Reptiles make awesome pets and require specialized care. Keeping a reptile as a pet is so much more than buying them a terrarium, giving them some bugs and lettuce, and shining a light bulb on them. Unfortunately, many reptile pets are purchased on a whim, leaving them sick later on in life due to poor care and husbandry. Their owners may not mean any harm, but it is definitely worth it to familiarize yourself with your pet before bringing them home to prevent this.
My experience with reptile pets and reptiles in general dates back to the days of my childhood. I remember that we kept an iguana as a pet once. My brother wanted him, and my parents obliged. It was a long time ago and I don't remember much, but I know that he did not get very big unfortunately. I'm sure my parents did not know anything about keeping reptile pets or reptile care.
|My daughter with Mr. Krunk the Bearded Dragon.|
When I was a young adult, again my brother adopted a lizard from a friend that no longer wanted his Bearded Dragon. I've talked about this lizard before - his name was Mr. Krunk, and he lived a much healthier and happier life than our childhood iguana did. My brother and I lived together and I helped care for Mr. Krunk. I gave him crickets and mealworms and researched what kind of fruits and vegetables I could feed him.
He was a great pet with a big personality. I know some people may not think that reptiles have much of a personality, but I'd have to strongly disagree. Mr. Krunk was friendly, sweet, and he even did the same head tilt thing that dogs do when you talked to him. Did you know that some bearded dragons can actually recognize and respond to their owners’ voices and touch?
For two years, I worked alongside an expert reptile veterinarian. It was during this time that I really learned the most about several popular species of reptile pets including snakes, lizards, turtles, and tortoises. We performed amazing procedures on these animals and working with them was an experience unlike any other. It had become my responsibility to help new reptile owners gain the knowledge they needed to properly care for their pets. That was a responsibility I took much pride in.
I took pride in my job of educating because the top reason why our clinic saw reptile pets was due to illness. And they were ill because their owners hadn't properly cared for them. Not on purpose, but they were just not educated about their reptile pets.
I have a lot of fond memories of the experiences I had while working with reptiles and their owners. We helped sick pets get better, worked with new reptile owners to help them learn to properly care for their pets, and we even helped elderly pets rest peacefully in the end with euthanasia.
Some of the cool and interesting things I got to do for reptiles while working as a Vet Tech include:
- Teach owners how to syringe feed their sick lizards. (Iguanas and bearded dragons mostly.)
- Teach owners how to give prescribed antibiotic injections to their sick reptiles.
- Draw blood from lizards. Did you know that you get blood from a lizard from their tail?
- Show reptile owners how to give oral medicine to their lizard or turtle. (Turtles are especially tricky!)
- Assist a veterinarian during anesthetic procedures on reptiles. These were usually surgical procedures on turtles that had been chewed on by a cat or dog or hit by a car. But we once also worked on a snake who had been bitten by a cat.
- Help insert feeding tubes into turtles who had stopped eating normally. One of our turtle patients had his feeding tube in for well over a year. He was a hospital regular and favorite!
- Assist during iguana and bearded dragon spays. The veterinarian performed the spays because the lizards were egg bound. (Meaning they had eggs inside of them that were stuck and unable to lay. Spays are not usually performed as preventive measures like in cats and dogs.)
- Holding a turtle so the doctor could examine it. Do you know how strong turtles are? The answer is VERY! They are not easy to coax out of their shells either. We could easily spend 20-30 minutes just trying to get a turtle to poke its head out.
- Help care for a turtle amputee. The poor thing was a beloved pond turtle and had been attacked by a raccoon. We amputated her leg and she made a full recovery.
Helping people care for their pets was such a pleasure. I could always tell that these people loved their pets and wanted only the best for them. They truly shared a special bond with them.
With so much information on the internet today, it can be hard to find a good source of knowledge on reptile care. Especially as a new reptile owner, how do you know which source to trust?
The petMD® Reptile Center is an incredible source of data for reptile owners, both new and old. You can find reptile care articles, infographics, quizzes, and more at the petMD Reptile Center, and all of them are either written or approved by veterinarians. That means it is a website with information that you can trust.
For fun, I took the "What Do You Know About Reptiles?" quiz at the petMD Reptile Center. My quiz result was "better than most" so I must be on the right track.
You can find all of the information you need and more about the species of reptile pet you want to keep at the petMD Reptile Center. Once you've made an educated choice, you can find all of the supplies you'll need for your new scaly friend at the Reptile Purchase Center at PetSmart.
Have you ever kept a reptile as a pet before? Tell us about them in the comments!