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  • Taking Care of Reptiles

    Taking Care of Reptiles

    So you’re in love with an iguana named Iggy. He’s green, he’s scaly, and he . . . lives in a tank in your living room. You need all the information you can get to keep him happy. And close encounters of the scaly kind require thought and planning beyond your average food bowl, water dish, and squeeze toy.

    Universe in a closet
    Two of the basic requirements in creating a home for your reptilian pal are heat and a reptile-friendly container. Aquariums, custom cages, and boxes of the home-built type are all good places for your green friend to call home. The easiest (and cheapest) lining for the cages of many reptiles is newspaper-it’s easy to change and easy to tell when it’s wet. Turtles need a more humid lining, such as soil mixed with peat moss. Geckos will like smooth aquarium stones in the bottom of the cage. Snakes will appreciate rocks to facilitate shedding, and iguanas and snakes both will like a hardwood driftwood branch for climbing. All linings should be changed regularly, with feces removed often.

    “Hide boxes” (which function exactly as their name implies) provide a secure, out-of-sight place for rest and relaxation in your reptile’s home. A hide box should be a shallow plastic container with a hole cut in the side and filled with one to two inches (depending on your friend’s size) of damp vermiculite or moss. Hide boxes can double as nesting areas for some species-your veterinarian can tell you whether you’ll need one for yours.

    The second component of building your pet’s personal universe is to create a sun-of sorts. Reptiles depend on the air temperature to maintain their body heat. Room temperature is too cold for most reptiles, so you’ll need to warm the cage environment as well as provide hot spots for basking (see Your Own Personal Sun). Most temperate (as opposed to desert or tropical) reptiles will appreciate air that’s 75 to 80F, and the only way to be sure you are providing adequate heat is to use a thermometer-preferably of the digital, indoor/outdoor, minimum/maximum type.

    But regulating the temperature of your reptilian companion’s environment means walking a fine line in determining their needs. If given the chance, reptiles will actually burn themselves when on, under, or around a direct heat source. Keep heat sources out of the cage if possible, and never place a cage or aquarium in direct sunlight without shade. In just ten minutes your friendly, fur-challenged friend can go from happy to heatstroke. And if your heat source must be in the cage, bear in mind that if it’s too hot to rest your hand on, it’s definitely too hot for Iggy.

    Water, water everywhere
    Denizens of desert, tropic, and temperate environments alike need water, and plenty of it, to survive. In addition to drinking it, some need to periodically soak to keep their scaly bodies sufficiently moist. Ensure that your reptile’s personal swimming area is shallow enough that he won’t drown and that it is kept clean from food residue and feces. The cage itself should have a relative humidity of 50 percent for desert species, 60-75 percent for temperate species, and 80-90 percent for tropical species. Some parts of the country are humid enough that additional humidity isn’t necessary. If you do need to create a little rain, misting the cage, or damp moss or vermiculite in the hide box should do the trick. With any method of humidifying, good air circulation is always important, and ultrasonic humidifiers allow less bacteria buildup than those of the steam variety.

    Big bad Salmonella
    You know you can get Salmonella from raw chicken or eggs, but a lesser-known fact is that most (if not all) reptiles are carriers of the bacteria. Salmonella is easily spread through bathtubs, hands, carpet, and clothing. For safety’s sake your green pets should not be allowed to roam free. In most people, Salmonella exposure causes no problems, but in certain cases it can be quite dangerous-even fatal. People at serious risk for Salmonella include children under age five (especially infants), pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems. Always wash your hands after handling your reptile, and do not eat or put anything into your mouth while handling your pet. That also means that reptiles should be kept out of the kitchen, and kitchen sinks or infant bathing areas should not be used to bathe reptiles, their cages, or their dishes.

    The doctor is in
    An annual checkup allows your veterinarian to monitor your reptile for chronic nutritional deficiencies, one of the most common problems facing our green friends in captivity. Ensure that your reptile’s diet is well-balanced and varied, and check with the doctor for specifics on feeding. Your veterinarian can also advise you on hibernation-many temperate snakes and turtles have a natural inclination to take a long winter’s nap. Usually this requires a gradual reduction of food, seclusion in a darkened, cool area, and monitoring on your part to ensure your pet’s metabolism is low enough that he is not slowly starving to death.

    Your own personal sun
    No matter what the housing situation you set up for your reptile, you will need to create heat. Here are several options.

