Future reptile owners need advice, education

While dogs and cats might be the first to come to mind when considering pets, these furry friends are far from the only option.

Ahead of National Reptile Awareness Day (October 21), the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) is spreading the word that, with informed selection and proper care, reptiles, including including lizards, snakes and turtles, can make wonderful pets.

“More than 4.5 million American households own reptile-type pets and, as more and more people recognize the benefits of pet companionship to help cope with social isolation and to stress during the pandemic, we expect that number to increase,” said PIJAC Board Chairman John Mack. “We continue to urge prospective reptile owners to do thorough research and consult with experts before making the ownership commitment.”

Here are five considerations veterinarians should share with clients considering a reptile as a pet:

1) Legality
Like any exotic pet, individuals should check state and local laws to see if the specific reptile they are considering is allowed.

2) Lifespan
Before welcoming a reptile companion, potential owners need to understand the commitment they are making. In captivity, frogs can live for 10 years, while some lizards and turtles can live 30 and 50 years respectively.

3) Housing
Providing proper temperature, humidity, and lighting to mimic a reptile’s natural environment is essential to creating and maintaining a healthy habitat.

4) Handling
Like most animals, reptiles can carry bacteria that can cause disease in humans. It is essential to follow equipment sanitizing guidelines and to wash hands thoroughly after handling a reptile, its food, waste or habitat.

5) Diet
While some reptiles consume processed pellets or fruits/vegetables, others require a live diet (for example rodents for snakes, crickets for lizards and iguanas, etc.).

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