Reptiles Go to the Vet | God's World News
Reptiles Go to the Vet
Critter File
Posted: July 01, 2024
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    A veterinarian gives medicine to an iguana. (AP/Eckehard Schulz)
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    Veterinarians examine a python. (AP/Eckehard Schulz)
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    A worker checks on a desert tortoise at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. (AP/Isaac Brekken)
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    A veterinarian and other workers carry a 13-year-old anaconda to an exam table during the snake’s annual physical at the New England Aquarium in Boston, Massachusetts. (AP/Steven Senne)
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    A New England Aquarium volunteer holds a rescued Kemp’s ridley sea turtle as it is treated. (AP/Steven Senne)
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    A vet inspects the teeth of a Cuban boa. (AP/Petar Petrov)
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It’s turtle check-up time. Who are you going to call? In Myrtle’s case, both aquarists and veterinarians shared the job.

Technically, you could give the title “aquarist” to anyone who cleans a goldfish bowl. But the aquarists handling turtles like Myrtle are real pros. They go to college and practice for a career taking care of underwater animals. What do the animals eat? How clean does the tank need to be? Are the animals sick or in trouble? Should an animal return to the wild, and how? An aquarist has expertise in all these areas.

Maybe you’ve watched a vet take care of a family dog or cat. But just how does a vet treat a turtle, snake, or other reptile?

Vets specializing in reptile care are called herpetology veterinarians, or “herp vets.” They may also be called “exotic vets” because they treat a wide range of animals—not just common furry pets or farm animals. Sometimes vets specialize in just one animal type. This can take years of school. So if you carry your boa constrictor into the regular vet’s office, you might hear, “Sorry, cats and dogs only.”

The vet will see you now.

A reptile vet visit might include . . .

  • A physical exam. A vet will look into the reptile’s nose and eyes and feel around for any unusual lumps. He or she will ask the owner what the animal eats and how it behaves. And don’t forget the stethoscope to listen to heart and lungs!
  • Blood testing. This shows whether a reptile’s organs work properly and if it gets the proper nutrition. It can also screen for diseases.
  • Fecal testing. Yep, vets learn a lot from reptile poo—including whether a snake has worms.
  • Tissue testing. Vets test bits of tissue or skin for bacteria.
  • X-rays. These help vets find problems in organs, joints, and bones. Some reptiles need anesthesia to help them lie still for X-rays.