Exotic Pets Vet.

Exotic Pets Vet


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Reptiles are one of the most diverse species on earth found from the tropics to deserts and oceans to the Arctic Circle.  They can be aquatic, semi aquatic, tree, ground or rock dwelling or even burrowing.  The benefits of owning a reptile are numerous.  Besides having something different as a pet, that does not evoke any allergies to its owner the fascination and allure of having a relative of the dinosaurs and the oldest species of land creature on earth is enough to get people started.  However, much research should be done before purchasing a reptile which is essential to maintain its health and happiness.

All reptiles have a preferred body temperature, which varies between species, fluctuates with seasons or even certain times of day.  There is an optimal temperature range for each species necessary to maintain its metabolism, digestive enzymes, reproductive system and behavior.  Reptiles are dependent on their environment and movement within it to achieve this.  When out of this temperature zone for too long, sickness, disease and a compromised immune system occur.  Unless returned to their required zone, even the best medical care is of no avail since therapeutics is also temperature dependent.

In order to maintain the health of your reptile, specific requirements must be met which differ with each species.  Those include humidity, habitat, photoperiod, substrate, water and food.  For example, chameleons only drink water off leaves while Emerald Tree Boas drink water collected in their tight coils.  Both of these species require daily misting and 50 to 60 percent humidity, 14 hours of light/10 hours dark photo period.  While most snake diets are small mammals, the Hognose snake eats toads; the Southern Brown snake eats eggs; and some King snakes eat other snakes!  Bearded Dragons and Basilisks devour insects while many monitors are carnivorous.  On the other hand, your red and yellow-foot tortoises primarily eat fruits and veggies.

To maintain proper temperatures, heat sources and ranges for each species should be determined.  Desert species such as Collard lizards require 100-105 degree basking area obtained from an overhead heat source with the remainder of the cage being 80-85 degrees.  The popular green iguana, which is primarily a tree dweller, uses only radiant heat from the sun (their heat receptors are in their back).  They are often accompanied by a hot rock which does not heat the surrounding habitat and provides unnatural, inadequate spot heat that can lead to poor digestion and long term thermal burns since they cannot feel the extent or utilize this belly heat.  Overhead ceramic heaters and unfiltered sunlight are safer and more effective alternatives.

Reptile lights are another important subject since it has been shown that many of the lights you can purchase do not provide adequate UVB spectrum and even the best ones must be replaced after six to eight months since they lose their effectiveness.  This can lead to secondary medical conditions that can be misdiagnosed or can reoccur when assuming the proper equipment was used.  A list of full spectrum lighting that provides adequate UVB is available from your local herp club or experienced reptile vet.

There are specific diseases, which accompany any pet you may acquire.  There is a potential for your reptile to carry a disease such as salmonella, sparganosis, pentastomiasis, equine encephalitis, Q and Relapsing fever and zygomycosis, to name a few, all of which are transmittable to humans.  An experienced reptile veterinarian should be consulted either before or during your new pet's routine checkup.

State and Federal permits may be required on certain species of reptiles not only by the owner, but by the attending veterinarian, also.  Check this out before you purchase your reptile or choose your veterinarian.

Other questions you should consider:

  • can you meet the reptiles needs

  • is it a handleable species

  • what is the annual expense of keeping one

  • can you provide the proper housing as it becomes a full grown adult

A local herp club is an excellent source of information as well as an experienced reptile veterinarian that offers pre-purchase counseling.  A free phone call can be very enlightening!  Once you obtain your reptile, an initial medical checkup can save many headaches down the road.  Many reptiles are purchased or obtained with improper husbandry advice and may be infected with parasites.  An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure!  Remember that we are trying to give our reptile friends the most natural environment and diet as possible.  Reptiles make fascinating and enjoyable pets, and although they require a fair amount of work, are well worth the effort!

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.


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