Snakes! The word can evoke feelings of fear or intrigue, or maybe even thoughts of Harry Potter and Slytherin House! Whatever it invokes, July 11th is World Snake Day – a day to celebrate these mythical, truly remarkable, and yet often misunderstood creatures. According to recent statistics, in 4.7 million households, 9.4 million reptiles were kept as pets. Many of these were snakes!
In honor of World Snake Day, celebrate your pet snake – or any pet reptile for that matter – by making sure that it has everything it needs to live a long and healthy life!
It’s important to understand the care that your pet reptile needs. If basic needs are not met, disease or illness can result. Reptiles need proper housing, nutrition, and basic care (i.e., good animal husbandry). Two common health problems in reptiles – nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism (metabolic bone disease) and dysecdysis (improper shedding) – can be avoided with proper nutrition and housing.
Metabolic bone disease can be caused by an improper diet or inappropriate lighting. Nutritionally low levels of calcium will cause the parathyroid gland to produce too much parathyroid hormone, which will cause the body to remove calcium from the bones. The bones then become weak (and can fracture) and spinal malformations or (in turtles) shell deformities can develop. A lack of vitamin D3 in the diet, or a diet with too much phosphorus can also cause metabolic bone disease. It is important to ensure your reptile’s diet has the vitamins and minerals required for proper growth and maintenance. If you’re not sure if your reptile’s diet has the necessary vitamins and minerals, contact your veterinarian for help. A supplement may be all that is needed!
Metabolic bone disease also occurs when reptiles have inadequate exposure to ultraviolet (UV) B light. UVB light is necessary for the conversion of vitamin D in the body.
Improper shedding can be caused by several factors, including improper nutrition, less than ideal environmental temperature, and unsuitable humidity. Even a lack of environmental objects, such as logs or rocks, can make it difficult for a reptile to initiate the shed. Improper shedding can damage the underlying scales and tissues. If the damage is severe enough, it may never shed normally again.
Although many reptiles naturally live in desert environments, they still need some humidity! And don’t forget that many species live in very humid environments! Check with your veterinarian to find out if you are providing the right diet and environment for your reptile.
Know your reptile and its husbandry needs! Do a quick spot check in celebration of World Snake Day and make sure your pet reptile has everything it needs to live a long and healthy life – proper nutrition, light, heat, humidity, and habitat. Understand your reptile and what it needs.