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Reptile Information Package

Welcome

We are extremely proud of our clinic and of our team of caring and experienced staff. We are committed to excellence in care for our patients and their families. We also are very involved in our community through our popular Junior Vet Program, our Be a Tree program, and our pro bono treatment of injured wildlife.

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Please feel free to call in any time to our knowledgeable staff with any questions or concerns you may have.

We look forward to being your "other family doctor"!

Sincerely,

Bowmanville Veterinary Clinic

Beyond What You See

Both Doctors and Staff have your pet's best interest at heart and strive to make their stay with us as pleasant as possible. We encourage you to accompany your pet to their kennel to allow you the opportunity to see where they will stay and to help them to settle in. Every pet has his or her own separate kennel or run, furnished with a clean, dry, comfy towel or blanket. If your pet has a "special toy” or “security blanket" feel free to bring it in with them.

If your pet is to have a general anesthetic we would like you to know that we minimize the risks by providing exemplary care during their stay. We highly recommend a pre-anesthetic blood screen prior to a general anesthetic. Just as your doctor would run a blood test before your procedure we do the same for your pet. A pre-anesthetic blood test is like an internal physical exam that will check organ function and help identify unknown diseases. For this blood work, we collect a small sample of blood that is sent to an outside lab. Blood work must be submitted at least 24 hours before the procedure.

Veterinarians will do a physical exam the morning of surgery to ensure that your pet is healthy before undergoing general anesthetic. Patients are assessed individually to determine which anesthetics will be safest for them. We have anesthetics available for all ages, from the very young to our senior patients. We also carry anesthetics specific to our work with exotic pets.

The doctors adhere to strict sterile techniques, complete with a cap, mask, sterile gown, and gloves when performing surgery. A separate sterile surgical pack is used for each procedure to avoid infection and cross-contamination. The animals are surgically prepared both at their incision and intravenous sites. This involves first shaving the hair, then cleaning the skin with antibacterial solutions.

Prior to the anesthetic, every animal is placed on intravenous fluids. Intravenous fluids are important to help maintain optimal blood pressure during surgery as well as provide access that will allow us to administer drugs if an anesthetic emergency arises.

While under anesthesia, every pet is connected to a Cardell monitor for carbon dioxide, blood pressure, and heart monitoring. Each pet is provided with a warming blanket to manage its temperature during the anesthetic. As well, our Registered Veterinary Technicians continually assess the animals, during both the anesthetic and recovery periods. During recovery one of our technicians or assistants sit with your pet to comfort them as they recover from the anesthetic.

We are acutely aware of the level of pain of our patients and have very current protocols in place to help manage their pain while in the hospital as well medications for use at home to keep them comfortable.

Uncomplicated surgery cases are discharged the same day. This allows the animal to rest at home, which is usually less stressful for both patient and owner. We do keep some animals overnight if they require bandaging after surgery. We recommend that more complicated cases be transferred to the Animal Emergency Clinic in Whitby for overnight observation.

If you have any questions or would like to tour our facility, please ask any one of our staff members. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome as we attempt to provide the best service possible for you and your pet.

Lighting for Reptiles

Reptiles require both a heat source and an ultraviolet (sun) light source to fulfill their needs.

We recommend:

  1. A Zoo Med Reptisun 5.0 u.v.b. light placed no more than 12 inches from a favourite basking spot with no glass in between the light and the reptile. Replace this bulb every 6 months since the u.v.b. component is decreased after this time.

  2. A Zoo Med 75 watt basking light for during the day.

  3. A Night Glo 75 watt black heat bulb at night if necessary to maintain your reptile at the optimum temperature.

Your reptile’s tank temperature should be monitored carefully both day and night to ensure you are keeping it within your reptile’s optimum temperature zone. Ideally a gradient of temperature should exist (hotter on one side, cooler on the other) with a hot spot for basking.

See below for preferred optimum temperature zones for a variety of reptiles.

Common Green Iguana: 84-90°F, 29-32°C

Leopard Ground Gecko: 77-85°F, 25-29°C

Green Anole: 73-83°F, 23-28°C

Jackson's Chameleon: 74-80°F, 23-27°C

Veiled Chameleon: 80-90°F, 27-32°C

Water Dragon: 75-85°F, 24-29°C

Bearded Dragon: 84-88°F, 29-31°C

Savannah Monitor: 77-80°F, 25-27°C

Crested Gecko: 72-80°F, 22-27°C

Red Eared Slider (Tank): 75-80°F, 24-27°C

Red Eared Slider (Basking): 85-90°F, 30-32°C

Please note internet information sources can be extremely valuable to exotic pet care, but you must be careful to determine that the source of your information is scientifically based.

