It is common to think of reptiles as a group. Actually, the various groups of reptiles are much less related to each other than dogs are to cats or to cows. At Montville Animal Hospital, we enjoy treating reptiles and have been doing so for the last 20 years.
Dr. Michaelson is a member of the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians (www.ARAV.org).
The key to having healthy reptilian pets is to be informed about the environment the animal would inhabit in the wild. It is essential to try to recreate that environment for your pet. Most health problems in pet reptiles occur because there is some problem in the husbandry for that animal. For excellent information about how to keep many types of reptiles, visit www.anapsid.org.
These lizards grow to be about 5 feet long or larger! Iguanas can be very responsive and can seem to enjoy handling. Some of these, especially some males, can be quite aggressive. Each one has its own personality that develops as they grow. They require very specific lighting, housing, humidity and diet in order to thrive. Since they are semi-tropical to tropical in natural distribution, all of this can be a challenge in the Northeast. These lizards require ultraviolet light (UV-B), warm temperatures, and a varied diet of vegetables with calcium supplements. Access to water and high humidity is also important. An enclosure that accommodates the urge to climb is essential. Iguanas live in trees but swim in rivers too.
Some of the health problems iguanas experience are skin infections, intestinal parasites, burns from heat lamps that are too hot or too close to the basking spot, oral and respiratory infections, poor shedding, bladder stones, egg laying difficulties, nutritional deficiencies, and kidney failure.
These moderate sized lizards can be quite personable and seem to like being handled if introduced to attention at a young age. Their housing requirements are fairly simple and must include warmth, good lighting (UV-B is recommended), hiding spots, good diet which includes crickets, mealworms and often some vegetables. It is not advisable to use sand of any sort (even the “digestible sand”) as bedding. Reptile carpet is available and is much safer. Calcium supplementation is needed occasionally.
Beardies can have problems shedding, intestinal parasites, oral and respiratory infections, egg binding, and some viral infections.
These small lizards are gentle and can get very used to being handled if they are introduced to gentle attention early on. They need a relatively small enclosure that includes a hiding place with some moist material inside to help with shedding. These lizards eat crickets and mealworms primarily. Calcium supplements and ultraviolet light (UV-B) are advisable. Sand bedding of any sort can cause intestinal blockages and eye problems. Avoid even the “reptile sand” that is supposedly digestible.
Leopard geckos have health problems similar to Bearded Dragons.
There are many, many types of snakes and they are not necessarily closely related! Some of the most popular are the pythons, which can range from small Ball Pythons to the very large Burmese Pythons. Boa constrictors are also commonly found in the pet trade. Corn snakes are small and very docile starter snakes that come in many color patterns.
Snakes are carnivorous. It is best to feed dead prey to avoid injury of the snake from the attacks of live mice or rats. Snakes that eat specialized food such as frogs or birds are poor pets for the beginner snake keeper.