Tortoises & Turtles

Tortoises & Turtles

DIET SUPPLEMENTS FOR REPTILES

Nutritonal problems are the one of the most common reason pet reptiles become sick. Captive reptile diets are notorious for being imbalanced in many vitamins and minerals. This is mostly just due to the fact that it's still very hard to completely simulate their natural food sources using what is available to us in stores. Supplements give us a helpful and necessary tool to make up for these gaps. This short article will discuss our recommendations for providing supplements to pet reptiles. 

Basic Care: Golden Greek Tortoise

Several species have been referred to as Golden Greek Tortoises, none actually originating from Greece at all. The two most commonly seen species in the pet trade are Testudo terrestris and Testudo floweri, the former probably being the most common of the two. The natural range of T. terrestris is Northern Iraq to Turkey and Syria. Whereas T. floweri has a far more limited natural range, found only along a narrow strip of land along the coasts of Israel and Lebanon and possibly as far west as Egypt in the Sinai. 
Both species are found in moderate to hot arid climates and both may remain fairly active late into the winter, aestivating partially submerged into shallow pits or burrows, retreating for brumation only during the coldest times of the year. 
The natural diet of both species is similar to that of other Greek tortoises (T. graeca) consisting of edible weeds, thistles and vegetative debris. 

Basic Care: Leopard Tortoise

 

The leopard tortoise (Geochelone pardalis) is found in central and southern Africa.  Leopard tortoises have very distinct individual personalities. Some may be shy and retiring while others are outgoing and friendly.  They live for decades and seemingly become quite bonded with their owners.  Most will outlive their owners if given the right care. 

Basic Care: Box Turtles

Box turtles belong to the genus Terrapene.  These turtles are personable, hardy, and can live over 50 years. These turtles have a hinged shell, which they use as a defense mechanism to close up tightly when they feel threatened. If you choose to keep a box turtle as a pet, choose captive-bred individuals rather than encouraging continued collection by buying wild caught. Due to habitat destruction and over collection for the pet trade, some box turtle species may be protected in your particular area.  Check your local and state laws regarding box turtles to ensure you can keep a particular species in your area. 

Nutritional Secondary Hyperparathyroidism/Metabolic Bone Disease

Nutritional Secondary Hyperparathyroidism (NSHP), commonly referred to as “Metabolic Bone Disease”, is a common and serious health problem in pet reptiles. This disease causes the bones to become soft and brittle, easily bending and breaking. These fractures are referred to as pathologic fractures or fractures that occur during normal activity due to disease of the bone, not because of excessive trauma. In many cases, reptiles may have multiple fractures all over their body. Young growing reptiles may also develop swelling of the jaw and limbs, called fibrous osteodystrophy or “rubber jaw syndrome”. In severe cases, where the calcium in their body becomes dangerously low, reptiles develop muscle tremors, paralysis, and can lead to death.

Heating and Temperature Control for Reptiles

Reptiles are often referred to being “cold-blooded”, which can be misleading.  More appropriately they should be considered poikilothermic or ectothermic. This means that, unlike mammals and birds, reptiles are unable to regulate their body temperatures internally and change their body temperature in adaptation to their environmental temperature. Because reptiles do not need to expend as much energy heating their bodies, they have a much lower metabolic rate than that of mammals. Each reptile species has what is referred to as its preferred optimal temperature zone which is a narrow temperature range at which they are active and undergo typical functions such as feeding, digestion, fighting off infections, and reproduction. Outside of this range these functions may be hindered or cease altogether. Some species will hibernate during colder months and during this time their metabolic rate will decrease.  

Ultraviolet Lighting for Reptiles

Ultraviolent or UV lighting is a type of light radiation outside of the visible light spectrum found at higher energies than violet light and it is found in 3 forms: A, B, and C.  UVA is used by reptiles to regulate their daily biological cycles and rhythms. UVC is damaging radiation that leads to skin damage and cancers. UVB is the most important light for reptiles as it is necessary for many reptiles to properly absorb calcium from their diet in order to utilize it for hardening their bones and other metabolic processes throughout their bodies. 

Microchip Identification

Unlike our furry friends the dog and cat, turtles and tortoises (known collectively as "chelonians") aren’t quite suited to wearing collars bearing ID tags.  In the past chelonian enthusiasts have tried to establish forms of identification for their turtles and tortoises through various methods.  Microchips (also know as transponders, PIT tags, or microchip transponders) provide a more long-lasting and reliable form of identification.

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