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Reptile Exercise Net - By total accident we came across a great tool for exercising your reptile in the yard and allowing time in the much needed sun. My son has a "throw & field" net found at your local toy store or athletic store. It has a sturdy metal frame and 2 inch square netting tightly attached to the frame. When I was exercising the snakes in the yard, they both gravitated to this toy and loved winding around the netting and hanging out in the sun. Because the frame and netting is black it was warm which I think they liked (be sure that it is not hot to your touch before putting your reptile on it). Never leave your reptile unattended.
Reptile Hydration - Many snakes, frogs, spiders, and lizards come from rain forests and require high levels of humidity to maintain healthy skin. You can provide the necessary moisture in their environment by providing pools of water, misters, waterfalls, and foggers. The easiest to start with are the pre-made rock pools filled with water and hand misting the cage at least daily. To create a more natural environment you can provide misters, waterfalls and foggers. Below are links with information on how these work:
Free Reptile Treat - Most reptiles, amphibians, and some small animals eat insects. We all buy these insects at the local pet store and would love to make our pets' diets more exciting. Once in awhile, as a treat, catch your own insects. It's easy....get a butterfly net, wait until early evening and turn on the light on your porch, wait for the insects to flock to the light and then catch them in the net. These live insects should bring a change of pace and excitement to your pet's day and diet. Do not feed your reptile Fireflies, as they as poisonous.
Hibernation - Some reptiles naturally need to hibernate. A good rule of thumb is… if your reptile is naturally from an area where the winter weather is severe, chances are your reptile hibernates. To begin hibernation, slowly decrease the temperature in the cage by about 5 degrees per week over a couple weeks period. Bring the temperature in the cage down to around 50 - 55 degrees. Slowly decrease the amount of food offered and do not feed again until spring wake-up. Always have water available in case your reptile wakes up. There are some differing opinions on whether to allow your reptile to hibernate. Most reptiles will not suffer ill health if not able to hibernate. If you plan to keep your reptile out of hibernation, be sure to offer ample heating and food and water. It is not recommended to allow young reptiles or reptiles that are ill to hibernate.
Sexing Iguanas - As infants, it is difficult to tell the difference between the sexes. However, as they mature, the differences become more apparent. Male iguanas are much larger than the females. The male iguana has a more pronounced jowl and larger tympanic scales. They can also have a larger crest than the female. A more definitive way to determine the sex is that males will develop bulges behind their vents which females do not develop. Most iguanas will mature around 2 years of age.
Burns - A common mistake by first-time reptile owners is to buy a heating rock as a heat supply for their reptile. Heat Rocks are the number 1 cause of burns in reptiles. It is best to supply your reptile with a basking light (not touching metal screen top and about 12 inches or more from the top). Basking lights allow your reptile to be warmed without them actually touching the heat source. Under-tank heating pads are also a great way to give heat but should never be put under a tank without adequate substrate to cover it (repti-turf works great). Symptoms of burns include water filled blisters and blackened patches of skin. If you see these symptoms, it is imperative that you get your reptile to a vet immediately. These blisters and any open wounds can easily turn into a life-threatening systemic infections.
Blackening Skin - If the skin of your iguana is turning black, this is an indication something is very wrong. It may start around the head and spread down to the tail. The causes of this are usually related to stresses in the environment. Such stresses might be two iguanas together with one dominant and eating all the food or hogging the basking area, an unsanitary living area, lack of UVB and basking lights, or an infection. If you notice a change in your iguana's coloring, first determine what could be causing your iguana's stress. If it is another dominant iguana move them to separate cages. The dominant iguana may not be allowing the other to eat or bask. If it is the environment, be sure to clean the cage thoroughly with hot water at least once per week. An iguana can even show their dislike for someone by darkening their skin. If this is the case, limit this persons access to the iguana. In addition to being able to blacken their skin at times of stress, iguanas as also susceptible to Blackening Skin Syndrome which has the appearance of black and crusty skin. It is mainly attributable to dirty living conditions. It is easily treated by daily soaks in warm iodine baths. To prevent this condition, clean the cage regularly, do not overcrowd, allow access to basking areas and provide proper diet.
Feeding Prey - Always feed your reptile dead prey to prevent injury. Mice, rats, rabbits, etc.. can all bite, scratch and otherwise harm your reptile. If your reptile has a crusty appearance around its eyes and head, this can be a sign of infection caused by an injury from live prey. Take your reptile to your veterinarian if you suspect he has an infection.
White Powder in Urine - Have you ever noticed that your reptile sometimes leaves a "white powder" like substance around its cage? This "white powder" is normal and is actually crystals. It is made up of uric acid and salt and is passed in the urine. The uric acid and salts are not absorbed by the body and are passed through to the urine. Provide plenty of fresh water to allow easy passage of the crystals.
Blister Disease - This is horrible disease that is easily prevented by thoroughly cleaning your reptiles cage once per week. Signs of blister disease (also known as scale rot) are watery blisters on your reptiles skin. It is a sure sign of a dirty and a too moist environment. Your reptile should never be in a cage that has constant damp substrate that is covered in rotting food and feces. The blisters are a sign of rotting skin and infection. This disease worsens and spreads when a blister breaks and creates an infection inside your reptiles body. You will need to go to the vet to have the infection treated with antibiotics and have the dead skin removed. Your reptile can also be soaked in a Betadine solution at the first sign of a skin infection. The best treatment and prevention of blister disease is to be sure the cage is thoroughly cleaned once per week and food older than one day is removed.
