Severe Skin Infection in Central American Wood Turtle

by Ivan Alfonso, DVM on February 18, 2015

This case was partially published in the 2014 Reptiles Annual magazine. I was asked to write an article that was titled Top 7 Turtle Health Tips and I chose some of the most common conditions I see in chelonians. One of the issues was a severe skin infection in an imported Central American Wood Turtle (Rhinoclemmys pulcherimma incisa). This turtle was donated to me by an importer who routinely sends me any reptiles he deems sick or not in shape to be sold. many of these guys would likely linger at the facility until they die as nobody wants them or wants to even offer to take them for free to get medical care so he routinely offers me a bundle of reptiles for me to care for. To me it represents an opportunity to learn, try novel approaches and ultimately give these animals a good shot at a healthy life. I am not successful all the time but I still try to make sure they are well taken care of, even if that means euthanasia.

But this case is not a bad one and I will spoil it by telling you it has a very happy ending. As I said I used this little guy as my case representation for skin infection and, as you can see from the pic below, it was a really bad infection. The infection was eating the skin in the neck folds, the neck itself and, as you can see also, it was affecting the eye. The turtle was also anorexic and very weak.









Hydration was super important so plenty of water was provided for him in his cage. As a matter of fact very little land was provided and most was water. Subcutaneous fluid injections were done very carefully and a few intracoelomic fluid injections we also performed. A swab was taken to send for culture and sensitivities and  systemic and topical antibiotics  were chosen based on the results. After 14 days of cleaning the area, applying antibiotic cream and injecting antibiotic, the area and the turtle started looking better. The pic below is 14 days post treatment and it was a pic also used for the 2014 Reptiles Annual article in order to show a before and after. By this time the turtle was already eating on his own and acting much better so he was placed outdoors where the sun could do its job in speeding recovery. Topical and systemic antibiotics were continued for 1 more week and then stopped.









While the 2 pics and most of the description above was all that was known in writing until now, it definitely was not the end of the story for the little red gem. Anyone can see that the improvement is dramatic when looking at both pics but still it seems obvious there there was a lot of ground to cover. So here is the rest of the story with an even better ending. The little guy simply had taken too much of my time during his recovery for me to simply place him in a home, like I normally do with other rehabs, so we decided to keep him. By using we I need to explain that my wife, Divy, is the driving force between all these efforts. Yes, I may have the knowledge but she keeps me going in many instances and I can’t really do what I do without her. So when she mentioned casually, “you know, maybe he should be a keeper since he still has a while to go” I knew she wanted him to be part of the family. We kept him and once the treatment was finished he was allowed to remain outdoors where he could go in and out of the water, dig in the leaves and dirt, bask in patches of sun, and eat whatever we offered and as much of it as he wanted. So today, with a horrible cold front getting ready to hit us for the next 3 days, I had to go and bring all my semi-cold hardy turtles into the house as I don’t like to tempt fate in case our greenhouses don’t work as good as expected. I went into his cage, which he shares with a few other turtles, and when I found him and saw him in his full glory, I knew I needed to take a pic of him in the same angle as the other too and needed to write about it. He has been looking like this for the last 6 months at least but I never found the time to grab him and take a good pic. Now that the weather forced me to get him out of his little jungle, it was the perfect time to do so.









This is the same exact turtle as in the other 2 pics above. Not only did the skin heal fully but his eye is also perfect. I had zero expectations to save the eye but this is already the second reptile I treat with a damaged eye due to infection that recovers full use of the eye with months and months of just proper husbandry. I have no doubts that reptile medicine is what saved them but their own immune system is remarkable when it can heal parts that would likely be completely lost in a mammal. Although it is unfortunate that not all rescues or rehabilitation attenpts end in similar results as this guy, cases like his do give me energy to keep going and keep trying.

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Oral abscess in Green Tree Python

by Ivan Alfonso, DVM on June 1, 2014

This is a case I am very happy with not only because the outcome is somewhat positive, but because of the species it is. Green Tree Pythons are notoriously hard to treat successfully when the issue is serious, like this one. I may be wrong and someone out there feels Chondros are a breeze to work with and treat but that has not been my experience once they get a serious issue.

This snake was surrendered to me because it suddenly developed a large swelling on the side of its face and stopped eating. As you can see from the pic, the swelling was causing a major deformity on the snake’s face and jaw plus it had already affected the right eye as well.








