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Exotics

Our recommendations for the care of exotic animals

Small mammals, reptiles and birds are also very popular household pets. 

And can make great pets, though as each have their own unique set of requirements in terms of husbandry and nutrition, owners should consider and research, even before, they make a purchase or re-home a pet.

We have added some species specific content below, please browse through. Due to the diverse nature of this group if something is not covered and you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to contact the surgery.

Buying a reptile as a pet

Looking after any pet is a serious responsibility, ensuring it is properly fed, exercised and housed is only the start. Exotic pets need extra care and so can be a demanding option for any owner. There are several points to consider before taking one on. 

Before you buy your pet:

  • Check which species you are buying and exactly what the requirements of that species are. 
  • Ensure that your reptile is a product of captive breeding in the UK and was NOT wild caught and imported (this is an illegal and immoral trade). 
  • Remember, most reptile species kept as pets in the UK are not adapted for life in this climate so you will need to provide an environment that mimics their natural habitat as closely as possible. 
  • The majority of health problems suffered by pet reptiles are a direct result of incorrect housing and/or feeding. Most pet reptiles do not live nearly as long as their wild counterparts because they are not being kept under the right conditions. 
  • Remember to check what size your reptile will be when it is fully grown! 
  • All reptiles have bacteria in their gut, which may include Salmonella. But the risk to human health is low if you practise good hygiene. 
  • Vivaria should be cleaned regularly with a suitable reptile-safe disinfectant.
     

Husbandry and Nutrition

As this is so varied across the range of species, it is important to look into the individual species to see their requirements. There are some informational sections below for some of the more common species below which you can browse. If you have any specific concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the surgery.

Insurance

A very good idea for any new pet owner to consider. This helps cover costs of investigating and treating any illnesses that may occur, and can cost from a few pounds a month. With Veterinary practices improving their services all the time and as human medicine progresses, we are able to provide a much more advanced level of care for patients and their problems, though this is unfortunately can come at a cost, insurance means you can concentrate on getting your pet well again if any problems are to occur.

Exotic Direct is a reputable company that covers: Bird Insurance, including cover for parrots, cockatoos and budgies; Reptile Insurance, including cover for snakes, terrapins, tortoises, turtles, lizards and geckos; and Small Mammal Insurance for chinchillas, chipmunks, ferrets, gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, rats and even hedgehogs.

For more information, go to: www.exoticdirect.co.uk

Microchipping

At Rhodes Vets, we are strong advocates for Microchipping any pet that has the possibility of escaping or getting lost. If they are not chipped (or have a ring; birds) we often have no way of knowing where to start looking for their home. We have seen tragic cases where pets are lost and not microchipped as they never go outside, but the door was left accidently open and they have escaped. This can be a particular problem with birds and tortoises.

Also remember if you are hoping to sell on or breed with Hermanns (Testudo Hermanni), Spur-thighed (Testudo Graeca) or Marginated tortoises (Testudo Marginata), (plus some more unusual species, see DEFRA website for more information if any concerns), once they reach a plastron length of 60mm (formally 100mm) they should also be chipped in line with their CITES paperwork. Microchipping is a relatively straightforward procedure which can be done in a consultation with the animal awake in most instances.

Parasites and Vaccinations

Parasites

Small Mammals – This is such a large group of different species, with a variety of different requirements. Please contact the surgery if you have any questions or concerns. 

Reptiles – Due to the formation of resistance to wormers, we do not regularly worm our patients. Instead we regularly check faecal samples (6-12 monthly) to ensure we do not have a parasite burden and treat appropriately.

Birds – As there are a number of different species within this group with different lifestyles and potential parasites, there are many approaches to parasite control in birds. Please contact the surgery if you have any questions about your pets.

Vaccinations

We recommend vaccinating ferrets in the UK after 12 weeks old once a year against distemper.  Rabies is also required if travelling with a Pets Passport to Europe. 

We do not routinely vaccinate our other small mammal, reptile or avian patients. If you have any questions relating to vaccinations, please contact the surgery.

Hibernating Tortoises

Not all species of tortoises hibernate, though in the UK the most commonly kept ‘Mediterranean’ species do. This includes the species: Testudo graeca, Testudo hermanni, Testudo marginata and T. horsfieldii.  In the wild, these tortoises hibernate for only a month or two, but in this country hibernation may last for several months.  Many problems can occur during this period including death or fatal illnesses so appropriate care before, during and after hibernation is very important. 

In order to survive hibernation in good condition, tortoises need to have built up a sufficient reserve of body fat, which in turn stores vitamins and water. If these reserves run out too soon, then the animal’s body will begin to use up the fat contained within the muscles and internal organs, leading ultimately to death.

The best way to check if your tortoise is fit to hibernate is to have your pet examined by your veterinary surgeon in a ‘pre-hibernation check’. The vet will weigh and measure your tortoise, examine its eyes, nose, ears and look inside its mouth for signs of disease, and assess the level of stored fat. If your tortoise is underweight, unwell or in the first few years of its life, over-wintering it in a heated vivarium is safer option than hibernation. Please contact for further information on the heat/light requirements for this.

Provided your tortoise is up to weight and no other abnormalities can be detected, then you can start to prepare your tortoise for hibernation.

Many tortoises die each year because owners attempt to hibernate them whilst they still contain undigested food matter in their intestines. It is natural for tortoises to gradually reduce their food intake as the autumn approaches, but it takes a full 2-4 weeks for the food last consumed to pass completely through the gut. So the first thing to do is wait 2-4 weeks from the last meal. During this time water and water bathing should be offered to ensure good hydration during hibernation, if a tortoise urinates as you are moving them to hibernate, stop, bathe and re-offer water before hibernating the following day.

Having decided if and when to hibernate your tortoise, the next question is ‘how?’. Firstly, if your tortoise has safely hibernated for years before naturally by burrowing in the garden there is no need to vary from this routine, though there are 4 main disadvantages to consider from this method: 1) Flood risk, 2) Health inspections throughout hibernation are practically impossible 3) They may be at risk from frost damage and 4) There is always a risk of attack by foxes, badgers or rodents.  

Alternatively, a more controlled, superior method is to place your tortoise inside a small cardboard box, ideally allowing for a couple of inches of insulation material all around – shredded paper is ideal – straw should be avoided as it can harbour mould spores. Next place this box inside a larger wooden or more substantial cardboard box. Again the inside of this should be lined with shredded paper or polystyrene chips. The double box system allows a hibernating tortoise some movement, without the risk of moving to the edge of the box, where it could easily freeze.

Where to place your hibernation box depends on the temperature. The critical temperatures are a maximum of 10 °C (50 °F) and a minimum of 2 °C (32 °F). Too hot and your tortoise will use up its body reserves too quickly and become weak and possibly die, too cold and can result in blindness as the eyes quite literally freeze solid, and brain damage. The easiest way to check temperatures is to obtain a maximum-minimum reading thermometer from any garden or DIY shop, and check it regularly. An ideal temperature for hibernation is 5 °C - so if you have an old fridge this is perfect! Wherever you decide to place your hibernation box, make sure that your tortoise will not be at risk from rodents.