UVB, UVA or Full Spectrum Lighting – Choosing the correct lighting is directly related to the health of your reptile. Basking reptiles such as; turtles, iguanas, and desert lizards, need a basking light for heat and a UVB light for Vitamin D which in turn is needed to help their bodies absorb calcium. A lack of Vitamin D and, therefore, a lack of absorption of calcium can cause your reptile to develop a weakening or deterioration of the bones called metabolic bone disease. This means you can be giving your reptile adequate amounts of calcium but if you do not provide the proper lighting, your reptile cannot absorb the calcium. Therefore, for basking reptiles, be sure that they have a basking lamp for heat and a lamp that has a high rating of UVB light. UVA is another form of ultra-violet light but has not been determined necessary for the health of your reptiles. It is believed that UVA does play a role in skin color and mating. Another light source called Full-Spectrum lighting is supposed to closely resemble the lighting from the sun. This does not mean that it gives of UVB and UVA rays. Full-spectrum lighting is used primarily for natural lighting to gain optimum skin color. The UVB and full-spectrum lights are best used in conjunction with one another. While snakes are not basking reptiles and do not require heat from a lighted source, they do need a heat source. An under-tank heater or heating pads work well for snakes. Therefore, a UVB light alone can be used to simulate daytime sun for snakes. We also recommend that if you are able, put your reptile’s cage outside on a regular basis so that it can soak up natural sunlight. When out in the sun, be sure that your reptile can retreat to a shady area when it gets too hot.
Shedding Process – Your reptile should shed its old skin every two to three months. It is a good idea to get to know your reptile’s shedding schedule because fluctuations can signal a health problem. In snakes, shedding is usually proceeded by the skin around your snake’s eyes getting cloudy. There can also be a drop in appetite. A few days later your will notice the old skin begin to shed. It is important that your reptile undergoes a complete shedding of the old skin and if this does not happen, try soaking your reptile in water for about a half hour (or mist frequently). This should complete the process. Rarely in snakes, they may not shed the portion around their eyes. If this should happen, take your snake to your veterinarian to have the skin manually removed. Do not try this yourself because you can cause injury to the eye.
Hibernation, Spring Wake-Up – Some reptiles naturally need to hibernate. A good rule of thumb is… if your reptile is naturally from an area where the winter weather is severe, chances are your reptile hibernates. If your reptile has been in hibernation, early spring is the time to start the gradual wake-up process. This process should take about 2 weeks. Start by gradually raising the temperature in your reptile’s environment from the hibernation temperature of about 50 degrees to the normal temperature of between 75 and 95 degrees (depending on the animal species). Be sure to offer plenty of water. When your reptile has been fully acclimated to the raised temperatures (at about 1 week), you can begin feeding small amounts of food and increasing to normal amounts of food by the end of 2 weeks.
UVB, UVA or Full Spectrum Lighting – Choosing the correct lighting is directly related to the health of your reptile. Basking reptiles such as; turtles, iguanas, and desert lizards, need UVB lighting to make Vitamin D which in turn is needed to help their bodies absorb calcium. A lack of Vitamin D and, therefore, a lack of absorption of calcium can cause your reptile to develop a weakening or deterioration of the bones called metabolic bone disease. Therefore, for basking reptiles, be sure that the lamp you choose has a high rating of UVB light. UVA is another form of ultra-violet light but has not been determined necessary for the health of your reptiles. It is believed that UVA does play a role in skin color and mating. Full-spectrum lighting is supposed to closely resemble the lighting from the sun. This does not mean that it gives of UVB and UVA rays. Full-spectrum lighting is used primarily for natural lighting to gain optimum skin color. The UVB and full-spectrum lights are best used in conjunction with one another. Snakes are not basking reptiles and do not require heat from a lighted source. An under-tank heater or heating pads work well for snakes. Therefore, a full-spectrum light alone can be used to simulate daytime sun for snakes. We also recommend that if you are able, put your reptile’s cage outside on a regular basis so that it can soak up natural sunlight. When out in the sun, be sure that your reptile can retreat to a shady area when it gets too hot.
Basking lights are a heat source that directs the heat onto a specific area. Incandescent lights are regular household light bulbs, which can also be used to produce heat, but they do not have any UVA or UVB lighting. Fluorescent lamps are designed to produce a wide range of light waves. When buying a fluorescent lamp, check the packaging to be sure it does produce UVB and UVA light. Night bulbs or moon bulbs are coated with a special chemical to block out light waves but still produce heat for those reptiles that are nocturnal. For optimum lighting we recommend the following combinations:
· Basking: Basking Light, UVB Light, Full-Spectrum Light
· Snakes: Heating Pad, Incandescent Light or Full-Spectrum Light
· Nocturnal: Incandescent Moon Bulb, Heating Pad
Gut-Loading the Crickets - By gut-loading, we mean feeding your crickets specialized cricket diets for several days prior to feeding to your reptile, allowing them to get the full benefit of their cricket meal. The specialized cricket foods are high in vitamins your reptile needs. Some cricket breeders feed diets of chicken mash which can be harmful to your reptile. The chicken mash can be purged from the crickets system in 2-3 days by feeding cricket food and grass or leafy vegetables.