VET’S VIEW: Please do your reptile research

AS the gentleman took his seat and placed the duvet cover he was carrying on the floor, the other clients eye him curiously.

He appeared to have no animal with him; had he come to the right place or should he be at the doctors’ next door?

It was then that the duvet cover began to move, and I could see people edging away anxiously.

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Boa constrictors are certainly one of the less common patients we have to deal with but snakes and other reptiles form a significant part of our work.

Having an unusual pet can be appealing, but whether it’s a six-foot boa or a tiny leopard gecko, these pets should not be taken on lightly.

Captive reptiles rely almost entirely on their keeper to provide the correct environment and nutrition and it’s fair to say that this is where most of the problems we see arise. It’s vital to make sure that the temperature and humidity are right and while it can be attractive to have some sort of sand as a base, this can accidentally be ingested, blocking the gut, so smooth surfaces which can easily be cleaned are often preferable

Most reptiles will need a source of UV light to make vitamin D, even nocturnal species like geckos, and without it their bones can become soft.

The correct diet is also very important. Snakes, for example, can feed quite infrequently so it is not always easy to spot when they unwell.

If you have an omnivorous species like a bearded dragon, they need to have a balanced diet and not just gorge themselves on tasty mealworms.

You will often need to add supplements containing calcium to the diet to make sure your pet is getting enough vitamins and minerals.

You should think carefully and do your research thoroughly before taking on a reptile. They can make fascinating pets, but whether your neighbours will agree is another matter!