Pythons, bearded dragons and cockatiels are not the traditional fauna in Spain, but they regularly arrive at the Los Sauces Veterinary Centre, a leading pet clinic in Madrid. Alongside nine fellow veterinarians and seven nurses, centre director Dr Maria Ardiaca attends to around 3,500 patients per year, from small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and even invertebrates.
Specialising in exotic pets can be challenging, not least because of the vast diversity in their anatomies and physiologies. For example, Dr Ardiaca’s avian patients include African grey parrots, budgerigars, cockatiels, lovebirds and other parrots, as well as canary finches and pigeons. They also regularly see rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, degus, rats, hamsters, ferrets and minipigs. And, of course, their fair share of reptiles; turtles and tortoises, bearded dragons, geckos, boas, pythons, milk and corn snakes. In the fish and amphibians’ hospital, it’s not uncommon for Dr Ardiaca and her colleagues to treat axolotls, goldfish, betta fish, frogs and toads. It’s an extraordinary mix, that requires the centre to provide a comprehensive around-the-clock service, offering consultation, diagnosis, hospitalisation, surgery and anaesthesia. They also have an internal laboratory where blood work, cytological or coprological analyses are performed.
For diagnostic imaging and image-guided biopsies, most examinations are performed in-house, but the team also works with specialists and advisors in different fields to offer the best options for their patients. Los Sauces veterinarians are able to perform direct digital radiology, endoscopy and ultrasound examinations. But for CT and MR studies, they work with specialised veterinary imaging centres, Diez Bru Diagnostico por Imagen Veterinario and with the Multidisciplinary Institute (UCM) in Madrid. However, to complete their diagnostic imaging capacities, Dr Ardiaca and her team recently introduced the new Canon Medical Aplio i800 ultrasound to the centre. The system will help perform abdominal and thoracic examinations, ultrasound-guided biopsies and nerve blocks, as well as echocardiography scans for an estimated 600 exotic patients every year, with this likely to increase as more and more people adopt such animals as pets.