By Mary Lynn Campbell

penny capuchin monkey
Penny, my first monkey (age 4)

Welcome again to our monthly post about Safety-First. This time we are talking about “How To Choose A Monkey Vet.” This particular subject, when I was thinking about it, seemed to be an easy subject to write about but as I researched it more, I realized that it was a little harder than I thought.

Many times right before or during the time that I am writing one of these posts a situation will come up that puts me smack dab into the situation that I am writing a post about.  This is exactly what has happened again.

The photo above is a photo of my first monkey that I purchased which will soon to be 27 years ago. I hope you also will enjoy this next photo too.

4 year old capuchin
“Penny’s” son “Pincher” (at age 4)

For me, it was never a problem to get or find a veterinarian to care for my monkeys due to the network of monkey people that I was associated with. They had a list of vets all over the eastern part of the country. My first vet was a wonderfully talented monkey vet, namely, Dr. Paul Lamborn from Central Florida. He had earlier in his life been the head veterinarian for the Miami Zoo. He, of course, had hands-on experience of many different types of monkeys. To this day I will call upon him for a second opinion when I lose my peace about a possible monkey procedure that I may need to have for one of my monkeys. I am sending out a special thank you and blessings for him for all of his help and care of my monkeys for soon to be 27 years.

Just a few weeks ago I received a message from a new monkey lady from Facebook that was needing more information about my “Living With Monkeys” book.  She just happens to live in the same state that I live in which is Tennessee. She is from Middle-Tennessee and I am from Eastern-Tennessee.  As usual, I enjoyed hearing stories and information about her little special monkey. We spoke on the phone and decided that one day soon we would try to get together and meet.

During the next week she called and left a message for me to call her back as soon as possible. When I returned her call later that night I was told that their monkey was very ill and that she had been able to get a vet to return her call and that she was going to try to get her little monkey over to see him. His name was Dr. David Lee from Alabama and he was so wonderful to answer her call for help and to settle her down about the health of her monkey.

I have always been blessed with wonderful vets that live very close to me and I was not really aware of how hard it can be for people to not live close to a monkey vet. I always talk about how important it is to make sure you have a vet lined up to care for your monkey before you obtain a monkey but I had never thought about the feelings a monkey caregiver would go through during an emergency situation with a sick monkey when they did not have a monkey vet available. As I learned that night this can be an extremely stressful and frightening experience for the entire family of a dearly beloved sick monkey.

Things are going very well for this monkey caregiver and her monkey. I spoke with her recently and found out that she has been able to locate a local vet that has seen monkeys before and is interested in helping her do the necessary tests that are needed for her beloved monkey. This monkey will have an on-going health issue and it will be so much easier to drive a few miles to get help.

Finding a vet who has monkey experience is not always easy!

One of the most important parts of being a good “Safety-First” monkey caregiver is to do your homework about obtaining a good monkey vet. It is easier and less stressful to have one before an emergency situation might arise.

Due to the nature of a monkey emergency there is no guarantee that this chosen vet would be available during an emergency so I feel that it never hurts to have the names and numbers of several vets who will see your beloved monkey.

Starting a vet care fund is also a very important thing to start adding to whenever possible for your monkeys vet bills. This fund will also bring you peace of mind when an emergency arises. Remember our monkeys pick up our feelings of stress which can negatively add stress to your ill monkey. Being prepared in all areas makes emergency situations much better.

How To Choose A Primary Monkey Vet

  • Network with other monkey caregivers about their vets
  • Find out where there are good lists available of primate vets(I understand that when you become a member of the Simian Society of America you will have access to their list of vets who see primates across the country.) 
  • Keep looking and networking with other monkey caregivers to find out what your vet options are even if you must drive a distance to take your monkey to them for emergency care.
  • It is important when you are researching for a vet that you find one with whom you have a good relationship with and they are truly interested in the care of your monkey
  • When you are satisfied that you have found a vet to work with, it would be great to take your monkey into the office to meet the vet and to go over the care regiment that he recommends.
  • If you are sure you have decided upon your primary vet, then it would be time to start making calls to all of the vets within a 50 mile radius of your home to begin working to find a secondary monkey vet.
  • You should take any records that they may wish to copy or take notes from.
  • Remember to ask the vet if there is another vet in his practice or circle of vet friends, who you might speak with about helping you with your monkey’s care in case an emergency arises with your monkey, when he is not available.
  • In your search for a secondary monkey vet it would be a good idea to call your local emergency vet care center and ask if they also see monkeys for emergencies in their center.
  • Discuss with your new primary monkey vet if they would be okay about working with a vet that is closer to your home (if this applies.)