The swelling was actually a large abscess that had formed somewhere along the upper jaw and was causing severe pressure on the eye. The area was lanced and drained to the best of my ability and flushed with diluted chlorhexidine solution. The pus obtained was collected and sent out for culture and sensitivities to the diagnostic laboratory.


While we awaited results, we gave the snake daily doses of subcutaneous fluids, vitamin C and a broad spectrum antibiotic. The snake hated the treatment but showed marked improvement after the 4th day of treatment.


The results came in and the antibiotic we have chosen was one of the best suited for the bacteria isolated from the abscess, so we continued the treatment for 6 more days (10 day total treatment duration). After the 5th day we stopped the subcutaneous fluids as we saw the snake drinking on its own and retaining hydration well.

The day after the last day of treatment a small mouse was offered and the snake immediately struck, coiled and ate. I was amazed and quite happy. I was not able to save the eye and it remains dry and inspissated with the old purulent secretion. I have the choice to remove the eye and drain any remaining debris but I may wait and see what the snake tells me after a few more meals. I do not with to cause stress or harm to it if it can manage to stay healthy despite not having 1 eye.








Here is the same snake today. Hard to take the same pic and angle of him/her because it wants to strike and bite me any chance it gets (classic Chondro). You can see the right eye still damaged but you can also appreciate just how much the swelling went down.

This case needed immediate attention and treatment to have a successful outcome. If you should encounter a similar problem please take your snake to a qualified vet for treatment.



Update as of Feb. 6, 2015:

This same Green Tree Python has become part of my collection over time and not only has it gotten way larger and prettier, its eye was not lost at all. By allowing the snake to “just be” its own immune system was able to heal and reabsorb the pus that was inspissated in the eye. The process is not yet complete but you can see just how much better the eye looks now versus the old pics. Not only was this amazing but the fact that the eye works quite well and the snake can see perfectly fine out of it. How do I know? Well because it strikes at me (and usually gets me) any time I wave my hand near that side, even if I am outside of the cage. So it is definitely a sight reaction and not just a heat sensing reaction.

Green Tree Padaido Green Tree Padaido Green Tree Padaido


Struvite Crystalluria

by Ivan Alfonso, DVM on June 1, 2014

I know it is the norm to discuss reptile cases in this blog but I do see dogs and cats as my main patients so I like to share cases when they seem pertinent.

The title of this post is Struvite Crystalluria which basically means Struvite crystals in the urine. Struvites are a type of crystal that forms in dogs and cats’ urine when certain minerals deposit and fuse together. It can happen on any breed, any age and even in the best kept pets. The symptoms are very similar to a urinary tract infection and in fact, the condition is sometimes accompanied by a UTI. However, where UTI’s can usually be treated with an appropriate course of antibiotics, urinary crystals require a more complex approach in terms of a complete and long-term diet change.

Struvites tend to form when the pH of the urine turns more alkaline. So anything the dog eats that can cause the pH to change for a long amount of time can cause the formation of crystals. there is no “over the counter” way to determine if your dog or cat has crystals in the urine and the only way is to have a veterinarian obtain a fresh urine sample to be analyzed under the microscope. Once diagnosed, your vet can make recommendations of specific prescription/medicated diets to use for your pet. Ideally your pet should stay on this diet for life but in many cases the cost can be quite high for the food and the owner may not be able to afford a life-long commitment to the food. In that case, I normally recommend about 4-8 week on the food and recheck the urine afterwards to make sure the crystals are gone. Diet can slowly be changed back to the old one but always keeping an eye for the possible return of the crystals.

If left unattended for a while, crystals can fuse together and eventually form stones which will require surgery to be removed.












This pic shows one small view on the microscope slide of struvite crystals in the urine of a dog. As you can see, this dog feels like it is peeing millions of tiny razorblades. The whole slide looked exactly the same as that one pic so you can imagine just how many struvite crystals were present in the whole urine.

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by Ivan Alfonso, DVM on June 1, 2014

Good evening everyone. It has been a very long hiatus and I apologize for all the time that has passed between posts. Between life happening and also the system not alerting me of any new messages and or posts I have been neglecting this page. However, I plan to remedy this by posting a few cases that should be quite enjoyable. I will not be as active as I would want to but I will still try to keep the page fresh.


