Reptile Basics

Dr. Susan Arnold has experience with several species of reptiles including Green Iguanas, Bearded Dragons, Snakes, Monitors, Geckos and more. There are several common errors people make when choosing a reptile as a pet. You should thoroughly research the animal you wish to acquire.  Know what it eats, how often it eats, heat requirements, how it gets water.  Did you know that some reptiles will only drink running water?

Know the calcium needs for your particular species and the light requirements. Low calcium is a common presenting problem in many reptile species.  It is also the cause of metabolic bone disease in many reptile species.  It is imperative that they are supplemented with a proper source of calcium and have supplemental Vitamin D or the proper UV light source in order to absorb and utilize the calcium in the diet.

Many reptiles go through a hibernation period.  Know if your species is one of them. Also, some species change color and become more aggressive during mating season.  Finding out ahead of time if your reptile is among them will avoid surprises.

Know the temperature and humidity requirements for the species you wish to keep as a pet.  Reptiles require a temperature gradient in their environment so they can maintain an optimal body temperature.  Some like to bask in branches while others require a basking rock. Many reptiles require a source of belly heat for proper digestion. Hiding spots are also crucial to the comfort and well being of reptiles as is an appropriate substrate.  The wrong substrate can lead to ingestion of sand or other impassable foreign bodies.

All reptiles should be considered a possible source of Salmonella exposure.  Always wash your hands after handling a reptile.

The dietary requirements of a reptile may vary according to its age.  Young reptiles often have a more prey related diet as appossed to the adults, who might be almost entirely herbivorous.

Shedding the skin is a necessary byproduct of growth and healthy maintenance of the skin.  Reptiles require a good diet, proper moisture and a good surface on which to scrape off the old skin.  Failure to shed all the skin and the spectacles (the covering over the eyes of snakes) in an indicator of poor health or the lack of sufficient moisture or proper surfaces on which to rub.

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