Reptiles are becoming a more common pet nowadays and we are seeing an increasing number at our practice. Unfortunately, most of the diseases we see are down to an incorrect environment or diet for these pets.
The first thing is to do your research prior to purchasing a reptile, or any other animal for that matter.
The most common species we see is the Bearded Dragon. These make ideal first pets as they are very placid and when kept in the correct conditions can make interesting, rewarding pets.
They originate from Australia and live in dry desert conditions so we need to reflect this when setting up an enclosure. They naturally spend much of their time lying in the sun so a basking bulb is essential, with temperatures up to 30 degrees Celsius under the basking site.
They also need a UV-b light to allow them to absorb calcium from their diet, which needs changing every six months. This prevents a condition called metabolic bone disease, which causes weak bones that can fracture, leading to a very painful disease.
Bearded Dragons are omnivorous, which means they eat a combination of insects and vegetables. Young Bearded Dragons need lots of insects to support their growth, however in adulthood their diet should consist of mainly vegetables and greens, with insects as snacks.
Insects commonly fed include crickets, locusts, mealworms and waxworms. Mealworms are quite fatty and low in nutrition so shouldn’t be the mainstay. Insects should be fed a high calcium diet prior to being fed to the Dragon, which increases the amount of calcium in the reptile’s diet and combined with the UV-b light reduces the chance of metabolic bone disease developing. Always remove any uneaten live food from the reptile’s enclosure otherwise the hunter can become the hunted and the Dragon can be bitten by the insects.
Providing water is an essential part of keeping any reptile. Bearded Dragons need a low humidity, but should still have a constant supply of water. The best way is in a wide shallow bowl.
Most reptiles enjoy a good bath and this also keeps them well hydrated. Bearded Dragons should be bathed at least once a week in warm shallow water – a cat litter tray provides the ideal bath.
If you have any other questions about a reptile you already have, or are thinking of getting, don’t hesitate to see one of our vets. We’ll be happy to help.
By LEANNE ROBERTS, Vet