I will reiterate something, I am not here to give medical advice to be done at home. I am sorry if this sounds a little harsh but you need to understand that I am sharing cases and conditions that needed the attention of a professional (me) so these are not cases for you to try at home or attempt to remedy on your own. Also, if you have a sick reptile, mainly chameleons, take them immediately to a competent Vet, don’t send me a message here for me to try and give you advice that likely will be to take the reptile to a vet as the medications needed and the attention needed are not something to be done “over the counter”.


My sincere apologies to the many people who wrote asking for advice on their respective reptiles. I didn’t reply not because I wanted to ignore you but rather because I was not even maintaining the site, but the same advice applies here, if your reptile is sick take it to a Vet. Don’t wait around for internet advice if you know it is a serious condition.


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Deremensis Eye Issue and Confusion

by Ivan Alfonso, DVM on January 14, 2014

Every so often a case comes along that makes you question what you “know”. This case made me happy for my personal experiences with reptiles but also very curious. Due to the large, and growing, amount of people that read this blog expecting to treat their own animals without the help of a qualified veterinarian, I am forced to omit the names of the medications used in order to prevent indiscriminate and uneducated use of such prescription medications.


I was hired by T.R. Herp to come in a check a male Deremensis chameleon in their collection. The issue was basically a sudden swelling of the eyelid coupled with slight anorexia. The chameleon had been treated for 7-10 days with an antibiotic the owner already had in his chameleon medicine cabinet but the condition actually got worse while on the antibiotic. When we arrived, the chameleon appeared in very good body condition and hydration but with a very grossly swollen right eye. One of my biggest problems is that I worry too much on fixing an issue and I rarely, if ever, stop to take pictures of the issue. This case was no exception and this is the only “before” pic we have of the chameleon. As you may be able to see, the right eyelid was indeed swollen and slightly deformed due to the swelling. A quick inspection of the oral cavity revealed the swelling continued into the mouth (also seen in the pic and easy to compare the right side with the left).










A fine needle was used to aspirate fluid from the eyelid to be sent for culture and sensitivities. A small blade was used to lance the swelling in the oral cavity and a large amount of green purulent material was obtained and drained. It was a mixture of fluid and caseated material. This was also collected for culture. Having done the diagnostics the next step was choosing a different antibiotic to prescribe to see if we could start treating the issue while we waited for the results to come back from the lab. We left the new medication with the owner and left instructions to keep us posted especially if the condition got worse. This new antibiotic was chosen based on my previous experiences treating similar issues with success, but it was still an educated guess.

After about 5 days, we received the results of the cultures and found that 4 different bacteria were isolated and none were susceptible to the antibiotic we had prescribed. However, all 4 bacteria were susceptible to the antibiotic the owner was using in the first place. This was a little odd since the condition showed no improvement while on the first antibiotic,  but we figured we needed to use the first antibiotic at a different dose and/or frequency. We called our friend up to report the findings and new treatment protocol. To my surprise he tells me that the medication I had dispensed had worked marvelously and the chameleon looked like a new reptile. So here I am faced with a unique dilemma where my “gut feeling” of using a certain antibiotic prevailed over actual tests. I was happy and puzzled at the same time but of course no changes were made to the treatment protocol and I told the owner to stay the course and to let me know after another 5 days were done to see what was going on.

This is a pic sent to us by T.R Herp to show how good the chameleon was looking after the first 5 days of treatment.







After another 5 days of treatment this guy looks like nothing had ever happened to him. The pics below were taken yesterday by T.R. Herp and sent to me.







Needless to say I am extremely happy with the results but this case shows that sometimes experience pays off big time. I contacted the lab to make sure the cultures we run properly and that there was no sample mixup and they assured me all was ok. I may never know how an antibiotic that was not supposed to help ended up saving a chameleon’s life but I am not going to complain.


I want to thank the owners at T.R.Herp for being so dedicated to their reptiles and for being great clients and even greater friends.

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The Little Jimmy

by Ivan Alfonso, DVM on November 20, 2013

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to receive my copy of The Batagur, which is the official newsletter of the Turtle and Tortoise Preservation Group (TTPG).