Once you've got your tortoise successfully into hibernation, the next thing to do is check it at regular intervals. Most healthy adult tortoises lose 1% of their body weight each month during hibernation, so weighing monthly, recording the weight and calculating as a percent is vital.

There are 3 main reasons you should wake your tortoise up early from its hibernation:
•    If the monthly weight loss is greater than 1% or any other health problems are noted on exam.
•    If, when checking your hibernating tortoise, you notice that it has urinated. The reserves of urine in the bladder are important to maintain hydration throughout hibernation.
•    The temperature has exceeded 10°C/your tortoise is showing signs of being awake.

If you would like further information about your tortoise's health and hibernation, please feel free to contact the practice.
 

Feeding Mediterranean Tortoises

Mediterranean species includes: Testudo graeca ,Testudo hermanni, Testudo marginata and T. horsfieldii or more commonly known as greek spur-thighed, hermanns, marginated and horsfields tortoises.

Diet in the Wild

In the wild, tortoises tend to be browsers. They wander over a large area and in the process take small quantities of a wide variety of food.

These tortoises’ diet consists almost entirely of herbaceous and succulent vegetation, including leaves, grasses, flowers and very very occasionally fallen berries. Fruit is categorically not a regular or significant component of their diet. These tortoises are almost exclusively herbivourous, meaning vegetarians. They require a high fibre, low fruit, low protein, low phosphorus and high calcium diet to ensure good digestive function and smooth shell growth. Incorrect diets can have disastrous results not only shell deformaties but kidneys and liver failure too.

Calcium:Phosphorus Ratio

It is important for normal growth to have the correct Ca:PO4 ratio. This means high calcium and low phosphorus. As this is very difficult to achieve on a day to day basis in our captive tortoises diets it is advised to supplement twice weekly with a supplement such as Nutrabol (Vetark) and potentially daily with a natural supplement such as ground cuttlefish. 

There are some foods that should only be used in moderation as they contain acids (oxalic and phytic acids) which inhibit calcium uptake in the gut, these include mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, cabbage, bok choy, spinach, chard, collard green, peas, beans and related legumes.

Calcium and Vitamin D

Natural sunlight contains UV-B radiation which is required by the tortoise to internally synthesize vitamin-D3. This is required by the tortoise to enable it to use the calcium it consumes in its food. Without an adequate level of D3, this calcium is useless for building bones. In order to synthesize D3 properly, both UV-B radiation and radiant heat is required. This can be supplied via UV-B light strips (which if kept mainly indoors need 6 monthly changing) and natural sunlight without any glass barrier.

Definite NO's

Tortoises should not be given under any circumstances: dairy products, chocolate, meat or banana (very high in phophorus). Also Commercial tortoise food is a not recommended as the sole diet as need a varied diet and can they contain too high protein and sugar levels.

Examples of Appropriate Wild Food

These can all be grown in the garden. Care as to not pick any treated with pesticides or next to any main roads (pollution). Only pick weeds that you can definitely identify.
Here is a website with some good pictures to help you identify weeds: www.tlady.clara.net/TortGuide/diet.htm#plantlist

Dandelion     Taraxacum officinale  
Hawkbits & Cat's-ears     Leontodon & hypochoeris spp
Hawk's-beards     Crepis biennis & capillaris
Nipplewort     Lapsana communis  
Chicory     Cichorium intybus
Sow thistle     Sonchus oleraceus & arvensis
Plantains     Plantago major, media & lanceotata
Mallows     Malva sylvestris, neglecta & moschata 
Shepherd's purse     Capsella bursa-pastoris
Bittercress     Cardamine hirsuta & flexuosa
White/Dutch clover     Trifolium repens
Red clover     Trifolium pratense
Common vetch     Vicia sativa  
Bush vetch     Vicia sepium
Tufted vetch     Vicia cracca
Sainfoin     Onobrychis sativa
Creeping Bell-flower     Campanula rapunculoides
Bindweeds     Convolvulus & calystegia spp
Stonecrops     Sedum album & spectabile
Hedge mustard     Sisymbrium officinale
Honeysuckle (flowers)     Lonicera periclymenum & caprifolium
Heartsease     Viola tricolor
Robinia (pseudo-acacia) leaves
Wild clematis
Acanthus
Nettles

A couple of examples of suitable supermarket bought foods are, lambs lettuce and watercress. A further few examples of treats that can be given occasionally consist of tomatoes, cucumber and strawberries.

Husbandry of Mediterranean Tortoises

Mediterranean species includes: Testudo graeca ,Testudo hermanni, Testudo marginata and T. horsfieldii or more commonly known as greek spur-thighed, hermanns, marginated and horsfields tortoises.

Housing

Juvenille tortoises that need to be kept inside most of the time with some time spent in the garden during hotter parts of the day or year, require either a vivarium or `table top habitat‘. A good size for a juvenille tortoise is a 36“-48“ x 18“ x 18“,  as they provide a large bottom surface area. Fishtanks are inappropriate as they don’t provide enough ventilation and respiratory problems and bacterial infections can occur as a result.

Temperature

Tortoises need to be maintained within a specific range of temperatures to ensure optimal performance of their body systems. Daytime temperatures must reach 28-33°C in the hot spots and 20°C at the cooler end. This is achieved via a spot bulb or an infra red ceramic bulb at the hot end of the vivarium. If a thermostat is used the probe should be fitted into the centre of the back wall at just above the level of the tortoises. Temperatures should be monitored with thermometers kept at both ends within the vivarium. Temperatures can either be dropped 10°C via a thermostat or switched off to allow to reach room temperature at night. The water bowl is best positioned in the cooler end of the vivarium to limit bacterial overgrowth. Heat pads and rocks should be avoided as they can cause burns.

Lighting/Vitamin D

A UV-B bulb is essential to ensure that vitamin D3 is correctly synthesised and the animal will absorb calcium correctly in the gut to maintain correct growth and prevent conditions such as Metabolic Bone Disease MBD) occuring.  Using a reptile strip at the back of the vivarium half way up the wall will ensure this. It looses effectiveness over time and needs to be replaced every 6 months. It also should be used to dictate a daylength of 10-12 hours in the summer with a decrease to 8-10 in the winter.

Substrate and Decoration

Mediterranean tortoises require a dry habitat, which can be achieved with natural maize cob granulate (chipsi mais), beech chip or sand. Rocks, cork bark and shredded paper are a few things that could be used to provide hiding areas and interest for climbing. The substrate should be spot cleaned daily for any soiling, changed and fully cleaned with a suitable disinfectant (F10 is a good example) regularly.

