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REPTILE CARE SERIES
By Melissa Kaplan
anapsid.org

Keeping reptiles and chelonians as pets requires some specialized knowledge and equipment. Other than needing food and water, their needs are completely different from mammals. Learn how to best care for your exotic pets.

What fills an iguana's day? Warming up, getting rid of yesterday's food, getting and eating more food, basking, maybe going to eat some more, basking again, and going back to bed.
Abnormal CPK, red and white cell counts, phosphorous, total protein. and other analytes may not signal illness in reptiles.
Some things may lead to abnormal test results. Either that, or when the patient's values are outside of the norm, the range may not actually be indicative of illness.
Adenovirus in bearded dragons has become a growing problem over the past several years, as well as reports of adenovirus in some bearded dragon breeders' collections.
People who can't afford veterinary care shouldn't get pets. But sometimes life circumstances change. If you financial circumstances have changed for the worse, you can still take steps to save money for veterinary services, because no no matter how well we care for them, at some point a medical situation will arise that requires urgent or emergency medical or veterinary intervention.
Since we don't feed animal protein to iguanas, and plant proteins have some problems in terms of either not having enough protein or too much of some harmful plant chemical, how are we going to make sure our iguanas get enough protein?
The 67 species of alligator lizards range throughout the world. Some are common to North America.
Green iguanas are should only consume plant matter. Don't freak out and race to the veterinarian if your iguana grabs a bite of your pepperoni-with-extra-cheese pizza, but don't give protein-based treats.
Anoles are sometimes called chameleons due to the color-changing ability of the green anoles, who will will turn dark brown when stressed or ill. They are not true chameleons. If your green anole is always brown, that's a sign of stress.
Like most pythons, ball pythons are curious and gentle snakes. We call them balls because of their habit of curling themselves up into a tight ball when they are nervous, their heads pulled firmly into the center.
Every healthy body at rest expends a certain amount of energy just keeping the organs functioning and blood circulating. The amount of energy this requires is called the basal metabolic requirement (BMR).
Not only do most tubbed iguanas prefer to potty in the tub but the daily immersion helps improve the iguana's overall hydration status, a critical factor in kidney health. What should you know before your ig takes a dip in the swimming pool?
Bearded dragons are social animals, which is one of the reasons they are engaging and interested in their surroundings in captivity. The young especially perform a distinctive "wave" as a way of communicating nonaggression.
Blue-tongue skinks are very docile, curious lizards. They tame easily and are handleable by small children. They are omnivores, consuming both plant and animal matter. Their diet should be about 60% plant and 40% animal.
Do you really want a snake that will get to be 10 feet long, weigh over 50 pounds, urinate and defecate like a St. Bernard, should live more than 30 years, and for whom you will have to kill mice, rats and, eventually, small rabbits?
Box turtles fall somewhere between the aquatic water turtles and tortoises in their need for access to a body of water and to woody grassland areas with dry sandy soil on top and humid earth beneath.
Many people think that when they decide they don't want their Burmese any more, it will be easy to find someone who does. The zoo doesn't want any more. Rescue groups always have big pythons that need homes. Burmese are increasingly being abandoned at vets and animal shelters and euthanized for lack of proper homes.
During the course of normal digestion and metabolism, the calcium from the iguana's food is mixed with calcium pulled by the body from the bones. When a diet high in calcium oxalates is fed, metabolic problems result.
The Chaco tortoise is a moderately sized tortoise native to the Chaco regions of Argentina and Paraguay. As of 1988, the Chacos have been listed as "vulnerable" in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals because of the increasing pressure on the tortoise populations in Argentina.
There are essentially three types of stress: environmental, behavioral, and social. Unfortunately, an iguana doesn't hold up a sign or otherwise indicate which type is stressing him out at the moment, leaving you to figure out what is causing it and what if anything you can do about it.
If the area of infection has not yet eaten through the shell, you can try initially to treat it at home while at the same time assessing the care setup to figure out why the defect occurred that enabled the fungal or bacterial organisms to start.
Living with iguanas is much easier when their claws are regularly trimmed. When they are tiny, you can use people nail clippers but they soon outgrow these. Human clippers and the guillotine cutters for dogs should not be used.
