Exotics vet Calum shares facts and advice for Reptile Awareness Month
October 7, 2022
At Apex Vets, we believe the love and appreciation for reptiles shouldn’t be limited to just one day I.e., October 21st, Reptile Awareness Day. We also believe that part of appreciating these wonderful creatures is understanding their needs before considering getting a reptile as a pet.
Exotics enthusiast and our Vet Calum has shared some interesting reptile facts below as well as some helpful resources that give you more in-depth species-specific husbandry advice.
Please do share our article with friends & family and if you have any interesting facts we have not mentioned below, go ahead and share them on our Facebook page – apexvets – and help us raise awareness throughout this month, #ReptileAwareness
Here are some quick reptile facts for you from Calum:
- There are more than 10,000 reptile species in the world
- A reptile is any amniote that is neither mammal nor bird
- Reptiles are cold-blooded ectotherms – they do not generate heat themselves and need external heat sources for basic life functions
- Reptiles can lay eggs on land
- They are covered in scales or scutes (thick plates of bones or horns you would see on turtles and crocodiles)
Is it wise to keep reptiles as pets?
Reptiles are fascinating creatures, and some can make great pets, but it is important to remember these are wild animals that have wild animal instincts and needs. Many pet reptiles in the UK suffer due to:
- Lack of space
- Inappropriate enclosures
- Harmful temperature and humidity ranges – key as we head towards winter
- Unsuitable lighting
- Poor diet
- Stress from being handled
- Parasites and diseases
- Inadequate enrichment opportunities
Keeping a reptile as a pet will require you to get fully educated about what your pet will need from you and their environment, including housing, lighting, heating, diet, handling, and expert reptile healthcare. Did you know here at Apex Vets, we treat all kinds of exotic pets including leopard geckos, chameleons, bearded dragons, snakes, turtles, and more.
Animal welfare – the basic needs of pet reptiles
Back in the 1970’s, the UK government created the Five Freedoms to increase the welfare of farm animals. These have been updated over the years, most notably by David J Mellor, who aligned them with welfare aims and wanted to ensure animals could thrive and not just survive. These are:
FREEDOM / PROVISIONS
- Freedom from thirst, hunger, and malnutrition – by providing ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour
- Freedom from discomfort and exposure – by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
- Freedom from pain, injury, and disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
- Freedom from fear and distress – by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering
- Freedom to express normal behaviour – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities, and company of the animal’s own kind
Source: article by David J Mellor – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5082305/
Calum has explained how the above can relate to keeping pet reptiles below:
1 – Your reptile will need a diet that is specific to their species, this could include live insects. You may need to add supplements to help with any ailments they are prone to in captivity.
2 – The enclosure should provide ample room to exercise and carry out ‘wild’ behaviours that might include hunting, foraging, digging, climbing, and hiding. It will need to have room for growth, have a basking area and/or water feature if that’s what they need, be safe & secure, and have the appropriate heating, lighting, humidity, substrate materials, and ‘furniture’ – logs, plants, rocks, hiding places, etc.
3 – Register with an exotics vet, such as Calum or Sam here at Apex Vets, who has the experience to give your pet reptile the specific type of veterinary care they need.
4 & 5 – These are linked, in that your pet reptile should be safe from mental or physical pain or anguish and should be able to carry out their natural behaviours and have positive mental experiences and good mental health. Hunting, foraging, digging, climbing, basking, and rest are all important. Whether your pet needs a friend will depend on if they are social creatures or live with a ‘mate’ in the wild.
Resources for good reptile husbandry
It is important to do thorough research on what your specific species of reptile needs. You can find some great resources here:
The RSPCA has some great resources on many different species of reptiles – https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/other
And don’t forget, Calum and our veterinary team love discussing exotic pets so if you have any questions about their health, bring them in for a check-up and a chat.