Care and Handling Reptiles & Amphibians Adapted from August 8, 2007 Presentation CAAE
Captive bred animals are generally healthier than wild caught. • Capture, transport and adjustment to captive conditions is extremely stressful and leaves reptiles susceptible to illness. • Wild caught reptiles tend to carry very heavy parasite loads.
Captive bred reptiles are generally less skittish and easier to handle than wild caught. • Captive bred snakes accept pre-killed prey more readily than wild caught snakes (especially true for ball pythons).
Buying a captive bred reptile helps to maintain wild populations. • For every wild caught reptile that makes it to a pet store and into a home, many more die from stress, injury, and/or illness related to capture, transport, overcrowding, etc.
Overall cleanliness • If there is fecal material on the belly, it is likely to have been kept in unsanitary and/or overcrowded condition. • If there are feces on the back it may indicate that the reptile was too weak to get out from under stronger cage-mates. • Check the vent area for dried feces or urates. If these are caked on the vent area it may indicate illness or parasite infestation.
Overall body condition • Reptiles should be well-fleshed and not emaciated looking. • Avoid lizards that appear skinny or bony (watch for prominent hip bones, or visible tail bones), or that have abnormal swellings on the legs. • Snakes should have a well rounded body and the backbone should not be visible. • Turtles should have ample flesh between their neck and front legs.
Skin and/or shell • If the skin is excessively wrinkled and dull in appearance, the reptile is probably dehydrated. • The skin should be supple and free of bites and scratches and you should also check the belly for burns. • Turtles should have firm shells with no defects; soft shells or shell defects are signs of serious illness.
Eyes • They should be clean, clear and free of discharge or crusted material. • Swollen eyes may indicate systemic illness, particularly in turtles. • Nose • Watch out for runny nose or mucous around the nostrils. • In some species salty deposits are normal.
Mouth • The inside of most reptiles’ mouths are a healthy pink color, and smooth. • A pale pink or greyish color in the mouth, or the presence of small yellow, white or green patches on the tongue or inside of the mouth are signs of systemic illness and/or mouth rot. • Also be wary if the saliva is stringy or ropy looking.
Check the rest of the head for any swelling or asymmetry (both sides of the head and jaw should look the same). • Swelling or asymmetry of the jaws can be an indicator of metabolic bone disease or abscesses. • Other lumps or swelling may be abscesses or indicate the presence of general infections or illness.
Check for the presence of mites. • These are tiny specks (may be black, dark brown or reddish brown, or orange) that move. • Pay close attention to the head and neck and belly areas. • While fairly easy to treat, they may indicate that the reptile has been stressed and/or kept in crowded or unsanitary conditions.
Ask to handle the reptile. • Try to handle a variety of reptiles to get used to the normal muscle tone. • Check the strength of the reptile. • A very docile, limp reptile is probably ill. • Turtles should strongly pull their legs away if grabbed. • Snakes should be have good muscle tone and strength, as should lizards. • Juveniles will naturally be less strong than adults. • Weakness or shakiness is a sign of illness and twitches or tremors may indicate the presence of metabolic bone disease.
Assess the reptile’s behavior. • Reptiles should appear bright, alert and responsive. • Healthy reptiles generally resist being caught and initially may fight being held. • A tame reptile may be easier to hold, but should still be alert and responsive.
Types of Food • Most snakes can be fed mice of varying sizes depending on the snake’s size. • Lizards, depending on species, can be omnivores, herbivores or carnivores. • Most turtles & tortoises are omnivores.
Beans Turnip Greens Snow Peas DandelionGreens Collard Greens Mango Acorn Squash
Calcium-Phosphorus Ratio • For every gram of phosphorus ingested, a reptile's body needs at least one gram of calcium to match that gram of calcium in order for phosphorus to be absorbed by the intestinal wall. • If you do not at least match the phosphorus gram for gram with calcium, calcium will be pulled from the reptile's body which may result in Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD).
Vitamin supplements • Read the labels when choosing a vitamin supplement for reptiles. • The ratio of vitamin A to vitamin D to vitamin E should be 100:10:1.
Always wash your hands with hot, soapy water after handling reptiles. • Don't allow reptiles to have access to any room where food is prepared. • Don't eat or drink when handling reptiles. • Don't use the kitchen or bathroom sink to bathe them or their cage, aquarium or dishes.
Reduce spread of bacteria • Cleans easily • Clean often • Never use pine based products!!
A small constricting snake (adults reach 3-5 feet), usually quite docile and easy to care for. • They do have a reputation for refusing to feed, so potential owners should be persistent in finding a healthy captive bred ball python (you may even want to ask for a feeding demonstration to ensure the snake will readily take killed mice). • Ball Pythons can be expected to live a long life (20-30 years).
Corn Snakes are calm, docile, placid snakes that thrive very well in captivity. • Good choice for beginners • However, they are also favorites with experienced keepers due to the vast array of beautiful colors and patterns selective 0breeding has produced.
They reach an adult size of 3-5 feet. • Live 10 years or more • Corn Snakes are not highly active and do not need huge enclosures.
A medium sized enclosure will house your Corn Snake nicely. • The vivarium should allow a minimum of 1 square foot of floor space to each foot of snake and be approximately a third of the snake’s length in height. • Hatchlings should start out in an appropriately sized small enclosures as they can become stressed and stop feeding in an oversized enclosure.
Corn snakes are excellent escape artists, so care must be taken when planning their housing. • Make sure the enclosure has a tight fitting lid, which can be clamped down. • Corn snakes are very strong and can push a loose fitting lid from a vivarium.
This is considered by many to be the ideal lizard for beginners as they are quite docile and easy to handle. • They are relatively small and easy to care for. • A 15-20 gallon tank is large enough and since they are nocturnal, they do not need specialized (UVA/UVB) lighting. • They are insectivores and should be fed a variety of insects.
Bearded dragons are probably one of the most challenging of reptiles, mostly due to the equipment needed to keep them. • However, these lizards are entertaining and easily tamed.
They are desert dwellers so a relatively high temperature needs to be maintained, and exposure to UVA and UVB light is a necessity. • This Australia native reaches a size of 18-24 inches so needs a good sized tank (40 gallon for an adult).
They need a diet that is a combination of insects and a variety of fresh vegetables and fruit. • Adult dragons will eat pinkie mice, crickets, superworms and a variety of greens, strawberries and other fruits.