Future Directions in Reptile Medical Education
Reptile medicine has emerged as a specialty area within the broader field of zoological medicine. It encompasses the medical needs of approximately 7,500 vertebrate species. This vertebrate class is highly diversified, having biological and medical peculiarities that differ both between and within major groups.
Historically, veterinarians who have become recognized specialists with reptiles have had limited formal training in their medical management. The pet reptile trade is a multi-million-dollar business, and the popularity of reptiles as pets has resulted in a need for more veterinarians with training in their medical management. While few private practices have high volumes of reptile cases, many small-animal practices will have the opportunity to see a significant number of reptiles on an annual basis. Most practitioners with reptile medical expertise have merged their experiences as reptile pet owners with the principles of veterinary medicine taught in veterinary college. Several North American veterinary colleges have reptile medicine courses, and most have didactic and clinical courses in exotic and zoo animal medicine that include lectures and practical experience. Most accredited zoological medicine residency training programs include training in reptile medicine. The case load and interest in reptile medicine will probably never be sufficient to lead the average veterinary college to develop much more than what is currently offered. Consequently, those few colleges having more extensive course offerings, both didactic and clinical, will serve as educational centers for this discipline. Future Web-based teaching programs in reptile medicine will allow students nationally and internationally to have access to instructional material that can be continually updated.