Educational Articles

Reptiles + Pet Services

  • As an iguana grows, it must be moved to a larger enclosure, with accommodation for both horizontal and vertical movement. Glass or Plexiglas® enclosures with good ventilation are ideal. The cage bottom should be easy to disinfect and keep clean, with a screened top to prevent your pet from escaping, while still allowing some ventilation. A source of heat and UV light must be provided for iguanas. All reptiles require a heat source, such as a ceramic heat-emitting bulb, in their tanks to provide warmth. Ideally, the cage should be set up so that a heat gradient is established, with the tank warm on one and cooler on the other. The cage temperature should be monitored closely. For UV light to be effective, it must reach the pet directly, without being filtered out by glass or plastic between the pet and the bulb. The bulb should be approximately a foot away from the animal and be on for 10-12 hours per day, mimicking a normal daylight cycle.

  • When well looked after, and given a good diet and environment, iguanas are reasonably hardy animals. Common conditions of pet iguanas include metabolic bone disease, infectious stomatitis (mouth rot), parasites, respiratory disease, and hypervitaminosis D.

  • The common green iguana is a large arboreal (lives in trees and bushes) lizard form Central and South America. They are herbivores (plant eaters). They have a long tail (used as an effective whip to defend itself) and a row of spines running down their back.

  • Iguanas have several unique disease problems; understanding these problems will allow you to better care for your pet and minimize future health care problems.

  • 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.

  • Grief is the normal and natural response to the loss of someone or something. When grieving, one is said to be in a state of bereavement. The loss of a pet can cause intense grief and sorrow. Given that so many people consider their pets as members of the family, this grief is normal and understandable. Each person experiences grief in a different way. Contrary to popular belief, grief does not unfold in clean, linear stages, nor does it have a timeline. Grief is a full body experience that includes physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual responses. A healthy grief journey comes from taking the time to work through feelings rather than trying to push them away, moving toward the experience of loss to learn to live with it. There are many ways to manage grief, including receiving support from others, finding comfort in routines and play, keeping active, taking breaks from the sadness, remembering your pet, memorializing your pet, searching for meaning, and eventually, possibly bringing a new pet into your life. Grieving takes time. Usually it gradually lessens in intensity over time, but if it doesn’t, then professional counseling may help.

  • 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.