Lizards

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: Peter's Banded Skinks

Peter's banded skinks are relative new comers to the reptile hobby. These inquisitive skinks, about the size of a leopard gecko, can make great pets with the right care. They tend to become quite tame and will often beg their owner's for treats. Peter's banded skinks, Scincopus fasciatus, are a monotypic species of the Genus Scincopus which are recognized by their squat bodies, robust limbs, short tails and orange/yellow and black dorsal banding patterns. This species has two described subspecies, S. f. fasciatus  and S. f. melanocephalus. The former being described possessing distinct dark transverse blank bands with little to no black on the head while the latter is described as having an almost completely black head and far less distinct black banding. Most captive specimens can be presumed to be of the S. f. fasciatus subspecies based on morphologic appearance. These nocturnal lizards are native to the Sahelian and southern Saharan regions of northern Africa. These sandy regions are extremely arid with limited annual rainfall. Average high temperatures within these regions range from 24 to 42°C (81-108°F) with coolest temperatures dropping as low as 15°C (90°F). Similar environmental conditions should be provided in captivity. Little data is available concerning the natural diet of Scincopus fasciatus. They are believed to be primarily insectivorous, but may consume some plant material. A variety of commercially available insects should be offered along with small amounts of fruits, flowers, and vegetables. The diet should be supplemented with vitamins and minerals. This species UVB lighting requirements are also unknown. Providing this lighting should be strongly encouraged given recent studies have demonstrated benefit in another nocturnal lizard, the leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius).

Bearded Dragon Nutrition

Proper nutrition is a very important part of caring for your bearded dragon. Bearded dragons are omnivores, meaning they eat a combination of both prey items and plants. Studies in Australia of wild adult bearded dragons show the eat approximately 90% plants and only 10% prey items and juveniles each equal amounts of each. Similar percentages should be attempted in pet bearded dragons using this feeding guide. 

Atadenovirus in Bearded Dragons

Atadenovirus is a viral infection most commonly seen in bearded dragons. It can cause inflammation of the digestive system, liver, kidneys, and nervous tissue as well as suppress their immune system. Common symptoms are loss of appetite and lethargy. Because it can affect the immune systems ability to fight infections, some may have problems recovering from other infections and illness or have recurrent problems with parasites. In rarer cases where the virus infects nervous tissue it may cause difficulty walking, controlling the limbs, or "star gazing" (constantly looking upward).

Cryptosporidiosis in Reptiles

Cryptosporiosis is caused by an internal parasite that can infect many different species of animals. It is caused by a protozoal, or one celled, parasite called Cryptosporidium. There are several species of Cryptosporidium, but the most commonly encountered in reptiles is C. serpentis. Cryptospordiosis is an important disease in reptiles due to its tendency to be highly contagious and high mortality rate. 

Kidney Failure in Chameleons

One of the things that can cause chameleons to stop eating and become weak is kidney failure.  This disorder should be suspected in any chameleon that has two or more of the following signs: a lump just in front of its pelvis, inability to defecate (or pass eggs), fluid beneath the skin under its jaw or neck, dehydration even with plenty of water offered, a foul odor to its breath, swollen joints, bloodshot eyes, or white shiny deposits in the lining of its mouth.

Basic Care: Blue-Tongue Skinks

Blue-tongues are by far the most popular pet skink which can be hardy captives if they are captive-bred. Many captive-bred pet blue-tongue skinks will become quite friendly and beg to come out when they spot their main care-giver. Captive-bred blue-tongue skinks can be much easier to raise than bearded dragons. Blue-tongue skinks are more tolerant of lower temperatures and have lower ultraviolet-B requirements. They do not require live food and do well on a diet of green leafy produce mixed with fruits, legumes and other vegetables, and an animal protein source. Blue-tongue skinks are very tolerant of handling and become quite tractable as they get larger and eventually become “lap lizards” with regular gentle handling. Blue-tongue skinks are much longer-lived than bearded dragons, often reaching their teens and twenties.

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.  

Pages