1. Not learning about a
species before buying it.
Many reptiles have a low
survival rate and some have a high owner give up rate primarily due to
misinformation. People buy cute little iguanas or a cool looking
monitor that end up four to six feet long or neat snakes like anacondas
or reticulates that end up twelve to twenty plus feet long. These
can become seriously dangerous, then are no longer fun anymore or the
owner is just afraid of it.
2. Lack of privacy or
Many species require this
to decrease stress, rest and digest food or during susceptible time of
shedding. Remember you have placed your pet in an unnatural
environment. For example, adult iguanas, chameleons and monitors
are solitary animals except during breeding season. Ball pythons
and some "dragon" species won't eat without a quiet hiding
area for solitude and rest. Housing multiple animals or mixing
species is asking for trouble.
3. Handling your herp.
Many snakes can display
regurgitation if handled after eating, leaving them alone for three to
seven days (this is how long it takes some species to digest their meal
depending on temperature) and although there are other causes of
regurgitation such as improper temperature, parasites, viruses and
metabolic diseases this is an easy one to remedy - Let them
digest! Other species such as emerald tree boas, many amphibians
and chameleons dislike a lot of handling and can be stressed by this
leading to a compromised immune system and disease.
4. Proper lighting.
For the most part reptiles
are "solar powered", requiring 14 hours of light and 10 hours
dark photo period depending on the species. Natural sunlight is
the best (not through any glass) but if being outside daily is not
possible then a UVB light source is required. Most of them wear
out (not burn out) every six months and then need replacement.
5. Improper Temperature.
Each species has its own
preferred optimal temperature zone and will not thrive if not within
these parameters. Your set up should not have the same temperature
throughout. There should be a "hot area" and a cooler
area (within a 10 degree drop) or a "thermal gradient" since
reptiles thermoregulate by moving in their environment.
Additionally, at night another 5-10 degree drop is a natural
cycle! Follow it. Have small thermometers at each site in
your set up, so you know the temperatures.
Improper temperatures can
result in regurgitation, maldigestion, bacteria, fungal and metabolic
diseases or nose rubbing.
Do not use hot rocks on
day time species. Most reptiles heat receptors are in their backs,
not bellies and although they will take what they can get, long term
thermal burns and maldigestion from this unnatural spot heat can
result. Nocturnal species like leopard geckos and ball pythons do
use substrate heat but under tank heaters would be safer.
6. Improper Caging and
This too requires some
research. It depends on the origin of the species, growth rate,
adult size, temperature and humidity requirements and proper
ventilation. Although attractive, particulate matter substrate
often leads to inadvertent ingestion during feeding and impaction
causing deaths in many species.
7. Improper Diet.
This is one area that has
more misinformation than most. For instance, reptile vitamins
sprays are a waste of money, since due to their nonporous skin they do
not absorb water in this matter. (They can absorb water orally and
cloacally though.) Prepared pelletted diets are a good addition
but are not yet considered adequate on their own or may be too high in
protein, causing kidney or liver pathology over time. Gut loaded
insects, with or without dusting is a must. Don't assume
commercially raised insects are a perfect diet. Remember, without
proper temperature, a reptile's digestive enzymes are inactive and
maldigestion and deficiencies can occur even on the best diets.
Notes on Reptiles:
A reptiles metabolism is
1/10 that of a mammal. Due to this, problems may take months or
years to surface, so you cannot always assume your pet is healthy.
Once the proper information is obtained, it is easy to maintain the
required conditions for the health of your pet.
Free sources of
Local reptile clubs -
check the Pet Pages or breeders.
Books - watch out, some
are old reprints with misleading information.
Internet - depends on
site, some are fact, others are opinion.
Experienced reptile Vet
- latest information, should offer pre and post purchase counseling.
The above is a reprint of an article
written by Jack Landess, D.V.M., as a public service. Reprint
permission was obtained from the Florida
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