Learn about keeping pets such as snakes, turtles and lizards

Surprising to some, our cold-blooded friends can make wonderful companions. To get you started these are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive from potential reptile guardian.

What are some common reptilian pets?

There are a huge range of reptiles that people keep as pets, from the more common turtles, tortoises, lizards, iguana and snakes to lesser common (and worryingly large) crocodiles and alligators.

Are reptilian pets common in Vietnam?

You may be surprised to know that reptiles are not uncommon pets here
in Vietnam. We see many owners who are completely fascinated by reptiles and their habits, and love to keep them as pets. We come across snakes of all shapes and sizes at the clinic. People definitely fall in love with keeping 
them as pets and they even act as a lucky charm. There is even a reptile café in Saigon and Hanoi that allows customers to pet and play with iguanas, snakes and salamanders while sipping coffee!

How much do they cost?

Reptiles are found for sale throughout Vietnam and prices vary depending on the species, rarity and size. Most turtles and tortoises can be bought in the market, roadside and in specialty exotic pet stores and range from less than VND60,000 to over VND20 million. Always ensure that the pet you are purchasing comes from a sustainable source and isn’t an endangered or protected species-if in doubt, don’t buy!

How to care for my pet snake?

Caring for snakes is not as complicated as a dog, however,
they still need attention and a knowledgeable owner to keep them healthy and happy. Snakes should be kept in a large glass aquarium that is clean and dry-with plenty of vegetation to hide in. The humidity and temperature of their home is one of the most important things to monitor and varies widely depending on species. All snakes are carnivores and are usually fed baby mice or rats (these should be dead already as feeding live prey can cause stress and aggression). Depending on the snake, the amount to feed varies, but as a rule snakes eat only once every one to two weeks.

Is a tortoise a good choice?

These are the most common group of reptiles that we see, and they range from the water loving to the land bound. Local species are abundant, inexpensive and are easy to care for-and are supposed to bring
good luck to the homes they live in! While
some tortoises are
placid, others can have
a nasty bite so care
must be taken when
handling them. They also lead very
long lives and frequently outlive their owners, which needs to be taken into account.

What are the most common diseases?

Consulting your veterinarian is the best thing to do whenever you observe something strange with your pet. Snakes mostly suffer from skin parasites like mites and intestinal worms. Disease prevention with snakes starts with keeping their surroundings clean and in good condition. Most importantly, humidity in the cage also dictates the health of your pet snake. Turtles have their own range of common problems, such as ‘egg-bound’ where they cannot lay an egg and need medical help. Identifying sickness and obtaining early treatment in reptiles is key to a good outcome. They often hide signs of disease if not carefully monitored and tend to get better very slowly.

How should we handle our reptiles?

Approaching these exotic animals and handling them safely (for pet and owner) requires some knowledge and understanding of the species. When handling snakes it is important not to surprise them, and do not grab them
by the tail. Slow, gentle handling and moving with the animal will let them relax and they will quickly learn to associate this with a positive experience. Snakes are highly intelligent and can differentiate their owner from other people after a short period of time.

Lizards are much more intuitive
to handle and many varieties seem to enjoy their owners’ affection, often following them around the house. Good knowledge of the species you
are dealing with is important as some lizards can be very aggressive-and have sharp claws and teeth.

Can I bring my pet with me when I move to a new country?

Where many people now travel with their cat or dog, moving with a reptile can be a more difficult process. Depending on the species of reptile, some countries may not allow entry and there can be lengthy quarantine periods, however, that’s not to say that it’s not possible, but is an important consideration when taking on the care of an exotic pet.

While they are certainly not for everyone, reptiles can make caring and loving pets. They are fascinating to watch and interact with and provide owners with deep satisfaction. Many of you may wonder why on earth anyone would like to keep a reptile as a pet rather than something fluffy and soft. For those who are reptile lovers they may find it difficult to understand the attraction of a smelly dog, a demanding cat or a pesky parrot.

BIODr. Eugene has worked as a veterinarian around Southeast Asia for the last four years, from the Philippines and Thailand to Malaysia and now Vietnam. He is driven by a desire to provide the best care for his patients and has a wide range of experience in all aspects of veterinary medicine, and a special interest in surgery and intensive care. Dr. Eugene provides both rst and second opinions on all manners of companion animal cases while also overseeing the provision of clinical care for Animal Doctors International in Ho Chi Minh City.