If Your Iguana's Ill Or Injured, Take It To An Emergency Herp Veterinarian

If you have an iguana that suddenly becomes ill or suffers a serious injury, you may need to make a trip to an emergency veterinarian. For the best care, you should look for an herp veterinarian. Here are four questions you can ask emergency veterinarians to assess their level of familiarity with iguanas and other reptiles and determine whether they're herp-friendly.

Are you an herp veterinarian?

Herpetology is the study of reptiles and amphibians. Veterinarians focusing on these animals often shorten the term to "herp." If you live in a small town, you might not find an herp-specific emergency veterinarian, but you can at least look for an herp-friendly one.

How often do you see an iguana?

If you can't find an herp-specific emergency veterinarian, this is the next most important consideration. You don't want to take your iguana to a veterinarian who hasn't treated one in the past six months. Many general veterinarians will accept iguanas, but, according to Reptilecare.com, they often only see one or two reptiles a year -- and those reptiles may not be iguanas. 

If you live in a large city, you should be able to find an emergency veterinarian who at least sees iguanas regularly, even if they don't specialize in reptiles. In a rural area, there might not be a veterinarian who has iguanas come in every week. You should look for someone who at least sees more than two a year, though.

After asking about iguanas specifically, you can also inquire about reptiles more generally. Although there are differences between species, a lot of knowledge carries over from one type of reptile to another.

Where did you study herptiles?

If your veterinarian says they studied herptiles, reptiles and amphibians, in veterinary school, ask them if the program focused specifically on herptiles. Every veterinary program includes some coursework on herptiles, because, as Melissa Kaplan notes, veterinarians are expected to have "passing familiarity" with reptiles. Herptiles are usually covered in an exotic animals course that also includes birds and arachnids, though, so little time is actually spent on reptiles.

Herp veterinarians specialized in reptiles and amphibians after veterinary school, by enrolling in an additional academic program or working in a practice that focuses on herptiles. A veterinarian who has advanced knowledge of iguanas and other herptiles will mention post-veterinary school training, either in an academic or clinical setting, and ongoing continuing education units (CEUs) they've taken.

How do your vet techs keep up-to-date on herptiles?

When your iguana goes in for treatment, the veterinarian won't be the only one treating it. Veterinarian technicians, commonly called vet techs, will be taking its vitals and assisting with the examination and any procedures. They also need to be familiar with herptiles.

Vet techs won't have the extensive training that the veterinarian does, but they can specialize in herptiles. After earning their degrees, they might learn more specifically about herptiles through:

  • The Journal of Small Exotic Animal Medicine, a journal that covers reptiles, amphibians, birds and other exotic creatures
  • veterinarian reference books on herptiles
  • CEUs that focus on amphibians and reptiles

CEUs may include conferences, online courses or other forms of study. The mode isn't important, but they ideally will focus on reptiles or, more broadly, herptiles.

When your iguana has a medical emergency, you don't have much time to find an emergency herp veterinarian. Hopefully, you'll locate an herp-specific practice. If you can't find a true herp veterinarian, these questions will at least help you find a practice that sees iguanas and other reptiles regularly. The staff at a practice that's familiar with herptiles will be able to provide your iguana with the best emergency care available.