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Viewing Pet Directory:
The Pet Directory Reptilel Article - Finding A Reptile Vet

Finding A Reptile Vet Article supplied by Dr. Peter Cameron,
Altona North Veterinary Clinic
As published in The Pet Directory VIC & TAS Edition

“So, you have just returned home with your new reptile, its cage and accessories ( light, thermostat, digital thermometer, water bowl, hide box, calcium and vitamin supplements, cage cleaner and appropriate “How to Care For” book) and are feeling pleased with yourself and the animal you have selected. You carefully unload the cage and set it up inside (without scratching the car or gouging your plaster wall) and race back to the car for the rest of the goodies and your new pet lizard. Your twelve year old son is beside you, (“It’ll be a great pet for little Johnny” you recall saying to your wife) and you allow him to carry the lizard inside ……. and watch in horror as little Johnny trips on the edging stake you have been intending to remove for six months …. the box with the lizard inside shoots from his grasp and bounces off the brick wall of the house “*@!*@*!*@!!” Fast forward ten minutes when the shouting has stopped and tears have been wiped away and you are looking at your new pride and joy holding one leg at an awkward angle and in great pain. What to do? You rush to your local vet, who happens to be just around the corner, but are shocked to find that they don’t treat reptiles.”

The above scenario is a perfect example of why you should find an experienced reptile vet and develop a relationship with him/her before an emergency situation, as detailed above, presents itself.

So, how do you go about finding a herp vet?

Veterinarians with a special interest in reptile medicine and surgery will often advertise in The Pet Directory (such as the one you are now reading), Reptile Magazines (like Reptiles Australia which is available at newsagents) and Herp Society Journals (eg”Monitor” produced by Victorian Herp Society). In the future, you may see vets promoting themselves at Reptile Trade Fairs following the recent success of these events in Melbourne and Sydney.

Another way of finding a herp vet is via word of mouth i.e. a recommendation from another reptile keeper who has used a vet and been happy with the advice given and treatment/service provided. I strongly recommend that you join your local or state herp society. Here you will rub shoulders with like minded people, have access to quality articles published in their journals and most larger societies have several veterinarians as members. In addition your membership gives you a political voice and helps preserve your right to keep reptiles. Most of the larger reptile dealers/breeders have a close relationship with a vet who regularly checks and treats their animals and premises, so they can also provide recommendations re finding an experienced herp veterinarian. And finally, even if your local vet doesn’t treat reptiles he/she can supply you with details of a nearby vet who does.

So you now have a couple of names and phone numbers of vets who treat reptiles …. Where to from here?

An initial approach could be made over the phone. Introduce yourself as a reptile keeper/hobbyist/breeder and explain that you are looking for an experienced reptile veterinarian to treat your animals. Be up front with your initial contact – it is OK to say that you have had a bad prior experience, or that your local small animal vet won’t treat reptiles or that you are unhappy with who you are currently using. Take particular note of how you are treated over the phone – are you treated politely, are you rushed or left feeling brushed off or do you get the feeling that you and your questions are/aren’t taken seriously. A vet nurse will usually answer the phone, so after the above niceties ask if you can speak to the reptile vet who will be treating your animals.

Now don’t despair if the answer at this stage is “he/she isn’t available” – vets (like most people) are usually very busy people (may be in a consult or performing surgery or visiting large commercial client etc) and often it isn’t practical to drop everything and immediately come to the phone. However, all vets follow up on missed calls and left messages at sometime during the day/night so leave a reliable contact number (not four or five numbers!) and wait for the vet to return your call. When your call is returned introduce yourself, ask some pertinent questions and don’t be surprised if you get invited to tour the clinic and its facilities.

An alternative would be to email the clinic/vet concerned and go through the same procedure. If they are slow returning your email or don’t bother to even reply, then that should tell you something about the clinic concerned (make sure you have correct contact details first!!) The final approach would be to book an animal in for a general health check and assess how you and the animal are treated. This may well be the best approach as you get to see first hand the clinic in operation. Are the nurses polite? Does the vet know how to handle your animal? Is he/she confident when handling your lizard/snake/frog? Are they knowledgeable when answering your questions?

During the tour of the vet clinic keep your eyes open for purpose built caging for sick reptiles that the clinic treats. Ask the vet how many reptiles they treat each year and how many reptile surgeries they perform each year. Enquire about any specialised equipment the clinic has for the reptile component of the practice. Ask if the vet is a member of any professional organisations, is he/she involved in educating others – if so in what capacity?

Finally (and for many people, most importantly) ask yourself do you feel comfortable with this person ….. by now you should have a reasonable idea. Be proactive in finding an experienced reptile veterinarian – having the contact details of someone you know and trust, prior to needing then, is a great comfort when illness strikes an animal in your collection. Goodluck.



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