Here at Wagly Rancho Santa Margarita, exotic pet care is one of the best and most exciting parts of our job. We recently sat down with our own expert exotic animal vet here at Wagly Veterinary Hospital, Dr. Heidi Watkins, to talk more about what it’s like when reptiles visit our RSM campus. Here is what she had to say:


Dr. Watkins, what does a typical reptile veterinary visit look like for you?

HW: My technician [Berkeley] gets a thorough history of the reptile’s environment and diet at home. We weigh our patient and I then perform a nose-to-tail exam to evaluate the oral cavity, nares, eyes, skin, and genital region. I evaluate the reptile’s body condition and overall alertness, strength, and activity level. I discuss my exam findings and address any abnormalities or concerns with the pet parent. Fecal samples are recommended to screen for intestinal parasites that can be common in pet reptiles.


What is the most common type of reptile or exotic pet you see at Wagly RSM?

HW: We have seen more bearded dragons [recently].


What should people consider before bringing a reptile or other exotic pet into their homes?

HW: I recommend researching the reptile that a person is interested in. Find out what their natural environment is and consider how that can best be replicated at home. Providing an environment and diet that closely resembles that reptile’s wild existence can help them thrive in captivity.


What are your top three reptile care tips you’d like Wagly clients to follow at home?

HW: Reptile pet parents should know the natural wild environment and diet of their pet. This also goes for our small mammal, bird, and other exotic pet parents.

Correct husbandry and diet should be researched and followed at home. Veterinary exams at least once a year should be considered to make sure their reptile is looking healthy to a trained eye.


Do you or your vet tech Berkeley own any exotic pets?

HW: Berkeley owns a sulcata tortoise, leopard gecko, and a sand boa constrictor snake. I own two California desert tortoises.


What are your favorite reptiles?

HW: Berkeley likes bearded dragons because they tend to have easy-going personalities and a friendly disposition. I think chameleons are amazing little dinosaur-like creatures, however, I have never owned one.


If you own a reptile in the Rancho Santa Margarita area and are looking for vets that take reptiles, give us a call at (949) 709-4600 or schedule an appointment. Dr. Watkins and Berkeley are excited to meet your exotic pets!