First-Aid Checklist

Author: Cait Mistral 


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Having these items on hand can make all the difference in the event of an accident or emergency. I've included suggestions to help locate some items, but they are available on other sites as well. Your kit should include:

  • Family veterinarian phone number

  • Emergency veterinary hospital phone number (ask them for a refrigerator magnet with the number; most emergency vets will offer this)

  • Not sure where to find an exotics vet? Click here to visit the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians website and find an exotics vet near you.

  • Poison Control Hotline

  • Emergency contact number for a friend or family member

  • Gauze pads

  • Sterile, non-stick gauze pads for bandaging

  • Sterile saline flush (sold at pharmacies)

  • Gauze rolls

  • Vetrap elastic wrap for securing gauze (Amazon, Chewy, drug stores)

  • Adhesive tape (cloth and waterproof)

  • Antiseptic wipes, soap or spray

  • Cotton balls and swabs

  • Hydrogen peroxide

  • Disinfectant - Betadine, povidone iodine, etc. (Amazon, Chewy, drug stores)

  • Chlorhexidine solution (also called Nolvasan) (Amazon, Chewy, drug stores)

  • ...or Vetericyn Reptile Wound Care Spray (Chewy)

  • Fluker's ReptaRinse - eye rinse for reptiles (Amazon, Chewy, big-box pet stores)

  • Rubbing alcohol

  • Disposable gloves

  • Bandage scissors

  • Tweezers or needle-nose pliers

  • Pillowcase or small tub for transport (keep a clean towel in these to give snake something to grip)

  • Electrolyte solution (e.g., unflavored Gatorade, Pedialyte)

  • White sugar packets (for prolapse)

  • Small, soft spatula or tongue depressors (for opening mouths)

  • Prescription silver sulfadiazine (topical antibiotic for treating mild - moderate wounds, burns, and scale or mouth rot)

  • Penlight or small flashlight

  • Magnifying glass (for identifying mites)

  • Paper towels

  • Plastic eyedropper

  • Insulin syringes

  • Utility knife (such as a Swiss Army knife)

  • Nutri-BAC dietary supplement for reptiles - recovery after antibiotic use or help with malnutrition (Amazon, Reptile Supply Company)

  • Emerald Intensive Care powdered reptile food (Carnivore) or Oxbow Critical Care Carnivore - these are an optional critical care nutritional supplement. They aren't cheap, but they are very helpful when needed. You could ask your vet to have these on hand.

  • After near-drowning

  • Respiratory problems - open-mouthed breathing, gasping, clicking or wheezing noise when breathing, extending the neck to breathe, nasal discharge, bubbling or excess saliva

  • Deep cut - muscle or bone exposed

  • Extensive scale loss - snake caught on sticky tape, for example

  • After any burn - even minor burns create significant infection risk

  • Smoke inhalation

  • Suspected poisoning or exposure to pesticides or toxic fumes from cleaning agents, paint/wax strippers, etc.

  • Electric shock

  • Blood in feces

  • Swelling in the upper 2/3 of the body (as opposed to swelling in the lower third, which usually just means the snake needs to have a bowel movement)

  • Swelling around head, mouth, or under the jawline

  • Bulging, cloudy eyes (just cloudy = about to shed, but if eyes are also bulging this can indicate infection)

  • Prolapse

  • Straining

  • Seizure

  • Rapid weight loss

  • Significant dehydration (very wrinkled and dry in appearance, pitted, 'dented' or sunken eyes)

  • Unusual body positioning - rolling upside down, tremors, 'stargazing', lying stretched out combined with listlessness

NOTE: If there is not a reptile specialist in your area, request that your local veterinarian consult by phone with one of the specialists on the ARAV list.

Ultimately, when in doubt, call your veterinarian!


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Kawkawlin, Michigan
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