Reptiles can be both fun and rewarding to care for, which is why it’s important to understand their needs to help them thrive. Unlike our mammalian companions, reptiles rely heavily on their husbandry. Making sure to pay close attention to factors such as their enclosure, substrate, temperature, humidity, diet, and housing is crucial to their survival. When providing for them, we ultimately need to remember that they are not truly domesticated animals (though they can be tamed) and that they still rely on wild tendencies— some reptiles enjoy burrowing, some are more inclined to eat insects by seeing them move, and many will need secluded areas to hide.
Keeping in mind that they can all have very different needs, it’s important to recognize that simulating their wild natural environment is essential to their wellbeing and a good majority of their health can be attributed to their husbandry. A few of the more common husbandry issues I often see involve not providing adequate nutritional supplementation to their diet (such as not using a calcium powder to “dust” insects for many lizard species), insufficient humidity levels which can result in difficult skin shedding, and not providing an appropriate UV light source for those who require it. UV light is important for certain reptiles in order to metabolize calcium to keep their bones strong, muscles working, and for female egg-laying reptiles to shell their eggs. (Fun fact: Even if no male is present, many female reptiles will still lay infertile eggs!) Also, as a general note about UV light bulbs: Even if they are still giving off visible light, it’s important to change out the UV light bulb out every 6-12 months as its effectiveness will decrease over time and your reptile may not be receiving the adequate light they need to thrive.
As is the case for any of our animal companions, knowing what they need and what is best for them can help them live happy and healthy lives. If there are ever any questions or concerns about your reptile companion, don’t hesitate to contact your family veterinarian. It’s what we’re here for!