Outdoor Housing

This is only recommended for short periods in heat of summer to encourage browsing of a variety of weeds or can be used in older tortoises that have been acclimatised to being outside and do not adjust well to being indoors.  

To ensure adequate temperatures either a ‘cloche‘ area or heated area is advisable. 
The outdoor pen can be constructed using a variety of materials, wood, stone, breeze blocks, chicken wire. It is worth remembering the ability of tortoises to climb and dig when designing one!  Also care should be taken to protect the enclosure from predators such as foxes, rats and large birds. As with the design of the vivarium hiding areas and areas of interest are important, as is a shallow water dish/tray. Live plants such as the weeds listed in the feeding sheet are excellent additions too.

Leopard Tortoises

Leopard tortoises are a very large species of tortoise - they can reach 2 feet in length and up to 35kg (think Labrador!). This is one of the few species where the male can be larger than the female. The Leopard tortoise is a large and attractively marked tortoise found in the savannas of eastern and southern Africa, from Sudan to the southern Cape. It is a large grazing species that favors semi-arid (not dry), thorny to grassland habitats. However, it is also seen in some regions featuring a higher level of precipitation. Not surprisingly, given its propensity for grassland habitats, it grazes extensively upon mixed grasses. It also favors succulents and thistles. In both very hot and very cold weather they may dwell in abandoned fox, jackal, or anteater holes. Leopard tortoises do not dig other than to make nests in which to lay eggs.

Being a tropical tortoise, Leopard tortoises DO NOT hibernate. 

The African Leopard Tortoise typically lives 80 to 100 years. This is not a good first time reptile pet due to its quick growth rate, eventual size and life span, unless you are prepared to find out all about the correct husbandry, diet and have plenty of space for it to grow into.

Habitat:

The aim is to provide as far as possible a recreated wild habitat. This should be to encourage natural behavior, maintain good health and minimize any stress associated with captivity.

  • Vivarium Humidity: 20-30%. Leopard tortoises are from semi-arid conditions so humidity should ideally be kept low without being misted.
  • Substrate: They require a dry habitat, which can be achieved with natural maize cob granulate (chipsi mais), beech chip or top soil +/- sand.
  • Furniture: Rocks, cork bark, logs and shredded paper are a few things that could be used to provide hiding areas and interest for climbing to improve environmental enrichment. Heat pads and rocks should be avoided as they can cause burns.
  • Water: Fresh clean water should be available at all times, and changed daily. Provide in the cooler end of the vivarium away from the heat mat to help keep the vivarium humidity down and limit bacterial growth. If you are concerned the water is making the humidity too high, alternatively you can remove the water dish and water bathe the tortoise in warm water 2-3 x weekly.
  • Heating: Whether indoor or outdoor extra heating should be provided. Basking lamps/ceramic heaters should be positioned overhead to provide a daytime gradient of 20-30°C with a basking spot of 32 – 37°C. Log/rocks should be positioned to enable the tortoise to climb and bask in this area. Permanently position a thermometer at the basking area and at the cold end to be able to regularly monitor this temperature. Never assume the temperature on the thermostat is accurate.  Temperatures can either be dropped 10°C via a thermostat or switched off to allow to reach room temperature at night.
  • Housing: For indoor housing especially in the first few years of life we advise using either a table top set up or a wooden vivarium.  Avoid glass “fish tank” style enclosures as they do not provide adequate ventilation and can cause respiratory disease. As Leopard Tortoises can grow from hatchling size of 7cm (3 inches) to 15 - 25cm within a year it is advised to buy a big vivarium/table top from day one. We would recommend a vivarium of at least 120 x 60 x 60cm (48"x24"x24") whilst they are young. This will ensure your Leopard Tortoise has enough room to explore and move around. When the tortoise grows you could set up an area in the house with a basking area of at least 180cm x 180cm (6ft x 6ft) which may lead to an outside enclosure.  Due to their size, indoor accommodation alone is not really ideal long term; outdoor facilities should be used wherever possible in the warmer months. This should provide: A safe, secure enclosure with adequate space for normal behavior and exercise, dry, well drained substrate, sheltered area for shade, rain and cold protection and extra heat provision, hay/shredded paper to keep insulated in, in sleeping quarters plus access to grass for grazing. The outdoor pen can be constructed using a variety of materials, wood, stone, breeze blocks, chicken wire. It is worth remembering the ability of tortoises to climb and dig when designing one!  Also care should be taken to protect the enclosure from predators such as foxes, rats and large birds.

Cleaning & Disinfection:

Cleaning is not a replacement for disinfection. Many reptile bacteria can become opportunistic pathogens i.e. cause disease and being in a closed environment a build of parasites can occur.  Disinfection is much more effective after thorough cleaning to remove dried organic debris. A reputable disinfectant (such as F10) should then be used as per instructions. Tortoises have an active metabolism, and require frequent cleaning. Spot clean every time a motion is passed, with the enclosure fully cleaned and disinfected once a month.

U.V Light Provision:

If using an indoor set up you will need a 10-12% U.V.B provision on a daily basis for 10-14 hours. U.V lights will need changing on a regular basis depending on manufacturer’s recommendations, usually every six months. They should be placed no further than 30cm (12 inches) from the animals to ensure is effective.

Diet:

Leopard tortoises are 100% herbivores, meaning they are vegetarian. They graze extensively on mixed grassland and require a very high fiber diet, much higher than the Mediterranean species. It is important to ensure they have enough fiber or they will become unwell. They require mostly mixes of grasses and hay, plus some weeds (see list of suggestions below) though can eat a smaller percentage of various vegetables too, such as watercress, lambs lettuce, mixed salad leaf, mustard greens etc...   Fruit is not advised in this species as it causes the guts to over fermentate and can cause problems with flagellate protozoa. Tortoise pellets are also not advised as they are designed for Mediterranean species not leopard tortoises and do not have a high enough fiber content.  ‘Meat’ foods should never be given as it can lead to excessive growth kidney/liver problems or bladder stones. 

The supplement we recommend is Nutrobal from VetArk. This should be done daily because they have such a high growth rate they have a high demand for calcium and vitamin D. Breeding females may also need additional calcium supplementation.

Common Diseases:

  • Gastrointestinal problems: Usually a direct result from an inadequate diet i.e. not having enough fiber/ too much fruit, or being fed a Mediterranean tortoise style diet. Symptoms include constipation, colic, watery faeces, lethargy and if left untreated can be fatal.
  • Respiratory disease: Inappropriate heating, diet, too high humidity and stress can all contribute to respiratory disease in this species which can again if left untreated be fatal. Tortoises area also very good at hiding illness so signs may appear to be quite mild when they are actually more serious.
  • Stomatitis: Infection of the mouth meaning reduced appetite and lethargy. Can be very serious and difficult to treat if underlying viral infection. Often associated with poor husbandry.
  • Dog/animal bites: Ensure dogs and other animals cannot get access to tortoises.

