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It's come to my attention that not all vets are trained to treat reptiles.

Other than the obvious "Do you have a vet trained in treating reptiles?", what are some pertinent questions I can ask a veterinary practice to determine how well qualified they are to look after my pet if there is a problem?

I plan to contact several practices, ask some questions and compare their answers, so I'd like to have a few really good questions that will provoke enlightening answers. Unfortunately, I'm not sure where to start or what I want to know.

Either questions regarding reptile veterinary care in general, or, if appropriate, more specific ones regarding leopard gecko care, would be suitable.

  • I'd be wary of this last edit. It's turned into a list question which doesn't do to well on this site. – Spidercat Feb 7 '14 at 20:11
  • @Matt Definitely not looking for list answers. Would much prefer 3-4 really strong questions that cover all the basics than some great long list that'll make me sound daft on the phone. Questions should also be considered together as a set. Have edited again. – starsplusplus Feb 7 '14 at 20:26
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    List questions like "best sites for x, y, z" are bad because they require maintenance that nobody will really undertake. This question doesn't have that issue, the answers won't expire in the same way. – John Cavan Feb 7 '14 at 21:59
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The first thing I'd look for is a vet listed as an exotic-pet veterinarian because they're more likely to be able to care for reptiles than a normal veterinarian would be.

It might be a different case in bigger cities where vets see a wider variety of animals, but I've not been impressed with the knowledge of non-exotic vets regarding animals other than cats and dogs. I believe this to be an issue of demand, which might change as reptiles become more popular as pets, subsequently being considered less exotic.

Most vets probably do have some training with reptiles, but I wouldn't expect it to be as in-depth as a vet specializing in exotic pets. There's also the matter of how often they see reptiles compared to how often they see cats and dogs. Even if trained with reptiles in school, if practicing on a reptile is a rare occurrence, their reptile training might diminish due to lack of use.

Asking the obvious question, if they're trained to care for exotic pets (specifically reptiles), is best. It should result in an answer of either yes or no. If the answer is no, you should follow-up asking whether they can recommend a properly trained vet in your area.

I don't know of any vet who would lie about this, as (as it is with human doctors) it's a pretty big risk that if something goes wrong, they can be held liable for it. If you're worried a vet you're seeing isn't as capable of caring for reptiles as they say, ask a couple follow-up questions about their comfort levels with reptiles.

Follow with:

  • how many reptile owners see them for appointments
  • what kind of reptiles do they usually see for appointments

You're going to have to use your best judgement to decide if you want to trust them.

If no vets in your area are trained to care for your pet, that doesn't necessarily rule them all out. A vet who is willing to learn and consult a specialist or reference manual if needed, is a much better option than not taking your pet to a vet at all. It all comes down to a matter of using your best judgement on which vet to trust.

With all that being said, I would say the best way to find vets who are qualified to care for exotic pets is by searching through the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians' website. They have a search feature for certified vets by state. Likewise, there is an Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians, and an Association of Avian Veterinarians if you're into those types of pets.

If nothing else, ask around. Find a local group of reptile keepers or your pet store, and ask them which vet they use and trust. It is the same as finding a vet for a dog or a cat; hearing personal recommendations is always helpful.

  • The websites you linked are only good for the US but the rest of this is really solid. There's a lot to think about here. – starsplusplus Mar 13 '14 at 16:39
  • @starsplusplus Actually those organizations are international. It's just the headquarters that are based in the US. Their "find a vet" forms have several countries to choose from. – Spidercat Mar 13 '14 at 16:51
  • Huh. Somehow I missed upvoting this when I accepted it. – starsplusplus Nov 20 '14 at 13:56

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