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News / Life / Pets & Wildlife

Vet’s exotic pets practice focus of TV show

The Columbian
Published: October 2, 2014, 5:00pm

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — In South Florida’s exotic pet circles, she’s known as Dr. K.

If a rat has to be neutered, a prairie dog requires a tooth extraction or a ferret needs a pacemaker, people know to turn to Dr. Susan Kelleher at the Broward Avian & Exotic Animal Hospital in Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Now everyone else can see her at work, too, when her new six-episode series, “Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER,” premieres Saturday on the Nat Geo Wild cable channel.

“On any given day, I might see 11 different species. It always presents a new challenge,” said Kelleher, a married mother of three in Loxahatchee, Fla. “A lot of the species I see are prey animals, like birds, rabbits and small mammals. By nature, it’s their instinct to hide their symptoms of illness.”

Kelleher’s motto: “Everything but dogs and cats. If it will fit through the door, I’ll treat it.”

Her motivation, she said, was seeing people adopting exotic pets without having the experience to care for them. She wants to educate people so they don’t end up hurting the animals.

“I want people to know how important these pets are … I want them to know the level of care available to them,” she said. “My main priority is to ensure animals stay healthy and get the proper care.”

The show is not for the faint of heart. Close-ups of surgeries include a rat being neutered and the tooth extraction of a prairie dog named Dexter. Cameras also capture how resourceful Kelleher can be in treating her patients.

In the first episode, she helped degrease the wings of a yellow cockatiel. To keep it warm, Kelleher used one of her son’s pull-up diapers, hooking it up to a machine that circulates warm air. Then she wrapped the diaper around the little bird.

“With these teeny-tiny animals, a huge factor in helping them through the crisis is keeping them warm,” she said.