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Monday, December 6, 2010

Exotics Week: Vitamin A Deficiency

I haven't done a themed week in a while, so it's about time.  Exotic pets are a strong interest of mine to the point where I'm designated as training people in this area in my practice.  I thought I would share some important topics that might help owners of these pets.

The first topic is vitamin A deficiency, mainly seen in turtles.  This is a completely preventable disease, as it's related to improper feeding.  The patient most commonly presents with swollen, puffy eyes and potentially torn or raw skin.  It's also common to have some nasal discharge.  Though lab tests can help establish the pet's health, this is mostly a diagnosis based on exam and clinical history.

Once the diagnosis is made, treatment is pretty simple.  Improve nutrition!  For carnivorous turtles I commonly recommend feeding a piece of liver once weekly.  However, there are some other foods, especially for herbivorous animals.  Here's a list of foods high in vitamin A:
Broccoli leaves and flowerets
Collard greens
Dandelion greens (beware of lawn treatments)
Mustard greens
Sweet potatoes
Turnip greens
Yellow squash
Whole fish

However, there is a danger in feeding supplements.  Vitamin A can actually reach toxic levels, so you don't want to feed these vitamin-rich foods exclusively.  Make sure to include them in the normal diet but don't go overboard.

Vitamin A deficiency is a perfect example of one of the main points of exotic pet care.  A large majority of the health problems we see are due to inappropriate husbandry, housing, and diet.  If you have these things well under control you'll be a long way to keeping your pet healthy.


  1. Great to hear about your love for exotics! I am going to pursue a career in small animal practice with an interest in exotics (unsure about a potential residency at this point) and I find that I have a weak spot when it comes to reptiles. Thanks for the info!

  2. Good for you! Yeah, exotics are fun, and it's something you can do as a general practitioner. In fact, I'm going to talk about that at the end of this week.


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