    • Space heaters—Warm the entire room or closet.
    • Hot tape, heating pads—Provide localized spots of heat. Be careful reptiles are not allowed to come in direct contact with these, as they will burn the skin.
    • Incandescent or infrared light bulbs—Especially appropriate for reptiles that bask in the sun. Mount in the center of the ceiling and away from the sides, or even outside of the cage. Continuous light exposure can be stressful, so use infrared, red, or blue lights at night (even these should be mounted away from the reptile’s reach).
    • Hot rocks, sizzle stones—Not generally recommended, as they do not warm the air and may cause your reptile to spend all its time on the rock, burning itself.

    This information pertains to some of the more popular reptiles owned. Because there are many types of each species, this article focuses on generalizations for each animal. Your veterinarian can tell you more about your particular pet.

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Exotic Pet Care

  • Here at Animal Care Centers we see all animals great or small! We have certain Doctors who will see pocket pets, reptiles, and even our avian friends. If you have a small pet that needs medical attention please feel free to call us and we can help you set up an appointment.

Parasite Control

  • There is no subtle way to say this. To you, your pet is a family member. To a parasite, your pet is food. Parasites like fleas, ticks and heartworm-carrying mosquitos can carry numerous diseases that can seriously harm your pet. Here at Animal Care Center we offer a top of the line selection to help take care of these parasites and to keep you and your pet safe!

Nutrition Counseling and Premium Pet Diets

  • Here at Animal Care Center we recognize the importance that nutrition plays in the overall health and happiness of our pets. Nutritional evaluations and recommendations are included as a key component of our preventative health care protocols. We strive to be a valuable resource of nutritional information and advice for our clients. We believe that good nutrition is vital to your pet’s health. There are so many facets to nutrition so we understand how overwhelming it can be when you go pet food shopping. We are here to help you understand nutrition and what works best for your pet.

    Here are some nutritional topics that we can discuss with you during an appointment:

    • Understanding the basics of healthy nutrition and feeding practices
    • Reviewing life-stage nutritional recommendations for your pet
    • Determining the daily recommended caloric intake needs of your pet
    • Reading and understanding pet food labels


    If you have ever caught yourself walking up and down pet food aisles and not knowing what in the world is best suited for your pet’s diet, don’t fret you are not alone! We too have become frustrated by the vast number of pet foods, which are often misleading and confusing due to marketing schemes used to confuse owners. Also we are concerned about the number of pet food recalls that have occurred over the past several years. For this reason we are here to help you decide what diet works best for you and your pet. We can provide food lists that we can recommend to you or we also carry veterinarian prescription diets. Our prescription diets are specifically designed to help support the following aspects of our pets’ health:

    • Oral health/Dental Disease
    • Obesity
    • Diabetes
    • Kidney disease
    • Live disease
    • Feline Hyperthyroidism
    • Gastrointestinal disease
    • Urinary tract disease, including urinary stones
    • Joint Disease
    • Food allergies
    • Skin disease
    • Heart disease

Geriatric Care and Wellness Programs

  • We care for your pet that has been in your family’s life! As our pets age they have special health needs that may require more attention and care then younger pets. We do recommend twice-a-year wellness examinations. These are important in order to detect or treat medical problems that may arise. A baseline senior wellness exam should be performed so it can be used as a benchmark for measuring changes in your pet. This exam includes a complete physical exam, oral and rectal examination and recording of body weight and body condition. Our Dr. also examines your pet’s ears, eyes, and various internal organs. Some laboratory work may be done, including a complete blood count, urinalysis, fecal exam, and perhaps endocrine blood tests and other diagnostic tools used to detect health baselines or issues.

Travel Certificates and Health Certificates

  • Domestic and International Health Certificates (USDA accredited) – Traveling with your pet? No problem…We can help! There are a number of travel regulations and requirements that exist and vary according to different airlines and destinations. Always make sure you do the proper research before your appointment to determine what is necessary for your unique travel needs. And if there is something you are not sure of you can always give a call! We are always here to help!

Microchip/Pet Identification

  • Microchipping can save your pet’s life. 1 out of 3 pets become lost in their lifetime. According to the humane society, only about 15% of lost dogs and 2% of lost cats ever find their way back home. Almost 4 million pets are euthanized each year! This includes lost pets whose owners were not found in time. Microchips are an easy and inexpensive way to ensure your pet doesn’t become a statistic.

