Lizard Handling and Restraint

Key Points

  • The goal of proper lizard restraint is to control the natural serpentine movement of the lizard while being cautious of the mouth, feet, and tail.
  • Be particularly cautious of carnivorous lizards, like monitors and tegus, as they possess powerful jaws and lightning fast reflexes.
  • Iguanid lizards tend to protect themselves with their claws and tail.
  • Tail autotomy is a defense mechanism that utilizes tail loss to escape predation present in some species like iguanid lizards and geckos.
  • To restrain a lizard, place one hand around the neck and pectoral girdle region while the other hand supports the pelvis and tail base.
  • To minimize the risk of zoonotic exposure, wear disposable gloves whenever possible and always wash hands thoroughly after handling a lizard.

Diagnostic and therapeutic procedures cannot be administered until you and your staff can safely handle and restrain the lizard patient. This article reviews patient transport and defense mechanisms of the lizard, including tail autotomy, as well as protective gear and restraint techniques . . .

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Bays TB. Handling and restraint and venipuncture of exotic animals. Proc Annu Conf 65th Convention Canadian Vet Med Assoc; 2013.

Bradley TA. Basic reptile handling and restraint. Proc Annu Western Veterinary Conference 2002.

Cannon M, Johnson R. Handling and nursing reptiles (What’s normal & what’s not). Proc NSW Division Regional Conference 2014.

Eatwell K. The reptile consultation. Proc Annu British Small Animal Veterinary Congress 2013.

Hernandez-Divers SJ. Diagnostic techniques. In: Mader DR (ed). Reptile Medicine and Surgery, 2nd ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier;2006:490-532.

Mader D. Reptile handling and husbandry. Proc Annu Western Veterinary Conference 2009.

Nugent-Deal J. Reptile physical exam, capture, restraint and venipuncture Techniques. Proc Annu Conf Amer Board of Veterinary Practitioners 2011.


Further reading

Ballard B, Cheek R (eds). Exotic Animal Medicine for the Veterinary Technician, 3rd ed. Ames, IA: Wiley Blackwell; 2017.

Bassert JM, Thomas J. McCurnin’s Clinical Textbook for Veterinary Technicians. St. Louis: Elsevier Health Sciences; 2017.

Centers for Disease Control. Take care with pet reptiles and amphibians. Centers for Disease Control Web site. April 3, 2017. Available at Accessed September 28, 2017.

Johnson R. Serious reptile practice – How to tame a tiger snake, and more. Proc Annu Conf Australian Veterinary Association 2013

Mitchell MA. Managing the reptile patient in the veterinary hospital: Establishing a standards of care model for nontraditional species. J Exotic Pet Med. 19(1):56-72, 2010.

To cite this page:

Pollock C. Lizard handling and restraint. Sep 29, 2017. LafeberVet Web site. Available at