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. 



Which reptiles/amphibians need supplements?

We recommend all land amphibians, lizards, and indoor tortoises and land turtles receive supplements. Tortoises and turtles outdoors don't typically require supplements as long as they are on an appropriate diet. Snakes that eat whole prey don't need supplements as they receive all the nutrition they need from their food. Water turtles and aquatic amphibians, as part of a balanced diet, should get all the supplements they need from nutritionally complete pellets. 


Calcium is not only important in building strong, healthy bones, the body also needs it for muscle function, digestive health, and function of the nervous system. iIt is extremely common for captive reptile diets to have too high phosphorus and not have enough calcium. This is important because the intestines absorb both calcium and phosphorus equally. When a diet is too high in phosphorus, too low in calcium, or both the body will absorb more phosphorus and less calcium. This leads to an overall calcium deficiency and eventually causes a serious condition called nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism, for metabolic bone disease.
The best way to prevent this is to add calcium back into the food by way of a calcium carbonate based supplement 2-3 times a week (daily for chameleons), such as Zoo Med's ReptiCal. These supplements should be dusted onto greens or feeder insects immediately before feeding. 

Multivitamins & Vitamin A

Vitamin A is an important vitamin for reptiles and amphibians to have healthy eyes and eyelids, skin, mouth, trachea and lungs, muscles, bones, and reproductive system.  Unfortunately, many insect-eating reptiles and amphibians do not get enough vitamin A in their diets. 
Supplementing your reptile with a quality, powdered multivitamin can help prevent deficiencies. Sprinkle this onto their food 1-2 times weekly. Make sure when choosing a multivitamin for your reptile to check to see what it is using as the source of vitamin A. Make sure that your multivitamin has actual vitamin A in the form of either retinol acetate or retinol palmitate, not beta-carotene only. Research suggests that many species of insect-eating reptiles and amphibians are not able to utilize beta-carotene as a source of vitamin A. We recommend Zoo Med's Reptivite.   

Vitamin D3

Most wild diurnal reptiles, those reptiles that are active during the daytime, receive all the vitamin D3 they need from the sun. Most reptiles that are active only at night (nocturnal) or at dusk can get their vitamin D3 from their diet. Diurnal reptiles housed indoors should be provided with UVB lighting to simulate the sun's activity, but this artificial lighting is never as good at providing D3 as the sun is. We recommend all indoor reptiles, both diurnal and nocturnal, be provided with a some source of supplemental D3. Both calcium supplements and multivitamins on the market come as a "with D3" and a "without D3" form. In order to decrease the chance that your reptile will get too much of this vitamin, we recommend using Reptivite with D3 and the ReptiCal without D3 following the recommendations above.