Aside from being a superb read, as usual, I came across an ad for a very interesting tool called “The Little Jimmy”. The ad had a photo of a small turtle (likely one of the Cuora species) with its mouth being pried and kept open with the tool while providing an opening to medicate or force feed said animal. Veterinarians have traditionally been labeled as masters of inventions because we look for ways to create tools to fit our needs, but I am pretty sure anyone in the animal field has the same drive and The Little Jimmy proves it. There is nothing innovative in having a small tool with which to coax open the mouths of the peskiest of reptiles such as turtles and Uromastyx, but to have a tool that facilitates not only the opening but also provides instant, unimpeded access to the oral cavity for exams, tube feedings, medicating, etc., that’s innovative in my book.

The Little Jimmy is the brain child of James Pellerin and he didn’t stop with creating just one type. He has 3 sizes to choose from and those are The Little Jimmy, The Little Jimmy Jr., and The Mini Jimmy. And of course you would think that is more than enough for this product to be amazing, but it turns out there’s more. Each tool has 2 openings of different size to accommodate different gapes of reptiles, so if you own a set of Little Jimmy’s you pretty much have 6 tools at your disposal.








Needless to say I ordered a set immediately and was very pleased with the customer service, shipping and quality of the product. They are very sturdy and should last a lifetime with minimal care. Below I am showing a series of pics demonstrating the size and use of the 3 different Jimmy’s. Since I have no ailing animals in my collection at this time and didn’t want to stress any for the photo shoot, I decided to enlist the help of one of my all time favorite reptiles, Spinosaurus aegypticus.

Spinosaurus aegypticus








Although not notorious for being difficult to open their mouth, the largest of therapods still can be a challenge at times. Enter the Jimmys and my job was easy.

This is Spino showing The Little Jimmy, which is the biggest of the 3. Notice the 2 sizes of openings that allow you a clean look into your reptile’s mouth and will allow for passage of feeding tubes or small syringes for medications.









Spino is now showing The Little Jimmy Jr with its smaller openings and more acute angle.









Finally we have Spino showing off The Mini Jimmy, designed for the smallest of reptiles. Once again notice the 2 different sizes of openings that allows you to adjust to the gape of your reptile.  Small syringes will not fit through these holes in the Mini Jimmy but feeding tubes will.

Spino and The Mini Jimmy









I think these tools are extremely valuable and should be part of your first aid kit. People in the Veterinary Medicine field should have these tools down as a “must have” for their daily chores when working with birds or reptiles. I am very happy I saw that ad and was introduced to these wonderful tools and I am sure many reptiles in years to come will be happy I acquired them too.

If interested in The Little Jimmy, feel free to visit their facebook page at

If you are a turtle and tortoise lover, I strongly suggest you join the Turtle and Tortoise Preservation Group as it is an amazing organization and helps network breeders and hobbyists to promote captive breeding and availability of even the rarest species in our hobby. You can visit the TTPG website here: and choose to become and member or just donate whatever amount you want/choose.

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Indonesia: The Trip of a Lifetime

by Ivan Alfonso, DVM on November 12, 2012

My good friend Michael Cole approached me earlier in the year to ask me if I would like to take a trip to Indonesia with him. The goal being to study in depth the quarantine and treatment protocols in place at his reptile breeding farm and also have me check over the nutrition and overall health of the animals at the facility. Needless to say my answer was a huge YES. We set our departure date for late October and we planned a stay of 2 weeks, which should give us plenty of time to meet our goal.

We landed in Indonesia and I felt I was home, not in Orlando but home as in Puerto Rico. The similarities were amazing. The weather, the landscape, the friendly and helpful people and the food were so similar that I was impressed beyond belief. We arrived at the farm and immediately I can tell you I was completely shocked by what I saw. It is widely assumed that a “farm” is nothing more than a holding facility with horrible hygiene issues and cramped quarters for the reptiles. In essence, a death camp for reptiles before being exported. This piece of paradise I was taken to was by far the best breeding facility I have seen in my whole life. The buildings and the cages were immaculate. The trees and bushes were landscaped to perfection. The house we were staying in was a palace. The animals were in top shape in terms of body mass, alertness and breeding status. This was not a huge mess I needed to work my butt off to fix, this was a true top-of-the-line breeding facility that really needed some expert supervision to make sure they are doing the right thing. At that point I knew my job got very easy indeed and that I would really have time to enjoy this trip.

