Reptile Care



 

Most native reptiles are protected by Law which means they cannot be kept as pets. Usually only zoos and fauna parks are given permits to hold these animals. Non-native reptiles are even more stringently controlled by Law as they pose significant risk to Australian ecosystems.

If you’ve found or rescued a reptile, tortoise, lizard, crocodile, snake or frog, it’s best to immediately arrange with an organisation like Wildlife Victoria (1300 094 535) for the animal to be released back into the wild.

Reptiles as Pets
Keeping non-protected native reptiles as pets requires special care and handling. Tortoises, lizards, and snakes  require certain living environments and healthcare routines. In general, most reptiles are shy animals and handling should be minimal. In many cases a special wildlife license is required to own native reptiles. Only reptiles which have been raised by a trained and licensed animal handler should be kept as pets and should never be taken from the wild.

**VENOMOUS SNAKES, LIZARDS OR TOADS SHOULD NOT BE KEPT AS PETS**

Food
Domesticated snakes are usually accustomed to eating fresh dead mice, rats and chickens. Lizards may require a more complex omnivorous diet with special supplements mixed in. Tortoises are usually fed a meat-based diet, but calcium must be added to prevent shell deformities from developing. For all reptiles, it is essential to get specific dietary advice from us or a trained wildlife handler to meet the needs of the particular species.

Housing
The correct housing is essential for reptiles, otherwise health problems will occur. Reptiles should not be kept in wire cages as injuries can result. The correct type of wood, glass or plastic enclosures must be used. Correct temperatures are very important and some reptiles need to bask under a carefully regulated heat lamp. The heat lamp must out of the animal's reach to prevent burns.

Humidity, ventilation and lighting need to be carefully proportioned and monitored.

Introducing larger rocks and gravel may be necessary to help with shedding old skin.

Space should be adequate to allow the animal to move about, explore and get some exercise. The floor of the enclosure may need to be a combination of sand, smooth gravel, leaf litter or absorbent paper. Special allocations may be required to enable the animal to find a suitable area for hibernation.

Clean water (preferably rainwater) must be constantly available for drinking and also for swimming or immersing to help regulate temperature and skin moisture. Tap water needs to be de-chlorinated and the pH of the water should be montiored so it can be adjusted to the correct range as needed.


Health Problems
Keeping reptiles as pets is much more involved than common pets, so health problems are often encountered due to the incorrect housing, temperatures, humidity and diet.  Problems can present from parasitic diseases caused by intestinal worms, skin mites, and a variety of infections and injuries. Ensure that you bring your reptile in for medical attention at the first signs of sickness or injury.

Professional Advice
All reptiles have specialised needs. Please visit our clinic to discuss the needs of your reptile with our veterinary staff. Some of the more uncommon species may require more specialised advice or referral in some situations.