Wound Management for Reptiles

How to Manage Wounds in Reptiles


For minor issues, small wounds in reptiles like superficial cuts, scrapes or tail nips often will heal on their own. Reptile wounds heal more slowly than mammals or birds because they have a lower metabolism and variable body temperature. There is no best treatment for minor wounds in reptiles, but the following topical disinfectants and balms can be useful for minor issues. Some skin infections, like stomatitis (AKA mouthrot) or other inflammations of the mouth will also require topical treatment.

Keep an injured animal in a clean environment. A hospital tank or quarantine setup is best as long as it does not cause undue stress for your pet. It should be appropriately sized, but can be smaller than normal as long as the temperature range and thermoregulation needs of your reptile are met. Provide sterile substrate such as paper towels and replace as soon as you see wastes or spilled food which can breed bacterial nasties. Adequate humidity without being wet is suitable for most reptiles; amphibians of course need a wetter environment so frequent water changes are a must. Always keep in mind the POTZ (Preferred Optimal Temperature Zone) for the species you care for.

For major injuries, like deep cuts and broken bones, proper vet evaluation is necessary. If oral antibiotics are necessary, please take your pet to a qualified reptile vet!

There are two benefits of using a topical treatment: to disinfect the wound and to cover it to keep out dirt, irritants, germs and keep it moist for faster healing. In humans, the best advice is to not irrigate minor wounds. Very little information is available on most wound treatments in reptiles, so caution is necessary when selecting a product that has not been studied or used long-term by veterinarians.

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