This is the most frequently asked question I get from anyone who finds out I treat fish. My response back is usually: “Why wouldn’t you?”
In the past few decades, veterinarians have advanced their knowledge and skills in treating many species of animals, and fish medicine is no exception. From the small schools of tetras all the way up to koi fish (and even sharks and stingrays), trained veterinarians are able to diagnose and treat a wide range of diseases, both medically and surgically. The advances in these treatments have made it so our fish can live longer, healthier lives.
The main limitation to working with fish is having to deal with working in an aquatic environment. Many of our medications and treatments are developed with this in mind. However, if you can work with that environment, you can do almost anything to treat a fish that you can do to treat any of our terrestrial patients. We can perform radiographs, ultrasounds, check for parasites or bacterial infections, evaluate blood samples, and even perform surgery or endoscopy, to name a few things.
Unfortunately, there are few veterinarians in private practice that will treat fish. This number is improving, but it is still difficult to find a fish veterinarian in your area. I always recommend for any pet that you find a veterinarian before there is a problem. Many of the fish patients I see have been sick or affected by disease for some time before coming to me, simply because the fish owner didn’t know that these services are available. Many issues in fish can be treated or even prevented with the proper care, which can be evaluated and discussed with an aquatics trained veterinarian.
So why would you need a fish vet? For the same reason you would need a veterinarian for your dog or cat- to evaluate their health, and to be there for them if or when they ever need it.
Author: Dr. Colin McDermott