People really do keep cockroaches, and not just free-roaming around their kitchens. Because roaches reproduce like, well, cockroaches, particular care must be taken to avoid accidental breeding between males and females.
Collareds are noted for their upright running on their hind legs, giving them the appearance of miniature T. rex's. They also have an interesting way of waving their tail, much like a cat, before grabbing at prey.
Coprophagy is generally rare in reptiles. Adolescent and young adult iguanas have been observed to eat their own or other iguana feces. They generally ingest feces only a few times, and the inclination usually passes within a few weeks.
Captive-bred corn snakes are popular because of all the exotic colors and patterns that are seen in captive-bred.
Humans and captive animals can become infected when drinking contaminated water (and the majority of municipal water supplies do not eradicate or kill Cryptosporidium, nor do most water purification devices people attached to their faucets or main water lines).
What do you do when your reptile has just bitten you and won't let go? These techniques work with iguanas and other large, tenacious lizards and snakes. How to clean your own wound, and what to tell the doctor if you need to see one.
There is a way to deal with male breeding season aggression that does not include euthanasia, neutering or giving it away. It does include humans taking control, however! This article is about breeding aggression in male igs, but many of the techniques are suitable for use with just plain old aggressive (dominant to humans) igs.
A desert tortoise diet is comprised mainly of safe grasses and weeds, leafy greens, with small amounts of hard vegetables and moist fruits. A good basic salad can be prepared a week in advance and fed daily with selections from the following served in addition to it.
Reptiles may starve not only through being deprived of food, or appropriate food, but they may also starve by being kept too cold or too hot to eat. Forcing such a reptile to eat is potentially dangerous. This article addresses how to get a starved reptile, especially herbivorous reptiles, to safely start feeding again.
One of the most common myths about reptiles is the need to feed live prey. Most herps found in the pet trade can easily be converted over to feeding on killed prey.
Some reptile species feed at night. Others take food around sunset but do not feed during daylight. Still others only eat during the day. When the food is offered also affects feeding and metabolism.
While most carnivorous reptiles never exhibit any problems feeding, there are times when you may have a snake, lizard, or chelonian who isn't interested in eating or in the food being offered.
It appears that males are more programmed to submit to a dominant force where it takes more than just alpha male craziness to get through to a female. It should be noted that many females become highly socialized, very comfortable with humans, including strangers, often becoming (at times, at least!) the essence of cuddly and sweet.
As difficult as it may be, snakes can generally be found in the house after an escape from their enclosure. Somewhere. It may be nowhere you think it could be, but it is there, somewhere. The best way to find an animal is to think like that animal, to view the world from its point of view and perspective.
Every year, homeowners, renters, businesses and schools lose property - and lives - due to electrical fires that should never have happened. Herpers are particularly susceptible to fires for several reasons.
Whether you call them fireflies or lightning bugs, these beautiful beetles are deadly to predators
How are those non-emergency reptile wounds best treated? Owners can treat minor wounds themselves. Bandaging techniques used on lizards and chelonians are similar to those used on mammals and birds.
With reptiles, the fluid requirement issue becomes a bit more complicated as species are found in such a wide range of habitats and live a variety of life-styles. Know how to rehydrate a reptile.
Are you considering giving a child that reptile she or he has been begging you for? Encourage them to talk to the parents first...and to encourage the parent to do some research into the suitability and care requirements before they approve of such a gift.
While thawed frozen vegetables and greens are undoubtedly the easiest to use, the thiamin in some green vegetables and leafy greens is destroyed when they are defrosted. Fresh vegetables are best!
Found in a variety of habitats, Garter snakes are often the first snake a youngster sees and catches.
There are alternatives to killing a reptile when it won't let go. Cutting their heads off is senseless. Reptiles can be easily encouraged to release their bite by pouring a small amount of alcohol into their mouths.
Green iguanas bob their heads for many reasons. Contrary to popular belief, females as well as males bob their heads. Males do it more frequently than do females, but bobbing itself cannot be used as a gender determinant.
Iguanas often do well when housed with other iguanas. Iguanas generally do not like dogs. Larger iguanas may get along fine with cats once they are big enough to teach the cat some respect. Very small birds, such as finches, may view iguanas with some alarm. While rodents are unlikely to be considered as a form of sushi on the run by a properly fed and raised iguana, mice may be stressed out by an iguana. There are always exceptions to the rules.
