Care Information for Lizards
(including any information on the Basilisk - Green)
Introduction - Part 1 of 7
This care sheet concerns the general care of lizards. This includes a wide variety of reptiles including Agamids (such as Bearded Dragons), Geckos, Iguanids (such as Anoles, Iguanas, and Swifts), Monitors, Tegus, and Ameivas in addition to other types of lizards. Apart from the representative species listed, many other lizards fall under these categories. Scientifically, lizards are animals classified in the order Squamata. Snakes are also classified in the order Squamata but are addressed in a different care sheet.
Lizards are often kept as pets, and the care of many species is very similar in many ways. While some lizards are quite easy to care for, others may have very specific care requirements. In addition to this document, you should consult your lizard's specific animal care information on the CentralPets.com website.
Before choosing which type of lizard will be right for you, take the time to research it and if possible, consult people who have kept that type of lizard before. This may also help you decide whether to obtain a wild-caught or captive-bred lizard, as the two types may vary in ease of care, docility, and health. Some types of lizard are essentially only available as wild-caught lizards and some are essentially only captive bred, although most may be available in both states.
When first obtaining your lizard, be sure it is in good condition. Its body should be symmetrical, clean, and free of swelling. A healthy lizard's eyes should be clear, bright, alert, and fully open, without any discharge. The nostrils and mouth should also be free from discharge, bubbles, or secretions. A healthy lizard's breathing is silent and can be accomplished easily without the animal having to open its mouth. The base of its tail should not be thin. Hip bones protruding can indicate that the lizard is underweight. This can be related to feeding and/or disease. Common sense should always prevail when selecting or trying to determine the health of an animal. Find out if there is a guarantee or if you can return the lizard if a veterinarian determines it to be unhealthy.
You should also find a veterinarian experienced in and knowledgeable about reptiles. It is good practice to have a veterinarian check over the lizard to ensure it is free of diseases and parasites before exposing it to other reptiles you may have. This checkup should include microscopic examination of a fecal sample. Many wild-caught specimens as well as some captive bred specimens may have parasitic infections or other problems that will need to be treated in order to improve the animals' health and reduce the threat to your other animals.
Housing - Part 2 of 7
The location in your home is one consideration for housing your lizard. Like other animals, lizards will not do as well when exposed to lots of sound vibrations from televisions or stereos. Too much human traffic in the area of its cage may also cause stress to the lizard.
Most lizards will need a terrarium in which it will be easy for you to control the lighting spectrum, temperature, and humidity levels. The cage should also be fairly easy for you to clean. Materials like glass or plastic are preferred, since they are non-absorbent and will generally not harbor bacteria. Keep in mind that metal wire may abrade your lizard's nose if it frequently rubs up against this material. Unsealed wood may be difficult to clean and may even splinter. Should you use wood it should be waterproofed with a sealant such as fiberglass resin, and allowed to air out. This way there will be no toxic fumes present from the sealant when you place your lizard in the enclosure. For viewing, you may also wish to use a wood enclosure that has one or more glass walls.
The main goal in housing your lizard should be to reconstruct as closely as possible the environment where your lizard would naturally be found. The size of the enclosure you obtain should be dictated by the size of your lizard. Be sure it can perform the same basic activities in the enclosure as it would perform in the wild. Is the cage large enough to allow for a basking area and a cooler hiding place? If the lizard needs a water bath, can the enclosure accommodate it? The cage should be of a material that water cannot soak into or through. It should also be sturdy and inescapable. Many lizards are small and it may be difficult to find them again should they manage to get out. Enclosures will need to be ventilated. Generally a screen-topped enclosure will do nicely for lizards with low humidity requirements, but if a solid lid is employed to trap humidity, an allowance should be made for air holes or vents. If you do use a glass or plastic enclosure with a solid top, it may reduce the amount of ultraviolet rays available to your lizard from outside the enclosure. In this case, you should use flourescent lighting that provides direct exposure to compensate for this. Slide-top terrariums are available, and these may be a good option for many animals. It is possible to utilize such an enclosure horizontally for ground dwelling lizards, and it can also be turned on end for arboreal species.
