Not something to do on a whim


New owners should be fully prepared and determined when deciding to keep reptiles, amphibians as pets

A bearded dragon resting in its enclosure.

As with any type of pet, keeping a reptile or amphibian requires a huge investment of time, space and resources, and any owner should be prepared for this over the long term as most of these animals, with proper care, can live longer. more than a decade.

Reptiles and amphibians can actually make ideal pets – they’re quieter than traditional cats and dogs and, in fact, less smelly too!

In terms of space, pet reptiles or amphibians need a container, an aquarium or a terrarium, or a cage, depending on the type or species. This also goes for the size; depending on what you decide to keep, it can be as small as a typical planting pot or as large as a normal living room.

Either way, it is strongly advised to make it as close to their natural environment as possible and in this regard, “furnishing” the space with plants, vines, driftwood, mosses and rocks would help. greatly.

What kind to choose?

The first step, however, is to figure out which one suits your preferences, lifestyle, and level of maintenance.

“As long as a person is keen on keeping a reptile as a pet, it shouldn’t be a problem,” said Ronald Lau, a staff member at Kho Animals Enterprise. the sunday post.

“But I have to remind new pet owners to be really, really well prepared before making a purchase. They shouldn’t buy such a pet on a whim, or just because it has the cute look.

“Make sure you are ready and willing to deal with feeding and cleaning requirements, as well as daily checks.”

According to Lau, one of the most important aspects of this type of animal care is making sure they get enough warmth, which can be achieved by attaching heat or heating lamps or those that emit rays. ultraviolet (UV) A or UVB.

Having such light on one side of the enclosure would allow the reptile to replicate its natural regulation of moving in and out of sunlight.

“These lights have to be left on every day, which can add to your electricity bill. If the bulbs burn out or break, you need to change them.

Especially for the species native to desserts, they need constant warmth and in addition to this they also need enough water for drinking and “bathing”, but not too much to the extent that this can create a humid atmosphere,” says Lau.

It’s different for rainforest reptiles, which are usually found on the jungle floor or on the treetops. These species like warm, humid climates and require less sunlight.

“Constant humidity is a must for these creatures to feel at home. This can be done by placing a water tap inside the enclosure,” Lau explains.

Lau holding an Argentine Tegu lizard in the pet store showroom.

“Friendly Lizard”

When asked about his recommendation for beginners, he singled out “bearded dragon” from the rest.

Native to Australia, this species of lizard can be welcomed into any home due to its docility and ability to adapt to captivity.

“The bearded dragon is a fantastic ‘friendly lizard’ for beginners. It is one of the most popular semi-arboreal reptiles to keep as a pet,” says Lau.

Arboreal, in zoology, refers to animals living in, on or among trees – different from terrestrial (on the ground); thus, semi-arboreal refers to those that often inhabit and frequent trees, but not fully arboreal.

As for food, Lau says a bearded dragon’s typical diet consists of mealworms, crickets, and also vegetables like sweet potato, pepper, and leafy greens like kale and parsley.

An adult dragon, he says, would eat perhaps once a day, far less than a juvenile lizard, which would require between 10 and 20 small meals a day.

When selecting the enclosure for a bearded dragon, a beginner should strongly consider a display case measuring four feet (1.2m) in length and 0.6m in width and height – plus a screen top.

This enclosure should be filled with a sand substrate, which should be cleaned once a week to remove excrement and all feed residues.

“A deep cleaning of the substrate should be done at least once a month to make sure their living space stays clean,” adds Lau.

He also reminds pet sitters that when cleaning the enclosure, they should temporarily place the lizard in an area free of items, such as dishes or decorations, on which it could climb.

Warm soapy water should do the trick for washing the enclosure, while the use of disinfectant is highly recommended to kill bacteria and other germs.

An iguana is a popular choice among exotic pet owners.

“Direct manipulation only if necessary”

It should also be emphasized that reptiles should not be considered “toys”, nor should they be handled like a cat or a dog.

“Reptiles should only be handled when necessary, for example when being transferred to new enclosures or during physical checks.

“It’s also important not to handle them when they’re shedding their skin, as this can lead to improper or irregular shedding patterns, known as dysecdysis,” Lau points out.

He also warns that without proper care, many reptiles would be susceptible to serious and painful health issues such as metabolic bone disease (calcium deficiency), mouth rot, respiratory complications, and even abscesses and ulcers.

“Even the basking lamp, the very thing that helps regulate their environment, could cause burns if not watched closely and frequently. Other common injuries that most reptiles in captivity can sustain are minor cuts , scratches, skin or scale damage and low impact trauma.

Lau also stresses the importance of recognizing signs of stress in a captive reptile, one of which is that it rubs its “nose” against the glass wall of the enclosure.

“Usually clients whose pet reptiles have health issues seek advice from my boss, as he has been keeping reptiles for over 13 years,” he adds.

A sulcata tortoise eating pellets.

Safety also applies to owners

It is equally important for a pet to have a well-stocked first aid kit at all times, and essential items include cotton balls, rolls of gauze bandage, waterproof adhesive plasters, scissors, an antiseptic solution, nail clippers. and tweezers, as well as medical tape.

It should also be remembered that reptiles carry germs that can make a person sick.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the national public health agency of the United States, young children, people with weakened immune systems and adults aged 65 and over are at higher risk. getting sick from germs carried by reptiles and amphibians. .

Diseases can be spread by bacteria, fungi, viruses, or parasites that enter the mouth, and they can also be spread through the air or through a tear in the skin.

One of the most common diseases transmitted from reptiles to humans is salmonella.

“While reptiles and amphibians can be interesting and entertaining pets, it’s important to know that they sometimes carry germs that can make people sick.

“Reptiles and amphibians often carry salmonella bacteria in their digestive tract – even healthy reptiles and amphibians can carry the bacteria.

“People can get sick from salmonella bacteria through contact with reptiles, amphibians, or their environment, including the water in their tanks or aquariums,” the CDC states in the “Reptiles and Amphibians” topic of the section. “Healthy Animals, Healthy People” on its website.

Nine-year-old Cayden Veno holding a ball python in the pet store’s showroom.

Other diseases that reptiles can inadvertently transmit to humans include botulism, campylobacteriosis, and leptospirosis; worms and ticks can sometimes be transmitted from a reptile to a human as well.

The most effective way to prevent the spread of disease is for pet owners to always practice good hygiene.

You should wash your hands well with soap and water each time after handling a reptile.

“Wash your hands with soap and running water:

  • after touching or playing with reptiles and amphibians;
  • after feeding your pet or handling pet food;
  • after handling your pet’s droppings or equipment, e.g. cages, aquariums, rocks, enrichments, tank decorations, tank water;
  • after cleaning your pet’s tank or aquarium, and;
  • before eating and drinking.

“Use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not readily available. Supervise young children when using hand sanitizer to prevent them from swallowing alcohol,” the CDC advises.

Many experts also recommend that anyone with children under the age of five in the household desist from any intention of keeping reptiles and amphibians as pets.

The pet store has a number of reptiles and amphibians on display in its showroom.

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