We recommend a faecal parasite screen is undertaken at the vets as a routine measure (6-12 monthly) and for all new additions. If your tortoise becomes unwell, we would advise you seek prompt veterinary advice.

Examples of Appropriate Weeds/Wild Food

These can all be grown in the garden. Care as to not pick any treated with pesticides or next to any main roads (pollution). Only pick weeds that you can definitely identify.
Here is a website with some good pictures to help you identify weeds: www.tlady.clara.net/TortGuide/diet.htm#plantlist

Dandelion     Taraxacum officinale  
Hawkbits & Cat's-ears     Leontodon & hypochoeris spp
Hawk's-beards     Crepis biennis & capillaris
Nipplewort     Lapsana communis  
Chicory     Cichorium intybus
Sow thistle     Sonchus oleraceus & arvensis
Plantains     Plantago major, media & lanceotata
Mallows     Malva sylvestris, neglecta & moschata 
Shepherd's purse     Capsella bursa-pastoris
Bittercress     Cardamine hirsuta & flexuosa
White/Dutch clover     Trifolium repens
Red clover     Trifolium pratense
Common vetch     Vicia sativa  
Bush vetch     Vicia sepium
Tufted vetch     Vicia cracca
Sainfoin     Onobrychis sativa
Creeping Bell-flower     Campanula rapunculoides
Bindweeds     Convolvulus & calystegia spp
Stonecrops     Sedum album & spectabile
Hedge mustard     Sisymbrium officinale
Honeysuckle (flowers)     Lonicera periclymenum & caprifolium
Heartsease     Viola tricolor
Robinia (pseudo-acacia) leaves
Wild clematis
Acanthus
Nettles

Bearded Dragons

Bearded Dragons are a medium sized lizard. They are from Australia, living in arid, rocky, semi -desert /open woodlands. Although diurnal, like most desert dwellers, these lizards spend the hottest part of the day in underground burrows and are well adapted to the cool desert nights. They are excellent climbers.

Hatchlings generally are 5cm long and a few grams in weight. Adults grow up to 50cm and an average weight 400-600g. Females can be kept together, but no more than one male should be kept in a group due to being very aggressively territorial. Hatchlings should not be kept with adults, as they may be eaten as prey. 

They are relatively easy to keep and handle making them a reasonable choice for first time reptile owner.

Habitat:

The aim is to provide as far as possible a recreated wild habitat. This should be to encourage natural behaviour, maintain good health and minimise any stress associated with captivity.

  • Vivarium Humidity: 20-30% is recommended. Occasionally misting the lizards with water may aid shedding.
  • Furniture: Hide provision in the cool end of the vivarium. Rocks/Branches for climbing.
  • Water: Fresh clean water should be available at all times, and changed daily. Provide in the cooler end of the vivarium away from the heat mat to help keep the vivarium humidity down.
  • Housing: Bearded Dragons require a generous space both floor and height. 46” long x 24” deep x 18” high (115cm x 60cm x 45cm) for a single dragon.  60” long x 24” deep x 18” high (150cm x 60cm x 45cm) for pair or trio. This will allow enough room to be comfortable to move around plus be able to provide a temperature gradient.
  • Substrate: Because lizards tend to lunge after their food, they risk ingesting substrate as well which may lead to gut impaction. Most hygienic and safe option is newspaper or paper towel. Other substrates can be used such as beech chips but be aware there is a risk of accidental ingestion and gastrointestinal blockage. Feed lizards in a separate container to avoid accidental substrate ingestion, or on specific plastic trays.
  • Heating: Heat mats underneath the vivarium or a ceramic bulb on a thermostat can be used to maintain a night temperature range of 20-24°C. Basking lamps/ceramic heaters should be positioned overhead to provide a daytime gradient of 20-30°C with a basking spot of 32-37°C. Wire mesh guards should be fitted over all heat sources used within the vivarium to prevent thermal burns. Branches/rocks should be positioned to enable the lizard to climb and bask in this area. Permanently position a thermometer at the basking area and at the cold end to be able to regularly monitor this temperature. Never assume the temperature on the thermostat is accurate.

Cleaning and Disinfection:

Cleaning is not a replacement for disinfection. Many reptile bacteria can become opportunistic pathogens i.e. cause disease and being in a closed environment a build of parasites can occur.  Disinfection is much more effective after thorough cleaning to remove dried organic debris. A reputable disinfectant (such as F10) should then be used as per instructions. Bearded dragons have an active metabolism, and require frequent cleaning. Spot clean every time a motion is passed, with the vivarium fully cleaned and disinfected at least every one month.

UV Light Provision:

10-12% U.V.B provision on a daily basis for 10-14hours is recommended. U.V lights will need changing on a regular basis depending on manufacturer’s recommendations, usually every six months.

Diet:

These diurnal lizards are omnivores meaning they eat insects and vegetables:

Juveniles: a baby bearded dragon's diet should consist of 80% live food. Brown crickets are the most readily accepted, but you can also use black crickets, dubia cockroaches or locusts (hoppers). On occasion, for variation you can offer other bugs such as mealworms, waxworms or calciworms.

Adults: an adult bearded dragon's diet is 80% vegetation. Good foods include dandelion, clover, honeysuckle, leafy salads, watercress, romaine lettuce, lambs lettuce, curly kale, brussel tops, spring greens, coriander, parsley, rocket, carrot, parsnip, courgette and bell peppers. The bulk of the vegetation should be leafy greens. Fruits should be used sparingly as they can cause a build-up of tartar and fermentation in the guts. Frequency of feeding depends on age: - Adults: 4 or 5 times per week. - Juveniles: daily. - Hatchlings: 2-3 feeds per day with extra for ‘snacking’.

Gut loading is the term is applied to feeding insects prior to feeding to the lizards. This is done to imprive the nutrition of the insects fed by adding commercial preparations such as VetArk Professional Bug Grub/Grub Grub or a mix of vegetables. It takes approximately 12-18 hours for the food to travel through the insect’s guts so needs to have been fed to the insect in this time window for the dragon to benefit. The food should also be dusted with a good quality vitamin/mineral supplement before feeding to the lizard. The supplement we recommend is Nutrobal from VetArk. This should be done daily for juveniles whilst reducing to 2-3 times weekly for adults. Breeding females will also need additional calcium supplementation on the days they are not receiving nutrobal. Be aware that loose insects in the vivarium can cause damage to the lizard through bites, so always try to keep any left in to a small number and if any are left in to provide an alternative food source e.g. veggies or a bug grub/gel.

