Create a First Aid Kit for Your Pet Lizard

Every pet should have its own first-aid kit, and lizards are no exception... especially considering how clumsy they can be!  Because of their scaley skins and captive environments, first aid can be somewhat of a challenge with pet lizards and coming up with the right supplies for a kit takes some enginuity.

At the very least, your pet lizard's first-aid kit should include:

  • Sterile dressings, such as gauze pads and gauze wrap;
  • Triple antibiotic ointment;
  • Wound disinfectant, such as proviodine or chlorhexidine;
  • Cotton swabs;
  • Scissors;
  • Tweezers - to remove foreign bodies and help apply bandages;
  • Small flashlight or penlight - to help examine small areas; 
  • Waterproof bandage tape;
  • Lubricant, such as mineral oil;
  • Sterile saline - for wound irrigation or use as an eyewash;
  • Heat packs - for transporting lizard to the vet during the cold winter months.

If you have a large pet lizard that requires nail trimming, you should also have some styptic powder in your kit, to stop the bleeding in case you accidentally cut into the quick.  Corn starch can also be used.

First aid means just that - it is meant to treat superficial wounds or to stabilize a situation before the animal can be treated by a vet.  It should NEVER be used as an alternative to veterinary care.  If you have any doubts whatsoever about treating a wound, always consult a qualified reptile vet, first!

Wound Management

All wounds need to be cleaned and dressed 2-3 times a day. Flush the wound with a solution of clean water and chlorhexidine gluconate (name brands Nolvasan or Virosan) or proviodine (name brand Betadine). You could also use sterile saline, sold as plain contact lens solution at the pharmacy.

Pat the wound dry with a sterile gauze pad. Using a sterile cotton-tip applicator, apply a generous layer of triple antibiotic ointment over the wound. For most small wounds and scrapes, this is sufficient to keep the wound from getting infected. If the wound is located in an area where it will be difficult to keep clean (belly, base of tail, etc.), cut a piece of gauze pad large enough to cover the wound, then apply it over the wound, wrap the area with stretch gauze, and secure with tape. (To help prevent damage to scales, apply the tape over the gauze, not the skin.)

Some hobbyists like to use condoms or finger cots to secure bandages over some difficult areas, such as the limbs and tail. Vetwrap is also useful for this and you can probably buy some directly from your vet, or order some online through a vet supply company (we like California Veterinary Supply - calvetsupply.com).


Dealing with Stuck-on Sheds

Apply a drop of mineral oil to the affected area and rub into the skin. Do this twice a day. This helps loosen most stuck-on sheds around the dorsal spines, toes, tail, etc. Misting the area or soaking the lizard will also help. Do not try to force off the stuck-on shed.