The following will be a photo journal of most of the animals I saw and was able to photograph. I brought back way too many photos and I will not be able to post everything of course but I will do my best to show a few of the species we saw and worked with.

Pythons: There were way too many species represented at the farm but the most notable ones were the Green Tree Pythons. With so many locale types and pattern variations it is hard not to fall for these gorgeous animals. Below is a small sampling of the many Chondros we saw at the farm.

Green Tree Python Green Tree Python Green Tree Python


The next best represented species was the Reticulated Python. I had never paid attention to this species as I am not a huge Retic fan but after seeing all the monsters at the farm I had to change my opinion. I am definitely a huge fan of Retics now and the pics below will show you why.

Reticulated Python (normal coloration) Reticulated Python (Anthrax morph) Reticulated Python (Titanium morph) Reticulated Python (Caramel morph) Reticulated Python (Amelanistic or true albino morph) Reticulated Python (Hypo morph) Reticulated Python (Calico morph)

By far the Calico morph was my favorite but just when I thought that looking at adult breeders was the highlight of the Reticulated python tour, I was in for a treat. This was after all, a breeding facility, so we went into the incubator room to welcome a few new reticulated pythons into this world.

Hatching Reticulated Pythons Retic baby thinking of coming out Baby Reticulated Python

I was completely amazed at the sheer beauty of these snakes up close but they were far from being my favorites in the farm. After seeing several breeding specimens of Timor, Carpet, White Lipped (both black and gold), and Olive Pythons, amongst others, I came across what to me is the most regal of all pythons, the Boelen’s Python. The breeders in the farm were spectacular and I had not seen Boelen’s pythons as big as these ones. A few were in shed so not many good pics were taken but here are 2 of the best.

Boelen’s Python


Boas: The farm has an impressive collection of South American boas but the boa species that really caught my eye was the breeding stock of Viper boas (Candoia aspera). These normally drab and relatively dull-colored boas surprised me when I saw the different color varieties being bred at the farm. Here are a few specimens that caught my eye.

Viper Boa (salmon pink color) Viper boa (yellow) Viper boas (yellow adult and normal colored adult)


The pink one bit me pretty good when I tried to handle it. Thankfully they are a Viper boa and not a true viper or I would have been in deep trouble.


Blue Tongue Skinks: The selection of these guys was incredible. I almost couldn’t believe at how many different colors and patterns I was looking at. Here’s a sampling.

Blue Tongue Skink


Blue Tongue Skink Blue Tongue Skink (I really liked this one) Blue Tongue Skink (nice orange and white!) Blue Tongue Skink (almost patternless!) Baby Blue Tongue Skink

The baby above was 1 of 11 we found in one of the cages at the farm. They were adorable and very brightly colored as you can see.


Monitors: Monitor species are quite possibly the flagship of the farm. They have bred and produced many species such as Salvadori, Dumerili, Rudicolis, Melinus, Yuwonoi, Prasinus, Beccari, Macraei, Reisingeri, Kordensis, Ober, Bohmei, and many others. Pretty much every Indonesian species is represented at the farm and has been produced. There are also a few other species that are non-natives but are also being bred, like for example Varanus cummingi. Below are a few pics for your drooling pleasure.

Black Tree Monitor Varanus boehmi

Varanus boehmi looks like a cross between a black tree and a yellow tree. It is an amazing looking species that has been doing well and producing well at the farm.

Blue Tree Monitor Green Tree Monitor Varanus kordensis

Varanus kordensis is very similar to the Green Tree Monitor (Varanus prasinus) but they look different in person and differ in their coloration and pattern.

Tri-Colored Monitor (Varanus yuwonoi) Tri-Colored Monitor (Varanus yuwonoi) Yellow Monitor (Varanus melinus) Mangrove monitor (gold locality) Dumeril’s Monitor Black Rough-Neck Monitor (Varanus rudicolis)

The Black Rough-Neck was one of my favorite monitor species at the farm. They are so prehistoric looking that I spent a long time with them. Several pairs are set up and have produced some babies so I am hoping they keep at it.

Crocodile Monitor Crocodile Monitor Crocodile Monitor (gravid female)

The Croc monitors were impressive. They followed your every move yet were laid back enough to allow you to get relatively close without immediately trying to kill you. The breeders were gigantic, with some measuring a total length of about 8 feet at least.

