Dr. Brendan Carmel Honored With The 2015 Oxbow Exotic Mammal Health Award

The annual Oxbow Exotic Mammal Health Award recognizes outstanding veterinarians who help exotic mammal pets, and Australian vet Brendan Carmel is this year’s winner.

The annual Oxbow Exotic Mammal Health Award recognizes outstanding veterinarians who help exotic mammal pets, and Australian vet Brendan Carmel is this year’s winner.

Dr. Brendan Carmel and John Miller
Via Warranwood Veterinary Centre/Facebook 
The award was given to Dr. Carmel (left) by Oxbow Animal Health at a dinner at the ExoticsCon 2015 conference in San Antonio. John Miller (right) is president and CEO of Oxbow.

Rabbits, ferrets, hamsters, guinea pigs, rats — these are just a few of the pets that are called exotic mammals. These pets are unique and often have very different medical needs than the more common small animal pets — cats and dogs. And it’s not every veterinarian who can take on the challenges of treating exotic mammals. 

In 2009, Oxbow Animal Health, a manufacturer of animal care products for small animals, began recognizing veterinarians who achieve “excellence and innovation in the field of exotic mammal health” with an award. The award can be for a sustained effort or for an extraordinary single achievement in any of the following: leadership, education, research, innovation or advocacy.

The winner of the 2015 Oxbow Exotic Mammal Health Award is Dr. Brendan Carmel of Victoria, Australia. Dr. Carmel owns Warranwood Veterinary Centre, and he is a founding member of the Association of Exotic Mammal Veteinarians (AEMV) and the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians (ARAV). He is also a committee member of the Unusual Pet and Avian Veterinarians (UPAV). He provides training to veterinary students and veterinarians in his role as academic associate at the University of Melbourne. He also serves as the consultant veterinarian for the Melbourne Museum. 

John Miller, president and CEO of Oxbow Animal Health, said the company was honored to recognize Dr. Carmel. 

“A pioneer in exotics medicine in his native Australia, Dr. Carmel’s impact on the profession can be felt the world over. Among his many attributes and accomplishments, his selfless commitment to educating present and future veterinarians is to be commended and celebrated. It is a thrill and an honor to recognize him with this award.”

Carmel said he was surprised and honored to be named the 2015 winner of the Oxbow Exotic Mammal Health Award. 

“I must thank my colleagues for nominating me and my family for coping with the long hours I spend focusing on ‘different’ pets,” Carmel said. “Looking at the previous winners, I see pillars of the exotic mammal veterinarian community, and feel extremely lucky and humbled to receive this award. I am very grateful to Oxbow Animal Health for supporting this prestigious international award. Such support enables wider recognition of the fantastic work worldwide provided by small mammal veterinarians for exotic/unusual pets.” 

The award was presented to Carmel at a dinner on August 30, 2015, at the ExoticsCon 2015 in San Antonio, Texas.

“It was fantastic to be able to travel back to the USA to meet old friends and find many new friends — this would not have been possible without the support of Oxbow to get me there,” Carmel said. “Exotic/unusual pets are becoming more and more popular worldwide, and the Oxbow Exotic Mammal Health Award is a wonderful way to recognize the industry. I still do not feel ‘worthy’ to win it, but am very much looking forward to have the amazing award at home. It was too big to be able to take in my luggage so is being shipped to Australia — hopefully arriving soon!”

Oxbow Exotic Mammal Health Award winners and Oxbow employees
Courtesy of Oxbow Animal Health 
Six winners of the Oxbow Exotic Mammal Health Award are flanked by Dr. Micah Kohles (far left) and John Miller (far right) of Oxbow Animal Health. The back row of veterinarians are Dr. Vittorio Capello (left), Dr. Brendan Carmel and Dr. Gregory Rich. The front row of veterinarians are Dr. Angela Lennox (left), Dr. Cathy Johnson-Delaney and Dr. Michelle Hawkins. 

Carmel’s interest in exotic mammals was prompted by a presentation he attended in his last year as a veterinary student. The presentation was made by the owner of a wildlife park. 

“He lamented the fact that he could not get vets out to look at the animals in his wildlife park,” Carmel said. “When I started my first job, I called him up and said I’d love to help out. I visited the park every second Wednesday, which was my rostered day off, and learnt a lot about wildlife, mammals, reptiles and birds. This started my lifelong love of treating ‘unusual pets.’ I couldn’t believe he struggled to get veterinarians interested in treating exotic pets and zoo animals — what could be more fun than that? I subsequently went on to be a zoo vet for several years whilst completing a master’s degree, then back into private practice treating unusual and exotic pets. I now also teach part time at two universities in Australia and love watching the next generation of exotic mammal veterinarians.”

Advancements in care for dogs and cats is ongoing, and veterinarians know even less about treatment of small animal pets. So what does Carmel consider the most importance advancement in exotic mammal care?

“Things are moving so quickly these days,” Carmel said, “especially with regard to technology, such as the more common use of advanced imaging like CT or MRI, and the development of advanced monitoring equipment for anesthesia, and specific diets for exotic mammals. However I would regard as the most important advancement in exotic mammal treatment to be the veterinarians now trained to deal with these species; the increased interest in numbers of veterinarians treating exotic pets is promising, with groups such as AEMV leading the way in educating these vets. When I went through university I think we had two lectures to cover wildlife, reptile, small mammals and birds! Thankfully things have changed now. Without these fantastic veterinarians with a passion to treat exotic mammals we would not advance. We cannot forget the veterinary technicians/nurses who form the backbone of the exotic mammal veterinary industry — and the dedicated owners!”

Being a veterinarian takes a lot of hard work and dedication, and putting in the extra effort to learn about rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, hamsters, sugar gliders and other exotic mammals adds to the workload. Carmel offers words of advice to those considering becoming an exotic mammal veterinarian.

“Passion is the main requirement — enjoying dealing with these species and having a thirst for knowledge goes a long way,” he said. “Since it is a small community of vets, carers, technicians, some struggle to break into the industry. I would say to these people just get out there and let people know you are interested in these species. Join groups such as the AEMV if you are a veterinary student or veterinarian, or the local ferret society, etc. Volunteer to help out with research projects. The aim is to get your name known so that when a position is available, you will be the first person called. This is how a large percentage of people gain employment in this field.”

The deadline to nominate a veterinarian for the 2016 Oxbow Exotic Mammal Health Award is June 1, 2016. 

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