Reptiles can be interesting and entertaining pets, but keep in mind that a reptile is exotic and quite sensitive. You should therefore expect that these animals need specific care and each reptile species has unique care requirements.
Some may look similar but because of variation in their natural habitats, they can have entirely different care requirements from one reptile to another. It’s important to read up on the specific species of your pet, in order to understand their needs.
Following are some general basics to keep your pet reptile healthy:
- Feed your pet a proper diet. Some reptiles are strictly carnivorous, some are herbivores, and others are omnivores.
- Keep your pet in a suitably sized cage. It should be large enough to comfortably accommodate your reptile, and must be escape-proof
- Regulate the temperature of your pet’s environment and monitor their habitat, so that it stays at the optimal range of heat for their health.
- Maintain the correct humidity level for your species of reptile. Desert-dwellers prefer a drier environment but reptiles from tropical climates, will need a higher level of humidity
- Install the correct UV lighting. Most lizards, turtles and tortoises rely on UV light for their basic health. It’s important that you are familiar with your species’ specific needs.
- Only allow your pets to mix, or keep them in the same cage, if the species are compatible.
Nutrition and feeding reptiles
Most species of reptiles will need fresh food, regularly. Many species are carnivores (meat-eaters), although some are herbivores (plants only), and other species will happily munch on all kinds of food (omnivores).
There are specially formulated supplements, that can help get your pet the nourishment and vitamins they need. Ask us about what’s right for your pet.
Tips for choosing the right cage for your reptile
Research the particular care for your pet’s species, check with us if you have any questions, and then match its cage, habitat and accessories according to its requirements.
There is a widespread misconception that if you house your reptile in a small tank, that it will stunt your pet’s growth. This is not the case, however your reptile’s health will suffer if it is not in the correctly sized cage. Ensure that you choose a cage that is at least as big as the recommended size and preferably as big as practicable.
Consider the material of the cage (screen, glass, plastic etc.) and select an option that is best for your reptile. Some species need maximum airflow, so a screen works best. Other reptiles need high humidity. They are generally best kept in plastic or glass so that you can control levels of heat and moisture. Some species require their space to be draft-proof because they are susceptible to becoming chilled, and some need a misting system inside their cage.
Key factors to consider with your pet reptile’s habitat
- Light & UV source
- Hiding areas
- Water system
- Cage lining
Routine cage maintenance is very important for your reptile’s health. Reptiles are prone to skin and bacterial infections and their droppings can carry diseases such as salmonella, which can be harmful to humans. It’s key that you clean and disinfect your pet’s cage and equipment, frequently.
Reptiles are ectothermic, which means they rely on their environment for warmth because they cannot regulate their body temperatures from within as we can. In order to survive in captivity, every species of reptile needs some kind of heating. The amount of heat will vary from one species to the next, but without this, they will definitely suffer and may not survive.
There are plenty of different cage accessories to help heat your animal’s home. However, do your research because all species require something particular. Most lizards and turtles like some form of overhead heat. This might be an infrared or incandescent light bulb, or a ceramic heat emitter.
Do not guess the temperature; use a thermometer to measure the cage regularly.
Lighting and UV source in your pet’s habitat
Giving your pet reptile regular exposure to natural sunlight is one of the best things you can do to keep it happy and healthy. Natural sunlight contains UVB (ultraviolet B) rays, which lizards and other reptiles rely on for their health. These reptiles synthesize UVB into vitamin D3 within their bodies. Vitamin D3 supports many vital functions in a reptile, including bone development and deficiencies can lead to metabolic disorders (which may result in deformity or death). When using a UV source, it is very important that it’s replaced every six months.
Providing concealment in their environment
In the wild, lizards, snakes and turtles spend much of their time hiding from predators. To help make them feel at home, so they can thrive, furnish their environment with elements they can shelter in. It gives them a feeling of security, and for many, they can engage in camouflaging which is their natural habit. Plant foliage, rocks and logs are usually good options.
Several of our vets have particular interest in reptile medicine including Dr Marijke Mellor at our Salisbury Park hospital and Dernancourt clinic, Dr Nicole Burke at our Ridgehaven centre, Dr Hannah Smith at our Salisbury Park hospital. Also, if you are thinking about getting an exotic animal, make sure that it’s allowed to be owned in Australia, and if it was imported that is was imported legally. If you have any doubts check with the Department of Environment and Energy.