Most lizards need special types of light in order to remain healthy. There are several types of lighting available, and you should determine which is correct for your lizard. Full spectrum ultraviolet lighting will usually be necessary for diurnal (active during the day) lizards that need the UVB spectrum in order to be able to metabolize calcium correctly. Lights are available which provide both UVA and UVB spectrums, although UVA is generally not as critical. Most diurnal lizards will do fine with fluorescent lamps that emit UVB. Although unfiltered or direct sunlight is best, leaving your lizard in a sunny spot in your house may not be a good idea. The glass in your window panes will filter out most of the beneficial ultra violet light required by your lizard, and the unnecessary light that does get through may overheat your lizard's enclosure. When possible you should open the window to allow the beneficial ultra violet rays through. Artificial lights for your lizard's enclosure can be attached to a timer, regularly simulating day and night. There are even some timers available which will automatically simulate the seasons by varying the length of light per day. For example, winter days should be shorter than summer days.
Since lizards are cold blooded, they cannot produce their own heat. This means that the body temperature of the lizard will essentially match the temperature of its environment. Many lizards will need a heat source to generate a general, or ambient, cage temperature and a basking spot that should be kept at an elevated temperature. You should also try to have a cool and possibly shaded area of the terrarium where the lizard can move to should it become overheated. It is advisable to keep a thermometer in the enclosure so you are sure of the temperature. Many experienced lizard owners keep one thermometer in the warm end and another in the cool end of the enclosure. A wide variety of thermometers are available to buy; some are simple mechanisms, while others have digital displays. Under-cage heaters such as heat tape or heating pads are available, and over-cage heat lamps or ceramic heaters may also be utilized for basking areas. If you choose to use both, you should place both in the same area of the enclosure. Although some people choose to employ hot rocks, these have been known to cause serious burns and even death; experienced lizard keepers generally never use them. A good way to create your lizard's basking spot is to aim a heat lamp or ceramic heater onto a branch or rock. The general rule for determining whether or not your basking spot is too hot for your lizard is simply to place your hand under it. When you place your hand where the lizard will be basking, it should feel the same as the temperature created by noon day sun in summer. The heat should be gentle and even. It should be safe for your lizard to fall asleep under the basking lamp without becoming overheated. The basking temperature required for each type of lizard will vary. Keeping the nighttime temperature a bit lower than the daytime temperature will also help keep your lizard healthier.
Most lizards need a water bowl in their cage at all times. Be sure the bowl is not large or deep enough that your lizard could become trapped or drown in it. Other lizards, such as chameleons, might not drink from a bowl. Some of these lizards will accept water from eyedroppers or other instruments like syringes. Others may lick water droplets off of plants. If you are placing live or silk plants in your lizard's enclosure, you may wish to purchase a drip system to create water droplets on the leaves. Some people prefer to construct their own drip systems. Place a bowl of water above your lizard's cage with a tube or wick running from the bowl to the enclosure. The water will slowly drip from the bowl to the cage. Others place a container full of ice cubes on top of a screen-topped enclosure. The container should have holes in it to allow the melted water to slowly drip into the cage. Frequently misting the plants is another way to keep the leaves wet. Some lizards will prefer a full bath or pond available for them to soak in. Although it may not be aesthetically pleasing, many will do well with a simple paint tray of water, which allows a shallow 'beach' area and a deeper area. Also, a soaking area such as a paint tray is easily removed for cleaning. Bacteria and mold can quickly build up in wet or moist areas, so clean these areas often. Elevated humidity levels can be achieved by misting the cage at regular intervals or placing plastic wrap over screened areas of the cage. Using distilled water will prevent water spots from forming on the sides of the enclosure, but water intended for water dishes or bowls should not be distilled. If you are trying to achieve a specific humidity level, there are special gauges available for purchase that can help you determine the moisture level of the air in the enclosure. Some lizards that are native to desert areas may need a minimum of humidity. In order to create pockets of humidity, for example in a hide box, damp peat moss can be used.