Holding a reptile isn't much different than holding any other animal. Support its body weight so that it feels comfortable and secure. You may need to figure out just where to put that tail you're both comfortable. You may need one or two other people when safety concerns dictate that two or more of you hold a large boa, python, or monitor lizard.
The majority of herp societies are volunteer organizations. The cost of doing the rescue, rehab, maintaining and feeding the animals before they are rehomed is usually borne by those individuals doing all the work. In only a few cases do the herp societies fund their committee's rescue/rehab work.
Some ideas to consider, based on what we know about hormone production, regulation and dysregulation in humans and other animals.
This is a quick overview on the feeding and keeping of invertebrate prey. Most prey are not fed or watered properly during the transition from prey breeder to your house. If you bought them at a pet store, they may not have been fed nutritious food. If you feed with starving or malnourished prey, your reptiles and amphibians will end up malnourished as well.
Fruit should compose the smallest part of the diet in iguanas, no more than 10% of the total diet (mixed salad and greens) over time.
Accidents and injuries can happen, both to the reptile and the reptile handler. Not only can bites happen, but also there are diseases that can be transmitted between animals - and that means between reptiles and humans.
The biggest question in the minds of owners of male iguanas, especially male iguanas who get very aggressive and/or obnoxious during the season, is how long does breeding season last?
Most new iguana keepers have never had reptiles before, or have had omnivorous or carnivorous reptiles. While there are strong similarities, iguana poop (the technical term used by ig keepers) seems to confound new iguana keepers.
The basic salad provides a significant amount of the protein, calcium, and fiber that iguanas require. The recipe is in this article. It is made from fresh, raw vegetables including at least one green and one orange vegetable, parsnip, alfalfa, and a fruit.
Color changes and variations in green iguanas can be confusing. Sometimes it's just the color the iguana is meant to be, sometimes it means the iguana is stressed or sick.
We really have no clue about the long-term effects of spaying on green iguanas. We're still just scratching the surface of identifying and figuring out what to do to combat the long-term health problems in human females who are in natural or forced menopause.
Despite what some iguana books say, iguanas drink water. Most keepers have a bowl of water in the enclosure at all times. This not only makes it available whenever the iguana wants it, it also helps, in a small way, to increase the humidity in the enclosure.
Inclusion body disease (IBD) has been increasingly diagnosed in boas and pythons (boids). The way it affects these two groups of snakes is slightly different but the long-term effects are the same: the disease is terminal in those animals who exhibit symptoms of the disease.
I often hear, "My iguana hates me!" Does the iguana really hate its owner? Does the iguana hate anything at all? Probably not. Does the iguana recognize that it can intimidate the owner? Probably. Most definitely, in many cases!
Large pythons have been subject of many news stories because of deaths directly attributable to them. Tragically, the deaths would not have happened had the owners of these snakes kept them safely, and responsibly, contained.
Parents-to-be who have reptiles and learn about reptile-related salmonellosis often become understandably concerned. The most common question they ask is "should I keep my reptile?"
Generally speaking, the mite treatment products available at pet stores are ineffective. There is no easy way to get rid of mites. It requires a two-pronged attack: you must aggressively treat the environment as well as the reptile.
Kingsnakes and milksnakes are some of the most beautiful snakes in the world and are very popular and easily kept in captivity. They are moderately sized and usually quite docile.
Male iguanas know when human females are going through their monthly cycles. Iguana males attacking menstruating human females was first described in the literature several years ago by male veterinarians. The important thing to remember is that the tamer your iguana is before the start of his first breeding season, the easier it is going to be to deal with him during the season so long as you are aware of what to look for.
Signs of metabolic bone disease include hard knobs in the long bones of the legs, bumps along the vertebral column of the back and tail, bilateral softening or hard swelling of the lower jaw, and softening of the plastron or carapace. All of these signs may be felt before they can be seen, making a careful physical exam important.
Contrary to their name, millipedes do not have 1000 legs. They have two pairs of legs on each body segment. Most millipedes possess 30 to 40 body segments, bringing the average number of legs to a total of only 120 to 160 legs.
No matter how far you move the iguana nor how long it took to get it there, the iguana will be stressed. Older iguanas are creatures of habit; disturb their daily routine, and they will suffer.
