Reptile and Amphibian Equipment List

Basic reptile care

Rudimentary equipment for reptile practice focuses on supportive care, such as appropriate housing and nutritional support, as well as equipment needed for physical examination and basic techniques (Fig 1) (Table 1).

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Figure 1. The essential equipment list for reptile practice focuses on physical examination and basic techniques like supportive care.

It is also essential to develop a relationship with a reptile medicine specialist for consultation or referral. Association with a local or regional veterinarian is ideal, however telemedicine services are also available.

Table 1. Equipment recommended for basic reptile care
River stones, floating platformsBasking, dry docking for turtles
Ceramic or heavy crocksStable water containers for larger reptiles, assists shedding for snakes
Digital thermometerMost accurate method to measure temperatures in enclosures
Heat lamp and/or ceramic heat emitterProvides temperature gradient
Heat tape, under-cage heat pads (Helix Controls)Provides temperature gradient
Hiding places or densCut-up cardboard boxes can also suffice
Hygrometer or humidity gaugeUseful for reptiles from tropical humid climates
Incubator or intensive care unit cageUseful for sick hospitalized reptiles
Perch materialPVC piping, branches, twigs for arboreal reptiles
Plastic tubs for soakingLitter pans will suffice; water depth depends on reptile size
Small plastic containersSnap-on lids with a small door; useful for hatchling snakes and small lizards
Sphagnum mossProvides humidity and hide areas
Spray bottleRegularly spritzing enclosure walls can increase cage humidity
Ultraviolet (UVB)-lightingRequired for long-term hospitalization or boarding
Handling & techniquesCloth bags, pillow casesUseful for containing snakes
Butterfly catheters
(22-25 ga)
Critical care nutritionThe Emeraid Nutritional Care System can be fed to a variety of species.
Gram scaleUseful for recording weights of smaller reptiles
Handheld rotary tool
(e.g. Dremel tool, Fein MultiMaster)
Useful for trimming chelonian beaks and nails
Latex gloves
Leather glovesUseful for handling intractable iguanas
Lithium heparin microtainers
(Becton, Dickinson, & Co.)
Anticoagulant of choice for hematology in reptiles
Magnification loupe
Metal gavage or feeding tubesUseful for administering oral medications
Mouth speculaA variety of specula should be available: plastic cards, nylabones, bird mouth specula, rubber-tipped infant spoons, rubber spatulas, and/or guitar picks
Needles, 25-ga or smaller
Radiographic film, high-detail, dental film, and/or digital radiography (e.g. Lanex fine screens/TML film, Kodak)
Rubber feeding tubesUseful as pharyngostomy tubes particularly in anorexic chelonians
Sexing probes
(Big Apple Pet Supply; LLL Reptile & Supply Co. )
Lubricate with water prior to use in snakes. (Water-soluble lubricants should not be used for snake probing as they can desiccate and potentially block the hemipenes).
Snake hook
Snake tubeUseful for restraint and radiography
TongsRestraint for intractable snakes
X-ray machine capable of horizontal beamReduces imaging artifacts particularly when evaluating lung fields
Anesthesia or sedationAMBU bag or self-inflating resuscitatorHelpful for ventilating reptiles with room air instead of oxygen during anesthetic recovery as high levels of inspired oxygen promote apnea.
AtipamezoleReversal agent for dexmedetomidine or medetomidine
Buprenorphine and/or butorphanolAnalgesia
Dexmedetomidine or medetomidineSedation
Doppler flow monitorUseful for locating the heart in snakes and small lizards for cardiocentesis, anesthetic monitoring, and verification of life in the moribund patient
ElectrocardiogramAnesthetic monitoring
Endotracheal tubes, uncuffedChelonians possess relatively short tracheas which bifurcate in the caudal aspect of the neck
LidocaineLocal anesthesia
Ketamine and/or
Non-rebreathing or Bains circuitGeneral anesthesia
PropofolUsed to facilitate intubation; for short procedures less than 15 minutes duration; potent cardiac and respiratory depressant
Sevoflurane or isofluraneInhalant anesthetics of choice in reptiles
Supplemental heat source(s) Circulating warm water blanket, forced air heater, and/or heating pad; useful during anesthesia
SurgeryAppropriately sized surgical instrumentsMicrosurgical, human pediatric, vascular, and/or ophthalmic
Self-adhering clear surgical drapes (3M)
Small towel clamps
AmikacinAntibiotic: potentially nephrotoxic; adequate hydration is a priority
CeftazidimeAntibiotic: potentially nephrotoxic; adequate hydration is a priority; similar spectrum of activity to cefotaxime, cefuroxime, or cefoperazone
(Baytril, Bayer)
Antibiotic: may cause emesis particularly when given orally in chelonians
FenbendazoleAntihelmintic: nematodes, giardiosis
Ivermectin or selamectinAntihelmintic; should NOT be administered to turtles or tortoises due to reports of toxicity; topical acaricide in snakes and lizards
Meloxicam or ketoprofenNon-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent(s) for analgesia
MetronidazoleCompounded suspension; useful for intestinal flagellates and anaerobic bacterial infections
OxytocinProkinetic to stimulate oviposition
Silver sulfadiazine (Thermazene, Kendall)Topical antibacterial, antifungal agent
Vitamin A, injectableAdminister orally to minimize the risk of iatrogenic hypervitaminosis A
Resources recommended for practice

