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Tag Archives: Reptile Health

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UVB Light: Why Do Reptiles Need It, and Which UVB Bulbs are Best?

Our understanding of the role that Ultraviolet B Light plays in the lives of reptiles and amphibians has increased greatly over the last few decades, but we still have much to learn about the needs of individual species. A good deal of conflicting information has been published, and opinions differ even among my well-experienced herpetologist colleagues. Today I’ll provide some basic information on UVB light in natural and captive situations, including some tips as to how best to provide it to the animals under your care. I’d like to stress that many variables will affect your individual situation…please post below for specific information.

What is Ultraviolet B (UVB) Light?

The various types of light are characterized by different wavelengths, which are expressed in nanometers (nm). There are three types of Ultraviolet Light, two of which are important to reptile and amphibian husbandry.

 

Gopher Tortoise

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Gary2863 at en.wikipedia

UVB Light has a wavelength of 280- 320 nm. Many reptiles synthesize Vitamin D3 (or, more specifically, Pre-Vitamin D/Cholecalciferol) in their skin when exposed to UVB light. The optimum range for Vitamin D3 synthesis in reptiles is 290-315 nm.

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Inclusion Body Disease or Stargazing – Pet Owners Aid Vital Research

Diamond PythonInclusion Body Disease (IBD), or “Stargazing”, is an incurable ailment that afflicts captive Boa Constrictors, Ball Pythons and related snakes (please see below for species list).  As a child with a burgeoning snake collection, I was warned about it by older keepers, and then faced the perplexing condition as I began to work for animal importers and zoos.  Always, the scenario remained the same – once symptoms appeared, the snake died. In zoo collections, much time and expense was spent in testing snakes that had been exposed to IBD, with euthanasia being the usual course of action for those found to be positive.  However, snake keepers now have cause for guarded optimism – a ground-breaking finding published this week (August, 2012) may pave the way for a treatment.  The sequence of events leading up to the discovery involves pet owners, gene-sequencing competitions and a host of twists and turns, and shows that alert, dedicated snake enthusiasts can make vital contributions to conservation and research. Read More »

New Test for Cryptosporidiosis, an Incurable Disease of Snakes and Lizards

Corn Snake and PreyA decade or so ago, Cryptosporidiosis became recognized as a major concern in captive snake and lizard collections.  Caused by a one-celled parasite known as Cryptosporidium varanii, the disease remains incurable to this day.  At the Bronx Zoo, where I worked at the time, tests showed that many snakes already in our collection, along with wild and pet reptiles, might be harboring Cryptosporidium.  But diagnosis was difficult and errors were common, resulting in the institution of expensive and time-consuming isolation protocols for new and sick animals.  So I was happy to learn of a newly devised test that ensures early, accurate diagnosis of Cryptosporidium…it will surely prove useful to pet keepers and zoos alike.

Crypto and the Pet Trade

A number of factors render Cryptosporidiosis as a major concern, including the popularity of reptile pets and the fact that the parasite can be transferred to people.  While not often of major concern to healthy adults, Crypto, as it came to be known, is a danger to immune-compromised individuals (please see article below).  A recent survey of 672 pets revealed that 1 in 6 of the Corn Snakes and 1 in 12 of the Leopard Geckos tested harbored Crypto in one form or another.  Read More »

Fungal Infections (Mycotic Disease) in Reptiles – Part 2

Green Tree PythonThe dangers posed by fungal infections are well-known to amphibian and fish keepers.  A number of fungi also attack reptiles, but many have proven difficult to detect and treat.  In Part 1 of this article I discussed how stress predisposes reptiles to attack and fungal infections in desert-adapted reptiles.

Rainforest Reptiles

Reptiles adapted to rainforests and other humid environments are not immune to fungal attack, despite the fact that fungi are common in their natural habitats.  Problems were first noted in Green Tree Pythons housed in enclosures that allowed for little air circulation.  Subsequently, we learned that these snakes must have humidity as well as air circulation if they are to remain free of respiratory infections.  I have found the same to hold true for Green Tree Boas, among others. Read More »

Fungal Infections (Mycotic Disease) in Reptiles – Part 1

Desert IguanaAs most hobbyists know, fungal infections are among the most common health problems to inflict captive amphibians and fishes.  However, few realize that many species of fungus also attack lizards, turtles, snakes and other reptiles.  Perhaps because, with the exception of skin fungi, infections are difficult to detect, treatment options are limited.  However, some of the lessons we’ve learned in working with amphibians are helpful. Read More »

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