Common Diseases:

  • Retained Skin Shed: loss of tips of digits on feet, and mouth, eye and cloacal abscesses
  • Female Egg Binding: Stop eating, fatty liver disease and death if left untreated
  • Intestinal Parasitism: Loss of condition, loss of appetite, intestinal prolapse, potentially death
  • Gut Impaction: Commonly with substrate from vivarium. Loss of appetite, dehydration, eventually death
  • Skin Abscesses: Tail injuries (often from bites from other beardies or crickets)

We recommend a faecal parasite screen is undertaken at the vets as a routine measure and for all new additions. If your lizard becomes unwell, we would advise you seek prompt veterinary advice.

Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius)

Leopard Geckos are a small – medium sized lizard from Western Asia (Afghanistan/Pakistan) - Western India. They are Desert (semi-arid) ground dwelling species and are crepuscular i.e. active at twilight and before sunrise, spending much of the day in slightly humid rocky crevices/burrows. 
Hatchlings generally are 5cm long and a few grams in weight. Adults grow up to 25cm and an average weight 50- 80g. Females can be kept together, but no more than one male should be kept in a group due to being very aggressively territorial. Life Span: 10 -14 years.

These are relatively easy to keep, making good first time pets if kept correctly.

Habitat: The aim is to provide as far as possible a recreated wild habitat. This should be to encourage natural behaviour, maintain good health and minimise any stress associated with captivity.

  • Vivarium Humidity: 20 – 30%, Microhabitat ( i.e. in hide) humidity 80+%
  • Water: Fresh clean water should be available at all times, and changed daily. Provide in the cooler end of the vivarium away from the heat mat to help keep the vivarium humidity down.
  • Furniture: Several Rocks/hides/tunnels to provide enrichment, and humid areas to aid shedding i.e. peat/vermiculite/sphagnum moss that is daily misted in a hide.
  • Housing: For a small Leopard Gecko a 60 x 37.5 x 30cm (24"x15"x12") vivarium is adequate. Adults and groups require at least 90 x 45 x 45cm (36"x18"x18"). This floor size is required to be able to provide a temperature gradient within the vivarium.
  • Substrate: Because lizards tend to lunge after their food, they risk ingesting substrate as well which may lead to gut impaction. The most hygienic and safe option is newspaper or paper towel. Other substrates can be used such as beech chips but be aware there is a risk of accidental ingestion and gastrointestinal blockage. Feed lizards in a separate container to avoid accidental substrate ingestion, or on specific ceramic/plastic trays.
  • Heating: Either with thermostatically controlled heat mats or heat lamps or a combination to provide a daytime temperature gradient of 20-30°C with a basking area at 30-33°C. Using heat lamps in the day has the advantage of offering a day and night cycle and a specific basking area.  Branches/rocks should be positioned to enable the lizard to climb and bask in this area. Wire Mesh Guards should be fitted over all heat lamps within the vivarium to prevent thermal burns. Permanently position a thermometer at the basking area and at the cold end to be able to regularly monitor this temperature. Never assume the temperature on the thermostat is accurate. At night time the hot spot should be off, temperatures in vivarium 20-25°C, this can be provided by a heat mat.

Cleaning & Disinfection:

Cleaning is not a replacement for disinfection. Many reptile bacteria can become opportunistic pathogens i.e. cause disease and being in a closed environment a build of parasites can occur.  Disinfection is much more effective after thorough cleaning to remove dried organic debris. A reputable disinfectant (such as F10) should then be used as per instructions. Leopard Geckos have an active metabolism, and require frequent cleaning. Spot clean every time a motion is passed, with the vivarium fully cleaned and disinfected at least every one month.

U.V Light Provision:

As Leopard Geckos are crepuscular, i.e. mainly active with low light levels and thus produce their own vitamin D, UV lighting is not essential. It may however aid with breeding, They would only need a 2.0% strength UV light replaced every 6 months unless otherwise stated by manufacturer.

Diet: 

Leopard Geckos are Insectivores. Appropriate foods include live black field crickets, brown crickets, locusts, mealworms, and occasionally waxworms as a treat. 

Gut loading is the term is applied to feeding insects prior to feeding to the lizards. This is done to improve the nutrition and hydration of the insects fed by adding commercial preparations such as VetArk Professional Bug Grub/Grub Grub or a mix of vegetables. It takes approximately 12-18 hours for the food to travel through the insects guts so it needs to have been fed to the insect in this time window for the dragon to benefit. The food should also be dusted with a good quality vitamin/mineral supplement before feeding to the lizard. Be aware that when dusting crickets or locusts which are not eaten within a few minutes of dusting the supplement is often shaken off. The supplement we recommend is Nutrobal from VetArk. This should be done daily for juveniles whilst reducing to 2-3 times weekly for adults. Breeding females will also need additional calcium supplementation on the days they are not receiving Nutrobal. Be aware that loose insects in the vivarium can cause damage to the gecko through bites, so either feed in a separate container or always try to keep any left in to a very small number and if any are left in to provide an alternative food source e.g. veggies or a bug grub/gel.

Common Diseases:

  • Retained skin shed: By far the most common problem, loss of tips of digits on feet, and mouth, eye and cloacal abscesses. Very important to mist, provide a humid hide and even daily water bathe if neccesary to assist shedding.
  • Female Egg binding: Stop eating, fatty liver disease and death if left untreated.
  • Intestinal Parasitism – loss of condition, loss of appetite, intestinal prolapse, potentially death.
  • Gut Impaction - commonly with substrate from vivarium. Loss of appetite, dehydration, death.

We recommend a faecal parasite screen is undertaken at the vets as a routine measure and for all new additions.

If your gecko becomes unwell, we would advise you seek prompt veterinary advice.

Corn Snakes

The corn snake is a North American species of rat snake that subdues its small prey by constriction. Corn snakes are found throughout the Southeastern and Central United States. They are moderate in size with an average adult ranging from 3.9–6.0 feet (1.2–1.8 m) which in the wild usually live around 6–8 years, but in captivity can live to be up to 20 years old or longer. Though superficially resembling the venomous copperhead and often killed as a result of this mistaken identity, corn snakes are harmless and beneficial to humans in the wild.  Corn snakes lack venom and help control populations of wild rodent pests that damage crops and spread disease. The corn snake is named for the species' regular presence near grain stores, where it preys on mice and rats that eat harvested corn.

Wild corn snakes prefer habitats such as overgrown fields, forest openings, trees, palmetto flatwoods and abandoned or seldom-used buildings and farms, from sea level to as high as 6,000 feet. Typically, these snakes remain on the ground until the age of 4 months old but can ascend trees, cliffs and other elevated surfaces.

Corn snakes are one of the most popular of all pet snakes due to their extremely variable and bright colours and patterns, ease of care and breeding, moderate size and generally docile dispositions. Due to the fact they are easy to breed and care for with an endless array of genetic traits, corn snakes offer something for the newest snakekeeper, yet they also challenge those with years of experience.

