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Can reptile owners rely on veterinarians for health care info?

By Christie Keith
Fri, July 15 2011 at 09:59

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H. Houlahan - #1 - 2011-07-15 10:41 - (Reply)

Selection bias. She doesn't see the herps whose issues were successfully identified and resolved via hobbyist-to-hobbyist advice.

Most of these are going to be fairly straightforward and hinge on husbandry and diet rather than medical intervention.

I don't keep any reptiles these days, but I can think of only once when a veterinarian had something that a fellow hobbyist or a really top-notch care book didn't to resolve a problem: Antibiotic injections for a box turtle we rescued who had infected pustules covering her eyes. And that vet told me that the turtle's eyes were gone. They were not, and she recovered and was able to be released.

Although my dog and cat vet is excellent, and a thoughtful diagnostician, I have no access to a small ruminant or poultry vet. The only herp/exotics vet these days also courted and obtained the lucrative contract with the local Petland, to rubberstamp their puppymill stock for sale. Not gonna go there.

S. Tausch - #2 - 2011-07-15 23:24 - (Reply)

I agree with H. Houlahan. The vast majority of what she see's are failed attempts at home treatment. Obviously, if the herp gets better from information from another source the problem never gets to her. While I do agree that many herps do need to see a vet, I don't always think it should be the first action, especially with species that require very specific husbandry. I don't know about everyone else, but I don't go see a doctor every time I get a chill. I take a nap with a blanket or eat some soup and see if I feel better in a few hours. Granted herps metabolisms are slower so changes in husbandry take some time to show an effect, but nonetheless, I see nothing wrong with taking basic steps at home. But the fact that she see's either a series of failed attempts by a well-meaning owner, or a complete moron's attempt at caring for something he has no business owning doesn't mean that every case ends that way.

As Burcham pointed out in the article, few people have access to a reliable herp vet regardless of whether or not they are willing to pay. After changes in husbandry did nothing to improve my neonate dumeril boa's respiratory issues I took her to a vet. I paid the outrageous prices to be told by my vet, who had "experience" with dumerils in particular that best she could tell my baby boa was egg bound and would need surgery. I politely asked for an appropriately sized RX for Baytril and said we'd consider surgery over the next few days. When the boa grew faster than the RX allowed for and the symptoms didn't go away, we visited an associate of the first vet and weren't given any better service. Needless to say, we now treat everything from home. I don't like the idea that if something got very ill I would have to rely on these people to treat it as they are the only ones for a good while, but I just cross my fingers and do the most I can for them here and hope it never gets to that point.

Kerri Cooper-Bailey, MS, DVM - #3 - 2011-07-18 20:58 - (Reply)

Well, I can see why you have some frustration and may have lost your faith in veterinarians, but it is only obvious you have not found the right one. If you choose to have exotic animals one of the first things you should do, is check to see if you have a competent exotic veterinarian near you. You don't get a dog without having a veterinarian (especially since only veterinarians can give Rabies vaccines). Do all veterinarians have experience with all species, of-course not. Look at human doctors, you don't have just 'orthopedic specialists' you have hand specialists, shoulder specialists, etc. etc. So, why would veterinary medicine be any different? There are exceptionally good reptile veterinarians out there, try looking for the ARAV (Reptile Veterinarians Association) or look on line for reviews for reptile veterinarians. Just this past year the first group ever of boarded veterinarians have begun. Use that as your way of finding one. Don't right those of us out that know what we are doing. I have publications in Gila Monster Ultrasound and have a paper coming out shortly in Gila Clinical Pathology. Try looking for names that way, but it all boils down to the fact that, past history has lead most reptile hobbyist away from veterinary medicine due to the lack of good reptile veterinarians, I recommend you take another look, we are out there.

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