Picking A Reptile Vet
©1996 Melissa Kaplan
How do you pick a reptile vet? Doing so can be tough as, if you don't know much about handling and care, how can you assess someone else's knowledge? Here are a few clues, however, that should help.
Ask other herp owners in the area; check with the herp society membership.
Talk to the vet's office and see how much of their practice is in herps, generally, your reptile in particular. Note that vets will not have seen many of the more recent popular animals such as beardeds, Uromastyx, skinks, even chammies so if you have one of these animals, this may not be a deciding factor. I know of at least one vet who has lied about this - his wife sort of blew it with a client when she asked if she could touch the client's iguana, saying she hadn't seen one in years. Considering that this wife works as her husband's receptionist, and that he is now advertising himself as a reptile vet, this clued the client in right away that she was in trouble! (As it happened, the vet pooh-poohed the idea of taking blood and so did not detect the onset of kidney failure and, failing to recognize the obvious physical signs of kidney failure, sent the client home with a broad-spectrum antibiotic.)
Ask what special training and continuing education they have done. Do they subscribe to the Journal of Small Exotic Animal Medicine? Belong to the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians (ARAV)? Attend reptile veterinary conferences? Do they belong to any herp societies? What reptile veterinary reference books do they have? (Some top names include Fredric Frye's Biomedical and Surgical Aspects of Reptiles; Frye's Reptile Care (both are huge two volume sets); Douglas Mader's Reptile Medicine and Surgery).
When you meet them, are they comfortable with the handling and examining the animal, or are they nervous, tentative, jerking away when the animal moves suddenly? Do they ask how you are housing and feeding the reptiles? Do they listen to you? Do they take their time with or or rush you out the door?
Don't confuse a brusque "bedside" manner with incompetence or lack of care, but do pay attention to clues that may indicate that this vet isn't keeping up with the literature.
Ultimately, it is a combination of gut response and checking and rechecking... and results.
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