  • Carpenter JW, Marion CJ. Exotic Animal Formulary, 4th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders, 2012

  • Mader DR. Reptile Medicine and Surgery, 2nd ed. St. Louis: Saunders Elsevier; 2005

  • Mayer J, Donnelly TM (eds). Clinical Veterinary Advisor: Birds and Exotic Pets. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders: Publisher; 2013

  • Mitchell MA, Tully TN (eds). Manual of Exotic Pet Practice. St. Louis: Saunders; 2009

  • Krautwald-Junghanns, Pees M, Reese S, Tully T. Diagnostic Imaging of Exotic Pets: Birds, Small Mammals, Reptiles Hannover:Schlütersche Verlagsegllschaft & Co.; 2011

  • Rubel GA, Isenbugel E, Wovekamp P. Atlas of Diagnostic Radiology of Exotic Pets. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders; 1991

Advanced reptile care

The line between high-quality general practice and advanced reptile care is blurred since any thriving practice strives to improve and grow. Nevertheless there are some procedures performed by reptile specialists that require specialized equipment (Table 2).

Table 2. Equipment recommended for advanced reptile care
Husbandry“Warm room”A small, sealed room outfitted with a radiator is an easy, convenient way to house reptile patients at a baseline temperature of 80-85°F (26.7-29.4°C). Supplemental heat sources can then be used to provide a specific temperature gradient.
Infrared thermometerRaytekUseful to measure surface temperatures without contact
UVB radiometerwww.intl-lighttech.comDirectly measures the UVB output from a multitude of conventional sources
AnesthesiaApnea monitorMedical Engineering & Development Inc.Detects the cessation of breathing in anesthetic recoveries or moribund reptiles
Pulse oximeterMeasures both the pulse rate and percentage oxygen saturation of hemoglobin (Sp02).
CapnographCapnovet-10; Longview Veterinary
Measures the CO2 content of expired air
Small animal ventilatorSmall Animal Ventilator, Vetronics Bioanalytical Systems, Inc.Forced ventilation of anesthetic and oxygen based upon patient’s weight and lung capacity
Thermometer probeVeterinary Specialty Products
SurgeryCutting bursNeeded for plastron osteotomy
Hemostatic aidsGelfoam Pharmacia & Upjohn Co; Surgicel Ethicon, Inc., Johnson and Johnson
Epoxy resinsOccasionally used to repair simple, clean shell fractures
Oscillating sagittal sawUseful for plastron osteotomy
Lonestar retractorLonestar Medical ProductsPlastic self-retaining retractors that are particularly suited for chelonians
Radiosurgical unitSurgitron, Ellman InternationalUseful for soft tissue surgery
CO2 laserUseful for soft tissue surgery
Vascular clipsHemoclip; Weck, Triangle Park, NC USAApplication is faster than standard sutures

Resources recommended for practice

  • Bays TB, Lightfoot TL, Mayer J. Exotic Pet Behavior: Birds, Reptiles, and Small Mammals. WB Saunders, St. Louis, 2006

  • Fudge AM (ed). Laboratory Medicine: Avian and Exotic Pets. Philadelphia, PA:WB Saunders, 2000

  • Girling S, Raiti P. BSAVA Manual of Reptiles. Quedgeley [England]: British Small Animal Veterinary Association; 2004

  • Jacobson E. Infectious Diseases and Pathology of Reptiles: Color Atlas and Text. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2007.

