Exotic Pet ER in New York City Treats Reptile Stomach Issues, Hedgehog Cancer

PHOTO: ABC News Correspondent John Berman with one of the animals at New Yorks Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine.
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There's nothing quite like seeing a hairless rat get neutered. Or a lizard with a heart monitor.

Both sights, and many more that are equally rare, are business as usual at the Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine in New York City. One finds no dogs or cats -- but more than 100 singing, slithering and snorting creatures of every possible shape, size and symptom.

"Someone's gotta do it," said Lorelei Tibbets, a veterinary technician at the center. "It's like a joke: 'You did what to a who? I'll be going over very serious estimates with a client and say, Oh, we need to do an enema on your snake, and they're like, 'You're giving an enema to my snake?'"

Lorelei Tibbets, with Zippy the rat (Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine)

Tibbets was preparing Sancho, a taegu lizard, for surgery to remove the wood chips he'd been eating from his intestines.

"I mean, most people don't spend their days doing things like this, but he's going to suffer and eventually die if we don't," she said.

Later, she helped Alexandra Wilson give Hannah, a hedgehog with a lump in her jaw, some anesthetic to make her a little less prickly to examine.

Member of staff with albino ball python (Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine)

Improvisation is key to caring for animals that don't get much air time in veterinary school.

"This is actually a face mask that would fit a large dog, but we're using it as a chamber to administer the anesthetic," Tibbets said.

"If you can believe it, they don't make a hedgehog oral restraint device," said Wilson.

Common sense is equally important. When a baby bearded dragon, for example, presents with constipation, what do you do?

"We focus on hydrating them!" said Tibbets.

Baby bearded dragons (Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine)

Tibbets and her colleagues clearly love animals, and they have a lot of fun with the ones they treat. Take Bartles.

"He's a bare-eyed cockatoo, and Bartles has some really special hidden talents. If you drop a beat for him, he really goes for it," Tibbets said.

Pressed for clarification, she continued: "Well, if you give him a little something," she said, snapping her fingers, "he starts grooving. And the more you get into it, the more he gets into it."

Bartles grooved.

"He'll do that all day," she said.

Bartles the bare-eyed cockatoo (Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine)

Fun is half the job, Tibbets said. The other half is a combination of frustration and tragedy.

The examination of Hannah the hedgehog's mouth revealed a bloody hole where some of her teeth should have been.

"I'm worried this could be cancer," said Wilson. Later she explained the finding to Mia, Hannah's owner.

"I wish she could live forever, but that's not the lifespan of hedgehogs," Mia said.

Things worked out better for Sancho. The wood chips were removed from his gut. Tibbets said he ate the wood chips because he was kept in poor conditions, a common problem.

"When you take an animal that is genetically programmed to be basking in the hot sun ... eating bugs, and you put it in a cage with no light and no heat and feed it cat food ... they suffer," Tibbets said.

Tibbets educates owners as best she can, and when owners can't or won't keep the animals, the animals end up staying.

"We try not to," she said, citing how it is bad for business. "We're suckers. There, I said it."

The pets are odd, but the love for them is real. And often expensive: Sancho's surgery cost $2,000.

"God, I love it. … It's not for the money. I feel really lucky that I get to spend my days saving animals," Tibbets said.

Watch the full story -- and see the animals in action -- tonight on "Nightline" at 11:35 p.m. ET.

ABC News' Edward Lovett contributed to this report.

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