Nutrition (Gut Loading Insects)

In order to make the feeding of crickets or mealworms most nutritionally beneficial for your reptile, a technique to “gut load” them has been devised.

  1. Place crickets/mealworms in an aquarium with an empty cardboard egg carton in it for them to crawl in.

  2. On the bottom of the aquarium sprinkle a small volume of Repashy “Superload” insect gut load formula for the crickets/mealworms to feast upon.

  3. Place a couple of slices of fresh sweet potato or yam which will act as a moisture source and add additional vitamins.

  4. Allow the crickets/mealworms about 12 hours to “gut load”. Dust them with Rapashy “Calcium Plus” and them immediatley feed a meal-sized number to your reptile.

Insects must be consumed within 3-4 hours or they will defecate out their gut-loading benefits. Any crickets not eaten should be removed and reused/gut-loaded for the next meal.

Bearded Dragon Care

There are 20 different species of bearded dragons in Australia but only three of those species are commonly found in the pet industry. The Inland or Central Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps) is the most common lizard kept and recommended for keeping in the pet industry due to its gentle disposition and relatively friendly manner when being handled. The Bearded Dragon (Pogona barbata) and Lawson’s Dragon (Pogona henrylawsoni) are also found in the pet industry but in much smaller numbers. For the purpose of this hand out however, bearded dragon or “beardie” will stand for the Inland or Central Bearded Dragon.

Natural History

Beardies are found throughout the semi-desert regions of Central and Southern Australia along forest edges too. In Australia , they are frequently found basking on tree stumps, fences, railings, and any other object that juts out of the ground.

Description

Bearded dragons are well muscled, broad headed, flat bodied lizards. Their signature “beard” is under the chin and consists of small spikes that jut out when the throat is inflated. The head is spined as well as the sides of the abdomen. Some breeders sell Leather Backs which are genetically designed to have a softer feel by eliminating some of the spikes. Juveniles lack a beard. The tail is half the length of the lizard and incapable of autotomy (a defense mechanism found in some lizards also known as “dropping the tail”). The bearded dragon has become quite popular in the breeding industry for morphs (different variations of color not created in the wild). The most common morphs are Red/Gold, Sandfire, Sandfire Pastel, and Gold Headlight Iris. These lizards have an average life span of 5-9 years although 12 years is no longer uncommon.

Feeding

Adult bearded dragons are omnivorous while hatchlings and juveniles are more insectivorous. Hatchling up to two months old should be fed two to three times a day a mixture of insects and healthy greens. Several feedings is especially advantageous when there are several dragons housed together. Proper growth is achieved through several small meals with smaller prey items versus one large meal with a large prey item. Adults, however, can be fed a salad of greens such as romaine lettuce, escarole, Swiss chard, mustard greens, and turnip greens with a small amount of other vegetables and fruits such as carrots, peas, strawberries, blueberries, melon, and squash once a day. Edible flowers such as squash blossoms are also okay to offer and generally relished. Insects such as crickets, meal worms, and feeder roaches (such as dubias) are excellent protein sources and should be offered every other day to every three days depending on your lizards’ body condition (thin, normal, or obese) and your vet’s recommendation.

Gut loading feeder insects with healthy calcium rich greens such as kale and Swiss chard is required for a positive calcium to phosphorous ratio (this prevents and corrects metabolic bone disease). Feeder insects must be dusted with a calcium supplement (one without phosphorous) 3-4 times a week and a multi-vitamin once a week. Some owners feed small pinkie mice to their larger adults. It is recommended to limit the pinkie feedings to an occasional treat or once every two week feeding due to the higher fat content. The most important rule to remember when it comes to insect and rodent prey is that the feeder can not be longer than the distance between the dragon’s eyes! This helps prevent dangerous impaction and digestion issues including choking.

Enclosure

Hatchlings grow fast but can be maintained well in a 10 gallon aquarium at a young age while growing into adults that can be housed in aquariums as large as 75 or 120 gallons! The smallest cage for a singly housed adult is a 30 gallon breeder although larger is preferred. Multiple lizards housed together require more room to allow for escape from each other. Custom enclosures for adults made of wood or melamine should be 72” long, 16 inches wide and 17 inches high according to some sources. Ventilation is important regardless of the size of the enclosure. It is recommended that aquariums have 3 sides covered to prevent escape attempts and allow for a feeling of security.

