotary tools to best fit your bird needs. If your bird is very anxious, we also offer light sedation during the procedure.
  • Complete dental exam and teeth trimming for rodents and rabbits: If you have a rodent or rabbit, you are probably already aware that they are prone to dental problems. But visualizing the small dental structures of rabbits and rodents can be very challenging without adequate equipment. Because their mouth and teeth structure are so small, our doctors utilize advanced endoscopy equipment (a small camera with high level magnification) to accurately pinpoint and correct dental problems in your pet.
  • Reproductive prevention in birds: Hormonal implant (deslorelin acetate) might help some birds stop laying eggs for a specific period of time. If your bird is experiencing reproductive problems and you would like to learn more about it, just give us a call. We carry the implant and are happy to help!
  • Pre and post purchase exam: If you are considering or have just acquired a new pet and want to know if he/she is healthy, just schedule an appointment with us! We will examine the pet and test for common diseases. If we discover a problem, we can treat it early before it becomes worse.
  • Gender identification of birds: With just a drop of blood sent to the laboratory we are able to tell you the gender of your bird (for birds with no sexual dimorphism when both genders look alike).
  • Gender identification of juvenile chelonians (tortoises, turtles): Whether you are a breeder in need of gender identification of juvenile chelonians (as small as 50 grams) or a curious pet owner, we are able to identify the gender of chelonians before they reach sexual maturity. Now you don't need to wait years before finding out the gender. We use a quick and minimally invasive technique with the endoscope to tell you if your pet is a male or female. We also use the same procedure to identify the gender of lizards that don't have sexual dimorphism.
  • Specific diagnostic tests: We partner with the most technologically advanced laboratories in the U.S. to provide your pet with the most specific diagnostic tests available. These include avian disease testing (e.g. chlamydiosis, aspergillosis), reptilian diseases (e.g. herpesviruses), among many others. We are also able to run a series of tests in rodents by using just a small drop of blood!
  • Imaging: We offer state-of-the-art Ultrasound, CT, MRI, digital radiography. We use the safest sedation/anesthesia protocols and provide close monitoring during all imaging procedures.
  • Surgery: Our hospital is equipped with a full complement of state-of-the-art surgical equipment and well-appointed surgery suites. We also use the safest and latest anesthesia protocols. As in human surgery your pet will be closely monitored during their entire procedure.
  • Endoscopy and endosurgery: This is our team’s expertise! Our doctors have advanced training in minimally invasive techniques, especially endoscopy. These procedures allow us to make accurate and definitive diagnoses and better help your pet! These minimally-invasive techniques enable us to perform procedures through a very small incision, resulting in less recuperative time for your pet!
  • Behavioral consultations: We have a board certified behaviorist ready to team up with us to assist with any behavioral issues your pet may be having!
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy: Our oncologists are ready to team up with us to help your pet if cancer has been diagnosed.
  • Rehabilitation: Our hospital has an outstanding Rehabilitation Department ready to team up with us on our cases! They offer a wealth of services including physical therapy, acupuncture, laser therapy, and hydrotherapy, among others, to help your pet back on the road to recovery!


Does VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital see wildlife?

We do not currently see wildlife at our facility. However, our colleagues at the California Wildlife Center do an amazing job and are always willing to provide assistance. You can contact them at (818) 222-2658 or at www.cawildlife.org. Although we don't see wildlife brought directly from the public, we always help our colleagues from local zoos, wildlife centers and rescues with advanced medical care!

Are there specialists for zoological companion animals?

Yes. While your primary veterinarian can diagnose and treat many health problems, certain diseases and conditions require the care of a doctor who has had specialized, intensive training in zoological medicine in order to provide the very best outcome for your pet.

Board Certification in zoological medicine by the American College of Zoological Medicine (ACZM): ACZM diplomates are considered specialist in all species (avian, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, and aquatics).

What is the difference between a general practitioner and an ACZM or ACZM eligible veterinarian?

ACZM diplomates and ACZM eligible veterinarians have undergone specialty training (three year residency) in zoological medicine or have six years of experience in zoological medicine. In addition, they have published at least three scientific papers in zoological medicine. Once these criteria are met they must pass an extensive examination prepared by ACZM.

General practitioners with an interest in zoological medicine have not undergone residency training.

American College of Zoological Medicine (ACZM)? What is that?

The ACZM was created in 1983. It is an international specialty organization recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) for certification of veterinarians with special expertise in zoological medicine, incliuding zoological companion animals.

Please feel free to give us a call or visit us if you have any questions - we are always happy to help! We are looking forward to meeting you and your feathered, scaly, finned, slimy, or furry friend.