Habitat: The aim is to provide as far as possible a recreated wild habitat. This should be to encourage natural behaviour, maintain good health and minimise any stress associated with captivity.

  • Furniture: Hide provisions in the vivarium are essential. Rocks/plastic plants are good for interest/climbing.
  • U.V Light Provision: Corn snakes don't require UVB as they will get their calcium from the bones in their food, though some people like to have them for lighting and it may assist in breeding.
  • Vivarium Humidity / Water: Corn snakes do not require a specific humidity though it shouldn’t be too high as this can cause respiratory disease. Fresh clean water should be available at all times in a heavy based receptacle to allow access in and out without knocking over as often Corns like it to be big enough to climb in and bathe. Change daily. Provide in the cooler end of the vivarium away from the heat mat to help keep the vivarium humidity down.
  • Housing: Corn Snakes are not highl active and do not need huge enclosures. For an adult corn snake or groups you will need a 36 x 18 x 18 inches (90 x 45 x 45cm) wooden vivarium with glass sliding front doors with adequate ventilation, for a small corn snake a 24 x 15 x 12 inches (60 x 37.5 x 30cm) vivarium . With hatchlings it is better to house them in a smaller container around 12 x 5 x 6 inches (30 x 12 x 15 cm) until they start to feed on a regular basis, then they can be moved into a bigger vivarium.
  • Heating: The vivarium temperature should be 20-30°C (70-88°F) during the day, with a night-time temperature of 20-25°C (68-77°F). This can be provided by a thermostatically controlled heat mat under a third to half the vivarium floor, 24 hours a day and a heat bulb supplying the extra basking heat and lighting during the day on a 10-14 days light cycle.  Wire mesh guards should be fitted over all heat sources used within the vivarium to prevent thermal burns. There should be a temperature gradient from the basking site at one end of the enclosure to the other cooler end, enabling the snake to regulate its own temperature by moving around.
    Permanently position a thermometer at the basking area and at the cold end to be able to regularly monitor this temperature. Never assume the temperature on the thermostat is accurate.

Cleaning & Disinfection:

Cleaning is not a replacement for disinfection. Many reptile bacteria can become opportunistic pathogens i.e. cause disease and being in a closed environment a build of parasites can occur.  Disinfection is much more effective after thorough cleaning to remove dried organic debris. A reputable disinfectant (such as F10) should then be used as per instructions. Spot clean every time a motion is passed, with the vivarium fully cleaned and disinfected at once a month.

Diet:

As hatchlings, corn snakes should be fed weekly on defrosted pinky mice, as the snake grows the food size should be increased until the snake is taking large mice or even jumbos. Adult corn snakes can be fed once every two weeks as they can become overweight if fed weekly.

Some snakes may be reluctant to feed, though this is more unusual in Corns, this may be due to unsuitable environmental conditions, seasonal changes (males may not eat during the breeding season; females will not eat while gravid or incubating eggs), stress (e.g. due to lack of a hide box, bright lights), because it is about to shed, or to medical problems. Try warming the food slightly before feeding, ‘braining’ the food by exposing brain tissue of the prey to improve smell or offering brown rodents such as gerbils or chicks. If using a chip substrate feeding snakes in a separate container will help to avoid accidental substrate ingestion.

Do not handle your snake for a couple of days after feeding as this can cause regurgitaion. No specific supplementation is required. The quality of the food offered will have an effect upon the snakes nutrition so get from a reputable source. NEVER feed live prey, this is illegal in the UK and is dangerous to your snake.

Common Diseases:

  • Respiratory disease; noise whilst breathing, elevated head position, mucus from mouth/nose, which can be fatal.
  • Mites; often black (snake mite) or dark red (lizard mite) in colour. These can be very difficult to eradicate.
  • Shedding problems; especially over the eyes, important to ensure adequate misting/hydration or bathing around times of shedding.
  • Regurgitation: When a snake regurgitates it's meal, it may not necessarily be down to illness, but as regurgitation is a symptom of many digestive problems, illnesses and stress it is recommended that if your Corn Snake does regurgitate it's meal that you monitor your snake very closely for further symptoms. Sometimes a Corn Snake may regurgitate it's meal if it is handled too soon after a feeding or if it has been fed an item that is too large for it. In this case, you should leave the snake to settle back down for a week before trying to feed again. If your Corn Snake repeatedly regurgitates it's meal, loses excessive weight or shows any other signs that are worrying you, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Preventative Care and Disease Management:

Quarantine all new snakes for at least 6 months in order to reduce the chance of transmitting 
diseases  such as  Ophidian Paramyxovirus infection (a fatal untreatable respiratory virus). 

During this period record normal patterns of eating, defaecating, weight gain and behaviour for 
each animal.  

We recommend a faecal parasite screen is undertaken at the vets as a routine measure and for all new additions. If your snake becomes unwell, for example any regurgitation, abnormal body position, decreased appetite or abnormal respiration, we would advise you seek prompt veterinary advice.

Royal Python

Royal Pythons are large bodied snakes, which come in a range of colour variations and morphs. Generally, normal Royals are earthy colours like brown, beige and black with gold and white markings.  They can grow up to 6 ft (180cm) in length though 4-5 ft (120-150cm) is more usual. Females tend to grow larger than males. 20 - 30 years is average for a Royal Python in captivity, but it is not inheard of for them to reach 40 years with appropriate care. They can be found across Western, Eastern and Central Africa and are a terrestrial species that are active at night and hide away during the day. They prefer life on the ground and frequent forest floors and grassy savannas in their natural habitat.

They are very popular as a first reptile pet as they have a very docile temperament, as they are more likely to curl up in a ball to protect themselves than strike at a potential threat, hence their common other name ‘Ball python’, meaning they are easy and safe to handle. Regular handling is important to allow them to get used to human contact but as they are quite a timid species this should not be done for long periods of time.

Habitat:

The aim is to provide as far as possible a recreated wild habitat. This should be to encourage natural behaviour, maintain good health and minimise any stress associated with captivity.

