Illustrated Articles

Reptiles + Medical Conditions

  • The bearded dragon is a well-known lizard currently considered one of the best pet lizards. If they are well looked after, with a good diet and proper environment, bearded dragons are reasonably hardy animals. Common health conditions of pet bearded dragons include metabolic bone disease, infectious stomatitis (mouth rot), parasites, respiratory infections, and adenovirus infection.

  • 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.

  • Turtles commonly suffer from vitamin A deficiency, respiratory diseases, abscesses, shell infections, shell fractures, and parasites. Vitamin A deficiency (hypovitaminosis A) occurs as a result of feeding turtles an inappropriate diet. Symptoms include a lack of appetite, lethargy, swelling of the eyelids, swelling of the ear, kidney failure, and respiratory infections. Respiratory tract infections are most often caused by bacteria. Abscesses are treated surgically and may also require antibiotics. Shell infections can be challenging to treat. Gastrointestinal parasites are treated with appropriate deworming medications. Seek immediate veterinary care if there is any deviation from normal in your aquatic turtle.

  • Turtles commonly suffer from vitamin A deficiency, respiratory diseases, abscesses, shell infections and fractures, and parasites. Vitamin A deficiency occurs as a result of feeding turtles an inappropriate diet. Symptoms include a lack of appetite, lethargy, swelling of the eyelids, swelling of the ear, kidney failure, and respiratory infections. Respiratory tract infections are most often caused by bacteria. Abscesses are treated surgically. Shell infections can be challenging to treat. Gastrointestinal parasites are treated with appropriate deworming medications. Seek immediate veterinary care if there is any deviation from normal in your pet turtle.

  • Common conditions of pet snakes include infectious stomatitis, parasites, skin infections, inclusion body disease, respiratory disease, and septicemia. Infectious stomatitis may not be a primary disease but may be secondary to an injury to the mouth or to husbandry issues such as poor nutrition, improper environmental temperature or humidity, or overcrowding. Both internal parasites and external parasites may cause diarrhea, breathing difficulties, regurgitation, swelling of internal organs, itching, skin irritation, anemia, mouth infection, and weight loss. Cryptosporidiosis can cause thickening of the stomach muscles, impaired digestion, vomiting, and weight loss. Dermatitis is often seen in snakes kept in environments that are too moist and/or dirty. Inclusion body disease is a serious viral disease in which affected snakes cannot right themselves when placed on their backs, may appear to be star gazing, and may be paralyzed. Most respiratory infections in snakes are caused by bacteria but may also be caused by viruses, fungi, and parasites. Septicemia in snakes occurs when bacteria and their toxins proliferate in the blood stream causing lethargy, lack of appetite, open-mouth breathing, red discoloration to the scales, and death.

  • 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.

  • Iguanas are generally a very hardy reptile under that proper conditions. There are a number of common ailments that affect iguanas. Early communication with a reptile veterinarian about changes in your iguana's health status is critical.

  • Iguanas face several health problems that will need veterinary intervention for treatment or resolution. Cystic calculi, dystocia, avascular necrosis and dysecdysis are all common problems that will need medical attention sooner rather than later.

  • 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.

  • Abdominal swelling in any reptile is always a concern that needs to be brought to the attention of a veterinarian well versed in reptile medicine. In female reptiles, this swelling often means that the individual has eggs or fetus that are ready to be delivered. When the female cannot deliver the eggs or babies, this is referred to as dystocia. This condition can be life threatening and need attention ASAP.