Veterinary Care – New Reptile Visit

new_reptile_visit-1Many reptile owners are surprised to learn that all pets, including their reptiles, need an initial visit by a reptile veterinarian and at least an annual checkup. A number of reptile veterinarians actually recommend checkups at least twice a year, to allow for early detection and treatment of potentially life-threatening diseases.

"The most important visit is the very first one, right after you acquire your pet reptile. The visit will also include a thorough discussion of proper feeding, housing, and care of your new pet."

Regular veterinary care is necessary in order to ensure your pet lives a long, healthy life. The most important visit is the very first one, right after you acquire your pet reptile. During this visit, the veterinarian will perform a physical examination and conduct various diagnostic tess to determine your pet's state of health and see if your pet might be harboring any diseases that require treatment. The visit will also include a thorough discussion of proper feeding, housing, and care of your new pet. It is important that you fell comfortable and confident with your veterinarian and the hospital staff. Make sure your pet's veterinarian is qualified or the experienced to treat reptiles. Reptile medicine has become a specialized part of veterinary medicine, and most general practitioners are not comfortable or knowledgeable in reptile medicine. Ask about the qualifications of your veterinarian, who at the minimum should be a member in good standing of the ARAV (Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians.).  If they are not comfortable seeing your pet, ask them to refer you to someone who has more experience.


Parts of the Reptile Checkup

While veterinarians follow their own individual protocols when performing an examination on a new reptile, all veterinarians will conduct or recommend certain examinations to help ensure the health of your new reptile. Depending upon the species of reptile involved, the testing performed, and the temperament of your pet, some reptile veterinarians recommend performing some or all of these tests under short-acting gas anesthesia, using an anesthetic like isoflurane or sevoflurane (although compared to other exotic pets like birds and small mammals, this is usually not required for young reptiles.) Most reptiles can be safely anesthetized for the short time needed to perform the diagnostic testing. If your pet is easily stressed, it may be easier and safer to perform any procedures under anesthesia, as they are not stressed out when anesthetized and stress is a major factor in reptiles dying when handled.

new_reptile_visit-2Physical Examination - Every visit starts with a thorough physical examination. During the physical, the doctor will record your pet's weight, general appearance, and mobility. Your veterinarian will review any information that you may have been given when you acquired your new reptile, and will discuss the pet's nutritional needs and general care. Then the veterinarian will palpate (feel) various parts of the pet's body. Any abnormalities that are noted may indicate the need for specialized testing.

Blood Testing - Just as your own regular medical visit includes blood testing, so does a routine checkup for pets. Blood testing can include a complete blood count (examining the red blood cells, white blood cells, and thrombocytes) and serum biochemical profile (which evaluates various organs and electrolytes.)

Fecal Analysis - Microscopic examination of the feces allows detection of internal parasites (coccidia, flagellates or other protozoa and intestinal worms.)

Microbiological Testing - Special stains called Gram's stains may be used on fecal swabs, skin scrapings or other samples to detect the presence of abnormal bacteria and yeasts. Depending upon the findings from the Gram's stains, additional tests such as a culture and sensitivity may be needed to determine the species of bacteria or yeasts and the appropriate treatment.

Radiological Testing - Using X-rays the doctor can examine your pet's body for abnormalities in the size, shape, and position of body organs; screen for masses such as tumors or granulomas; look for abnormal fluid accumulation; and check the bones and joints.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Rick Axelson, DVM

© Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

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