The Turtle Lover's Utopia

Advice Column: Select a Healthy Reptile – Part III

Welcome to Part III of a four-part post series on selecting a healthy reptile.  With the holidays fast approaching, many parents will be looking at giving their kids pets as gifts and turtles are a very popular first pet. I hope this guide will help those out there as a guideline of what to look for when picking up a new reptile for the house.

So far, we’ve covered what to look for in the body of the reptile and in the head, eyes, ears, nose and mouth of the reptile before purchasing.  This week we’ll start by looking at things you should check related to the head, eyes, ears, nose and mouth of the reptile:

General Appearance/Movement/Other

  • Can you feel the reptile resist you as you move its limbs? Weakness or shakiness indicates a severely debilitated or sick reptile. If a lizard or turtle, it may be suffering from calcium deficiency. In snakes, especially boas and pythons, it could be inclusion body disease. If it is a boa or python, I strongly suggest you not buy any boa or python from that store/breeder/vendor. Wash thoroughly and change your clothes before handling anyone else’s boas and pythons and before touching any of your boas, pythons, or their enclosures.
  • Are there any black, dark reddish brown, or bright orange dots (mites) moving around the snake’s or lizard’s body? Look especially carefully around the ears, armpits, and along the neck and dorsal crest on lizards, and under the belly scales and under the chin and neck on snakes. Indicates overall poor care and lack of concern in the store and possibly weakened and sick lizard.
  • Do the legs pull away from you strongly when you gently tug on them? A healthy chelonian will firmly pull the limb away from you; a sick one will pull more weakly, or may not react at all.
  • Is the body extremely wrinkled, dull looking? Dehydrated. May also be a sign of improper environmental conditions preventing the snake or lizard from shedding.
  • When you hold it, can you hear a clicking or wheezing sound when it breathes? This is another sign of respiratory infection.
Next week, we’ll look at the behavior of  a turtle when selecting one for purchase…

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