Educational Articles

Reptiles + Care & Wellness

  • Many reptile owners are surprised to learn that all pets, including reptiles, need at least annual checkups. A number of reptile veterinarians actually recommend checkups at least twice a year. Depending upon the species of reptile, the testing performed, and the temperament of your pet, some of these tests may require short-acting sedatives or gas anesthesia to minimize an animal’s stress level. Every visit starts with a thorough physical examination, during which your veterinarian will record your pet's weight, general appearance, and activity level. Your veterinarian will also ask you about your pet’s recent history and evaluate its diet. Just as your own regular medical visit includes blood testing, so does a checkup for a reptile. Microscopic examination of the feces allows detection of internal parasites. Using X-rays, your veterinarian can examine your pet's body for abnormalities in the size, shape, and position of body organs, screen for masses such as tumors, look for abnormal fluid accumulation, and check the bones and joints.

  • Bearded dragons are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plant- and animal-based foods, including insects. Generally speaking, bearded dragon's diet should be about 50% plant-based material and 50% animal-based material.

  • Bearded dragons are popular, well-known lizards currently considered one of the best pet lizards. The minimum cage size for a juvenile lizard is a 20-gallon aquarium, depending on the size of the bearded dragon. Substrate, or bedding material, should be easy to clean out and non-toxic to lizards if they accidentally eat it. Large rocks, easy enough to climb on or around, in the cage also allow for basking and provide a more interesting, natural environment.

  • Bearded dragons are popular, well-known lizards, currently considered one of the best pet lizards. This lizard is omnivorous, eating both plant- and animal- based foods. They are highly social, friendly, animated, curious, docile and gentle animals that are easy to tame and are very responsive to their owners. Within 48 hours of your purchase, your bearded dragon should be examined by a veterinarian familiar with reptiles.

  • Bearded dragons have several unique problems; understanding these problems will allow you to better care for your pet and minimize future health care problems. These problems include Salmonella, avascular necrosis, abscesses, and dystocia.

  • Before acquiring a reptile, thoroughly research all aspects of reptile ownership including not only which reptile is appropriate for your lifestyle, but also how to provide it with proper diet, suitable housing, and a healthy, stimulating environment. As a rule, if you want a pet to snuggle with, a reptile is not for you! If, on the other hand, you want an animal you can display in a well-designed, natural habitat, marvel in its natural behaviors, and enjoy learning about it, owning a reptile might be for you. Most reptiles must be fed and watered daily, and often their cages need to be cleaned daily as well. All reptiles need to be examined by a reptile-savvy veterinarian immediately after purchase or adoption (within 48 hours), and then at least annually after that. Since many exotic animals are prey species that hide illness to avoid being captured by predators, these pets usually do not act sick (or show any indication of illness) until they are very sick and need immediate veterinary attention. Regular veterinary care, plus an informed, knowledgeable pet owner, greatly reduces the likelihood of illness and death in these pets.

  • There are several problems that can occur in aquatic turtles. Cystic calculi occur in turtles when minerals from the diet form crystals in the urine, which stick together and form stones, often resulting from improper nutrition and/or dehydration. A prolapse occurs when an organ protrudes from the vent. Regardless of the tissue or organ prolapsed, all can become traumatized, become dried out, or suffer from compromised blood flow and should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. If you notice that your turtle's shell is growing irregularly, it may be a sign of malnutrition or metabolic bone disease. Any turtle whose shell is abnormal should be checked by a veterinarian so that appropriate treatment can be initiated. Although shell fractures can be serious, the shell is bone and often can be repaired. Any trauma to the shell should be brought to the attention of a veterinarian immediately. Green algae growing on the outside of the shell occurs commonly and can be cleaned off with periodic brushing of the shell with disinfectant cleaners. The skin of turtles periodically sheds off in pieces. In the water, shed skin appears as a whitish, "fuzzy" substance. Although turtles are certainly not the only reptiles that can carry Salmonella, most turtles carry the infection asymptomatically. Wash your hands thoroughly with disinfectant soap every time after handling, cleaning, or feeding your reptile or its cage items to help minimize risks of contracting salmonellosis. Most veterinarians feel it is best to try to prevent captive red-eared sliders from hibernating. Dystocia occurs the female turtle is unable to pass her eggs, is a common problem in reptiles, and can be life-threatening. A turtle with dystocia typically does not eat and rapidly becomes sick, lethargic, or unresponsive and should be seen by a veterinarian familiar with reptiles immediately.

  • Anorexia means lack of appetite or refusal to eat. Anorexia can be a normal condition associated with the breeding season, egg bearing, or shedding. Anorexia can also be a symptom of an underlying environmental problem or diseases including infectious stomatitis, internal parasites, gastrointestinal blockage, intestinal infections, respiratory disease, kidney or liver failure, tumors, or gout. Salmonella can cause severe gastrointestinal disease or life-threatening septicemia. Many animals and people carry these bacteria without showing any clinical signs, yet they shed the bacteria in their feces and serve as a source of infection for others. Snakes commonly develop lumps and bumps either on their skin or within their bodies. External lumps may be caused by abscesses, tumors, or parasites. Internal swellings can be caused by organ enlargement, retained eggs in species of snakes that lay eggs, tumors, or even constipation. A healthy, well-maintained snake will shed its skin in one piece. Some snakes experience difficult or improper shedding. Burns occur with pet snakes when the animal, naturally seeking a warm place to rest, either finds a place that is too hot or stays in that hot spot too long. Offering live prey to a snake should be avoided, as live prey can cause severe bites and life-threatening injuries to the snake. Dystocia occurs when a female snake is unable to pass eggs and may require medical or surgical procedures.

  • Hospitals providing curbside care have restructured their practice to avoid the need for clients to enter the lobby and exam rooms. This is designed to promote physical (social) distancing and reduce the spread of COVID-19. Curbside care offers a number of benefits for you and your pet. By eliminating the need for you to enter the hospital, potential COVID-19 outbreaks are reduced. The veterinary team is protected under a curbside care model, and in turn, so is your pet. Even in curbside care, you will have an opportunity to speak with your veterinarian in order to discuss findings and recommendations. To help the curbside appointment go smoothly, bring a written list of concerns or fill in any forms your practice has sent to you prior to the appointment. Curbside care truly is in the best interests of you and your pet.

  • Turtles are omnivorous, eating both animal protein and vegetable matter. As juveniles, they are mainly carnivorous, become more omnivorous as they age. When feeding turtles, offering a variety of food is important to help stimulate the turtle to eat and provide nutritional balance. The carnivorous portion of their diet should consist of commercial turtle or fish pellets, as well as a variety of invertebrates and vertebrates. The plant portion of the diet should be made up of vegetables, preferably ones that float and can be left in the water for the turtle to nibble on throughout the day. Some veterinarians suggest adding a balanced, commercially available multivitamin once per week with an additional source of calcium, such as a calcium block or cuttlebone, twice per week. Having a well-functioning filtration system that is cleaned regularly is key to ensuring good water quality. Turtles and other reptiles commonly carry Salmonella bacteria on their skin or in the gastrointestinal tracts, so always wash your hands thoroughly after feeding, cleaning, or handling turtles.