The following pic shows how good a job is being done at the farm with true captive breeding of the species. The tray shows an assortment of monitor eggs (tree monitor and Timor monitor eggs) that have hatched in the past few weeks.

Timor and Tree monitor hatched eggs.


Chameleons: Panther chameleons play a big role at this farm with a great production that is now on the 10th generation. It is mainly self sustained with the vast availability of bloodlines but they are very open at stating that they do obtain some wild blood every so often to keep their lines diverse and prevent any possible inbreeding. I was extremely impressed with their breeding collection and their whole operation as this is the first true large-scale operation of CBB Furcifer pardalis I have seen. They are now expanding to do Veiled chameleons and I have little doubt they will be every bit as successful as they are with Panthers. This was a treat. Very few pics were taken because a lot of what they do is unique and likely proprietary information.


Turtles: My latest passion are turtles and I have been working with a few select species and wanting a few others that I have not been able to locate. When I saw the farm’s turtle collection/breeding stock my jaw dropped. I can tell you I am looking forward to the next batch of babies they have available as I will likely get every single one of them. Many species of aquatic turtles I couldn’t take pics of as they immediately swam into their deep ponds or they spent all the time there anyway (as in the case of the softshell species). Here are some good pics I was able to take.

Burmese Brown Mountain Tortoise Burmese Brown Mountain Tortoise Burmese Brown Mountain Tortoise

I was able to film the Manouria emys emys courtship where the male shows head bobbing and coloration changes on the head and neck as well as a very audible yet low growl. It was amazing to be able to film this and unfortunate I can’t post it as the file is too big.

Spiny Hill Turtle Spiny Hill Turtles breeding Spiny Hill Turtle Spiny Hill Turtle

I am currently working with a nice group of Spiny Hill Turtles (Heosemys spinosa) but will certainly try to get some new blood from the farm when they have babies available.


Indotestudo forsteni Indotestudo forsteni


I was unable to capture the whole courtship of the Forsten’s Tortoises before they copulated because I was too busy filming another turtles species (my favorite species which will follow). However, I was able to catch them in the act of copulation and already have dibs on any hatchlings that pair may produce. I was never one to pay attention to Forsten’s Tortoises but after interacting with them for 2 weeks they have made me want a breeding group of my own. Incredible personalities and very variable coloration make for a very unique and very small tortoise.

Sulawesi Forest Turtle Male Sulawesi Forest Turtle female Sulawesi Forest Turtles (male and female)

The Sulawesi Forest Turtles are by far my favorite semi-aquatic turtle species. I was too late getting into turtles and now they are very hard to find and many current owners refuse to let them go, even if they are not breeding them. To my surprise they have a good breeding colony at the farm with a great sex ratio. This is a true breeding group and is not disappointing in terms of production. Pictured are just a few of the specimens in the group.

But even the turtles decided to give me a show when a whole clutch of Pink-Belly Sideneck Turtle eggs was laid. A few hatchling Pink-belly Sidenecks were on hand having been born at the farm just a few days before.

Emydura subglobosa eggs Hatchling Emydura subglobosa Hatchling Emydura subglobosa


Rise of the Dragon: No trip to Indonesia would have been complete without a little field herping. The rainy season started early so we were not able to visit the places we wanted but even when we had to go to plan C for herping, we still got a huge surprise. The area was a very high mountain with lots of streams running through it. It was raining hard and we could hear the frogs calling. Our targets were the Blue-Webbed Gliding Tree Frogs (Rhacophorus reinwardtii) and the Tree Dragons (Gonocephalus chamaleontinus). We found 2 Gonocephalus almost immediately, a pair, but only 1 more during the night. They are hard to locate but once you are on the right tree, they are not hard to find. All the pics I took came out horrible due to the high humidity. We arrived at a pond and our guides turned off their flashlights and we waited. Shortly after, the calls of the Blue-Webbed Gliding Tree Frogs started and there were plenty around. Several were collected for the farm and also for export. Once again, the pics in the field were impossible but I managed to take a good one once we were back to drier areas.

