Exotis ISSN 2398-2985

Reptiles

Lizard husbandry

Contributor(s): Vetstream Ltd, Molly Varga

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Introduction

  • Understanding the natural history (anatomy, physiology, habitat requirements, reproductive habits, behavior, longevity) of the patient in question is the greatest diagnostic tool in differentiating between normal health and disease.
  • To ensure the reptile has proper welfare and husbandry, the ‘Five Freedoms’ should be applied to snakes as a guideline, ie freedom:
    • From thirst, hunger or malnutrition.
    • From discomfort.
    • From pain, injury and disease.
    • To express normal behaviour.
    • From fear and distress.
  • At the most basic level these ‘Five Freedoms’ ensure the survival of the animal but when implemented fully and diligently should optimize their welfare Captive welfare.
  • The following are general categories and associated specific questions with which the veterinarian and veterinary nurse/technician should be familiar regarding every lizard patient:
    • Native habitat and microhabitat:
      • Does the patient inhabit tropical rain forest, desert, mountain slope, estuary, beach and so forth?
      • Is the patient arboreal, terrestrial, aquatic, or subterranean?
    • Anatomy and physiology:
      • What is normal coloration and can the patient change coloration in response to environmental , seasonal, health, reproductive or behavioral influences?
      • Are there size or other physical differences based on sex?
      • What is the normal mucous membrane color?
      • Does the patient normally have four limbs and a certain number of digits?
      • Does the patient normally have secretions from the eyes or nostrils?
      • What are the characteristics of normal feces and urates?
      • How long does the patient normally live?
    • Diet:
      • Is the patient insectivorous, carnivorous, herbivorous or omnivorous, and does the diet change with respect to life stage or seasonality?
      • If insectivorous, does the patient have a preferred food item or size of food item, ie ants, centipedes, spiders, etc?
      • How does the patient prehend food and at what time of day does it normally feed?
      • How does the patient normally obtain water?
    • Behavior:
      • Is the patient diurnal, nocturnal, or crepuscular?
      • Is the patient solitary or communal?
      • Does the patient experience climatic seasonality?
      • Does the patient hibernate or estivate?
      • Does the patient use different microhabitats during different seasons or life stages?
      • How does the patient reproduce and how often?
  • These natural history parameters for all species of lizards would require volumes to list and these are questions to which the veterinarian or technician may not always know the answer.
  • There are many similarities among genera, but even within the same genus there are marked differences between species in husbandry requirements.
Print off the Owner Factsheets on Housing your chameleon, Housing your gecko, Housing your lizard, Chameleons as pets, Geckos as pets and/or Lizards as pets to give to your clients.

Housing

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Substrate

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Environmental enrichment

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Heat sources

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Light

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Humidity and ventilation

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Water

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Feed

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

Other sources of information

  • Wilson B (2017) Lizards. In: Exotic Animal Medicine for the Veterinary Technician. 3rd edn. Eds: Ballard B & Cheek R. Wiley-Blackwell. pp 95-135.
  • Girling S J (2013) Reptile and Amphibian Housing, Husbandry and Rearing. In: Veterinary Nursing of Exotic Pets. 2nd edn. Wiley-Blackwell. pp 267-271.
  • UV Guide UK (2006) The Transmission of Ultraviolet Light Through Reptile Skin Shed. Website: www.uvguide.co.uk/skintests.htm. Last accessed 20th February 2018.

Reproduced with permission from Bonnie Ballard & Ryan Cheek: Exotic Animal Medicine for the Veterinary Technician © 2017, and Simon J Girling: Veterinary Nursing of Exotic Pets © 2013, published by John Wiley & Sons.


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