Since 2000, when veterinarian Susan Horton began working at the Animal 911 (now BluePearl animal hospital) on Dempster Street, she dreamed of opening her own clinic strictly for rabbits, reptiles, birds and other exotic pets.
Last April, her dream was finally realized when, just two doors down from BluePearl, Horton opened Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital.
“I’ve been planning this for the last 15 years,” Horton said at an open house for Chicago Exotics on Sunday. “The people who work here, we’ve always wanted to do this. We needed that. We were outgrowing our space over there.”
Horton said although it took time, her new practice is now complete with four exam rooms, eight technicians and five doctors who perform everything from dental care to acupuncture and chiropractic work on all kinds of exotic pets.
“It’s a different field because there’s so much more they have to cover,” Horton said. “For example, rabbit dental problems are a highly specialized area. For reptiles, it’s all about knowing what they need in their environment to keep them healthy. Every exotic vet has lots of extensive training.”
The array of animals that are welcomed for treatment at Chicago Exotics is broad. Wallabies, prairie dogs, hedgehogs, snakes, reptiles, ferrets, mice, rats and birds are just some of the patients that veterinarians and staff are trained to treat.
“I’ve been waiting. I think it’s wonderful,” said Sandy Bredehoft of Arlington Heights, owner of two birds. “We’ve been coming since it opened up. I’m an ER nurse. They have everything here that you’d have in a hospital.”
A surgical suite, special cages for animals that need extra heat and a laser used for stimulation and anti-inflammatory purposes are some of the features of Chicago Exotics.
Representatives from Wheeling-based Friends of Scales Reptile Rescue and the Red Door Animal Shelter in Rogers Park brought in animals to Sunday’s open house to interact with the public.
“We love this clinic,” said Toni Greetis, vice president of Red Door. “It’s great they have their own space now. As soon as we get a rabbit, they come here for exams and then when they’re ready, they get spayed and neutered and then they’re ready for adoption.”
Chicago resident Karen Furnweger, owner of 14 turtles and two birds, said she finds Chicago Exotics to be a much more comfortable place to take her many animals than a traditional vet clinic.
“They treat them like they’re their own,” she said. “I feel such confidence coming here.”
Horton said veterinarians and technicians at Chicago Exotics are all specifically trained on the varying metabolisms and infectious organisms that are unique to reptiles.
“Their metabolism and how they handle medicine is very different from a rabbit,” she said.
Fish, chickens and ducks are also welcome at Chicago Exotics. Horton said she has even done a few surgical procedures on fish using a machine that keeps water running over the gills.
Horton said she has a lifetime of passion and experience with companion animals of all kinds.
“I’ve had just about every pet you can imagine,” she said. “Exotics is all I ever wanted to do.”
Horton said Chicago Exotics sees about 12 to 18 animals a day, which keep veterinarians and technicians busy with procedures like blood draws and medication administration that differ from small animal medicine.
“I like the exotics,” said technician Rachel Wintheisher. “It’s a little more flexible. It’s so much more variety. You learn a lot more about different medicines and treatment.”
Because such a clinic is rare, Horton said since opening, Chicago Exotics has drawn clients from Indiana, Wisconsin and even as far as Tennessee.
“We’ve been doing really, really well,” said technician Erica Mede. “This place is a dream come true for us. We couldn’t ask for a better building or better clients.”
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