Blue-Webbed Gliding Tree Frog

But the real find came towards the end of our trek when one of the guides called for us to come see his find. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw him holding a juvenile Dragon Snake (Xenodermus javanicus). This snake is quite rare in collections and not many people can properly care for it. After seeing its native habitat, temperatures and diet I can only hope to get a chance at raising, and maybe breeding, this phenomenal animal one day. This snake was the highlight of the herping trip and will forever stay in my mind despite not being me the one who found it.

Dragon Snake Dragon Snake


And that pretty much sums it up. Of course there is way too much to tell and I can’t possibly write it all up but you have a very good summary of what my life was in Indonesia while doing what I love, working with reptiles. As a Veterinarian I found very little that needed fixing but even the small stuff we worked on will have an even bigger impact on an already successful breeding operation. The honor of being picked for such an amazing endeavor and to be allowed to work with so many amazing animals is something I don’t have words for. I will forever be grateful to Mike for the invitation and one thing was certain once the time to leave was upon us, I will be back!




Vitamin A deficiencies strike again

by Ivan Alfonso, DVM on September 19, 2012

Vitamin A continues to be a hot topic amongst reptile keepers, but especially so amongst chameleon keepers. There will always be 2 groups, the ones pro and the ones against and I will be counted in the group pro-vitamin A. There is no doubt that chameleons need it and require it for proper functions but the doubt comes when we have to determine just how much is enough for them. Lowland chameleons, those that originate from areas that are hot, humid or even dry, seem to have a higher requirement for vitamin A than those chameleons that are considered highland or montane. Veiled chameleons, being from Yemen, certainly fit the lowland category and they do quite well with regular supplementation of vitamin A.

Recently, I was lucky to receive a group of 6 female Veiled chameleons from my importer friend who sends me any reptile that can use some TLC. The girls are all sub-adults and all were thin because they were not able to eat. The reason they couldn’t eat is because none of them could open their eyes. All 6 showed swollen eyes and they were closed shut. No eye flushing would get them to open the eyes. Close examination revealed no lesions, no mucus, no abscesses, nothing that could point me in the direction of infection. Seeing how they were on the thin side, I decided to do what I always do, give them 24/7 outdoor time with plenty of water 1-2 times a day. After a day of this none of them were cooperating and although you could see they wanted to open the eyes, they just couldn’t.

Having previous experience with similar cases, I immediately diagnosed the issue as a vitamin A deficiency. Keep in mind this is a diagnosis made by both, previous experience and ruling out other issues. I started them on a protocol of my own brand of liquid multivitamins and Emeraid Carnivore as a meal replacement. After 2 days we lost 1 of the gals. A week later we lost a second one. The remaining 4 have been hanging in there so far and showing improvement after 3 weeks of treatment. We have not been giving the liquid vitamins daily but the food (Emeraid carnivore) is daily or twice daily. The vitamins were given once daily for 3 days and then tapered off to every 5 days. I broke one of my own rules and named the 4 girls just to ID them when talking to Divy about them. With Divy being their primary caretaker it is important to ID each girl in case 1 needs more care than others. With that said, here’s the breakdown:

1- Biggie: She’s the biggest one and the only one with no definitive improvement yet. She opens 1 eye every so often but quickly closes it and remains shut most of the day. The pic below shows how she looks today and that’s pretty much how she, and the others, looked on arrival except the eyes were more puffy.

Biggie Biggie


2- Brownie: She is never green but rather an overall tan or brown color. She doesn’t seem stressed or even mad at any time, but her color is brown. She looks more like a different species than a Veiled only because of her color. She has responded very well to the treatment protocol and has now both eyes open. Her left eye can be closed sometimes but for the most part both are always open. She is still being force fed with the Emeraid but will be started on insects asap to see if she can hunt.



3- Skinny: Pretty obvious reason for the name, she is the skinniest of the bunch and also the smallest. She looked like a goner for several days but has turned around and looked quite well for the past 4 days. Her eyes are still slightly sunken but we have been having a lot of rain lately and maybe that is helping her get more water than we have been providing. She opens her right eye regularly but her left eye continues to stay closed.



4- Lemon: She is called Lemon because she turns almost entirely yellow at times. I had only seen 1 female Veiled turn very yellow before but this gal surprised me one day by being yellow. It was quite a shock to see a bright yellow chameleon in the cage so I figured Lemon was an easy name to remember and accurate in a way. She is the poster child for excellent response to the treatment. Both eyes open at all times, always looking around, always roaming around the cage and always running away from me. She will also be started on insects asap.

