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Confidence of veterinary surgeons in the United Kingdom in treating and diagnosing exotic pet species
  1. Alison Wills and
  2. Susan Holt
  1. Department of Animal and Agriculture, Hartpury University and Hartpury College, Gloucester, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Alison Wills, Hartpury University and Hartpury College, Gloucester, UK; alison.wills{at}


Background With exotic pet species commonplace in the UK, owners are increasingly seeking veterinary advice regarding the health and welfare of their small mammals and reptiles. This study aimed to assess the confidence of veterinarians in the UK in treating and diagnosing rabbits, guinea pigs, small mammals and reptiles.

Methods A 41-question survey was promoted via social media, including on interest groups focused specifically at veterinary professionals. A total of 131 practising veterinarians in the UK completed the questionnaire.

Results Frequency of presentation of exotic pets to a practice had a significant effect (P<0.01) on the confidence of veterinarians in treating them. Veterinarians who were presented with exotics more frequently had increased self-reported knowledge of their health and disease and were more confident in treating, diagnosing and anaesthetising them. Knowledge of and confidence in diagnosing and treating exotic pets were significantly less than for dogs and cats (P<0.001). There was a significant effect of length of time qualified on confidence in treating exotic pet species (P<0.01).

Conclusions Increased provision and engagement with continuing professional development may increase veterinary confidence in diagnosing, treating and anaesthetising exotic pet species that are less commonly encountered in practice.

  • exotics
  • rabbits
  • guinea pigs
  • reptiles
  • rodents
  • veterinary profession

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval for this study was granted by the Hartpury University Ethics Committee on November 6, 2018 (ETHICS2018-08).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. The authors are happy to provide the full version of the questionnaire to interested parties. Please contact the corresponding author for further details.

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