  • Furniture: Hide provisions in the vivarium are essential for these shy snakes. Rocks/plastic plants for interest/climbing.
  • U.V Light Provision: Royal pythons are nocturnal and don't require UVB as they will get their calcium from the bones in their food.
  • Vivarium Humidity: 50 – 60%. Occasional misting will assist with maintaining this humidity, as will the provision of a water bowl. Providing a humidity chamber (plastic box containing damp sphagnum moss), bathing or misting the snake daily just before it sheds will help it to shed successfully.
  • Water: Fresh clean water should be available at all times, and changed daily. Provide in the cooler end of the vivarium away from the heat mat to help keep the vivarium humidity down. Often Royals like it to be big enough to climb in and bathe, so provide something that will not tip over easily.
  • Substrate: The most hygienic and safe option is newspaper or paper towel. Other substrates can be used such as beech chips or orchid bark but be aware there is a small risk of accidental ingestion and gastrointestinal blockage. Feeding snakes in a separate container will help to avoid accidental substrate ingestion.
  • Housing: For an adult royal python a 36 x 18 x 18 inches (90 x 45 x 45cm) wooden vivarium with glass sliding front doors with adequate ventilation is sufficient. With hatchlings it is better to house them in a smaller container around 12 x 5 x 6 inches (30 x 12 x 15 cm) until they start to feed on a regular basis, then they can be moved into a bigger vivarium.
  • Heating: To reduce stress caused by the bright lights and the light being left on all the time it is advised to use a ceramic heater in conjunction to a thermostat. If you would like a bulb in the enclosure to be able to see your snake then use a low wattage energy bulb, this should be on a 12 hour/day light cycle.  Heat mats are not advisable as they can cause burns especially with the heavy weight of an adult snake, though can be used with juvenilles in conjunction with a thermostat.  Wire mesh guards should be fitted over all heat sources used within the vivarium to prevent thermal burns.
    The vivarium temperature should be 25-32°C (77-88°F) during the day, with a night-time drop of a few degrees. This drop may naturally occur with your thermostat at the same settings with a change in room temperature.  Night-time temperatures should not drop below 23°C (75°F). There should be a temperature gradient from the basking site at one end of the enclosure to the other cooler end, enabling the snake to regulate its own temperature by moving around.
    Permanently position a thermometer at the basking area and at the cold end to be able to regularly monitor this temperature. Never assume the temperature on the thermostat is accurate.

Cleaning & Disinfection:

Cleaning is not a replacement for disinfection. Many reptile bacteria can become opportunistic pathogens i.e. cause disease and being in a closed environment a build of parasites can occur.  Disinfection is much more effective after thorough cleaning to remove dried organic debris. A reputable disinfectant (such as F10) should then be used as per instructions. Spot clean every time a motion is passed, with the vivarium fully cleaned and disinfected once a month.

Diet:

Royal pythons can be problematic feeders in captivity, when choosing your snake it is always best to go for a good feeding captive bred python.

Royal Pythons feed on mice or rats appropriate to the size of their mouth but some specimens will only take gerbils and day old chicks. If this is the case it is better to try and gradually introduce mice and rats over time. Hatchlings start on fluffy mice, one every 5-6 days and graduate up to an adult mouse every 7-10 days as they grow. Juvenile snakes should be fed every 7-10 days for the first 2-3 years. Feed adults every 2-3 weeks. Very large snakes may require 2 adult mice per feed or even the introduction of larger prey items such as rats. Some snakes may be reluctant to feed, this may be due to unsuitable environmental conditions, seasonal changes (males may not eat during the breeding season; females will not eat while gravid or incubating eggs), stress (e.g. due to lack of a hide box, bright lights), because it is about to shed, or to medical problems. Try warming the food slightly before feeding, ‘braining’ the food by exposing brain tissue of the prey to improve smell or offering brown rodents such as gerbils or chicks. If using a chip substrate feeding snakes in a separate container will help to avoid accidental substrate ingestion.

Do not handle your snake for a couple of days after feeding as this can cause regurgitation. No specific supplementation is required. The quality of the food offered will have an effect upon the snakes nutrition so get from a reputable source. NEVER feed live prey, this is illegal in the UK and is dangerous to your snake.

Common Diseases: 

  • Shedding problems; especially over the eyes, important to ensure adequate misting/hydration around times of shedding.
  • By far the most common problem seen in this species is not feeding and can be due to a number of causes, see diet section above, especially stress.
  • Mites; often black (snake mite) or dark red (lizard mite) in colour. These can be very difficult to eradicate and there is a risk they can spread fatal untreatable viruses such as Inclusion Boid Disease.
  • Respiratory disease; noise whilst breathing, elevated head position, mucus from mouth/nose, which can be fatal.not feeding and can be due to a number of causes, see diet section above, especially stress.

Preventative Care and Disease Management:

Quarantine all new snakes for at least 6 months in order to reduce the chance of transmitting diseases such as Inclusion Body Disease and Ophidian Paramyxovirus infection (two untreatable and fatal viral diseases which pythons are susceptible to). 

During this period record normal patterns of eating, defaecating, weight gain and behaviour for 
each animal.  

We recommend a faecal parasite screen is undertaken at the vets as a routine measure and for all new additions. If your snake becomes unwell, for example any regurgitation, abnormal body position, decreased appetite or abnormal respiration, we would advise you seek prompt veterinary advice.

Veiled/Yemen Chameleon

The Veiled chameleon, also known as the Yemen chameleon, is a relatively large chameleon species originally from Saudi Arabia and Yemen in the Middle East. In its natural range, the Veiled Chameleon lives in coastal mountain slopes, which experience significant rainfall, and some live in slightly more arid “wadis” with year-round water and vegetation.

Veiled Chameleons are a colourful species, which are easily recognized by the large casque or helmet on the top of the head (smaller in females). Males can reach a total length of as much as 2 feet and females of approximately 18 inches. Adults of this species exhibit colouration including different shades of green, orange, yellow, blue, browns and black with a combination of strips and spotted patterns.

Veiled Chameleons can be sexed from the day they hatch. Veiled Chameleon males are born with a small nub on their back foot called a tarsal spur that females lack. Veiled Chameleon males of this species tend to exhibit more colours and on average live 6-8 years. Females of this species typically show less vibrant colours and live on average 3-4 years because even when not bred, they will produce infertile clutches of eggs, which take a lot of energy.

They are not an ideal as a first reptile pet as they are susceptible to a few problems, need daily attention and therefore require thorough investigation into appropriate husbandry and diet before purchase. Also beware in purchasing a female due to the problems they get with regular egg laying.

Habitat: The aim is to provide as far as possible a recreated wild habitat. This should be to encourage natural behaviour, maintain good health and minimise any stress associated with captivity.

