It’s a well-known stigma that pet fish don’t rank on the same level as cats and dogs. Often considered “disposable,” fish are often trial pets for many families and veterinary care for fish isn’t even considered. They are thought as “lesser” animals mostly because we cannot relate to them like we can cats and dogs. We can’t measure happiness or how fish communicate because they are very different from us. The simple answers to many fish questions are, “we just don’t know enough.”
But does this mean that a pet fish doesn’t deserve the same care and consideration as other pets? Absolutely not!
Any pet, be they fluffy or scaly, deserves routine veterinary care. Not just when they get sick, but at least a yearly checkup. That is the contract you enter into when you decide to bring another living, breathing animal into your home. When deciding what pet you’d like to adopt, you MUST take these fees into consideration. Don’t spend $1,500 on a purebred dog and only have $50 left for veterinary fees.
And, yes, your fish may only be a few cents to a dollar or two, but you also have to include the cost of their home. If you cheap out on a fish bowl, you are setting yourself up for disaster. Buy a sturdy aquarium with a filter and heater if necessary. (Here is a New Tank Checklist you can go through.) Now, you are looking at a $50-75 investment.
Veterinary care for fish is an evolving field. The American Association of Fish Veterinarians provides a Find a Fish Vet function on their website. The World Aquatic Veterinary Medical Association provides an international database. Our office is able to consult with ANY veterinarian ANYwhere. We wish all veterinarians at least understood some fish basics, and we’ll get there, eventually. And apart from the yearly check-up, your fish may not need much additional veterinary care.
I understand my voice is a minority. Providing quality veterinary care for fish is the main reason why I went into aquatic veterinary medicine. There are so many pet fish that need veterinary care and our office is doing all we can to provide that service. If you don’t agree that fish should have a veterinarian of their own, I hope you at least feel your other pets should. Taking a pet into your home is an ethical contract that says you will provide the best home and care possible for that animal. Fish should not be an exception.
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