There is a current fascination in keeping reptiles as pets, and understandably so! Reptiles are wonderfully unique, with hundreds of variations in color, size, shape, behavior and habitat. They are clean, quiet and easy to care for; but not without some serious forethought upon the part of the prospective owner. Adopting an exotic pet demands responsibility. Before purchasing a reptile, you must research the natural habitat of the species you have chosen. This includes enclosure dimensions, substrate, temperature, humidity, lighting, photoperiod, water and dietary requirements. It is then your task to try to duplicate these requirements. Reptiles are essentially wild animals and will not do well in captivity if their specific requirements are not met.

The three main categories of our reptile friends that are being kept as pets are: Turtles, Lizards and Snakes. They are all very different but also very much alike. The term cold-blooded is outdated and a misnomer. Ectothermic is more appropriate. Reptiles attain their preferred body temperature by moving between sun and shade, a process called thermoregulation. In a captive situation, it is essential to provide a thermal gradient in the enclosure, so that the animal can regulate its body temperature by moving between warm and cool temperature zones. A minimum of two thermometers should be placed at opposite ends of the enclosure for any reptile kept in captivity.

Each reptile has a very specific nutritional requirement. Owners must be knowledgeable of their particular pet’s needs. Valuable information can be obtained from your veterinarian, libraries, the internet, zoos, and organizations such as The North Texas Herpetological Society. Reptile owners should keep a feeding diary of when and what the reptile eats. The diary should also document bowel movements, shedding dates and weekly weights. This information is very valuable in assessing health status. Fecal samples should be submitted to your veterinarian every six months to test for internal parasites or microbes that can cause illness or even death.

The rewards of reptile ownership are numerous, but it is up to YOU as a responsible pet owner to assure that the husbandry requirements and veterinary medical needs are met.

Don’t hesitate to call us if you need more information.

Have a great summer!
Dr. Bonnie