If your herps do fall ill, how can you be sure to find a veterinarian that knows their special needs? There are more than 50,000 veterinarians in the United States. The vast majority of them have received superb training in the medicine of domestic animals, but not many have received much training in reptile medicine.
Being a cross section of humanity, veterinarians on the whole are individuals who are not particularly fond of reptiles. Indeed, the best veterinarians were reptile lovers as children. They are often aware of the natural history of their patients and can advise their clients accordingly. These veterinarians are more apt to keep abreast of current reptile information through trade publications (Bulletin of the ARAV, Exotic DVM, etc.) and work with local reptile rehabilitators.
Because more than 90% of reptile-related clinical cases are attributed to improper husbandry, knowledge of such is critical to treating these animals properly. Unfortunately, reptile lover turned veterinarian, are rare, numbering less than 1,000 in the U.S.
Another group of veterinarians who treat reptiles consist of individuals with a definite interest in and respect for reptiles, and who have taken extra courses in reptile care. At least one of these caring and more knowledgeable veterinarians can be found, and will work with you in treating your reptile problem.
A third group of veterinarians are very caring and helpful individuals who know very little about reptiles, but will agree to help you. They may candidly admit they know very little about reptiles, but they will get their books out or better yet, call someone experienced in reptile care. (R.A.R.E. is consistently referred by local veterinarians to their clients.) and will work with you to help your pet.
The last group includes those who do not work with reptiles at all, and worse, those who will treat them without really knowing anything about their care, and worse still, misdirect you as the owner on the proper treatment at home. Thankfully, there are few (if any) in this area.
It is in your best interest to call RARE at (716)656-7273 for qualified herp vets in your area before deciding on a visit to a particular vet. Good veterinarians will handle your reptile gently and take extra precautions with species known to be somewhat aggressive. They usually have reptile pets of their own and their enthusiasm is apparent. They will refer you to a knowledgeable reptile rehabilitator for long or short term care if you are unable to handle your pets home care yourself. (90% of a successful cure for your problem will be the supportive care your pet receives after the vet visit!) The reptile rehabilitator will continue to work with your veterinarian to insure the return to health for your reptile pet!!
In the last 10 years, major strides have been made in reptile medicine. Because of these advances, knowledgeable veterinarians and assisting reptile rehabilitators can be tremendously helpful in saving the lives of many sick reptile pets. Pet stores, pet owners, and reptile rehabilitators and professional breeders alike have discovered that with some veterinarians fees are wise investments!!