An Exotic Animal Hangover

Dr. John Kaya
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Wednesday - August 24, 2011
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My eyelids are heavy with fatigue and I struggle to stay awake as burnt-out brain cells attempt to carry out my will. Simply translated: I want to fall asleep. You see, I am toiling in a dark hotel room in an attempt to provide insight to you, the reader. Veterinary stories that normally flow effortlessly from my mind sputter like random thoughts onto the illuminated screen before me.

Why am I in this quandary? That is a good question. I just sat through five days of lectures at an exotic animal conference. Information overload is an understatement.

Veterinarians, like most other professionals, seek knowledge to better serve those that they help. I am an exotic animal veterinarian seeing not only dogs and cats, but also birds, turtles, rabbits, small rodents, fish and almost any animal that enters through our hospital doors. To do my job, I must enroll in continuing education courses to keep up with the changing times. During this past week, veterinarians much smarter than I presented cutting-edge topics to a roomful of practitioners from throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. To say the conference was fun might sound geeky, but it was a blast.


Returning to the task at hand, I thumb through the list of stories that I’ve jotted down over the years. Each experience was very educational and funny, but unfortunately I can’t seem to lift the fog that clouds my mind.

Then it hit me.

What if I share one important fact that I learned at this conference? There are so many to choose from: Herpes virus transmitted from a person to a pet rabbit (oops, don’t want to cause a panic), pneumonia in a python (not practical, since there aren’t supposed to be snakes in Hawaii), anatomy of tortoises (too technical). Looking through the proceedings, I noticed a highlighted portion titled “Novel Use of Honey in Birds.”

This two-hour lecture proved quite useful, as the veterinarian reviewed all the steps and medications used to manage skin wounds in birds. I did nod off at times, but it had nothing to do with the content. Rather, it took place just before lunch and I was a bit hypoglycemic (low blood sugar levels).


Suddenly I woke to a picture that popped up on the projector screen. A veterinarian was applying raw honey to the leg of an injured eagle. I’m not sure why this image stirred me, but I think it had something to do with lunch being served soon. Amid quiet rumblings by my stomach, I contemplated the use of honey for medical purposes. According to studies, honey is said to help because it decreases swelling, kills bacteria and promotes healing. Wow, that’s some good stuff.

As the presenter concluded the lecture, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would use honey on my next avian patient. It sounded like a good idea to me, but would my clients think that I was crazy? Maybe I’ll try it on myself first to see how it goes. At this time of the night and lacking sleep, anything sounds like a good idea.

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