Reptiles General Health Care
Without an appropriate level of preparation and commitment, the novelty factor will soon wear off, with the likely outcome being a neglected animal and a disappointed owner. Although most reptiles may become tolerant of some forms of handling, they are not affectionate animals and do not crave human contact. If a companion animal is what you are after, then better to get cat or dog.
Young pythons will grow – and before any hatchling is acquired on the basis of ‘cuteness’, an adult specimen of the species should be viewed.
The expense incurred in the purchase of a python is only the beginning of the costs that will have to be met – the most ‘up front’ of these being appropriate specialised caging, which needs to be 100% ready upon arrival of the Snake Ranch hatchling. Provision of food requires planning, and can be costly. The keeper will need to either maintain a breeding colony of rodents, or purchase frozen stock from a commercial source. In the interest of continued family acceptance of having a snake in the house, a separate dedicated freezer should be acquired to store rats and mice. Licensing fees are a factor in most states, and significant veterinary expenses may be incurred if health issues arise.
When your lizard sheds its skin, check its toes and its tail tip to make sure that all the skin has come away from these areas. If the old skin remains around a toe, it can constrict the digit as the animal grows, prevent blood flow and ultimately cause the digit to fall off.
When you first get your new lizard friend, it can be hard to resist the temptation to play with it immediately. But resist you should! After your scaly buddy has just moved into a strange new environment, the last thing it wants is for a gigantic, threatening creature to start grabbing at it. It’s best to let it settle in, and then start handling it briefly.
Housing requirements for reptiles vary between species, but all reptiles share some basic requirements. Reptile enclosures need to be kept clean and dry, so it is important to have a design that can be easily maintained. It is important that enclosures are secure not only to prevent the escape of the captive animals but to prevent pets and children from getting in. Security is obviously extremely important with snakes. An escaped snake turning up in your neighbour’s house is unlikely to endear them to you or make them feel sympathetic towards your unusual hobby. A secure, well ventilated, easily maintained enclosure is best.
It is important that reptiles have access to a warm area and a cool area that they can move between to be able to maintain their preferred body temperature. Be aware that a glass enclosure left in the sun will very rapidly heat up above the temperature of the rest of the room. Be careful when considering where to put such an enclosure. In the wild many species of Tasmanian reptile enter a torpor during the colder months, during which time any prolonged disturbance such as unnecessary handling can lead to sickness as the reptile burns up energy reserves. If reptiles get too cold, they are unable to digest food. It is best to keep Tasmanian species in conditions that allow them to shut down over winter. This may make them rather boring “pets” but reptiles are not generally affectionate anyhow. If you tend to have a roaring fire at night in the same room that you keep your reptiles, their metabolism will speed up and they will require food.
Many reptile species are naturally timid and need to have access to hiding places as otherwise they become stressed. Some reptiles never adapt to captivity and will always shy away at the approach of a person. Shelter can be provided in the form of a hollow log or a small box with an narrow entrance (a hinged lid will allow access for cleaning etc). Some species, like White’s skinks, are strongly territorial and may injure or even kill “strangers” introduced to their territory.
While most skinks can be trained to feed on fruit, baby food or dogfood, some individuals will only ever accept insects. It is important to vary the type of insect food presented. Ask yourself whether you have the commitment to care for these animals before you decide to keep any.