The Exotic Vet


Many reptile breeders inject tylan200 for stubborn RIs. I was wondering (other than baytril) what oral antibiotics you'd suggest for reptiles, as injections can cause skin and other issues?

Tylosin is not a really great drug for URI’s in reptiles. There are lots of other antibiotics but which one is best decided by getting a culture and sensitivity and taking into account what kind of infection is present, and what species of animal you are seeing. There is no one size fits all antibiotic and sometimes this can be a difficult thing to explain.

So I just wanted to get your opinion on the importance of bloody chemistry and analysis for diagnosis and such? Is it something you do fairly often? And what things do you look for with reptiles/exotics that you wouldn't look for in say a cat or a dog?

The most basic tool at a veterinarian’s disposal is the physical exam. A good, thorough exam can give lots of information. We look at eyes, ears, nose, oral cavity, skin, palpate the abdomen, check urogenital organs, check cranial nerves, reflexes, and more. Often with a good history and physical exam we can either find out what is going on or get a good idea of where to go next. But if there is nothing significant found on exam (as is often the case with exotics) the next thing we need is to run diagnostics.

Blood work is very important for determining what is wrong with an animal. We can look at red and white blood cell numbers, liver enzymes, renal enzymes, total protein, albumin, globulin, and many more. Often owners get upset that their vet can’t tell them exactly what is wrong without running tests but it is important to understand that in animals (exotics even more so) almost all diseases cause the same signs. Not eating, acting “off”,  vomiting, diarrhea, can be caused by almost anything. A Double Yellow Headed Amazon that presents for inappatence and seeming lethargic could have liver disease, atherosclerosis, bacterial/viral/fungal infection, cancer, endocrine disease, and there are dozens of causes for each. Without blood work treatment is next to impossible because we don’t know what we are treating. In the end it wastes more of the owner’s money with visits and throwing medicines at the bird until we find something that works which does not often happen.

I run blood work fairly regularly and it has really enabled me to provide better care for patients. There are of course some times that I don’t need it and can find the problem and fix it just fine. We look for a lot of the same things across all species. One difference is that liver enzymes are not very valuable in diagnosing liver disease in birds. Bile acids tell us if the liver is functioning properly and is a much more useful value. There are other differences depending on the species.

Probably a much longer response than you were hoping for, but I hope it conveys the importance of blood work. A good veterinarian knows not only when blood work is needed but which specific tests should be run and in the end it saves the client money and gets the proper diagnosis.

There is a very interesting article published in the July issue of the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine. It is (as far as I know) the first scientific study done on Spider morph ball pythons.

The article is far too in depth to include here but they did conclude that “Although further research is necessary for improved understanding, there is clear potential for significant welfare compromises to result from artificial breeding selection of reptiles.”

For those interested:

Rose, Mark P., BSc, MSc, CBiol, MSB, and David L. Williams, Ma, VetMD, PhD, CertVOphthal, CertWEL, FHEA, FSB, FRCVS. “Neurological Dysfunction in a Ball Python (Python Regius) Colour Morph and Implications for Welfare.” Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine 23.3 (2014): 234-39. Print.

Ailanthus Webworm Moth, Atteva aurea

Ailanthus Webworm Moth, Atteva aurea

I recently went to the vet with my red tailed boa because she had green urates the last time she pooped. I know this isnt a good sign. All the vet did was give her a physical exam, told me there was no other signs of illness, and send me home with an Omega 3 booster. Is there a possibility my snake is healthy? Should I go back and make them do bloodwork to be absolutely positive? Hope to hear from you very soon. I'm worried.

Urates can sometimes be off white or yellow and this is normal variation. Green urates are known as biliverdinuria and can mean there is some type of liver disease present. You are right that blood work is needed to truly determine if liver disease is present. Sometimes radiographs are also necessary but blood work is a good start. Make sure you go to a veterinarian that sees reptiles often, check for reptile vets in your area.

Hi! I just adopted an adult Irian Jaya Carpet Python. I've noticed she makes a whistling sound when she breathes and has been sitting in her water bowl a lot. We have been going through a heat wave where I live, so that may explain the soaking, but I'm worried about her nose whistle. Could it be a symptom of upper respiratory infection?? She's been eating well and is pretty active, but I don't want to just ignore it.

It could absolutely be a sign of an URI. Many species of snakes can make a deep hiss or whistling sound when they are stressed and this can sometimes be mistaken for respiratory problems as well. When they are in a shed they can also make a sort of whistling noise as air flows over shedding skin. Many owner also claim Carpets just make noises sometimes but I have personally never heard it. Make sure your husbandry is perfect and if it continues go see a reptile vet.

A Vet's Guide To Life: Trifexis Safety Concerns: Poor Reporting And Media Hype

"Anyone want to take bets on how long it takes for someone to make a disparaging or hateful comment on today’s blog post?  Or how quickly someone accuses me of being stupid, uninformed, or a shill for Elanco?  I’m expecting it because I know that there are some people who are pretty heated about this topic.  Well, so am I, so prepare for my rant."

Finally got my membership plaques!

Aug 3

Hi there, I just wanted to say that I really love your blog and that I always have done. I'm sorry that some people choose to be malicious and spiteful towards you, you don't deserve that at all. Keep doing what you do, and please ignore those that try to undermine your years of hard work. All the best.

Thank you!

Aug 2

It's so messed up that you constantly put up reliable, correct info 24/7 and no one says anything, but the minute you think a snake is fat (larger bodied than other pythons at least) you're apparently the worst person in the entire world and you're going to hell. Your blog is accurate like 99.5% of the time and you're polite about it, too. People need to calm down. <3 You're doing fine, love. Don't let them get you down.

Thank you very much! I truly appreciate you taking the time to leave a nice note.