Reptile husbandry

By Arbutus West, on Thursday, August 10th, 2017

We typically see pets for annual health checks, or when they are ill.  This shouldn’t surprise anyone.  What may be surprising is that reptiles typically get ill for very different reasons than mammals or birds which is why reptile husbandry is so important!
Cats, dogs, rabbits, have a variety of causes for their ailments.  No one thing really stands out.  Reptiles are different.  90% of the time disease in reptiles is linked to reptile husbandry.   Sure, lizards snakes and turtles can get infections, they develop cancer, and occasionally swallow something they shouldn’t have.  But the majority of vet visits that reptile owners make are because of a slow-growing problem.  Perhaps their snake or lizard hasn’t eaten in a week, or  a month, or a year (I’m not exaggerating here).  Or they have been watching their turtle’s shell get flakier and flakier for several months.  Or mouth ulcers develop, and the owner eventually notices when their lizard or snake have lost half their body weight.
All of these are typically issues with reptile husbandry.  What is husbandry?  It can be broken down into diet and housing, and housing can be further broken down into enclosure, substrate (bedding), light, heat and humidity, water quality, hides, and toys.
A moto of reptile medicine is “reptiles get sick slowly and get better slowly” which is both good and bad.  It is good because there is plenty of time to catch disease before it becomes irreversible and the pet dies.  It is bad because owners often miss early signs of disease (reptile illness is usually pretty subtle) and it can take a long course of treatment to get better.  Sometimes it cant take months of antibiotics or other treatments for reptile pets to get back to full healthy, but with a dedicated owner and a bit of competency on our part, most of our reptile stories have a happy ending!
In the next post, we’ll talk a little about what you, as a reptile owner/parent/guardian can do at home to keep your pet healthy and help us to have more happy pet stories than sad ones!

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