During the warmer months, beardies can be housed outside in an outdoor set-up created with wood and wire mesh. There are several blue print plans available on the internet for these enclosures. Please, do not take the aquarium outside! This can cause lethal hyperthermia especially in direct sun light. Frequent supervision is required ensure the health of your beardie. These enclosures must be protected from large amounts of rainfall and predators. The optimal positioning allows for some shade to be available as well.

Substrate

It is never recommended to keep bearded dragons on a sand substrate even the calcium sand sold in pet stores. Life threatening impactions are frequently caused by accidental ingestion of particulate bedding including sand, coconut fiber substrate, and crushed walnut bedding. A better substrate that is easier to clean is indoor/outdoor carpet, potting soil (requires weekly changing), and butcher paper. The substrate should be spot cleaned daily and changed as needed or after 7 days, whichever comes first.

Temperature and Humidity

The temperature for bearded dragons during the day should be around 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit and drops to 75 degrees Fahrenheit at night. The basking site should be around 88-95 F. Two thermometers should be used in the cage. One placed at the level of the basking site and the other on the cool end of the tank an inch above the substrate. It is highly recommended to regulate the temperature using a thermostat. The primary heat source should be an over head basking light or ceramic heat emitter. Secondary heat if needed ideally comes from under tank heaters under half the tank. Do not use electrical heating rocks due to the extremely likely chance the bearded dragon will develop thermal burns.

The humidity in the cage should be maintained between 40 and 60%. This can be achieved by placing a water dish in the enclosure, preferably one the lizard can soak in, and daily misting. A hygrometer is highly recommended.

UVB

UVB lights are necessary for the proper growth and maintenance of bearded dragons. The ultraviolet B radiation stimulates the synthesis of calcium. The best source of UVB is the sun but only when the animal is outside and directly in the sun light. Never place the cage by a window. The UVB light is filtered out through glass and the chance of over heating the enclosure is extremely high. The recommended bulb for a hatchling and sub-adult is a Repti Sun 10.0 and a Repti Sun 5.0 for adults. The bulb must be changed yearly as the strength of the UVB will deteriorate with time despite the bulb giving off visible light. Placement of the bulb should be overhead and no more than 10 inches away from the basking site. The light cycle for bearded dragons should be 12 hours of light with 12 hours of darkness. Mercury vapor bulbs work well, too.

Cage Accessories

Dried wood branches are appreciated by most bearded dragons as the species is a modest climber. A large rock under the basking light makes a wonderful basking site. Live plants such as aloe and palms can be added to the enclosure. Artificial plants are easily disinfected and make appropriate accessories. Most beardies will utilize a half log hiding area. Custom and creative hides can be made as well.

Grouping

Although we at Bowmanville Veterinary Clinic recommend single housing we understand that group housing is a popular option among reptile keepers. Males are typically very territorial and fighting comes to a head during breeding season. It has been noted that a submissive male can be housed with a dominant male but it is still best to separate them. Dominance displays include inflation of the throat (also a defensive move) and head bobbing. Displays of submission are seen as arm waving which as males become older disappears but is retained in females throughout their life.

Females, once they establish a hierarchy seem to live with each other without incident as long as there are multiple feeding stations and enough room. Bearded dragons can also be housed along or in a group of several females to one male. The hierarchy is often very clear with bearded dragons as the dominant lizard will bask higher than the others as well as eat first. It is always recommended to have multiple feeding stations if more than one beardie is housed together.

Sexing

Bearded dragons can reach sexual maturity by 6 months of age and as late as 12 months. Males have large femoral (under side of the thigh) pores and a thicker tail base. Females have small or non-existent femoral pores and a slender smoothly tapered tail. As the lizards mature, males will develop broader heads as well.

Reproduction

Breeding is triggered by an increase in the temperature generally in late winter and early spring and lasts around four months. Females indicate receptivity by laying flat on the ground and raising their tails. The male will hold the female by biting her neck and using his tail to push their cloacas together. Copulation is not long. Bearded dragons are capable of laying several clutches (as many as 5!) in one four month season with around 20 eggs a clutch! Females will become restless and aimlessly wander the cage digging at random and go off food right before eggs are laid. A nesting box of moist sand helps stimulate laying of the eggs. Females will lay eggs regardless of fertilization but most females reabsorb unfertilized follicles. Fertile eggs if incubated properly at 84 degrees Fahrenheit will hatch around 55-75 days. Eggs must be removed from the enclosure and kept moist and protected.