  • Substrate: Because of the chameleons very sticky tongue lizards they are at a high risk of ingesting substrate which may lead to gut impaction. The most hygienic and safe option is newspaper or paper towel.
  • U.V Light Provision: U.V.B provision on a daily basis for 10-14 hours is required to allow the chameleons to produce Vitamin D to ensure they absorb adequate calcium from their diet to prevent Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). U.V lights will need changing on a regular basis depending on manufacturer’s recommendations, usually every six months. They should be placed no further than 30cm (12 inches) from the animals to ensure is effective.
  • Furniture: The cage should be furnished with branches of different diameters so that the chameleon can easily navigate the entire cage. Live plants will provide good hiding places and add to the aesthetic and humidity of the enclosure. Because some chameleons are known for eating vegetable matter, only non-toxic plants should be planted in their enclosures. The most common choices among chameleon breeders are Pothos, hibiscus, Umbrella plants or Ficus benjamani, Ficus "Alii", and Ficus natidia. Plastic plants can also be used with or instead of real plants and have the advantage that they are easily cleaned.
  • Housing: Most chameleon species are fairly solitary and intolerant of other individuals being housed with them. Thus one ADULT animal per cage is the general rule. Though some people successfully house a male and female together, others just introduce the male to the female when she is showing receptive colours for breeding.  Chameleons are arboreal (i.e. climbers) so a tall vivarium is required; the smallest size suitable is 24 x 24 x 36 inches/ 60 x 60 x 90 cm. It is important that the vivarium has suitable ventilation as the air can become stagnant when the vivarium is being sprayed daily. Without ventilation the chameleon can develop respiratory problems.
  • Heating: Yemen chameleons require a daytime air temperature of 20-25°C with a basking area of 30-35°C. A ceramic heater can be used but as they give off no light the chameleon may be reluctant to bask below it so a heat bulb is better. Heat mats are not suitable. At night, it is necessary for them to experience at least a 10-15°C drop in temperature with all lights turned off, the vivarium can be allowed to drop as low as 12°C, therefore in a normal house, no additional heating is required at night. This allows better resting and simulates their natural habitat where temperatures drop significantly at night. Wire mesh guards should be fitted over all heat sources used within the vivarium to prevent thermal burns. Branches should be positioned to enable the lizard to climb and bask in this area. Permanently position a thermometer at the basking area and at the cold end to be able to regularly monitor this temperature. Never assume the temperature on the thermostat is accurate.
  • Vivarium Humidity / Water: 50 – 60%. In the wild, chameleons lick dew and rain droplets off of leaves, or are attracted to moving water. This means that in captivity, special watering techniques need to be used to keep chameleons healthy and hydrated as they will rarely drink from a dish. Drip systems are the most common form of chameleon watering system. They generally consist of a container of a water container that sits above the enclosure. A plastic tube with a flow control clamp runs from the water container and into the chameleon cage. Water slowly drips out of the end of the plastic tube. Pre-made drip systems are available and generally include some sort of adjustment to control the rate at which water drips from the tube. Other, simpler drip systems can also be used. A tub of water with a hole in the bottom made by a drawing pin works just as well suspended from the ceiling of the enclosure. If a drip system is used in a chameleon cage, care needs to be taken to prevent the cage from becoming too wet. This is easily accomplished by placing a container inside the cage to catch the dripping water. Make sure the chameleon can't tip it over. Covering the container with mesh will prevent the chameleon or crickets from falling in. The water can then be emptied every day. Another method of watering your chameleon is to simply mist the inside of the enclosure several times a day. Chameleons will eagerly lick water off plants, as well as the sides of the enclosure. With Veiled Chameleons you should mist twice a day and have a drip system going for about 10 minutes at a time at least once a day. If no drip system is used increase the spraying to several times a day. After a while you may find the Chameleon will drink directly from drips from the water spray. Some Veileds rarely drink water, however, that does not mean it should not be available regularly. 
    Chameleons like clean warm drinking water. Pre boiled semi-cooled water or mineral water (warmed up with boiling water) is best. If using tap water leave it to stand for a while to allow chlorine etc. to disburse. Chameleons with in adequate access to drinking water can develop kidney problems and gout.

Cleaning & Disinfection:

Cleaning is not a replacement for disinfection. Many reptile bacteria can become opportunistic pathogens i.e. cause disease and being in a closed environment a build-up of parasites can occur.  Disinfection is much more effective after thorough cleaning to remove dried organic debris. A reputable disinfectant (such as F10) should then be used as per instructions. Spot clean every time a motion is passed, with the vivarium fully cleaned and disinfected at least once every month.

Diet:

The Veiled chameleon feeds mainly on insects, commercially produced black and brown crickets, locusts, mealworms and wax-worms. Crickets and locusts should be the main livefood offered whilst mealworms and wax-worms can be offered for variety. The Yemen chameleon will also take some vegetation such as watercress, rocket, dandelion and grated carrot. Other vegetation can be offered but they seem to prefer soft leaves.

Gut loading is the term applied to feeding insects prior to feeding to the lizards. This is done to improve the nutrition and hydration of the insects fed by adding commercial preparations such as VetArk Professional Bug Grub/Grub Grub or a mix of vegetables. It takes approximately 12-18 hours for the food to travel through the insects’ guts so it needs to have been fed to the insect in this time window for the chameleon to benefit. The food should also be dusted with a good quality vitamin/mineral supplement before being fed. Be aware that when dusting crickets or locusts which are not eaten within a few minutes of dusting the supplement is often shaken off. The supplement we recommend is Nutrobal from VetArk. This should be done daily for juveniles whilst reducing to 2-3 times weekly for adults. Breeding females will also need additional calcium supplementation on the days they are not receiving Nutrobal. Be aware that loose insects in the vivarium can cause damage to the lizard through bites, so either feed in a separate container or always try to keep any left in to a small number and if any are left in to provide an alternative food source e.g. veggies or a bug grub/gel.

Common Diseases:

  • Skin abscesses, tail injuries (often from bites from other chameleons or crickets).
  • Intestinal Parasitism – loss of condition, loss of appetite, intestinal prolapse, potentially fatal.
  • Retained skin shed: On feet, and mouth, eye and cloaca with potential secondary abscesses.
  • Female Egg binding: Stop eating, calcium deficiency (MBD), weakness, fatty liver disease and often fatal.
  • Gut Impaction - commonly with substrate from vivarium. Loss of appetite, dehydration, constipation, potentially death.
  • Hypovitaminosis A: Low vitamin A again related to diet. Usually eye and respiratory problems, can be serious and difficult to resolve (especially eye problems).
  • Metabolic bone disease (MBD): due to inadequate vitamin D and calcium, causes weakness, difficulty in eating as can’t use tongue, soft bones, pathological fractures, fatal if untreated.
  • Kidney disease/Gout: Weakness, inappetant, joint swelling. Can be related to kidney infection, inappropriate husbandry or inadequate provision of water. Fatal if treatment isn’t started early in the disease. 

We recommend a faecal parasite screen is undertaken at the vets as a routine measure and for all new additions. If your chameleon becomes unwell, we would advise you seek prompt veterinary advice, chameleons especially, can deteriate quickly in contrast to other reptile species.

Disinfecting Frog Enclosures

This guide is for using F10 S/C Disinfectant:

  1. Dilute to 1mls disinfectant : 500mls water.
  2. Remove frogs from enclosure into a separate container.
  3. Empty enclosure of substrate and dispose.
  4. Wash down surfaces removing any organic matter and remove furniture. Wash surfaces and furniture with the solution and leave for 20 minutes.
  5. Rinse off surfaces with water and wipe.
  6. Mist surfaces with water and wipe dry.
  7. Replace furniture, new substrate and frogs.
  8. Do this procedure weekly.

Practice information

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Please call this number for emergencies:

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