Providing a substrate, especially a disposable one, in your lizard's cage can assist you in cleaning the enclosure, maintaining humidity levels, and keeping the lizard itself clean, dry, and healthy. One consideration you may need to make in choosing a substrate is the possibility of your lizard ingesting it. Even if the animal does not eat the substrate intentionally, it may accidentally ingest material on food items that have rested on the substrate. Ingesting larger substrate pieces may choke a lizard, but the more common danger may be of substrates such as sand, dirt, or gravel, causing impactions in the lizard's digestive system. Even materials that are supposed to be digestible might cause such impactions. Usually, layers of newspaper work well as a substrate for your lizard's cage. Wood chips are another option, but you should not use cedar or redwood. Also, the wood chips should be large enough so that the lizard cannot easily ingest them. Some people use cypress mulch or peat moss as a substrate. Others prefer a mixture of many types of substrate. In some cases, sand or soil may be appropriate. Astroturf is good for many species of lizard. It is easy to clean, and you may use one piece while cleaning the others.
You should try to keep the natural habitat of your lizard in mind while choosing decor or accessories for the enclosure. If your lizard likes to burrow, you may decide to choose a substrate that will allow for such activity. Arboreal lizards will appreciate climbing options like branches. Rocks, wood, or shelves may also be nice, especially in and around the basking spot. If you do keep heavy items like rocks in your lizard's enclosure, be sure they are secured. Many burrowing lizards may excavate areas under rocks, which could fall on them, resulting in injury or death. Hide boxes are another item that may be added to the lizard's enclosure. This will allow the lizard an escape if it feels stressed. Generally it is good to have one hiding area at each end of the lizard's enclosure so it can choose the warmer or cooler end, as it feels appropriate. Multiple hiding areas are often preferred by experienced lizard keepers, especially in enclosures where a number of lizards are kept together.
Cleaning your lizard's enclosure comprises a large part of good husbandry practice. In order to help your lizard remain healthy, you should keep it in a sanitary environment. There are two types of cleaners available for use: mechanical cleaners and disinfectants. Both types are important in maintaining a clean environment for your lizard. A mechanical cleaner will aid in physically removing dirt or other soiling. A disinfectant will aid in killing germs. You should use the mechanical cleaner before the disinfectant. Many people prefer to use a bleach and water solution to clean their lizard's enclosure. Some will use commercial cleaners recommended by their veterinarians. Commercial household cleaners should generally be avoided, as they may contain ingredients that are toxic to reptiles. No matter what you use, be sure that you rinse the enclosure thoroughly, since remaining residue may be unhealthy for your lizard. Also, wait until the cage is relatively dry before putting everything back in.
When keeping more than one lizard in an enclosure, usually it is better to keep lizards of the same species together rather than attempting to combine different species. To avoid injury and possibly death due to territorial aggression, it is generally best to avoid keeping more than one lizard in each enclosure unless you are breeding them, or know for sure that they are compatible. However, many lizards, like most types of geckos, can do well when housed together. You may also want to allow for a larger enclosure if you plan on using it for more than one lizard.
Diet - Part 3 of 7
Most lizards should be fed, once a day, items that are as close to their natural diet as possible. Sometimes it is helpful to feed diurnal lizards around noon, as by this time they will generally be warm and active. When this is not possible, try feeding your lizard in the morning rather than in the evening. Nocturnal (active during the night) lizards may not eat while you watch them, and should usually be fed at night when they are more active. Some lizards will not want to eat before breeding, and others may eat less in winter months.
For many carnivorous lizards, choose prey that is small enough to be easily swallowed. This may not apply to some lizards and to some hatchlings, which can require even smaller prey.
