Illustrated Articles

Reptiles + Care & Wellness

  • Leopard geckos make great pets for the children and adults. They do not require elaborate set-ups and have a 10-15 year life span with good health care, a clean environment, and proper feeding.

  • A wild reptile typically spends many hours a day basking in the sun, absorbing ultraviolet (UV) light; necessary for the manufacture of vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is manufactured in the skin and is required for proper calcium absorption from food. Failure to provide UV light can predispose a pet reptile to nutritional metabolic bone disease, an overly common condition of pet reptiles that is fatal if not recognized and treated. Bulbs should be replaced every six months or as directed by the manufacturer. Regular exposure to natural direct sunlight outside is encouraged and recommended whenever possible. Most reptile owners are advised by veterinarians to keep light exposure and temperature variations consistent in their pet’s enclosure to help reptiles maintain appropriate body temperatures and feeding cycles and to stimulate proper immune function, thereby helping keep pets healthy.

  • Several species of snakes are commonly kept as pets including king snakes, rat snakes, garter snakes, corn snakes, various pythons, and various boa constrictors. Some snakes, especially the ball python, may not eat for weeks to months after the stress of going to a new home and new environment. Snakes shed their skin every few weeks as they grow. A healthy snake in a healthy environment sheds its old skin in one piece. Young, captive-raised animals make the best pets. Within 48 hours of your purchase, your snake should be examined by a qualified reptile veterinarian. Like all pets, snakes should be examined at least annually, and a fecal examination, looking for parasites, should be part of every examination.

  • The red-eared slider is probably the most popular pet aquatic turtle. If you keep more than one in the same tank, they should have plenty of swimming room and should be of similar size to avoid bullying. The goal is to keep the tank temperature and light cycle constant so that pet turtles do not go into hibernation. Red-eared sliders can be fed a combination of commercially available turtle pellets, small fish, and a variety of vegetables. They should also receive supplemental calcium and a multivitamin. All reptiles can potentially carry Salmonella bacteria in their gastrointestinal tracts and can shed it in their feces. Thoroughly wash your hands after handling your turtle, feeding it, or cleaning its cage. Males are smaller than females. Turtles have a cloaca; feces and urine that accumulates in the cloaca is voided externally to the outside through the vent opening, found on the under surface of the tail. Within 48 hours of your purchase or adoption of a new turtle, your new pet should be examined by a veterinarian familiar with reptiles.

  • Box turtles can make great pets if cared for properly. With proper diet and housing, captive box turtles usually live up to 20 years of age, but some have been reported to live 30-40 years. Most turtles carry Salmonella asymptomatically, in that they do not show signs of illness. Wash your hands thoroughly with disinfectant soap every time after handling, feeding your reptile, or cleaning its cage items to help minimize risks of contracting salmonellosis. Turtles have protective shells that replace many of the bones that other animals have. The shell is covered with bony plates called scutes. Turtles have strong leg and neck muscles that enable them to retract their limbs and head into their shells when they are disturbed or stressed. Turtles have a renal portal blood system. Unlike mammals that excrete urea, box turtles and other reptiles try to conserve water by excreting uric acid. Turtles have a cloaca, which is the common space inside the hind end of the turtle’s body into which the urinary, gastrointestinal, and reproductive systems all empty. Feces and urine that accumulates in the cloaca is voided externally to the outside through the vent opening, found on the under surface of the tail. Within 48 hours of your purchase or adoption of a new turtle, your new pet should be examined by a veterinarian familiar with reptiles. Like all pets, turtles should be examined at least annually and should have their feces tested for parasites at every examination.

  • Telemedicine is the act of practicing medicine from a distance and your appointment will be conducted by a licensed veterinarian. Before your appointment, gather information on your pet’s history and your current concern. Look at a calendar and write down a timeline of your pet’s problems. Be prepared to answer questions that you would normally be asked at an in-person appointment. Write notes to help you remember everything. Most telemedicine appointments involve the use of some type of video chat. Conduct your visit in a quiet area with good lighting and have your pet with you before the call starts. Not all concerns can be addressed through telemedicine. If your veterinarian is unable to arrive at a diagnosis via telemedicine, he or she can help you determine the next step for your pet to ensure that he or she receives optimal care.

  • While there are many species of pythons and boas, those noted here are among the easiest to keep; however, constrictor snakes, like the very large reticulated python, can be dangerous in the hands of an inexperienced keeper, while others, such as the royal python, can be frustrating because of their long periods of not eating. Therefore, if you are choosing your first pet snake, you may want to go with an easier to keep, relatively smaller snake, such as a rainbow boa.

  • The family of Colubrid snakes comprise over 1,000 different species. These snakes are non-venomous, often make very good pets and come in a variety of colorful patterns.

  • It is key for the health and safety of all snakes that proper housing be planned for the eventual adult size of your pet snake. For their enjoyment, hide boxes and branches are beneficial additions to the caging environment. Proper bedding, lighting and heat sources will differ depending on the species and size of your snake.

  • Telehealth is a broad term that refers to the use of telecommunications to provide health-related services. Telehealth services can be delivered by a variety of methods including telephone, text messaging, internet chat, and videoconferencing. Teletriage is the act of performing triage remotely, via telephone or internet and helps determine the urgency of your pet’s medical concern. Telemedicine refers to the practice of medicine at a distance. In the context of veterinary medicine, telemedicine refers to a veterinarian formulating a diagnosis and treatment plan for your pet without an in-person examination. Telemedicine is typically only permitted within the context of an existing Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship. Given the current COVID-19 pandemic and social/physical distancing requirements however, some federal and local governments have relaxed the requirements surrounding telemedicine.