Proper Reptile Pet Care

Reptiles can make excellent pets for families but they need to be properly cared for or they won’t thrive. They may require precise temperatures, specialized diets and regular checkups with veterinarians familiar with reptiles.

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Most are carnivores and should be fed commercially-sourced, pre-killed critters for the healthiest diet. They also need a habitat with branches, logs and other decor for enrichment.

Food

Reptiles need a well-balanced diet. They are most active when they eat and it’s important that you provide them with fresh food at their natural feeding times to prevent nutrition imbalances. It is also important to avoid grained or preserved feed as it is not the same as a reptile’s natural fresh food.

Reptiles are often omnivorous and will benefit from a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. It is also recommended that you feed your reptiles a supplement to provide them with the necessary vitamins and minerals.

Many snakes will enjoy whole prey like rodents or even larger mammals, but this should only be fed if the enclosure can safely support the animal’s weight and size. For most other snakes, a well-distributed mix of fruits and vegetables and a small amount of prepared food will be sufficient to keep them healthy. Reptiles also require a good source of fats to maintain their skin and coat. They can get these fats from their food and a little bit of lipid oil can help improve their appearance and coat condition.

Habitat

Reptiles are cold-blooded, so their environment needs to match their natural habitat as much as possible. Temperature is key, as is humidity; a lack of this can lead to respiratory infections, improper shedding, and even death. Some reptiles are also seasonally active or hibernate, and they should be given the proper temperature range and other environmental enrichment to support these behaviors.

Before purchasing a reptile, do your research on the species you are interested in to understand its normal weight, coloration, activities, and lifespan. You should also inquire about the cage size that is best for your pet and how big it can potentially grow so you don’t buy an enclosure too small, which can cause stress and disease.

Additionally, research any special handling, housing, and health care requirements that are specific to your species of reptile or amphibian. Many of these animals require specialized cages, strict heat and humidity, regular veterinary checkups with specialists, and can be very dangerous to handle if they become aggressive or sexually mature. These are a few of the reasons that people often abandon their reptile pets.

Lighting

Reptiles require specific heat and light to maintain the right body temperature. This is crucial to their health as certain processes like digestion are only efficient at the proper body temperature.

Providing a UV-B light source can help many exotic pets such as tortoises, geckos, and lizards because it helps them to produce vitamin D3 which allows them to absorb calcium from their diets. Without this exposure they can develop a deficiency of vitamin D3 which can cause a disease known as nutritional metabolic bone disease which is fatal.

Lighting is also essential to creating a habitat that mimics a reptile’s natural environment and the 12-hour day/night cycle they experience in their wild habitat. This is important to their comfort and psychological well-being, as they require a sense of familiarity with their home.

Lighting can be provided using a standard heat lamp which provides the necessary warmth, and also by placing infrared lamps on the cool side of the enclosure to create the daytime temperature gradient that is required. There are a variety of bulbs available with varying ranges and wattages, so some experimentation may be needed to find the best bulb for your pet’s needs.

Water

Reptiles need water for cooling down their bodies, lubricating joints and keeping various parts of their skin moist. It also plays an important role in flushing out waste materials.

The type of water you use for your reptile’s drinking supply matters, as it can impact your pet’s health. Distilled water is a good choice as it’s free from many harmful contaminants, such as fluoride and chlorine. It’s important to change the water in your reptile’s enclosure regularly and immediately if it becomes dirty-looking or soiled.

You can use a humid hide and branches to increase the humidity of your reptile’s environment. This will help prevent some types of shedding problems, including retained shed.

Before choosing a reptile, research the specific species to learn about its needs, including the proper tank size and temperature ranges. You’ll also want to learn how long the reptile can live, how large it might grow and if it’s sexually mature. These facts will influence the level of care needed.

Veterinary Care

Reptiles need routine veterinary care just like dogs and cats do. Getting your pet’s initial veterinary visit set up as soon as possible helps establish a baseline health profile and ensures the veterinarian is able to detect any abnormalities early on.

Annual examinations can help prevent reptile health problems such as respiratory infections, intestinal disease or metabolic bone disorders. They can also detect parasitic infestations, including mites, which can be difficult to spot. In addition, it is important to have a vet who is familiar with reptiles, as many general dog/cat practitioners are not comfortable or knowledgeable in reptile medicine.

Veterinary care is critical for reptiles, especially for new pets that have not been properly introduced to their habitat. Having a reptile checkup shortly after you bring it home can ensure your pet is healthy and help avoid diseases that can be spread by improper handling. It can also help you make any necessary adjustments to the habitat to meet your reptile’s needs. This may include ensuring that the temperature and humidity are appropriate or adding a hiding place.