Picking a vet for your pet snake should be one of the first things you ever do. Even before you buy the snake and bring it home you should have picked out a vet “just in case”. If you look in any city phone book you will no doubt see numerous listings for veterinarians. Some areas (in the United States at least) are so densely packed with veterinarians they’re nearly as prevalent as fast food restaurants. One thing that many people don’t seem to realize is that when you have a snake, or any reptile for that matter, taking it to the generic “small animal” vet isn’t a good idea. In fact it is often a very poor idea to the detriment of your animals health. You need to find a veterinarian who specializes in herpetological medicines.
Just like there are many different “types” of doctors with many different specialties the same is true with veterinarians. There are small animal vets (cats, dogs, etc) farm vets (horses, cattle, etc), exotic animal vets (big cats, elephants, etc), reptile vets (snakes, lizards, etc), and many others. You wouldn’t go to a doctor who specializes in joint replacement for cardiac issues so why would you send your sick snake to a vet that works with cows? Yet that’s what many people do, because they are either irresponsible or don’t know the difference.
- When to pick a vet for your snake
- The best time is before there is a critical need for their services. If you plan to use vet pet insurance be sure that they will accept it. There are some very valid reasons for this including:
- You have a chance to build a relationship before trouble strikes
- The person will have a chance to get used to your animals
- It allows you to build your network of contacts in the reptile world
- You’ll learn how to get there before you’re in a rush. It might sound funny but 4:45pm on a Friday afternoon is a bad time to be trying to get to the vet across town without knowing where you’re going
- Vets will often offer discounts, payment plans and other amenities to return customers that first time walk ins don’t get
- How to pick a vet for your snake
- First sit down with a phone book in your local area and start looking under “veterinarians”. Begin by calling them and simply asking if they have a vet on staff who specializes in reptiles. You can also use Google from a computer and type “yourzipcodenumber veterinarians” (without quotes) in the search field and it will bring up vets in your local area. If you want to pin-point it a little better type in you exact address along with the zip code.
As you contact each vets office ask to speak with the reptile specialist. Most will refuse to put you on the line with them, but at least try. Either way write down the name of the vet, and their address. Then try to schedule a good time to meet that person. The vast majority will agree to meet you for 5 or so minutes without charging so long as they aren’t doing work on your animals. Don’t try to pick the vets brain too much just get a feel for if they know what they are doing. You can eliminate a lot of people with a simple meeting. Better to do it now than to do it in a crisis situation.
Once you’ve narrowed things down to two or three vets chose in order which one you like the best, in between (if you have 3 choices), and least. That doesn’t mean who you personally like or dislike, but who makes sense to visit. I know a great vet 45 miles away from where I live, but he’s the last choice I have in an emergency.
The final step in the selection process is to actually visit the vet with your snake and have them do a general checkup. Watch to make sure the vet is actually comfortable with your snake, handles it properly, asks the appropriate questions, and is through. If you get a bad feeling about the whole things there is probably a pretty good reason for it. Trust your gut.
The bottom line is that choosing a vet to take care of your pet snake isn’t difficult, but it shouldn’t be left for the last minute. You’ll pay for it in terms of anxiety, and price and your snake’s health could suffer because of it. Just take that little bit of extra time and do it right.