Your Veterinary Voice Episode 11: Laurie Hess, DVM, DABVP (avian)

Your Veterinary Voice Episode 11: Laurie Hess, DVM, DABVP (avian)

One of our favorite exotic vet sits down to talk with us about her new book, the big pet-killing mystery she solved, and explain why it's awesome—and sometimes nerve-racking—for cat and dog vets to treat exotics. (Bonus tip: Oral penicillin kills rabbits, folks. Beware!)

Laurie Hess works with those patients that don't march in the hundreds through farm lots or pitter-patter around on cat trees or run loose, barking, oin the park.

They're the so-called "exotics," which these days just seems to be anything and everything that people keep as pets that doesn't fit into farm animals, cats and dogs.

And she's written a book, Unlikely Companions, which I've interviewed her on camera about. (Read all about that and watch it here.) But before reading the book and asking the followup questions, I had a chance to sit down with Laurie (I'm sorry, I've known her for a few years and it feels weird to call her "Hess") for a long conversation about exotics work, the personal life she lays bare (uncomfortably so?) and her thoughts on those sugar glider kiosks in the mall.

Wanna dive into the highlights? We've got your entry points below ...

At 01:26, Laurie opens up about her pride at her practice but also a little guilt as a hard-working veterinarian who's also a mom.

"I'm proud of the veterinarian I am, and I'm proud of the mother that I am."

At 03:15, Laurie humors me in asking about her an awfully cliche question: What have exotics taught you about life? Her answer does not disappoint, and she shares a little about what she thinks traditional veterinarians should know about the importance of exotics in their owners' lives.

"I've worked with kids on the autism spectrum, and I've learned how animals help kids communicate."

At 04:52, we learn a little bit about what it's like to try to "shop" a book around the New York City publishing scene.

At 06:40, we talk about the big mystery at the heart of the book, a frightening epidemic of dead and dying sugar gliders.

At 07:51, Laurie explains how it's a species-by-species basis on which she judges the appropriateness of an animal as a pet. She gives an example of one wild animal she'd rather folks didn't keep at home, and shares some tough conversations she has with clients with the wrong ideas about their new exotic pet.

"I treat snakes up to about 100 pounds, and that's about as big as I want to go."

At 13:46, we hear about species Laurie just can't handle. Turns out, it's not the species, but the size of the species. And, y'know insects, arachnids and crustaceans.

At 14:44, Laurie's spoken at our CVC shows before on how to get started on exotics work as a beginner. So I ask her to give it to us straight: Is it profitable for GPs to get into exotics work?

"Rabbits are exploding, that's not a joke. I see more rabbits in practice than anything else right now."

At 20:38, Laurie digs into her advice and frustrations involving the relationship between general practitioners and specialists. Could we just have a little better communication, folks?

At 27:14, our last bit here is a look by Laurie into the future of her practice and staffing. And her final big message to everyone about exotics.

"Please please take care of your exotic pet. There's so much we can do for them."