These carnivorous amphibians become large. Their popular name of Pac-man Frog describes their appearance when they lunge at prey: they appear to be all mouth. Ornates are not particularly discriminating about what they attempt to eat - your fingers look much like naked baby rodents and birds, too tempting to resist.
Many iguana owners wonder if there is such a thing as overfeeding their iguanas. Fortunately for the iguanas, so long as they are being fed a properly constructed diet, you can't overfeed them.
Most pet stores do not care for their reptiles properly. Many cannot even accurately species-identify their animals. Most imported animals are sick, scratched, and infested with parasites (not all of which may be seen without a microscope). How do you pick a healthy reptile?
How do you pick a reptile veterinarian? Doing so can be tough because, if you don't know much about handling and care, how can you assess someone else's knowledge? Talk to the veterinarian's office and see how much of their practice is in herps, generally, and your type of reptile in particular.
Iguanas, like humans, do have food preferences. And, like humans, these preferences change over time. But food preferences, such as "will only eat fruit and a few greens" cannot be allowed to continue, as it is not a diet that provides what the ig needs.
A Homeowner's Guide to Urban Rattlers: Basic information on behavior and natural history, with precautions for human families and homes
These fresh water turtles spend much of their time in the warm waters of their native habitat. While they are strong underwater swimmers, they spend most of the warmer hours of the day basking in the sun.
It is illegal to release non-native wildlife into any area. It is illegal to release native wildlife without a permit. Releasing long-term captives outside their normal range, even if it is in similar habitat, may also prove fatal as many of them fail to learn to feed, hide and generally survive.
Snakes don't have bones? All toads are poisonous? It's okay to poke a hole in a turtle's shell and chain it so it won't escape from your yard? Read on to discern the truth about these and other mythunderstandings...uh, misunderstandings or myths.
If you think your snakes recognize their names, you are probably right. Many "earless" reptiles can indeed "hear," though to varying degrees. There is a great variation in the tympanic membrane and sensitivity of the inner ear amongst those lizards and chelonians with tympanic membranes ("eared").
Mites are close relatives of fleas and ticks, and can infest your reptiles. The best way to get rid of them is to never get them. Unfortunately, every time you visit a pet store, reptile expo, herp society meeting, or interact with an infested herp, you risk unwittingly transporting mites into your reptile area.
All animals shed their skin. Some, like humans, do it relatively unobtrusively in an ongoing process. Others do it quickly and cleanly, like the one-piece sheds produced by snakes and tarantulas. Most lizards' skin comes off in patches. Some lizards are like snakes, tarantulas, and stick insects: they climb out of their old skin, leaving it behind in one piece.
What kind of vision do reptiles have? Can they see what we do in the way that we do?
When live reptiles are used in an educational setting, they provide the opportunity for almost immediate personal growth and development. Besides the facts about reptiles, the learner begins to see how the animal functions as a member of an ecosystem.
In reptiles, respiratory tract infections (RTI) are caused by a bacterial infection in the lungs. RTI is generally related to improper environmental conditions. If the reptile is not otherwise being cared for properly, this can exacerbate the condition, making it more severe and prolonging recovery.
Rosy boas are one of the smaller members of the boa family. Like many boas and pythons, they are nocturnal (sometimes crepuscular), thus moving around mostly at night or around dawn and dusk.
If pet stores don't demand healthy, legal animals from their suppliers, the suppliers have no incentive to provide them. By the same token, if herpers don't demand healthy animals and clean, appropriate conditions, stores have little incentive to provide them.
Salamanders, newts and caecilians (a legless, salamander-type animal) all belong in the order Amphibia along with frogs and toads. Amphibians should be handled as little as possible as the secretions from our skin are harmful to them.
Salmonellosis from reptiles is on the rise due to both the increased occurrence of reptiles as pets and because so many are not cared for properly. Owners are misled by the myth that reptiles are easy to care, and thus neglect to take proper steps to reduce risk of bacterial and parasite infection.
There is indeed a risk of contracting or causing others to contract a Salmonella infection from your iguana if you are not aware of the potential for infection and fail to take adequate means to avoid infection and transmission. But you are just as likely to get sick from other reptiles, other pets, and food-borne organisms and chemicals.
