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Reptile Care

Hi, I’m Dr. Mary Stauder at Manchester West Veterinary Hospital.

I wanted to speak today about some basic reptile care.

But I do want to lead that in with if you have a reptile that is sick or is needing assistance you should always seek out a veterinarian that specializes in reptiles.

So I’m going to start in with my bearded dragon here, I got him from a friend. He’s over 8 years old so I haven’t had him since he was a little hatchling. But like any reptile or any other pet you should always investigate what you’re getting into; knowing the basic food requirements, how they handle, what kind of lighting, what kind of enclosure do they need. A little information before you buy will go a long way.

For instance, this bearded dragon is very friendly. He enjoys being handled, especially on a cold day. He’s more than happy to sit on your nice warm lap. He does like to perch so I’m going to support his legs here and set him on his favorite perch.

The lizard I have here and the tortoise I have at home that I brought in also may require a basking sort of heat source. All reptiles have to receive their heat from the outside. They are coldblooded, so they need a heat source. These kinds of reptiles like basking so I have a heat lamp so that they can get under it if they choose so but they can always move away if they get too hot. They also have a UV light, they have to be supplied with natural sunlight, that natural UV light. If you can take your reptile outside, that of course is much more beneficial, but that requires some sort of enclosure. I have seen the larger lizards actually on little harnesses and things of that sort.

So, again back to the little beardy here, we call him dragon, not very original on our names, and he lost his tail before we got him because he was housed with several other males. So there’s one little thing we need to know right there.

As far as what he eats, his favorite are nice crunchy crickets. We’ll feed him crickets once a week, dusted with a vitamin and mineral powder. But he will gladly accept fruit, he loves pears and apples. I cut them into small slices and we can feed them.

One of his favorites is dandelions. Now I picked these dandelions yesterday so I’m afraid they are a little wilted, and I’m not sure if he’s going to go for them. I’ll just set it here for right now.

One thing we should realize is that we should never really feed a reptile with our fingers. It’s much better to have some kind of tongs that you can hold it with because they don’t mean to bite you but if they lunge for the food they certainly can accidentally give you a pretty nasty bite.

This little guy also really enjoys his greens. So right now he’s being a little camera shy but he’s watching me. He enjoys his greens. This is kale, one of his favorites. The dandelions that I picked are another interesting source. There are a number of weeds and plants that are safe to feed your reptile, and of course they are organic. They’re full of nutrients, growing wild out in your yard, so important things to look at. We pretty much keep him in a nice area enclosure.

The tortoise, however, who has gone in his garage as I call it, they like to hide. And that’s actually something that you have to realize with a turtle or a tortoise, they need their space to hide. Now, we’ll go ahead and kind of move him out a bit. He’s quite a friendly guy. Due to his size, I will let him walk about in our house and enclosed in the deck. So that he can get out and have his sunshine without getting into things out in the yard that he shouldn’t.

He enjoys his dandelions, kale, but being a grassland tortoise, it’s important that he eats primarily the hay kind of products. We have a bale of hay here, something that I picked up at the pet store, a basic timothy. Orchard grass hay is very good also. He doesn’t like his hay as much. Since, he’s a young turtle so we’ve been feeding him mostly greens; the dark green leafy kale, he likes Brussel sprouts, mustard greens, collard greens, he doesn’t care for parsley that much. He does like a variety of vegetables, and he loves fruit and dog food. Interesting that he picked out the dog food all by himself, but we have to realize that those foods are not ideal for a tortoise. The fruits in particular are very high sugar and since he is a grass feeder his system is set up for not nutrient-dense foods. So he’s got to eat a lot of it, a lot of fiber. So, that rich fruit can be very upsetting to his system. He will get into an occasional piece here and there as a treat. I’ll give him a raspberry every now and then.

The dog food should be strictly forbidden, it’s too high in protein, and can be a bother for his system. I tell you, though, he always goes for the dog bowl.

So the rule of thumb here then is research your reptile, they can make wonderful pets. Just knowing their needs is always important. I hope you enjoy your little furless friends.

Thank you very much. I’m Mary Stauder at Manchester West Veterinary Hospital.

Thank you.

Located In Ellisville, MO

We're located just off Manchester Road (Hwy 100)
one mile West of Clarkson Rd.

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