Choosing a Veterinarian…

Like for your own personal health, a medical resource for your tortoise is important.
Choosing a vet is first limited by geography, but not as much as would at first seem to be the case.  Most vets, as professionals, can and often do consult peers and specialists within the profession.  For a quick phone call, vet to vet, it is often done as courtesy among colleagues.

You should see who is available in your area before your tortoise needs to be seen.  There are several resources on-line to find vets that claim to be reptiles specialists.  Some of these lists are of vets who pay a membership fee, at a minimum, but you’d hope they have have an actual interest as well.  
As examples of lists look at these… .     With a big button in the header “find a vet”.  A list by paid membership. .  listed under ‘turtle care’ is a vet list posted at the California Turtle and Tortoise Club’s website.  A list by recommendations and vets soliciting their services.  an on-line tortoise ‘club’ with a list built by member recommendation and vets soliciting their services.

Other web based turtle and tortoise clubs have lists as do regional Turtle and tortoise societies and clubs that have regular meetings.

Just because you find a vet on one of these lists does not ensure you’ll get the best care for your tortoise.  I have attended lectures at turtle and tortoise club meetings and heard vets express views that came off of some care sheet published in the 1970’s, for husbandry no longer considered a best practice.

One indicator of a quality practitioner can be seen in the rest of the name, those initials that follow the name to be more precise. John Smith, DVM, or VMD (depending on the school) are from academic institutions with oversight from the AVMA, The American Veterinary Medical Association.  The DVM or VMD are the minimum to practice any medicine.
Some vets go further with their credentials, they will do internships and a residency to earn specialty recognition.  Then you will see more letters indicating such in their name, such as “DABVP, Reptile & Amphibian Practice” for our interest.

Some vets will post their resume online with their practice’s webpage so you can see their interest and dedication to the specialty.  These are the vets your local vet can consult with when you have a difficult case.

Another great thing we all have as a resource are search engine like Google. Search the name of the vet.  See if they publish or offer talks or lectures, these are indications of a greater interest in the topic.  

It might seem like to much work, poking around to see if there is a reptile/tortoise vet that you can count on.  All this poking around takes about 1/2 to one hour, not so bad.  

There are also books you can find at libraries, or maybe with a friend, that offer you your own insight on many topics.  You can search on-line libraries such as and  to learn more about specific topics.  All the better if your chosen vet is an author on an article related to your tortoises health issue. Reading books and articles can help with communication while in the vet office.

There are also costs to consider. Vet practices often will charge a ‘patient establishment fee’ and an ‘office visit fee’ before they have even looked at your tortoise.  These kinds of things are to cover office/administration costs, not actual medical examination or services.  Some practices will offer discounted office visit fees if you bring in more than one animal at a time.  You should be offered the costs before you commit, with estimates of the intended range of examination fees.  A high and low range is common. You should also expect to pay at the time of the visit for whatever costs are incurred.

There are pet insurance providers and specialty credit cards available, but I will not discuss these here in this blog.

Many services can be offered at a discount if you bring several animals in at one time for the service, such as PIT tagging, or surgical sexing.  How many animals to get a discount and what that discount may be are at the discretion of each practice, but it seems to be common to reduce costs if an ‘assembly line’ procedure will be done.

If you are happy with the service you get, vet practices like positive Yelp reviews, and word of mouth.

And that last thing ‘word of mouth’ may be your best tool to find a good vet in your area for the tortoises you keep.