Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

How Can You Tell If A Nonresponsive Reptile Is Alive?

Veterinary Emergency Medicine PEARLS


If a reptile is unresponsive to stimuli, the definitive method of determining if it is alive is to use a doppler machine to listen for a heartbeat. In chelonians (turtles, tortoises), the doppler probe can be placed against the body between the neck and a front leg and pointed caudally. In lizards, the doppler probe can be placed in the axillary region. A lizard will also usually respond by moving a leg or other appendage if turned upside-down, but do not leave any reptile in this position for too long. An electrocardiogram can also be used, which can prove electrical activity in the heart, but this may not always be accurate.

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