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

Signs of Pain and Discomfort in Herps

©2000 Melissa Kaplan


Since herps cannot groan, or grimace, or complain aloud about where it hurts, we must use our observation skills and knowledge of the normal behaviors and routines of the species and our individuals specifically to determine when something is not right.

There are times when a healthy herp will act differently, but these changes should be seen for what they are by the experienced herper:

Changes associated with breeding season:

  • Color
  • Activity level and daily routines
  • Appetite
  • Feces and urates
  • Appearance of seminal deposits or plugs
  • Behavioral changes associated with territorial protection or expansion, mate seeking, and intruder suppression

Changes associated with skin shedding:

  • Color
  • Activity level and daily routines
  • Appetite


If it is not breeding season or the beginning of a new shed period, the following signs may indicate pain from an injury, abscess, tumor, abdominal mass, or other problem:


  • Lethargy
  • Lack of usual activity
  • Reluctance to move
  • Favoring a limb, tail or quadrant
  • Limping, lameness
  • Slowed reflexes (in the absence of being too cold)


  • Unusual aggression to all contact or when contact is sought at certain sites
  • Withdrawal/Avoidance behavior, especially in a usually sociable or gregarious individual


  • Hunching (abdomen tucked up)
  • Won't lay down, even in favored places
  • Stands holding foot or limb elevated


  • Abnormally Aggressive
  • Anorexic
  • Restless
  • Depressed
  • Lethargic



Related Articles

Signs of Illness and Stress

Change-Related Stress

Reptile Skin Shedding

Iguana Behavior, Breeding & Reproduction

Tough Love, or Attigtude Adjustment

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