Many lizards eat insects including mealworms and crickets. Some people prefer to feed their lizards super worms, which are basically large mealworms. People who do feed super worms usually prefer them because they have larger meat to exoskeleton ratio than do mealworms. Animals who eat a large number of regular mealworms may occasionally experience intestinal impaction due to the higher percentage of indigestible exoskeleton material in the mealworm. When feeding crickets to lizards that are sick or unable to hunt or stalk prey normally, some people will pinch the joints of the insects' hind legs. This will prevent them from easily escaping the lizard. Many people prefer to feed gut loaded insects, or insects which have eaten a meal just before being fed to the lizard. In order to gut load insects, it is advisable to feed them high-calcium cricket food or dry dog food: items that will have high nutritional value for your lizard. Other insects, like wingless fruit flies, caterpillars, grubs, and non-infesting roaches are also available commercially to feed lizards. If your lizard eats larger prey, like mice, they should be pre-killed to avoid injury to your lizard. Not only will live prey fight in its own defense, but it may later chew on a sleeping or sick lizard. Frozen pre-killed prey is usually readily available, and many people find it quite convenient. It may be stored in quantity and helps eliminate the need for you to raise your own prey animals or make frequent trips to the pet store. The frozen prey should be defrosted fully before feeding and, if possible, warmed up to the temperature it would be were if it were alive. Try not to handle your lizard any more than necessary immediately after feeding it, as this can cause it to regurgitate.
Fruits and vegetables are important to the health of some herbivorous lizards. Iguanas are one example of a herbivorous lizard. Some prefer dark leafy greens, while others may eat soft or sweet fruits. If your lizard does eat fruits you should not use them as a major dietary component, but feed them in smaller amounts. Generally, greens low in oxalic acid and high in calcium are a good choice. Collard greens, dandelion greens, turnip greens, and parsley are all good choices. Cabbage and plants in the cabbage family should be fed sparingly. Oxalic acid occurs naturally in a large number of plants. Oxalic acid may combine with calcium, iron, sodium, magnesium, or potassium to form less soluble salts known as oxalates which can not be utilized by the body. Regular consumption of large amounts of foods high in oxalic acid may result in nutrient deficiencies, especially calcium. Examples of food high in oxalic acid that should be fed sparingly are spinach, rhubarb, banana, and mustard greens. Herbivorous lizards need large amounts of calcium rich foods and may be given a phosphorus-free calcium supplement powder. Many calcium supplements contain phosphorus, but it is now known that enough phosphorus can usually be obtained from normal dietary items. You should use caution with vitamin or mineral supplements, since excess minerals or nutrients may cause health problems. Commercial foods like iguana chow are available, but it is advisable to feed these only occasionally or as treats.
Vitamin D3 is important to most diurnal lizards and will be produced by the animal upon exposure to unfiltered daylight or full spectrum light (with UVB) and is not usually necessary as dietary supplements. Vitamin A and some other vitamins can reach toxic levels when given as supplements and it may be easiest to simply to feed a balanced diet and avoid vitamin supplements.
Care should be taken to prevent lizards from becoming obese. Many lizards, such as monitors, will eat large volumes of food if it is available and gain weight rapidly. Obese lizards are much more likely to develop health problems.
Pro-Active Care - Part 4 of 7
Some lizards will need their nails trimmed, especially if you handle them a lot and you become accidentally scratched by their naturally sharp nails. In addition to scratching you, sharp nails can be a hazard to the lizard itself or to cage mates. It is a myth that trimming arboreal lizards' nails prevents them from climbing trees. If you accidentally cut into the quick of the toenail, the lizard will have sensitive nails for a time and may not wish to climb. However, it will quickly recover. The goal in trimming the nails is to simply remove the sharp tip. If you remove more, you may cut into the vein that runs down each claw, causing bleeding. You can obtain nail trimmers at your local pet store and it is good to have a styptic powder on hand. It may be easiest to have someone else hold the lizard while you trim the nails. Simply grasp each toe securely but gently. Clip off the sharp tip of the nail. If you happen to cut too far and the nail bleeds, simply use a swab to cake the area with styptic powder until the bleeding stops. Some lizard owners prefer to file their animals' nails. Others employ large rocks, bricks, or other climbing items with rough surfaces in the enclosures of reptiles with larger nails, because these can naturally wear down the lizard's claws, eliminating the need to regularly trim them.
