The veterinary technology degree program at Minnesota School of Business-Lakeville has been busy hosting many different types of exotic animals on campus this quarter. With students in the Lab Animals, and Exotics and Pocket Pets class, it has been the perfect opportunity for students to become immersed with a multitude of rare types of pets that they will be working with in their careers.
In partnering with Barb Maxwell from Lakeville Animal Control, we met Abigail the cockatoo and Gedney the Sun Conure. Barb has been rescuing and rehabilitating birds for many years and was gracious enough to let us practice our skills on the two largest birds currently in her care.
The vet tech students first began with learning how to approach the birds by taking them out of their cages and putting them back in. Once they were comfortable handling them, students then learned alternative restraint techniques specific to birds. By wrapping Abigail and Gedney in a towel they were able to safely clip their nails, trim their wings, and perform physical exams.
Gedney was also used by the students to learn how to properly restrain and radiograph a bird. Small animals and rodents require alternative techniques to safely take X-rays to limit a technician’s exposure to radiation. Due to their size, the utilization of restraint devices is required for all veterinary technicians to learn. Gedney was successfully radiographed last week by the students on their first try!
Reptile week started off with the introduction of Nigel the Dumeril’s Boa. Nigel was rescued several years ago by our own adjunct instructor, Dr. Anna Robinson, and is approximately 4 feet in length. The students spent the day with Nigel studying the differences in reptile anatomy and physiology and discussing the unique care that reptiles require as compared to cats, dogs, rabbits and other mammals they will encounter.
The students were unaware how very lucky they were, because Nigel had just been fed the day before his visit to campus. Depending on what type and size of the snake, they can eat animals ranging from small mice up to a large rat. When the radiograph of Nigel was developed, we were able to see the remains of Nigel’s meal from the day before. Since we do not house reptiles on campus this was a very good opportunity for the students to be a part of. Everyone even had a chance to interact with Nigel (or overcome their fear of snakes).
We ended the week with a wonderful guest speaker, Jan Larson, from the Minnesota Herpetological Society. Not only was she wonderfully informative but she brought along 10 different reptiles for us to see and touch!
First we met the six snakes: a hognose, fox snake, milk snake, California king snake, bull snake, and python. The hognose, fox snake and bull snake are native to the state of Minnesota and non-poisonous. The bull snake was the longest at just over 5 feet in length, and most non-captive bull snakes in the state of Minnesota average between 6-8 feet in total length.
Snakes grow throughout their entire lives; however, in their first 6 years of life they grow the most rapidly. They require a very specific habitat, diet (usually only fed once or twice per month) and care. It is important to understand these needs before adopting or buying a snake as a pet.
Next we met a Russian tortoise, painted turtle, box turtle and a blue-tongued skink. What makes turtles and tortoises unique is that they grow very slowly and live on average 50-80 years depending on the species. They also can survive on a diet consisting of mainly greens/vegetables as well as bugs, worms and crickets. Similar to a snake, they require very specialized habitats that have a dry area, wet area and basking area.
Lastly was the American alligator named Hyde. She was the highlight of the visit. She is currently almost 5 feet in length and weighs approximately 45 pounds. She will not be at her full mature length until she is 7-9 feet in total length. Alligators are not native to Minnesota; she was found in an alley in North Minneapolis when she was 18 inches long. Most likely she was a pet that was let loose outdoors and was brought to the Herpetological Society where she was then adopted by Jan’s son while she was out of town. She lives comfortably in a habitat in Jan’s basement, and enjoys sitting in her lap.
It was an exciting week here in Lakeville. Not only can our veterinary technology students say that they touched an alligator, but they also learned about the benefits of volunteering to help rescued and abandoned animals of all types.
For more information about unique learning experiences like these and the veterinary technology program, call us today at 952-892-9000.
By Nicole Nieman, Minnesota School of Business-Lakeville, Veterinary Technology Program Chair