Treating the Exotic Pet

Caide Wooten has a soft spot for the exotics of Missoula

What can you do when your hedgehog is hurting?  Make an appointment to see Doctor McCaide “Caide” Wooten at Missoula’s Pruyn Veterinary Hospital. Caide is one of eight veterinarians at Pruyn and although he sees his share of dogs and cats, Caide is also eager to face the unique challenges of treating animals on the more exotic side of the spectrum.

When did you become interested in working with animals?

I think I’m a little different from a lot of people who go to veterinary school. There’s a majority of your classmates who will say, “I’ve wanted to be a vet since I was five years old.” That wasn’t really the case for me. I asked my parents if they thought I would end up working with animals and they didn’t really know. We had a bunch of different kinds of pets growing up like fish, chickens, turkeys, dogs, cats, and birds so I’ve always had an interest. I decided I wanted to go to vet school when I graduated high school, which is a little later than a lot of people. Luckily it worked out.  

What education did you receive to become a veterinarian?

I went to North Carolina State University for undergraduate and vet school.  I studied animal science and poultry science as an undergrad and planned on going into commercial poultry medicine. Then I got into vet school and decided that wasn’t the career path I wanted to go down. I had always had interest in non-domesticated species and exotic companion animals so I decided to focus more on that. At NC State we had focus area tracks and I did a zoological medicine track, which gave me more exposure working with nontraditional species.  

How did you land in Missoula?

I’m really interested in outdoor activities so I was looking for jobs in the places like the Pacific Northwest and Colorado. I found that Pruyn had opportunities for a new graduate that a lot of other hospitals didn’t. Dr. Shoni Card at Pruyn sees exotics so she’s been a great resource. Plus, the [unique nature] of Missoula and western Montana is that there isn’t a lot of specialty centers very close by so we see a number of cases that most general practices probably wouldn’t manage. It’s been a really great learning experience in that regard.  

People hear “exotic” animal and they likely think of lions and tigers. Explain what an exotic animal is in the veterinary field. 

I would consider an exotic animal to be anything other than a traditional domestic species, excluding livestock, dogs, and cats. Any birds, small mammals, reptiles, and even poultry can sometimes get lumped into that. Backyard chickens would be considered an exotic species.  

What are the challenges with working with exotic versus domesticated animals?

Medicine is medicine regardless of the species so exotic animal medicine isn’t necessarily any different than dog, cat, or cattle medicine. The challenges come in because we just don’t have as much experience working with a lot of these species and there’s not as much science available to back up drug protocols or certain diseases. And sometimes when you’re working with animals that are so tiny there’s only so many feasible diagnostic tests you can run. If you’re working with a 60 gram bird and you want to try to run bloodwork but you can only safely take half a cc (cubic centimeter) of blood that can limit the number of tests you can run. There are unique challenges but at the base of it you’re just applying the same thing you learned in vet school, just to different species.  

Describe a typical day for you at the hospital.

Really no days are the same, which keeps my life interesting. We’ll see between 12 and 20 patients a day while managing between one to five in-patients at a time. It’s mostly dogs and cats and then depending on the day we may see guinea pigs, rats, mice, snakes, lizards, birds, and sugar gliders.  

Do you have an unusual case treating an exotic animal you would like to share?

We had an interesting case with an African Pygmy Hedgehog recently that had a mass in its abdomen and I was able to watch Dr. Card remove it. It turned out to be a mass in the vesicular gland, which is a reproductive gland. The mass was really large and overgrown and was obstructing his normal movement and his digestive tract. We thought at the time that it would probably be some sort of cancer because that’s not uncommon in hedgehogs but it turned out to be a benign overgrowth of the tissue. 

Dr. Wooten is happy to report that the hedgehog is doing well.

Do you own an exotic animal? 

Take it to Pruyn! 

2501 S Russell Street



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