How to Nurse a Sick or Dying Reptile Back to Health
When reptiles like lizards, snakes, and tortoises get sick, it can be difficult to know what to do. When a vet is not available or not knowledgeable, here is what you can do to nurse your reptile pet back to health.
Reptiles, like all other pets, occasionally get sick. Unfortunately, unlike dogs or cats, it can be difficult to find a knowledgeable reptile vet. And even when a reptile vet is available, they may have difficulty diagnosing your reptile's condition due to small size.
Many reptile veterinarians only have general knowledge about reptiles and struggle to treat individual species. In short, a mundane illness with a reptile can be fatal because appropriate medical care may not be immediately available. If you own a reptile, you should seek and find a competent reptile vet.
No information on the internet is a good substitute for the care of a qualified vet, but if you're desperately seeking an interim solution, if your vet's advice isn't working, or if you cannot find a good herp vet, here are solutions that may help and, if they don't work, are unlikely to harm your pet:
Brush Up On Basic Husbandry
Many common reptile illnesses, including metabolic bone disease and minor infections, are a result of incorrect husbandry. Read up on the proper care for your reptile and follow it precisely. Now is not the time to delay getting the correct heat lamp or providing a balanced diet. Provide your reptile with the precise care he or she needs immediately. Temperatures that are too low or the wrong amount of humidity are particular cause for concern.
Make Sure Your Reptile Is Eating
When reptiles are sick, they may stop eating. Malnourishment can quickly turn a minor illness into a life threatening situation, so you need to make sure your reptile is getting nutrition. Entereal food is liquid diet that can be fed to a reptile who is too weak to chew or hunt other food. Make sure you buy a liquid food appropriate for your pet. Insectivores should get food designed for carnivores and vegetarians should get the right liquid diet for their needs.
Many pet specialty stores carry a variety of liquid diets, and they can also be ordered online. If your reptile is still eating but is not eating enough, liquid food can still be helpful in ensuring your reptile gets much-needed calcium. Metabolic Bone Disease is the most common cause of reptile illnesses, so make sure the liquid diet you are feeding your reptile contains calcium and, ideally, Vitamin D3.
Reptiles need UV light in order to properly metabolize calcium, and if your reptile has metabolic bone disease or an infection, he needs extra calcium and UV. While indoor fluorescent lights can provide valuable UV light, there's no substitute for sunlight. Further, it seems that reptiles benefit in a variety of ways from spending time outside, so try to take your sick reptile out for at least thirty minutes each day. Make sure to supervise so your reptile is not eaten or injured!
A sick reptile is particularly susceptible to getting ill as a result of stress, so you need to minimize your reptile's stressors. Don't overhandle her; avoid introducing new cage mates, and keep other people in the house from pestering her. Avoid changing routines until your reptile is feeling better.
Nursing a reptile back to health can be a challenge, but the reward of a healthy pet is definitely worth it!