Lizard and Snake Quarantine

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Many owners fail to appreciate the importance of preventive medicine and the role of the veterinary surgeon as part of it. A preventive medicine program includes placing all new reptiles in separate areas for at least three months, and performing regular veterinary examinations and screens during this quarantine period and at regular intervals. Quarantine allows you to record normal patterns of eating, defaecating, weight gain and behaviour for each individual and to provide optimum species-specific husbandry. This is especially important in exhibitions where larger numbers are kept although it is still important for the pet owner with only one or two reptiles.

Prevention is simple, low tech, and cheap. On the other hand, treatment is often complex, requires high technology and is usually expensive.

Stock selection

It is important to start with physically healthy (and hopefully genetically sound) animals and know their species-specific requirements. Appropriate identification is necessary, especially for reproduction.

  • For more information on lizard reproduction, see here.
  • For more information on snake reproduction, see here.


A quarantine program for newly acquired animals is essential to assess their health and prevent the spread of any subclinical disease. A quarantine area can also be set up for sick animals.

How long?

Quarantine should be advised for between 90 and 180 days before introducing a reptile into a reptile collection. All new lizards and snakes should enter and leave the quarantine room at the same time. Note that even a 90 day quarantine may be insufficient time to detect some viral or bacterial diseases where a reptile can be a latent carrier or has subclinical symptoms.


The quarantine room should at a distance from the main collection and there should be no air exchange between them. Once anyone has entered the quarantine area they should not enter the area where the others are kept.


  • Upon entering quarantine, lizards and snakes should be identified and measurements taken, including weight and snout to vent length. Take a history of the animal.
  • Daily observations to identify any problems (anatomical and behavioural).
  • Physical examination by a veterinary surgeon (see lizard exam and snake exams).
  • Faecal examination - most wild snakes have parasites.
  • Haematology and biochemistry to establish a minimum data base.
  • Serology if thought appropriate (e.g. ophidian paramyxovirus (OPMV)).

Veterinary involvement

Veterinary involvement in a preventive medicine program should include regular screening as well as disease investigation. Regular screening can include annual physical examinations, haematology and biochemical tests, faecal tests and other tests as deemed necessary. Regular screening of prey for infectious disease is also worthwhile considering. Disease investigation includes examinations as necessary and necropsies. Isolation of any infectious organism can be used for autogenous vaccination production.

Lizard and Snake Quarantine Learning Resources
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Full Text Articles
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Not cows but still a herd: veterinary management of a large reptile collection. Fleming, G. J.; The North American Veterinary Conference, Gainesville, USA, Small animal and exotics. Proceedings of the North American Veterinary Conference, Orlando, Florida, USA, 17-21 January, 2009, 2009, pp 1779-1780

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