Grooming and Handling

Bearded dragons will learn to tolerate routine handling. When handled on a daily basis, they seem to become more relaxed as time goes on, and cleaning the enclosure is simplified when the animal is docile. Bearded dragon skin is very rough, so light gloves and long sleeves should be worn to protect against mild scratches. Their toenails also become needle-sharp, and should be trimmed every few weeks. Finally, because all reptiles are potentially infected with Salmonella bacteria, which can be transmitted from reptiles to humans, routine cleanliness and hygiene, are essential.

Common Diseases of Bearded Dragons

Bearded Dragons have some unique problems; understanding these problems will allow you to better care for your pet and minimize future health care problems.

How to tell if my Bearded Dragon is sick?

Normal Bearded Dragons are very active. Most common signs of illness can include listlessness, inactivity, lying flat and poor appetite. Any deviation from normal should be a cause for concern and requires immediate evaluation by your veterinarian.

What are some of the common diseases of Bearded Dragons?

Common conditions of pet Bearded Dragons include; Metabolic Bone Disease, Parasitism, Respiratory Infections, Adenovirus, Salmonella, Hepatic Lipidosis and Skin Problems.

Metabolic Bone Disease is a complex disease process that is a long-term result of dietary deficiency of calcium, unfavorable calcium/phosphorus ratio and/or lack of exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) light. It is very important to follow recommendations for proper husbandry practices. Common signs include lameness, soft “rubbery” jaws, fractures, spinal deformities, failure to thrive, loss of appetite, weight loss and lethargy. Although this disease can often be successfully treated, it is best avoided through proper diet and husbandry.

Parasites in Bearded Dragons may not cause any physical symptoms, but often need to be treated. An annual fecal examination is an extremely important part of your Bearded Dragon’s annual physical. Coccidia, pinworms and protozoa are common in Bearded Dragons. If left untreated these may cause weight loss or diarrhea. Proper hygiene when handling any pet will help in the prevention of zoonosis (the passing of parasites between people and pets).

Bearded Dragons are prone to respiratory infections. This can be a more common problem when husbandry practices are poor, for example, when they are housed in cool damp conditions. Bearded Dragons come from an arid climate and have specific lighting and temperature needs in order to thrive. Some signs of respiratory infections include wheezing, nasal discharge and open mouth breathing.

Adenovirus is a very serious disease that primarily affects younger Bearded Dragons, but is contagious to all Bearded Dragons. It is characterized by lack of appetite, inability to thrive, and occasional diarrhea and can result in sudden death.

Salmonella is a bacterium that can cause severe gastrointestinal disease or septicemia (blood poisoning). Some animals and people carry the bacteria without showing any clinical signs, yet shed the bacteria in their feces, which can infect others. Children, the aged and those who are immune compromised are particularly susceptible. Bearded Dragons can carry salmonella and not be ill. They usually require no treatment (treatment fails to kill the bacterium). Proper hygiene after handling or cleaning your pet is important to minimize the chances of transmitting it to people.

Hepatic Lipidosis is a fatty liver like syndrome that may occur in adult Bearded Dragons. Typically, these dragons are obese. Signs of this disease include poor appetite and inactivity. Adult Bearded Dragons require only 20 % fat in their diet but many captive Dragons have closer to 40 % fat in their diet. Proper nutrition and regular veterinary visits may help prevent this disease.

There are a few skin problems that may occur with Bearded Dragons if proper husbandry practices are not followed. Bearded Dragons could have problems shedding or bacterial and fungal infections of the skin. Difficulty shedding may occur in sick and dehydrated animals or if the humidity level is too low in the enclosure. Soaking in warm water and wrapping the Bearded Dragon in a warm towel can assist in a difficult shed providing there is no underlying disease. Skin infections both fungal and bacterial may occur if Bearded Dragons are kept in unhygienic or wet conditions.

How to help prevent disease in Bearded Dragons?

Annual physical examinations and annual fecal examinations are a good start. During annual physical examinations we will discuss proper housing, lighting and nutritional requirements, which are vital to maintain health in Bearded Dragons. Annual fecal examinations will check for intestinal parasites, which can affect Bearded Dragons overall health. Routine blood screens may be indicated to catch disease processes early. Together we can help keep your Bearded Dragon healthy and happy.