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THE BEST VET

The best time to find a veterinarian is before you actually bring your new pet home. A good reptile vet will recommend seeing your new pet within 48 hours. Don't worry about vaccinations; they are not required for reptiles.

Look for a veterinarian who has experience or special training in the care of reptiles. Several sources can lead you to a reptile specialist:

  • Databases, online or otherwise, compiled and updated by reputable reptile-enthusiast groups
  • Friends who own reptiles as pets
  • The veterinarian who currently attends your other animals, if any - ask for outside recommendations if his practice does not include a reptile specialist
  • Herpetological societies or associations
  • The local yellow pages

Reptiles have special health needs that vary from species to species, so you should familiarize yourself with common diseases and preventative measures for your particular pet.

Here are some questions to ask of a potential vet for your reptile:

Snakes

  • Ask how many snakes the veterinarian treats on a regular basis.
  • Ask what kind of preventative care she recommends. Her answer will help you assess her familiarity with reptile needs and problems.
  • Ask what kinds of surgery she has done. This is important because snakes commonly become constipated from eating prey, and they sometimes require corrective surgery.
  • Ask if she recommends vitamins and under what circumstances. A vitamin deficiency in a snake can be deadly. If she doesn't recommend vitamins, ask if, in her opinion, your pet can get everything through diet alone. Ask what she recommends you feed your reptile for optimum health.
  • Ask what constitutes an emergency for a snake. You'll want to know if your vet is familiar with disease symptoms, such as not eating or "star gazing."

Lizards

  • Ask what kinds of lizards the vet routinely treats.
  • Ask if he is in favor of letting your lizard hibernate. Most lizards do hibernate, but they must be healthy in order to hibernate safely in captivity.
  • Ask what kinds of immunizations are required for lizards. The answer should be, "None."
  • Ask him what you can expect at your first office visit. Look for a vet who can instruct you on the proper care and feeding of lizards and one who suggests routine deworming.

Turtles & Tortoises

  • Ask if she has experience in treating turtles and tortoises, as well as what kinds.
  • Ask if she recommends deworming; all turtles/tortoises should be dewormed.
  • Ask what method of deworming she prefers. This question will indicate whether she keeps current in this type of veterinary medicine, since oral deworming is a fairly new procedure that can be done by adding a paste to your pet's food.
  • Ask what she would do if your pet's shell were to suffer a crack. A knowledgeable vet would answer that the wound is treated with antibiotics, taping and in the case of a severe crack, possible reconstruction of the area.
  • Ask her if she can treat turtle/tortoise abscesses.

Another important characteristic to look for in a good reptile veterinarian is knowledge about proper reptile husbandry. You will want to find a veterinarian who can instruct you on properly cleaning your reptile's terrarium and maintaining proper living conditions, such as the correct temperature, within it.

Of course, after you choose your vet, be sure to follow her advice. Your reptile's health and happiness may depend on it.