UC Davis 4th Year Clinics – Companion Avian & Pet Exotics (CAPE)

CAPE, or the companion and avian pet exotics service was not a required rotation for the students on the small animal track, though I felt it was invaluable to me as I have a desire to work with animals aside from dogs and cats.

# of Students: 2-3
# of Residents: 1-3
# of Faculty: 1-2
And some fantastic techs to help you with just about anything & everything!

Hours: 7:00am-7pm regularly, not including on call during the week.

Rounds: Rounds are not necessarily at any given time on any given day but they are fit in when they can. They are usually intended to cover certain important topics that the faculty and residents feel it is imperative for us to know.

Caseload: Expect to be busy and seeing 2-4 appointments per day and perhaps emergencies too.

Your Role: Get a good history from the clients. You may do a physical examination on your own though most often you do it with the doctor in the treatment so that the animal doesn’t have to be repeatedly examined. Because exotics are not hugely represented in our veterinary school education the residents and faculty will more often than not talk you through the case and problems, diagnostics, etc, which makes for a fantastic learning opportunity. You and the resident will discuss treatment options and plans with clients and proceed from there. Animals that are hospitalized are not necessarily one person’s sole responsibility, which is nice. All students and residents are present for treatments along with a treatment crew, consisting of a few students from years one through three of veterinary school, who come in to assist with treatments for the service on a volunteer basis. This is also a great opportunity for you, as students, to help teach them what you know or have learned! Treatment crew is usually at 7am and 5pm every day of the week, including weekends.

On Call: At the beginning of each week, students sign up for evening and weekend on call shifts. There may be students in years 1 through 3 who take a few of the on call shifts for the week to give you a break, which is incredibly nice! For on call, you are expected to field phone calls from the public and clients up until 10pm and offer advice for whether they should be seen immediately or wait. After 10pm the only person to receive calls is the resident on call and the only appointments that are able to be seen on an emergency basis between 10pm and 8am are the pets of already established clients who have been seen by the service within the past year. This helps limit a lot of the cases, though it still can get busy after normal receiving hours.

Records: You are responsible for history, physical exam, daily SOAPs, discharge instructions and summaries. CAPE records are more detailed than other services in that they also have you fill in a medical procedures area that often seems superfluous.

Weekends: Don’t expect to see much of your weekends while on this rotation. You will likely be coming in at 7am and 5pm for treatments no matter what. If you are on call, expect to be called in. There’s always some bird or wild mammal found on the road or something of the sort that needs your attention.

  • You will gain invaluable hands on experience with birds, reptiles, small mammals and wildlife!
  • Learning how to handle and properly restrain exotics.
  • There’s a lot of self learning since there is not a ton of information out there on exotics, so when you field client calls during the day and evening, you will have to do some research to figure out what is normal and abnormal for patients and this will help those of you who learn through experience and looking things up as opposed to simply being told a piece of information.


  • The hours are taxing at times, but I never felt it like I did on neuro. I enjoyed just about every moment on this rotation and found that it was so fantastic to have such wonderful residents and techs to work with!
  • Though it’s two weeks more experience than I previously had, two weeks is not enough to be comfortable and capable being a veterinarian for exotics. However, the self-learning will help you if you end up in a practice that also sees exotics so you know where to turn for information.
  • There is a lot of euthanasia. I went through my first week without euthanizing a single patient, however my second week was not as lucky. This is something that comes with the territory when good samaritans are able to come by the hospital and drop off any wild animal they found along the road or in their yard. It’s sad, but you need to remind yourself that these animals are better off being euthanized than suffering as they slowly die on the side of a road.


  • One of my favorite moments was taking a 12 foot overweight boa to be ultrasounded to determine it’s gender. It took five people to hold this snake and it was a lot of fun for everyone involved!
  • I helped nurse back to health an elderly duck that had a wound on its rear and was covered in maggots! It was absolutely disgusting to handle this situation at first and we spent a good 30-45 minutes bathing this duck — twice — to remove all of the maggots from her and clean her up. She perked up a lot after being treated and even spent a week boarding with me as part of her care as her owner had a trip already planned to be out of state. She was a ton of fun as a patient and it was great to see her go from a very quiet and sick duck to a duck that was perky and so excited to get in the swimming pool I created for her twice per day as part of her exercise routine. I will never forget that little girl!
  • This rotation was all I needed to prepare for my National Board Exam (NAVLE) with respect to the exotics questions!