Why should you use a specialist vet?
Most family vets will happily look at your terrapin and give it the best care they can. However, with the specialist needs chelonians require, your vet probably knows little more than the basics unless they’re specially trained.
Vets who are specialists in reptile care undertake in-depth training on the subject and understand the physiology and care needs of your animal far better than most vets, whose day-to-day demands probably include far more cats, dogs and hamsters than anything else.
So where do I find one?
That said, if your animal is in urgent need of a vet, you don’t want to be searching for hours just to find a phone number. So what do you do to find a specialist vet near you?
To start with, there are a small number of websites who have attempted to collect a list of vets who specialise in the treatment of exotic pets such as terrapins. I’ve listed them here:
- The Tortoise Table, a great website that lists the wild plants edible and safe for chelonians to eat, also offers a UK-wide list of vets, listed by area, that deal with exotic pets including terrapins and tortoises. Some vets may also offer a referral service if more specialist treatment is required. I can’t say if this list is complete, but it’s a great place to start!
- Melissa Kaplan’s Herp Care Collection is a great resource for the care of all sorts of reptiles and Melissa has created a list of UK vets who will understand your terrapins’ needs. She also seems to update regularly so it’s a good source of information.
- A short (and slightly disordered) list can also be found on Reptic Zone, with useful comments by the users who recommend each vet.
Who else can you call?
If these searches do not highlight a vet near to you, then other places to start might include calling other veterinary practices in your local area and asking them a few questions to find out about their experience with exotic animals.
Be clear, asking questions such as “How much experience do you have with reptiles?”, or “What experience do you have with owning or caring for reptiles?” Your aim is to identify whether you feel comfortable with their ability to care for your pets.
Another advantage to calling your local vets directly is that if they can’t help, they may well know another vet nearby who does. Don’t be afraid to ask if you’re not feeling sure.
Other places that may help you locate a specialist reptile vet in your area could be your local animal rescue centre or, if there is one nearby, a zoo. Both of these will have to call on vets to treat their reptiles (if the rescue centre has any) and should be able to point you in the right direction.
Visit your vet before an animal is ill
Please note that none of the sources who direct you towards a vet for reptiles will be able to vouch for the standard of care your pet will receive. If you have identified a vet for your terrapins, consider taking your animals for a check-up in advance of them actually being ill. This is your opportunity to find out what the vet really knows about your animal before it is an emergency.
With any luck and with the proper care, it may be you never need to take your terrapins to a vet! To keep your pets as healthy as possible, The Turtle Guide Book is a great resource offering everything you need to know about terrapin care.