Lemon Lemon


Needless to say, I am not claiming a victory yet as they could still crash on me. I am especially worried about Skinny and Biggie but seeing the improvements on 3 of them so far, there is no doubt that Vitamin A deficiency was the culprit in their eye issue. I feel terrible I couldn’t help the other 2 from the group but hopefully their death wasn’t in vain and these 4 will live on to be healthy pets. Next time someone tells you that chameleons do not need vitamin A, just remember that you now know at least 4 gals that will disagree.



When I first came across this book I was a little apprehensive of it as I didn’t know what to expect. I am very happy I gave it a chance as it is a wonderful book that appeals to both my “personalities” Allow me to explain, I am a reptile hobbyist by nature and a Veterinarian by profession so you can see where this book could have rubbed one of those “personalities” wrong. Not the case as Mrs. Ebenhack found that rare perfect balance, or blend if you will, of basic knowedge with higher level expertise. By bringing Dr. Diaz on board, a great Veterinarian and even better friend, she made sure to expose that there is definitely a line that you must know, and never cross, between home care and rehabilitation and immediate professional Veterinary care. First aid in chelonians is usually of utmost importance, especially when working with rescued specimens. Getting to a Veterinarian sometimes isn’t as easy as it sounds and with this book you get an idea of what simple, yet efficient, things you can do to stabilize your turtle or tortoise until you can get them to the Veterinarian’s office. By showing you actual Veterinary cases and work you can read and see how important it is to have a good relationship with an experienced reptile-oriented Veterinarian and you can tell that this kind of work can’t be done in your garage or backyard. My hobbyist side loved the practicality of this book and my Veterinarian side was delighted with the proper portrayal of our profession and skills. The photos are clear and well described and the content isn’t hard to follow at all and quite easy and enjoyable to read.

Needless to say, it is both my hobbyist and professional opinion that this book is a must have for anyone serious enough about chelonian keeping. You may never need any of the info in the book, but it doesn’t hurt to have it handy just in case.

If you want to purchase a copy of this book go here:


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Reptile Supershow San Diego

by Ivan Alfonso, DVM on July 8, 2012

Another Reptile Supershow and another amazing experience. We were lucky enough to be able to visit our adoptive family the Nozakis and help them during their weekend at the Reptile Supershow. I am very pleased with the show and the venues and, having been to both, I still think the show carries the kind of energy that reptile shows should. In all hoesty I liked the January Pomona Supershow a bit better but can’t really say exaclty why, it just felt a bit better. But this is still a show that I would recommend to anyone if you are in the area. Here are some pics of the show.

Welcome Banner

This is the welcome banner you see as soon as you walk in the venue. ZooMed as usual a prominent sponsor at quality shows everywhere.


Corucia zebrata pair

This was a pair of gorgeous Prehensile-Tailed Skinks for sale at the show. Amazing animals and definitely one of my favorite reptiles.


Pig-Nosed Turtle

A gorgeous juvenile Pig-Nosed Turtle for sale at the show.


Albino Newts

Not really sure what species of Newt these were but they were quite impressive.


Baby Bearded Dragons

The Beardies above were all photographed at Sandfire Dragon Ranch’s table. Amazing animals and the colors don’t even show well on the pics. I am not sure what morph was the last pic but I think it is a Silkie or something like that.


Spiny-Tail Monitor

Gorgeous Ackie Monitor at the show.


Amazing Blue Reptiles

The banner of the “best in show” vendor. Of course this is a biased opinion but I don’t care. Great people, great animals, great prices…..what else can you ask for?

Divy and Victor

Divy and Victor are wondering what the heck I am doing up there taking pics.

Male Veiled Chameleon

Amazing Veiled chameleon on display at Amazing Blue Reptiles’ table. Knowing the bloodline of this particular guy makes me even happier to see him so big.

Ambilobe Panther Chameleon

Amazing example of an Ambilobe Panther Chameleon from Amazing Blue Reptiles.. This particular color combination is highly sought after but it is worth noting that his siblings were all different color varieties despite all being pure Ambilobes. This means that you can’t guarantee colors when they are babies and why you have so many people willing to pay for an adult, fully colored panther, rather than risk growing a baby and not getting the colors they wanted.


That’s it for the show pics but hopefully this will not be our last visit.