Monitors require a large enclosure and, as they eat frequently, it needs to be cleaned frequently. They are not naturally tame and so significant time must be spent the first year taming them. If not tamed, you may end up with a flighty, squirmy or aggressive lizard who is no pleasure to handle or go near.
Care must be taken not only in the type and size of food selected for feeding, but in the presentation of the food as well.
If you don't know what a reptile needs to be maintained properly in captivity, it's going to be difficult to ensure you are providing a proper environment for it. If you don't know how a species should behave, you may miss the early signs of stress or illness, and thus not realize that something is wrong until the animal is very ill.
For parents, spouses, partners and anyone who wants, or knows someone who wants, a reptile. I frequently get letters and phone calls from parents whose kids, and adults whose partners or spouses, want a reptile. I hear even more from parents whose kids (or spouses) got a reptile without realizing what they were getting into. In many cases, the reptile they chose was unsuitable for them. They often found that caring for reptiles is not as simple as it may appear.
The softshells truly have soft shells: in fact, their shells are mostly thickened skin. They are carnivores and as such are able to render some very painful bites should they be so inclined. Due to their aggressive tendencies, especially if overcrowded, they should be kept single or in pairs.
A danger for Sulcata tortoises in captivity is that too much water may be given or made accessible, which may lead to health concerns including skin and shell infections and kidney problems.
Some iguana keepers report that their iguanas get aggressive when they are taken outside. What's going on is more psychological rather than physiological: iguanas, no matter how tame, are still wild animals who belong out-of-doors.
One of the hallmarks of moderate to severe metabolic bone disease (MBD) in animals, including reptiles, is muscle twitching, typically seen in the toes and legs.
There are insurmountable problems associated with putting a program like this into practice.
He was 6 months old when I got him from the breeder in 1996. About the size of a quarter, his right eye was a bit foggy with a whitish cast over it, as it had been from the time he hatched out of his egg. It did not then appear to affect his ability to see and focus on prey.
You can plant a garden so that your tortoise will have fresh produce that doesn't come from the grocery store within his or her own pen.
Don't wait to see if the signs will abate - call your regular reptile veterinarian or emergency reptile veterinarian and let them know what the animal ate, what the signs are, and that you are on your way.
Despite its widespread use in the pet trade and for a variety of pet animals, there remains some confusion over the use of cedar as a substrate for animals, especially for prey animals and reptiles. The symptoms of cedar toxicity are similar to other common reptile ailments.
There are two types of supplements you need for your iguana: a multivitamin supplement and a calcium supplement. Most multivitamin supplements have some calcium but not enough to counterbalance the phosphorous naturally found in the food, even when sticking to foods high in calcium.
All prey is not created equal. What and how should you feed your reptile?
Your mom probably told you to eat your vegetables, by which she meant more than just one kind every day. Iguanas need a variety of vegetables to be healthy.
Investigation into cases of contact dermatitis shows that, rather than being allergic to the animal, the individuals are in fact allergic to something that they have introduced into their home along with the reptile.

   
About the author(s)
Melissa Kaplan Melissa is the author of Iguanas for Dummies as well as numerous articles on reptiles. She contributed two chapters to the 3-volume work The Biology, Husbandry and Health Care of Reptiles (Lowell Ackerman, DVM, editor), and co-authored the top-rated Captive Care of the Green Iguana video (Scimitar Productions, UK).

Melissaís training and background in wildlife rehabilitation, animal behavior observation and veterinary clinical nursing procedures have all contributed her to study of and the care and keeping of reptiles. Through the years, she has been actively involved in reptile rescue and rehabilitation, consulting with pet owners, veterinarians, and animal regulatory agencies on reptile care, behavior and welfare issues. In 1997, she earned her masterís in education, with her thesis, "Classroom Reptiles."

Her website, www.anapsid.org, contains a wealth of information on the care, health and behavior of reptiles in captivity and in the wild.

An article,"Meet Melissa Kaplan," appeared in the January 2000 issue of Reptile Hobbyist magazine. She is also on the staff of Kingsnake.com. Melissa currently lives in Northern California, and is presently co-habiting with a Cyclura iguana, blue-tongue skink, a ballpython and various chelonians. Melissa continues to promote herp welfare through her website, as well as advocate on the behalf of those stricken with invisible disabilities through her Chronic Neuroimmune Diseases site.


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