Helping Reptile Owners
Reptiles and their owners especially new owners need some guidance. Guidance should only be given after we completely understand what is going on. Fair warning, this hasn’t peer-reviewed or allowed to sit overnight before posting this is completely off the cuff as they say but I just have to say something. For months now I have come across things like the following on Facebook mostly
Do you notice anything about these two completely different scenarios? I did right away and it has been literally driving me up a wall.
Before I ‘go there’ I want to ask a question of my own.
“How is it in any way possible for anyone much less a trained herpetological veterinarian to diagnose a reptile or any animal from looking at a photograph? Is that possible? If it is, I want to meet that veterinarian because they MUST be superhuman.
Have you figured it out yet, what’s missing in those posts?
If you stated that no one
“Asked anything before diagnosing or advising…YOU WIN”
Ask Questions About the Reptiles
If you’re going to offer help in my observations and experience I have it to be of better service to those asking the questions (especially new people who may be unfamiliar) to ask some questions PRIOR to offering a diagnoses. I would say at least more than 50% of the time it will quickly become apparent that there is a simple husbandry issue that can be easily corrected. So what questions should we ask of the person asking why their reptile is doing or not doing a certain behavior?
- What is the ambient heat?
- What is the basking heat?
- How is the heat being provided? Overhead bulb (colored, CHE, Undertank, etc.)
- What is the substrate?
- How long has said person owned the reptile? (newly acquired reptiles generally will not eat right away)
- What decor is in the enclosure? (Reptiles without hides will sometimes not eat, stuck shed may be the result of nothing to rub against)
That’s just the start of the conversation. There are many more questions which can be asked and should be asked prior to offering any advice. Many times as I have said it’s a simple husbandry issue such as too little heat, UVB not being provided, or decor being incorrect.
Something else I am seeing as well is people who have not one iota of experience with the reptile in question offering advice. Just because you read a care sheet doesn’t make it right. I cannot tell you how many times I have come across someone asking either myself or one of my colleagues a direct question about a species which the person they were asking didn’t have the knowledge and both myself and my colleague would make a referral to someone whom we thought could help.
“I don’t know.”
Is a completely valid answer. Even better is
“I don’t know, let me see if I can help you find someone who does know the answer.”
Another issue I come across is that people open up with
“I cannot take (insert reptile species here) to a vet”
I understand the economy etc. or that parents buy their kids reptiles without foreknowledge of how to properly care for it. That said, in my experience many veterinarians will work with you in some form or fashion. If not that, then Model Herp is a fabulous service and is very inexpensive in comparison to a veterinarian visit and they may be able to help.
In closing, always attempt to be as professional as possible with people and don’t let emotions get the better of you. I am still learning this myself. I have some high emotions at times when reading some of the things I do about reptiles and how their caregivers operate. Always encourage further research to the person asking the question as in reading books and or more care articles. I hope this will help the industry become more cohesive and if you have any suggestions or other questions that would help narrow down the issues of identifying what may be causing health or behavior issues with a reptile please let us know in the comments below.