What Do I Need to Know About Caring for A Reptile?

What Are Reptiles? 

National Geographic defines reptiles as air-breathing vertebrates covered in special skin made up of scales, bony plates, or a combination of both.  

Reptiles don’t maintain a constant internal body temperature because they have no fur or feathers to insulate themselves. They cannot stay warm on a cool day or pant because they are without sweat glands.  The slower metabolism of reptiles and heat-seeking behaviors classifies them as cold-blooded. All reptiles have one thing in common – they shed their outer layer of skin, and metabolism depends on their environmental temperature. 

Reptiles include turtles, tortoises, lizards, snakes, crocodiles, and even some dinosaurs! 

“Kingsnakes and corn snakes are excellent first snakes,” he says, “and crested geckos are great for beginners as well.” 

Some commonly recommended first-time reptiles include bearded dragons and ball pythons, but Jordan admits they require more initial investment, supplies, and care.  

Reptile Health and Wellness Care  

Like all pets, reptiles require regular health and wellness checkups, a species-appropriate diet, and in-home care.  

Conditions such as irritated and dry skin, scale rot, and abnormal shedding are bound to appear in a reptile’s life.  

Fortunately, products like Zylafen from Zymox are easily stored in your reptile’s first aid and care kit. Both the topical and spray-on solutions of Zylafen contain no steroids or antibiotics; they are non-toxic and won’t sting.  

Jordan has rarely run into health issues with his reptiles, but he’s assisted with rescue over the years. He has seen metabolic bone disease, stuck sheds, and mites.  

While most skin and shedding issues can be prevented with proper husbandry, something to help loosen bad sheds or kill mites would be useful at times, especially on small extremities like tails and toes,” he shares. 

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What Do I Need to Know About Caring for A Small Animal or Exotic?

We’ll attempt to dispel some of the most common misconceptions about small animals and exotic pets so people can understand the responsibilities of caring for these fascinating beings.

Small Animals Don’t Need Veterinary Care

Like all pets, smaller pets need veterinary care, too. In her practice, Dr. Lindsay Butzer sees many small animals. During a recent visit, she examined two ferrets, one of whom had Cushing’s Disease, an adrenal gland disease. From wellness examinations to spay and neuter procedures and diagnostics, smaller pets should see the veterinarian for overall health and wellness management.

Small Animals Are Boring

If left uncared for and without much to stimulate them, small animals may demonstrate boredom by becoming less active.

In her article for The New York Times, writer Jessica Pierce shared, “Well-meaning pet owners may unwittingly cause harm by keeping animals in captive environments that might not meet their behavioral needs, such as a small bowl for a lone goldfish or a 10-gallon glass tank with fake vines for a leopard gecko.” Smaller pets need stimulation and activity as long as they are not stressed out. Something as simple as rearranging items in their tank or enclosure can keep them active. Pet boredom can manifest in chewing or scratching. Check in with them while you are away with a pet camera such as the Furbo.

Exotic Pets Cannot Be House Trained

The Wildlife Informer blog does a great job explaining more about less-common pets and wildlife. He lists eight exotic pets that can be trained, including ferrets, fancy rats, guinea pigs, pot-bellied pigs, pygmy goats, hedgehogs, giant Flemish rabbits, and skunks. Each pet has specific training styles. If you are interested in welcoming an exotic pet to your family, read online guides, visit forums, and talk to others who own the same pet first.

Small Animals Prefer To Be Left Alone

Depending on the type of small animal or exotic, pairing them up with a buddy may be in their best interest. For example, guinea pigs can live alone, but experts agree they thrive in a social environment. According to Home and Roost, “Guinea pigs are social animals and need to be with other guinea pigs. Without a piggy friend, a single guinea pig is likely to develop physical, mental, and behavioral issues.”

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