Date: 09/08/19
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Obesity in reptiles
Can my reptile get fat? Yes. Overfeeding, food types and not enough exercise can make your pet reptile put on the pounds! Reptiles have very specific nutritional requirements that owners need to learn and understand, especially before getting one of the below animals. There can also be many issues when it comes to feeding reptiles the wrong type of food, not just obesity, for example;
 
  • Gout (from excess protein)
  • Soft tissue mineralisation (excess calcium and vitamin D3
  • Fatty liver syndrome (excessive fats)
 
Below are some basic requirements for keeping your exotic reptile pet fit and healthy!
 

Lizards

Although there are many different species, in general lizards are considered overweight when they have a thick layer of fat over their backs and sides. They will also have fat deposits under their necks, and a pear-shaped torso (rather than streamlined). Very obese lizards will have a tail that is wider than their bodies.
Leopard Geckos solely eat meat, they do not eat plant matter. Ideally the meat fed is live insects (most geckos won’t eat dead insects), the best options are mealworms or crickets. Young leopard geckos are fed daily, whereas adults only need feeding every 2-3 days. Live feeding should be done in the evening, this is when your leopard gecko has the most energy and will be active. Feed a few crickets at a time, and in a place where they can see it, any uneaten crickets should be removed. Clean fresh water should always be available. Another option, if they are poor drinkers, is to spray them.
Bearded Dragons are omnivores – they naturally eat both plants and animals. For their meat requirement, insects are convenient and usually inexpensive. As bearded dragons don’t get the same exercise as they would in the wild, they can suffer obesity on a diet too rich in insects. Feed your beardie 25% insects, and the other 65% vegetables and 10% fruit (although avoiding citrus fruits, lettuce, spinach and avocado). Supplement powders or ‘gut-loading’ insects are also a great way to get all the right nutrients into your bearded dragon. Clean fresh water should always be available. Another option, if they are poor drinkers, is to spray their vegetables.
 

Tortoises

An overweight tortoise may have large amounts of fat deposited behind their eyes, they may also have large fat deposits in their armpits, groin, knees and neck.
Most tortoises are natural grazers, in the wild they will spend a large amount of their day eating grass, plants, flowers and roots. This diet is low in fat, sugar, protein and high in fibre and calcium – making it perfect for tortoises! You can adopt the same principle; you can also add in leafy greens and herbs. Try and stay away from high sugar fruits and high protein vegetables (like peas and beans). Do note that each type of tortoise will have a different diet, some are omnivores and will eat the odd insect or meat. All tortoises need clean fresh water every day, to reduce any hydration deficit you can bathe your tortoise once or twice a week.

Snakes

An obese snake will have fat along the length of their spine, and when examined the vertebrae will not be felt. They may also have fat lumps under their skin in many areas making the body look uneven and less tubular. An overweight snake also may have folds of fat that are noticeable when they bend into an S-shape.
Corn snakes are meat eaters and will eat whole meat, for example thawed frozen rodents. In the UK, legally food is normally deceased when fed. You must take into consideration the size of rodent you feed your snake as they eat their prey whole. Rodents should be no larger than 1.5x the size of your snake’s midsection. Feed your young snake a meal every 5-7 days, and 7-10 days for adult snakes. All corn snakes should have access to clean fresh water every day. Many of them like to lay in their bowl of water, so make sure to clean it regularly.

Light and UV requirements

As well as diet, temperature and UV light are just as important in getting the right weight and health for most reptiles. Ultraviolet (UV) light is used to activate the vitamin D in their skin which allows the reptile to absorb the calcium from their food.
 
Make sure you are well informed and educated on owning a reptile before you purchase one, just like dogs and cats, they’re not just for Christmas, they’re for life!
If you have any worries or concerns about your reptiles eating habits, always contact your vet or specialist for advice.
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