Giving Intramuscular Injections to Reptiles

Sometimes reptiles require intramuscular injections as part of their treatment protocols. Intramuscular means “in the muscle”. Reptiles have vascular and renal anatomy that differs significantly from mammals, so they must receive intramuscular injections in the proper location to work properly.

For any intramuscular injection, restrain the patient so that it cannot hurt itself or you while administering the injection. Feel for the muscle in the proper locations (see below).  Ensure that the syringe contains the appropriate volume of medication indicated on the prescription label, and that most air bubbles have been removed.  Insert the tip of the needle between scales to allow easier passage through the skin.  Pull slightly back on the plunger to ensure that no blood comes into the hub of the needle. If it does, pull out and re-aim into another part of the muscle. If there is no blood, depress the plunger until the full dose is given and withdraw the syringe and needle. If you hit shell or bone, pull the needle out slightly. If possible, alternate between arms or location for each dose to reduce irritation from the injections.

Chelonians (turtles and tortoises):

Give intramuscular injections in either pectoral muscle under the front legs, aiming towards the opposite side between the bottom shell (plastron) and the shoulder.


Give intramuscular injections in the triceps or biceps muscles of the front limbs, the area of the arm above the elbow and below the shoulder. Make sure to aim in between the scales, and insert the needle into the middle of the muscle.


Give intramuscular injections in the muscles on either side of the snake’s backbone (spine).  You will feel the hard spine in the middle of the top of the snake’s back. The muscles are softer tissue on either side of the spine.  Give the injection in the larger muscle areas of the cranial half (towards the head) of the snake’s body. Make sure to aim in between the scales, and insert the needle at a 45 degree angle into the middle of the muscle.

If you have questions or concerns about giving intramuscular injections to your pet reptile, do not hesitate to contact us for tips or a demonstration by one of our veterinary technicians.