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Reptiles 101

Posted December 18, 2014 in Reptile Health & Care

Dr. Laurie Hess goes in depth on some of the most common reptile pets. For more from Dr. Hess, find her on Facebook

Some people love them. Others fear them. Regardless, most of us would agree that they are at least very interesting to look at.

Reptiles: they can make fascinating pets if you are a reptile fan. Whether they hop, climb, or crawl, have legs or not, there’s a reptile for everyone who is intrigued by these animals. With so many reptiles from which to choose, if you’re considering a reptile as a pet, where should you start? Here is part one of my blog on reptiles. Below are 3 different reptiles commonly kept as terrific pets. Next week, I'll add to the list. 

Bearded dragon1. Bearded dragon lizard
These medium-sized (1-2 feet long), yellow/brown/orange to red-colored lizards get their name from their ability to puff up the skin over their throats when they are angry or stressed. They are housed in glass tanks heated with over-the-tank lights so that the temperature in the basking zone should be 90-105°F and in the cool zone in the mid-70s°F. They need a tree branch or log for climbing and full-spectrum lighting with a UV-B/UV-A bulb to help them synthesize vitamin D-3 in their skin so that they can properly absorb calcium from their food. They should be fed crickets, mealworms, pinkie or fuzzy mice (dusted with supplemental calcium powder at least twice a week), plus a variety of chopped vegetables such as collards, kale, mustard greens, yellow squash, zucchini and shredded carrots. They should be sprayed daily with water which they will absorb through their skin and lap up off of their noses. If handled often, captive bearded dragons can be tamed to be quite docile and can live, on average, about 7-10 years.

2. Leopard Gecko lizard
These large geckos (8-9 inches long) get their name from their yellow skin covered with brown stripes initially that fade to spots as they age. They live in heated glass aquariums with rocks on which to climb. Temperatures should range from 90°F in the basking zone to the low 70s°F in the cooler area of the tank. Although they are nocturnal, captive leopard geckos living indoors that are never exposed to direct sunlight fare better when exposed to some UV-A/UV-B rays from an ultraviolet bulb. They should be fed crickets regularly, along with occasional mealworms and wax worms (plus a pinkie mouse, if they are large enough to eat it). To provide better nutrition for the gecko, insects they are offered should be fed a diet containing vitamins (“gut-loaded”) and dusted with calcium powder before being fed to the gecko. Leopard geckos need a shallow water dish in which to soak and should be provided with a hide box containing moss or vermiculite that can be misted to provide a high enough humidity to allow normal shedding of skin. These gentle lizards live 8-10 years, on average, in captivity and make great pets for families.

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Laurie has more than 15 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified bird specialist and exotic animal veterinarian as well as a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.