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Focus Area – Small and Exotic Animal

(Formerly known as the Avian and Exotic Animal Emphasis area)

This focus area is appropriate for students seeking to emphasize training in both small animal and exotic animal practice. In the veterinary context, “exotic animal” medicine is a subset of zoological medicine and refers to the common non dog/cat/farm species kept by private citizens and small collections. The most common exotic animal species are birds (especially parrots and backyard poultry), small mammals (e.g. rabbits, ferrets, hamsters etc.) and reptiles. A variety of other species, including wildlife, fish, and other vertebrate and invertebrate species are also seen by exotic animal clinicians. Most exotic animal species are seen as part of a small animal (dog/cat) practice or specialized exotic animal practice. Many exotic animal veterinarians also work with small collections and wildlife rehabilitation centers.  Post-DVM training is available through continuing education, internship and residency programs. Board certification is available through the American College of Zoological Medicine (Zoological Companion Animal Emphasis) and the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (Avian Practice, Exotic Companion Mammal Practice, and Reptile and Amphibian Practice).

Students pursuing this focus area will have the following requirements in addition to those in Small Animal Practice (SAP): (1) an advisor from  in Exotic Animal Medicine (see below), (2) enrollment in three selectives to be chosen from the lists below, (3) enrollment in VMC 988 Exotic Animal Medicine in the fourth year, and (4) one fourth-year externship (VMC 963) at an approved exotic animal practice (which may require travel outside the Triangle area). One less specialty rotation is required than SAP, so the total number of required blocks in the 4th year is the same (15).

Focus Area Leader & Advisor

Steps to pursue a focus in Small and Exotic Animal Medicine

  •  Determine if this is the focus area for you. Any of the listed advisors can help you decide and recommend mentors.
  • Complete 3 credits of approved Exotic Animal selectives during years 1-3 of the DVM program.
  • Start planning externships for summers (optional) and 4th year.
  • Identify an advisor in Exotic Animal medicine and join the focus area by the focus area deadline date (the Friday following spring break of 2nd year) — you can join earlier if you wish. EAM faculty are listed above.
  • Plan 4th year CVM rotations with your focus area mentors.

Year 1-3 Courses

Required Exotic Animal Medicine Selectives – 3 Required


Note that course offerings are subject to change, additional selectives may be offered in future semesters, and that not all selectives are offered every year.
Plan carefully with your Advisor and Student Development.

Choose 2 from this list:

  • Advanced Ferret Medicine
  • Advanced Herptile Medicine
  • Advanced Fish Medicine
  • Avian Anatomy & Physiology
  • Primate Medicine
  • Invertebrate Medicine
  • Avian Pathology I
  • Avian Pathology II

Choose 1 from the list of selectives on the Zoological Medicine Focus Area Page

Recommended Courses

Consult with your advisor. See the Small Animal Practice Focus Area page for recommended Small Animal selectives.

Year 4 Required Rotations

The Small and Exotic Animal Medicine focus area has a total of 15 required blocks. The remaining 9 blocks are to be chosen under the direction of the focus area faculty advisor.

Clinical Year Requirements below effective for the Class of 2018. For questions about past requirements, please consult Student Development.


  • VMB 977: Anesthesia
  • VMB 976: Radiology
  • VMP 977: Autopsy/Clinical Pharmacology
  • VMP 978: Clinical Pathology
  • VMC 971: SA Med (2 blocks consecutive)
  • VMC 939: Small Animal Primary Care
  • VMC 973G: Small Animal Soft Tissue Surgery
  • VMC 973O: Small Animal Orthopedic Surgery
  • VMC 988: Exotic Animal Medicine
  • VMC 963: Zoo Med Extramural (must be a practice with at least 30% exotic animal caseload)
  • VMC 995 Clinical Conference

Three of the Following:

  • VMC 972: Cardiology
  • VMC 983: Dermatology
  • VMC 984: Neurology
  • VMC 980: Oncology
  • VMC 982A: Small Animal Ophthalmology

One of the Following:

  • VMC 960: SA Emergency
  • VMC 976: Vet Critical Care


  • VMC 996: Advanced Exotic Animal Medicine
  • VMC 986: SA Medicine – Adv.
  • VMB 976A: Ultrasound
  • VMC 994: SA Extramural (opt.)

Other Experiences

Employment Opportunities/Externships/Funding

  • CVM Summer Research Internship Program
  • Research opportunities with individual faculty
  • Student research grant opportunities (Hitchings, Dodge, Morris, etc.)
  • Externship opportunities


Students may benefit from attending a conference. Annual meetings to consider include those sponsored by the following organizations. Check websites of these organizations listed below for the latest information on upcoming meetings.

Annual Meetings:

Rounds/Seminars/Journal Clubs

  • CBS 817/818 Advanced Topics in Zoological Medicine 1&2. Usually held on Thursdays from 4:15 – 6:00 PM. Lecture, journal review, case presentations and discussion on zoological species.
  • Clinical Conference: Fridays, 8:00 a.m. Senior students present topics; some on exotic animal medicine.

Extracurricular Activities

  • WAAZM (Wildlife, Avian, Aquatic and Zoo Medicine)
  • Turtle Rescue Team
  • Wild Carnivore Team
  • Invertebrate Medicine Club
  • Zoo Veterinary Day Camps

Other Useful Information

Recommended Journals

  • Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery
  • Journal of Reptile Medicine and Surgery
  • Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine
  • Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice
  • Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
  • Journal of Veterinary Research
  • Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
  • Journal of Wildlife Disease

Recommended Memberships

There are many organizations you can join depending on your species and career interests. Many offer good information and networking opportunities.

Computer and Internet Resource Sites

Recent/Current Number of Small and Exotic Animal Focused Students

(note: this was formerly known as the Small Animal /Avian and Exotic Animal emphasis area).

  • Class 2013: 6
  • Class 2014: 15
  • Class 2015: 6
  • Class 2016: 8
  • Class 2017: 9
  • Class 2018: 12
  • Class 2019: 9
  • Class 2020: 9
  • Class 2021: 13
  • Class 2022: 15
  • Class 2023: 16
  • Class 2024: 0 declared to date