  • Jacobson ER (ed). Biology, Husbandry and Medicine of the Green Iguana. Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing; 2003.

  • Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine

  • Journal of Herpetological Medicine and Surgery

  • McArthur S, Wilkinson R, Meyer J. Medicine and Surgery of Tortoises and Turtles. Oxford [England]: Blackwell; 2004.

  • Proceedings Annual Conference of the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians

  • Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice

  • Wyneken J, Godfrey MH, Bels V (eds). Biology of Turtles: From Structures to Strategies of Life. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2008.

    Amphibian care

    Physical examination and clinical techniques of the amphibian sometimes calls for specific equipment (Table 3).

    Table 3. Equipment recommended for amphibian care
    HusbandryAir stoneCan be used to rapidly dechlorinate water
    Bottled spring waterRecommended for caging in semi-aquatic species
    Bubble wrapMakes a great cage substrate
    Large bucketChlorine levels dissipate in water allowed to sit for 48-72 hours
    Plastic wrapCan be used to increase cage humidity
    Small, transparent plastic containerSnap-on lid that includes a small door for easier handling and restraint
    Sphagnum moss
    Unbleached paper towels
    Water dechlorinator
    Water quality test kit
    Water spray bottle
    Handling & techniquesCritical care nutrition Emeraid Carnivore
    Gram scale
    Latex glovesSelect varieties free of talcum powder
    Lithium heparin microtainers (Becton, Dickinson, & Co.)
    Liquid bandage (Johnson & Johnson)
    Magnification loupe
    Mouth speculae.g. plastic cards
    Needles, 27-ga or smaller
    Radiographic film, high-detail, dental film, and/or digital radiography (e.g. Lanex fine screens/TML film, Kodak)
    Rubber feeding tube
    AnesthesiaDoppler flow monitorUseful for cardiocentesis and evaluation of heart rate during anesthesia
    Tricaine methane sulfonate (MS-222) (Finquel, Argent Chemical Laboratories)Anesthetic of choice
    MedicationAmikacinTreatment of bacterial infections
    Enrofloxacin (Baytril, Bayer)Treatment of bacterial infections; Administered orally
    FenbendazoleTreatment of intestinal nematodes; administered orally
    IvermectinTreatment of external and internal parasites; applied topically or as bath
    LevamisoleTreatment of nematodes; administered as bath or topically; narrow margin of safety
    MetronidazoleTreatment of anaerobic bacterial infections and intestinal protozoa; administered orally or as bath
    PraziquantelTreatment of trematodes and cestodes; administered topically or orally
    Please note: Povidone-iodine should NOT be used in amphibians as transdermal absorption can cause iodine toxicity.

    Resources recommended for practice

    • Veterinary Clinics of North America Exotic Animal Practice

    • Wright KM, Whitaker BR. Amphibian Medicine and Captive Husbandry. Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing; 2001


    As a general rule, only experienced reptile veterinarians should see crocodilians. Handling and restraint of large specimens requires fairly specific equipment like pole snares, nets, and ropes. A squeeze cage and/or pole syringe can also prove useful for administration of anesthetic agents or medication to large crocodilians. Chemical restraint is combined with physical restraint. Muscle relaxants have narrow safety margins and are no longer recommended.



    Boyer TH. Chelonian celiotomy. Proc Western Vet Conf. Available at Accessed on April 28, 2013.

    Brown SA, Nye RR. Essentials of the exotic pet practice. J Exotic Pet Med 15(3):225-233, 2006.

    Lennox AM. Equipment for exotic mammal and reptile diagnostics and surgery. J Exotic Pet Med 15(2):98-105, 2006.

    Mitchell MA, Tully TN (eds). In: Manual of Exotic Pet Practice. St. Louis: Saunders: 2009.

    To cite this page:

    Raiti P. Reptile and amphibian equipment list. May 6, 2013. LafeberVet Web site. Availalbe at