Three-year-old bearded dragon Nugget came to see us a few weeks ago after his family noticed he was not his usual self. It was revealed that he had recently ingested a small amount of plastic and his owners were concerned this was causing an obstruction. A full history was taken in regard to his diet and habitat, as this is crucial information for the health and well-being of reptiles.
A complete health check was performed, and during examination Dr. Raiyan and Nurse Maria noticed Nugget had a hacking cough. X-rays were performed to make sure the small piece of plastic was not causing intestinal issues, and although he was shown to be clear of any intestinal obstructions, it was revealed that Nugget had an upper respiratory infection. Dr. Raiyan prescribed him a course of antibiotics and made recommendations of alterations to Nugget’s habitat and diet that can help him feel more comfortable.
If you are a reptile owner, it is very important that they have different heating sources within their terrarium. This is because reptiles are ectothermic (cold blooded) animals. This means that they cannot produce heat in their own bodies, and have to rely on their surroundings to keep warm. A heating mat should be used to help raise the temperature of the entire terrarium. A rule of thumb for the size of the heat mat is that one-third to half of the longest side of the tank should be covered with a heat mat. Reptiles also need a UVB light source to help encourage production of vitamin D, which helps absorbs calcium. Furthermore, a basking light source is required to help provide a temperature gradient within the tank so that your reptile can thermoregulate their own body temperature. If they are feeling too warm they will go to one end of the tank, and if they are feeling colder, they will move towards the basking light. The temperature of the basking area will differ depending on what reptile you own. For a bearded dragon like Nugget, it needs to be 25-35 degrees celsius.
The ideal diet of a reptile also differs between species. Juvenile bearded dragons are predominantly insectivores and will eat mostly meal worms and crickets. As they grow into adults, their diet needs to be slowly changed to include more vegetables. A rough breakdown for their diet would be 80% vegetables, 15% fruits, and 5% insects (on every second day). It is also recommended to sprinkle calcium powder on their food every second day to ensure optimum calcium intake. Fresh water should be available in their enclosure at all times.
After making these changes, Nugget has been doing well and making steady recovery from his infection. What a brave boy!