- In a typical small animal clinic, standard housing should be available for most common captive reptile species.
- Hospital cages for reptiles will often be simpler than at-home enclosures (See Figure 1 above).
- Cages should be modified to facilitate patient monitoring, handling, treatment, and hygiene, but must also promote and sustain normal behaviors with appropriate temperatures, light, and humidity.
Key Safety Practices
- Heating pads and ceramic heaters must be controlled by thermostats.
- At least 50% of the cage should be outside of this heat zone.
- The cooler part of the cage should be at least 15°F–20°F cooler than warmest part of the cage.
- When operating <48 hours, temperatures should be checked hourly by infrared thermometer and adjustments made to prevent overheating or excessive cooling.
- When operating >48 hours, temperatures should be checked at beginning and end of shifts.
- Electrical devices must be plugged into ground fault interrupting circuits to reduce the likelihood of electrocution of staff or patients if wiring or the device becomes wet.
- The hospital cage should be checked q1h.
- The patient should be weighed at least q24h.
- Without disturbing the patient, periodic checks for breathing movements should be made.
- If movement is not detected, the cage should be opened slightly and the patient reassessed.
- If there is still no movement, the patient should be touched to elicit response; dangerous reptiles should be manipulated with appropriate tools (eg, pole, snake hook).
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- Reptiles should be placed in small, secure, plastic ventilated containers while main enclosure is cleaned.
- Substrate should be changed daily.
- The reptile’s weight should be obtained.
- The reptile can be soaked in shallow lukewarm water for hydration after weighing.
- This is effective for maintenance hydration and rehydration of mildly dehydrated reptiles.
- Reptiles may drink during the soak; body scalation may use capillary action to direct fluids to the mouth and cloaca, where many reptiles absorb fluids.
- Some reptiles may need fluids administered PO, SC, or IV/IO to maintain hydration.
- Size and depth of the water bowl is dependent on reptile size.
- Lids from small plastic containers and caps from 20-mL or 60-mL syringes work well for reptiles weighing <30 g.
- Shallow, plastic, rock-shaped water bowls are available.
- Sturdy plastic bowls 2 oz–16 oz work well for larger lizards and snakes.
- Oil drain pans, dishwashing pans, and other items may be needed for large lizards and snakes.
- If indicated, treatments can be administered.
- Food consumption, feces production, and other necessary information should be recorded.
- The enclosure and nonporous furnishings should be sprayed with quaternary ammonium compound disinfectant, allowed to set for 15 minutes, and rinsed with fresh water.
- Other disinfectants (eg, ammonia for Cryptosporidium spp) may be ordered as indicated.
- Common disinfectants used for dogs/cats are appropriate for reptile caging.
- After the tank has been refurbished, the reptile can return.
- Additional clean enclosures are helpful so that the reptile can be quickly moved into a new cage instead of waiting for the original cage to be disinfected.