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Choosing a Vet for Your Turtle

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An aspect of responsible turtle keeping, and pet keeping in general, is being able to provide proper medical care when your animal requires it. Turtles require special vets who are often categorized as herpetological (herp) or exotics vets. These vets often have their own specific fields, and the vet you choose should specialize in turtles. Choosing a vet should be done ahead of time, so you can conduct research and ask questions. Some vets work at multiple practices; so learning what the best times are to reach or meet your vet could also be very beneficial. Looking for a vet during an emergency is the worst possible time to do so.

Planning ahead allows you to prepare for the transportation of your turtle, anticipated fees, evaluation of the veterinary offices, staff and policies. Although it might seem excessive, you would want to be comfortable with the person who will be taking care of your turtle. Veterinarians should be receptive for a request to visit them. If you are young, this will also allow you to communicate the importance and seriousness of your turtle keeping to your parent(s) or guardian.

There are several links listed here to help you find a suitable vet. These links are provided for reference and we do not control the information at those sites. You are still required to conduct further research for choosing a vet. Start by trying to get recommendations from neighbors, friends or family who are turtle keepers. Seek out other hobbyists at a local turtle or herpetological society for their recommendations. Ask online forums or message boards for opinions of vets in your area. Check a local business phone directory.

For more remote locations, try to find out if there is a veterinary school or even a local zoo’s reptile department. You may also even try contacting a local herp breeder. Breeders can often be found in trade publications and at reptile shows/expos.
Note: The Internet is a great place to educate yourself about turtle care. However, do not use it as the sole means of obtaining medical advice. There is a lot of conflicting information, out dated information and just bad information out there. Accurately describing injuries or symptoms (even when posting pictures) can be difficult and misinterpreted. It simply is not a replacement for appropriate medical care.
Additional Articles
Picking A Reptile Vet - anapsid.org/vets/pickingavet.html
Choosing a Herp Vet - exoticpetvet.net/reptile/herpvet.html
Choosing a Reptile Vet - triciaswaterdragon.com/vetcare.htm

Questions to Ask a Vet

  • What is their experience treating RES? How long?
  • How long have they been in practice? What is their previous experience?
  • What is their educational background?
  • Are there other herp veterinarians at that facility?
  • Are they a member of the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians?
  • Are they a member of any other herp/reptile societies?
  • Are the facilities able to conduct blood tests, fecal samples and x-rays?
  • Do they keep their own RES?
  • What do they think is necessary in a turtle setup?
  • What do they think a RES should be fed?
  • What are the fees for examinations?
  • Are there additional fees for emergency visits?
  • Are there any discounts or payment plans available?

What Else to Look For

  • Are the facilities clean and professional?
  • Is the support staff friendly and knowledgeable?
  • What are the office hours?
  • Is there a 24-hour emergency care plan? Can they refer you to one?
  • Are the facilities easily accessible (location and parking)?
  • Are your questions answered, despite how basic they might seem? Overall, were they receptive?
  • Did they ask you about your turtle setup?
  • If possible, observe how they handle turtles.

About Veterinarians

Finding a good qualified herp vet is not easy. They are often called your pet’s second best friend. It is important to recognize this and you should feel comfortable with whomever you choose. By reading this site and others, you may feel you are more knowledgeable than a vet. Try to understand that this site is for reference only, there are bound to be conflicting information and ideas. Herp vets have much broader education including detailed study in anatomy, physiology and pharmacology. Do not ignore this and respect your vet’s knowledge.

Just as you should be cautious about using over-the-counter medications, you should not diagnose medical problems yourself and then ask for the medications from your vet. Allow your vet to examine your turtle so you can be offered the correct medication, instructed on the right dosage and for the correct amount of time. In addition to this, your vet might conduct a more thorough exam and order further tests if it is deemed necessary.

Costs and Fees

Keeping a turtle means being responsible for its medical care. Despite how inexpensive RES are, they may need veterinary care. Too often turtles are kept in poor living conditions and become seriously ill. Too often they are in the care of those who do not have the means to (voluntarily and involuntarily) pay for their medical expense.

It is said that if you cannot afford the vet, you cannot afford the pet. Despite your intentions, despite providing the best possible habitat and despite trying every thing the pet store has to sell you, it is sometimes necessary to get professional help.

If you do not think you can afford the fees and possible treatments, let the vet know. They may have a payment plan or limit their time for only necessary services. Young people often are able to borrow money or agree to do extra chores. Turtle ownership is a commitment of your time and money.

Overall, there is no standard fee structure. Simply call and ask. There may be small fees associated with medications. There will also be fees with any tests run. Follow up visits should be inexpensive. A few people report that $50 to $75 to be the initial fee with their experiences.

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This page updated: 2011/01/28 Copyright © 2005-2011 Red Ear Slider. All rights reserved.