In-House Pharmacy

  • Our full In-House Pharmacy allows us to fill our patients’ prescriptions and quickly handle pet emergency needs.

Endocrinology (hormones)

  • Our doctors are dedicated to diagnosing and treating dogs and cats with a variety of endocrine (hormonal) diseases, such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease and Cushing’s disease. The endocrine system is an intricate arrangement of many hormones and control mechanisms. This complex system can fail in many places. Endocrine disorders are both multitudinous and often difficult to treat. However, our doctors here have seen numerous cases and have proper diagnostic tools to effectively diagnose and treat these disorders. If your dog or cat has an endocrine problem or you believe may have an issue please do not hesitate to call us.

Dermatology & Allergy Services

  • We provide complete medical care for skin conditions including serum allergy testing (QVC) and a full line of veterinary skin care products and diets. Companion animals can suffer from many of the same skin conditions that we do. Whether it be allergies, parasites, or a skin infection, our doctors are able to identify, diagnose and treat a wide variety of skin conditions.

Ophthalmology & Tonometry

  • This is the examination and treatment of conditions of the eye. (Tonometry defines the use of a specialized instrument to measure intraocular pressure which is vital in the detection of Glaucoma in our pets.) Animal Care Centers recognizes the importance of your pet’s eyesight and takes great measures to provide both care and client education.


  • Getting a diagnosis of cancer for your beloved pet can be a very devastating and stressful time. We understand and are here to help both you and your pet. Our highly skilled and experienced doctors are trained to deliver compassionate care using treatment options to help improve the quality and duration of your pet’s life.


  • Animal Care Centers provides comprehensive treatments for conditions of the heart. Through the use of such diagnostic tools as an electrocardiogram (EKG), echocardiogram (scheduled with our participating mobile specialists) and blood pressure monitoring, we are able to accurately diagnose and successfully treat our patients. We also have an in-house pharmacy for cardiac medications.

Laser Therapy

  • We have class IV Laser Therapy which is used to help relieve chronic pain and accelerates your pets healing and rehabilitation time following surgery. Laser Therapy can also be effectively used for on-going treatment of other chronic joint and muscle pains. We have seen positive results in our senior patients and in those who are challenged by arthritis. Read more about Pet Laser Therapy

Pain Management

  • Before, during, and after is our belief here at Animal Care Centers! We believe advanced medical protocols for the relief of acute and chronic patient pain is vital in our field! Not only do we keep our patients pain free during routine or specialized surgery but we also strive to keep our non-surgical patients who have chronic pain as pain alleviated as possible!

Dental Care & Dental Digital Radiology

  • Here at Animal Care Centers we provide complete dental services for your pet which includes full cleaning, polishing and dental radiographs (x-rays). We also provide before and after pictures to each client.

Anesthesia (including Propofol and Isoflurane)

  • We provide complete anesthetic monitoring which includes pulsoximetry, capnometry, blood pressure, EKG, core body temperature, respiration monitors and ventilator. We also provide warm intravenous fluids during surgery.


  • We can send certain diagnostic procedures via telephone or computer. This is a wonderful tool when needing vital tests done as soon as possible. This includes EKGs and Lab Work.


  • Performed in-hospital by a Board Certified Ultrasonographer. Ultrasound plays a dynamic role in determining treatment plans in special cases.

Digital Radiography

  • We have state-of-the-art Direct Digital Radiography allowing for quick and enhanced-image diagnostics.

Patient Care

  • We provide soft bedding, warm IV fluids and therapeutic warm blankets for surgical and medical patients. We also provide our patients with our undivided attention and tender care.

Critical Care and Emergency Services

  • We provide intensive advanced care and treatments for most critical need patients and emergencies. For extreme cases that require highly specialized treatments we can offer stabilizing care until transferred to a specialist. We also have in hospital oxygen cages that are vital in emergency situations.

Full In-House Lab

  • In our laboratory we can run blood work quickly for emergencies or as a routine measure. Blood work that we can run in house includes: complete blood count (CBC) with manual and LaserCyte hematology testing, chemistry profiles, electrolytes, urinalysis, fecal analysis, cytology, heartworm/erhlichia/anaplasma/lyme disease testing, feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus snap tests, and other in house diagnostic snap tests.