Exotic Pets Vet.

Exotic Pets Vet


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Reptile Avoidable Mistakes



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 hiding places.

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 Substrate.

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 information:

  • 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 Pet Pages.


For more Reptile information see:



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