Dan was proud of Isis, his
two years old Green Iguana. He took good care of her feeding lettuce, some dog
food and Iguana’s food. One day as he was getting Isis out of the cage to show
a visiting friend what a lovely pet she was, Isis jumped out of the cage and
fell on the floor. As Dan reached to lift her up, he noticed that her rare legs
were not moving. He tried to touch and feel the legs, only to realize that they
had no function or motion. Dan hurried and called his vet, who did not see
reptiles. The front desk referred him to a reptile veterinarian.
After a brief visit, the
veterinarian came back with the x-rays and showed Dan the reason for her back
leg paralysis- a fractured and displaced spine. All the bones showed low density
and thin wall- a typical sign of metabolic bone disease. The bones became
fragile as a result of long-term poor husbandry and nutritional imbalance.
Unfortunately, all the efforts to re-align the spine and fix it were
Danielle had a ball python.
King was his name. King was a healthy eater and has quickly outgrown his cage.
For Christmas, Danielle bought a state of the art spacious cage withal the bells
and the whistles. The pet store recommended a special ceramic heating bulb,
which Danielle had fixed in the cage, just above the basking spot. After a quick
and easy setup, the cage was ready and King was introduced to his new house. So,
out to Christmas dinner the family went. As they returned home that night, there
was a slight smell of burned meat that blended in the smells of the leftover
turkey they brought from dinner… The morning after, Danielle went to see how
King was doing and to her surprise, she discovered a large burn on King’s
back, covering about a quarter of his body. Now, she realized were that burned
flash odor came from. She hurried and rushed to the emergency clinic, where King
underwent surgery and prescribed medications. It took six months of dedicated
care to save King. Now King is ok. A large area of discolored skin is there to
Paul had bought a couple of
ware turtles a week ago. He kept them in a small tank on his desk as a temporary
housing, until his dad could finish building a larger container. That day, when
he came back from school, he noticed that one of the turtles did not eat. Three
days later, both turtles were lethargic, swimming with a side tilt and gasping
for air. He took the turtles to the vet, who diagnosed pneumonia. He explained
that the infection was probably a result of stress and poor husbandry. Dad
hurried and set up the new tank, following special instructions from the vet.
The turtles were treated with antibiotic injections, but only one survived.
Most reptile emergencies
result from poor husbandry, inadequate nutrition and lack of knowledge.
Accidents are common and hard to predict. It is important to invest the time and
efforts in learning about the reptile pet, prior to the purchase. Also, finding
a veterinarian with experience in reptile husbandry and medicine might help
Let’s take a more
detailed look at some of the most common emergencies:
Reptiles often are traumatized by sharp or heavy objects found in their cage
habitats. It is common for reptiles to get caught under a heating rock (and get
burned in addition to suffering the pressure trauma), a log, cage lid or any
other similar object. Wires, sharp edges and nails also cause many injuries.
Heavy objects and heating rocks should be used cautiously or avoided all
together. Cages should be inspected periodically for threatening objects.
Another category is traumas
related to handling. Reptiles may get injured when dropped or when they are
handled too roughly. They sometimes become injured when they vigorously attempt
to escape handling. Many reptiles "spin" when they are handled and are
susceptible to injuries such as skin tears and avulsions, leg fractures, and
fractures of the tail or spine.
Inter-mate aggression and
cannibalism is also common. If more then one reptile occupies the same
enclosure, make sure that size, species and disposition are compatible. Do not
leave live mice, and especially rats, with snakes for prolonged periods (more
then one hour). Snakes do not possess instinctive defense mechanism from small
animals and may sustain or even succumb to severe rodent bites.
Power and temperature
related emergencies: Most reptile containers include electric heaters and light
bulbs. Short circuits, exposed wires and equipment malfunction may result in
electric shock, burns, and over/under heating. Abrupt temperature changes, as
well as sub-optimal levels, alter body functions such as digestion, immunity and
general metabolism. Digestion arrest is life threatening and may end in toxicity
of the decaying food. Immunity deficit may result in fatal infections. Metabolic
slowdown adversely affects the whole body.
Any stressful environment
will impair the immune system and affect the behavior of pet reptiles. Many
reptiles develop dysadaptation syndrome, go off their food and become
unresponsive and waste away. This can result in emaciation and severe
Inadequate nutrition and
deficiencies of vitamins and minerals may lead to skin, oral and respiratory
infections as well as bone disease and more. Affected reptiles may contract
severe respiratory distress, ruptured skin, mouth and shell rot and fractured
bones. These are all too common emergencies that can be prevented by proper
Every emergency should be
presented to a herpetoveterinarian (a veterinarian who has expertise with
reptiles) as soon as possible. Many patients are too far gone and require long
intensive care, hydration, nutritional support and medications.