Sometimes reptiles and amphibians require intramuscular injections as part of their treatment protocols. Intramuscular means “in the muscle”. Because reptiles and amphibians 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. We recommend having one person help restrain, while another gives 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.


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. The same method can be used for other lizard species in the biceps or triceps muscle. A towel or wash cloth can be used to gently restrain wiggly patients. When restraining a Leopard or Crested Gecko for injections, give them breaks in between injections to avoid dropping the tail.



Give intramuscular injections in either pectoral muscle under the front legs, aiming towards the opposite side between the bottom shell (plastron) and the shoulder. Depending on the size of the tortoise and temperament, you can try between the neck and arm in the front or underneath the arm from the side. Keep the syringe parallel to the plastron (bottom shell) while giving the injection.

The same method can be used for turtles. The left picture is demonstrating an IM injection from the front into the pectoral muscles and the right picture is from the side beneath the arm. A towel or wash cloth can be used to gently cover the head to avoid fingers being bitten.


Just like lizards, intramuscular injections can be given into the biceps or triceps muscle of the arm. Please use gloves while handling amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders, axolotls, etc) to avoid damaging their delicate skin.




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.

The picture above demonstrates where to give an intramuscular injection on one side of the spine. The same technique and location work on larger snakes as well.

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