Vomiting/Regurgitation in Reptiles
©2000 Melissa Kaplan
Vomiting (regurgitation of ingesta in any state of decomposition) and fluids is not considered to be a common, relatively harmless occurrence in reptiles. When a reptile regurgitates, it is usually due to one of the following conditions:
Vomitus may or may not smell bad. Carnivore regurge is going to smell worse than herbivore regurge, with omnivores somewhere in between depending on the the ingredients they've tossed. If the regurge was because of a parasite or intestinal infection, it will smell anywhere from "very strong" to "knocks you out of your socks when you walk in the front door".
Check the enclosure and room temperatures. If the enclosures or free-roaming areas have been allowed to get too cool (as during the change in seasons from fall to winter), or heating equipment has failed, or there was a temporary power outage when you weren't home, get the temperatures restored as quickly as possible (note: hypothermic reptiles need to be brought back up to basking temperature slowly so as to prevent cell destruction).
Since vomiting brings up the various digestive juices which can irritate the throat and mouth, it is important to give the reptile's upper gastrointestinal tract a rest of several days before trying to feed them again. You can administer oral fluids which will help wash the gastric fluids back down, soothe the GI tract a bit, and help rehydrate the reptile.
If the temperatures were not at fault, and the regurge wasn't because you decided to take your just-fed snake to school for show-and-tell day, or fed your lizard just before leaving on a bumpy 20 minute car ride to your friend's house, get your reptile to the reptile vet to be checked out. This is particularly true if there are any other signs of illness or stress.
Note on Starved/Emaciated or Dehydrated Reptiles
There are ways to properly rehydrate and feed dehydrated and starved reptiles to strengthen them and build them up to the point where they will be able to eat normal foods again. Please read the Fluids and Fluid Therapy in Reptiles for dehydrated reptiles; for emaciated reptiles, read the fluid article and the Emaciation (Starvation) Protocol article to find out how to safely reintroduce food.
On Green Iguanas...
If the green iguana regurges anything older, or what appears to be largely mucous rather than water laced with a bit of saliva, get the iguana to the reptile vet within 24 hours or sooner if there is any sign of rapid onset of illness (dramatic weight loss, sunken eyes, pale buccal tissues, diarrhea, lethargy, darkening skin color, behavioral changes, changes in daily routine, etc.)
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