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What To Look For In A Healthy Reptile Or Amphibian

What To Look For In A Healthy Reptile Or Amphibian

Before you start looking to purchase a reptile or amphibian as a pet, it is essential to know what to look for when selecting a healthy animal. Below are some of the main things to consider before you purchase your new pet.


General tips

  • Certain things need to be considered that will be specific to a particular species, but some things are universal across all species to look for; being alert is one aspect that can be noticed across all animals. Ensure that the animal in question seems active and aware, being listless or lethargic is a common sign that something could be seriously wrong.
  • Weight – ensure that said animal doesn’t appear to be underweight or overweight.
  • History of animals. Depending on where you are purchasing from, this may be easier or harder to obtain. But getting as much information on their eating habits, veterinary history, age and anything else you can get will help you to decide whether the animal will be healthy or may need more maintenance than you can provide.
  • The eyes are always an excellent way to tell the health of an animal; you want their eyes not to appear cloudy, hazy, or swollen.
  • Be aware of any foul odor being emitted. Of course, every animal will have a scent, but an overpowering unpleasant smell can point to health issues.
  • Examine the skin of any animal that you are looking to purchase carefully. Any cuts, scrapes, sores, tumors, lesions of any kind can mean the animal is unwell or has been mistreated. Particularly in the case of aquatic animals, you will be able to see external signs such as fungal lesions or infections, which are warning signs.
  • If the animal is struggling to breathe easily, having to open its mouth to take a breath, this can point to a potential respiratory infection, particularly when it comes to snakes. It is essential to bear in mind that certain species, such as bearded dragons, will bask with their mouth open, which is known as gaping, this allows them to dissipate extra heat through their mouth.
  • Also, any mucus or discharge around the mouth or nostrils can be a warning sign.
  • Observe general movement, any shaking, or limbs that aren’t working right or at all is a sign something could be seriously wrong.
  • If the animal you are viewing is known to be undergoing treatment for anything listed or not listed here. Then wherever is selling the animal such as pet store, or breeder will be able to provide you with the veterinary records, no questions asked.
  • You should always plan to take any new pet to a licensed veterinarian for a general checkup and fecal if possible to ensure there is nothing wrong, and if there is then to be able to deal with the issue early. Click here to use the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians “Find a vet” website.


Selecting a Healthy Snake


  • Tongue flicking – a healthy snake, always flicks their tongue regularly, snakes do this to sense and explore their environment. If a snake isn’t flicking their tongue, it can mean a general lack of being alert.
  • Open-mouthed breathing can be an indicator or respiratory problems.
  • Wheezing sounds and audible clicking sounds when breathing can also point to respiratory problems.
  • Check externally for visible signs of parasites or ticks.


Selecting a Healthy Lizard

  • Depending on the type of lizard, some will flick their tongue, and just like snakes, this is a good sign. Although some lizards may not do it as often as snakes do, if they are using their tongue to detect their environment, then it indicates a healthy interest in what’s going on around them.
  • When viewing certain species such as monitors, tegus, iguanas, pay attention to their claws. Overgrown claws can indicate a vitamin deficiency or a general lack of care and upkeep.
  • Several species will use their tails as a place to store fat, look at the lizards tail, a skinny tail can indicate malnutrition which can be attributed to severe health issues. That being said, certain lizards can shed their tail, and it will regrow shorter and discolored, but this is not something to be concerned about.

Selecting a Healthy Turtle/Tortoise


  • Discoloration on their shell, such as black, white, red, or brown spots or patches, can be an indication or shell rot or another bacterial/fungal infection. Algal growth, which can appear green, is okay and can simply be washed off; it is not an indication of any health issues.
  • Indications of any softening of the shell, such as sloughing, a concave, or convex area, can be an indicator of serious health issues.
  • With turtles, their beak and claws should not appear overgrown; this can indicate a poor diet or malnutrition because of more serious health issues. Males of certain species are known to have longer claws than the females naturally, and this is not an indication that you need to be worried.


Selecting a Healthy Amphibian (Frogs, Toads, Newts, Salamanders)


  • The behavior of an amphibian is a big indicator of their health, pay attention for erratic behavior. If they are acting strangely or spastically, this can be a sign of a toxic infection or poor living conditions, which will require urgent veterinary intervention, should the animal be purchased.
  • Physical deformities such as bloating, skinniness, or having a bony appearance can be an obvious sign that the animal is unwell.
  • Any species with permeable skin such as frogs, newts, and salamanders should appear damp and smooth and not dry, rough, or cracked.


Buying a Reptile Online

When purchasing a reptile/amphibian online, there are several things to bear in mind:

  • Always research the source you are considering buying from, always purchase from a reputable supplier.
  • There is always a risk that the photos you may have seen may not be up to date, in the time between when the photo was taken, and now the animal in question could have become sick or injured, or something can occur in transit.


It is recommended to buy your reptile/amphibian locally or in-person rather than online so that you can see what you’re getting first hand and always avoid the risk of something bad occurring during transit. However, wherever you decide to buy from all animals deserve a chance at finding a decent home for them to live and be happy. So whatever you choose to do, as long as you know you’re making the right choice for you and your family, then that is all that matters!

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