The vet that is already working with other primates will understand what your needs are so it will not be necessary to go over a list of needs with them. If you are in search for a secondary vet to work with an existing primate vet, it would be much better if you are prepared with a list. Even if the vet (that you are seeking to be the secondary vet) first response to being able to meet your monkey vet needs turns out to be no; being well prepared with a list of what is needed from them, may very well turn out to let them see that they truly can do what you are requesting.

I know many monkey caregivers who use vets that are located within a few minutes drive to do things such as fecal test and other things. It is great to have someone that will do this and be able to work with a more experienced vet who may be located several hours away. I think that a list of the things that you would need a secondary monkey vet to be able to do for the care of your monkey, is always a good idea.

What do you need to know about a vet that you are interviewing to become a secondary vet?

  • It is very important to ask where they studied and received their degree.
  • The next question that you need to ask about is if they received training with exotic animals.
  • You will know after this last question is answered if you can go forward with the next part of your interview.
  • If you go forward at this time with your next question, it will be getting a little more specific about asking them if they have ever worked with small monkeys/big monkeys.
  • If you are still going forward with your interview, then it will be necessary to tell them what type of monkey that you have and ask them if they would be interested in becoming one of your monkey (or secondary) vets.
  • The next part of your interview will be your sharing with them the list of services that you would need them to perform.
  • Your ability to be very clear about what you need from them will be a very positive thing in your interview (do not be nervous or concerned about your presentation of these services.)
  • During the presentation of this list, you can either read it to them or allow them time to read the list themselves.
  • Make it clear that they will be your emergency secondary vet.

If you get this far into your interview, they will also need to understand that you are already seeing another vet who has had lots of experience with monkeys and will be working with you both, especially if it is needed during the initial onset of an emergency or other situation. This type of arrangement calls for someone to be interested in your monkeys care and comfortable with handling them.

I have also found my personal family physician to be very helpful with many issues with my monkeys down through the years. She is especially helpful with my diabetic monkey’s regiment of insulin and diet changes. When I need help with an illness, it does not matter where the help comes from. If I feel peaceful about each step that I am taking, then I know I am on the right track for helping my monkeys. I am so thankful for my family doctor. She has shown a great amount of love and caring for my troop of monkeys.

What should be on the list of services that are needed from a secondary vet?

  • Blood tests
  • Exrays
  • Put them to sleep
  • Fecal test
  • Rabies shots
  • Other necessary shots like Tetanus
  • Prescribe medicine
  • Give you health certificates for traveling with your monkey out of state
  • Wound care
  • Possible stitches
  • Possible setting of bones
  • Possible overnight care
  • Send medical records to your primary vet
  • Make recommendations to your primary vet during an emergency situation that is going on with your monkey

Due to the important nature of this posting we here at Primate Care would like to request that our audience from this site and our Facebook site to please try to help us help others who are in search of a monkey vet with experience to care for their monkeys.

We would like for you to message us on Facebook (primate care group) or through our contact us page and to let us know who you are using as your primary and secondary vet. It has come to our attention that many vets across the country are retiring and are no longer seeing primates anymore in their practices. We hope to be able to share the names, phone numbers and addresses of vets that are available to become vets for other monkey caregivers.

Networking has become one of our greatest tools to becoming the best monkey caregiver that we can become. I keep learning new things everyday about monkeys and love to share these things through this site. Please network with us about your monkey vets so that we can help others be prepared for an emergency with their monkeys.

Become a “Safety First” Monkey Caregiver!

Thank you for visiting us here at Primate Care. We are committed to bringing good information for you to think about and share with your family, friends, and other monkey caregivers. In the next posting on the Primate Care site we will be speaking about another great “Safety First” issue and that will be: “When is it time to re-home a monkey”.

Written by Mary Lynn Campbell author of  “Living With Monkeys”


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