Lizards, like all reptiles, shed their skins periodically. This is known as ecdysis. Young lizards will usually shed more frequently than older lizards, as they are growing more quickly. In many lizards the skin may change colors before a shed. An oily substance will be secreted by the reptile to aid the shedding process. Your lizard may become darker in color, or duller in color. After it has changed back to a seemingly normal coloration the shed usually begins. Most lizards shed their skin in sections, as opposed to snakes. Some, like Alligator Lizards, may shed in one piece. Generally the heads or forequarters will shed first, and usually the tail is shed last. When your lizard is about to shed, you might want to mist it occasionally to keep the humidity level in its cage up. In dry environments, provide a patch of damp substrate or a hide box with a higher humidity level. For lizards that bathe or come from more humid environments, you should also ensure that your lizard has a place to soak. Some lizards may not eat as much while they are shedding, and some may not like to be handled at this time. Lizards will not shed as often in the colder months, and unhealthy lizards usually do not shed very often. Some lizards, like Leopard Geckos, will eat their shed skin in order to get some nutritional benefit. Occasionally lizards will have problems shedding due to poor health or poor husbandry. This condition is known as dysecdysis. Chronic shedding problems should be checked by a veterinarian.
Additional Care Information for Basilisk - Green
Green Basilisks need relatively large enclosures. A single adult basilisk should be kept in an terrarium of at least 55 gallons. Use full spectrum UV lighting for about 13 hours a day. Use plenty of imitation plants for hiding places and a few climbing branches, as well. Keep the ambient daytime temperature at about 85 degrees Fahrenheit, with the coolest end 80 degrees and a warmer basking area about 95 degrees. At night, cool the enclosure down to the low to mid 70s. Keep the humidity high at all times and supply a bowl for drinking. Mist the vivarium every day. They are omnivorous, so they should be fed dark leafy greens and smaller amounts of other vegetables and insects such as earthworms, crickets, roaches and mealworms. You can also add some fruit to their diet. It is advisable to dust all insects and fruits with a calcium supplement . It is recommended that a multivitamin supplement also be used about twice a week.
Health - Part 5 of 7
During your lizard's visit to a veterinarian, request that a fecal sample be checked for parasites. At home check your skin after handling the lizard, and also look at its substrate. If you see tiny bugs there, your lizard may have external parasites that will need to be treated. Initially, you may prefer to use paper towel, butcher paper, or newspaper as a cage substrate because these will allow parasites to become more highly visible than substrates of varied color or texture.
Many people prefer to choose lizards that were captive-bred rather than wild-caught. This helps to preserve wild populations of lizards. Also, captive-bred lizards may have fewer or less severe parasitic infections and disease problems than wild-caught specimens. Captive-bred lizards also usually lack harsh stresses from capture and transport. When selecting a lizard, you should be sure that you choose an animal with good body weight. A healthy lizard will generally have a robust appearance and the base of its tail will not be thin. If the lizard appears limp or lethargic, it may not be healthy. Usually lizards are quite active when healthy. However, lethargy can also be a result of keeping the animal at too cool a temperature. A healthy lizard will usually appear symmetrical. If one side of it appears collapsed, it may have broken ribs. If one leg is thicker than the other or the bone feels very thick or knotted, a broken bone might be indicated. Similarly, the eyes and mouth should appear symmetrical, and if they do not, the lizard may be suffering from an infection or another problem. These areas should also be clean and free of discharge. Swollen toes in addition to broken or protruding scales or open wounds can also indicate an unhealthy or injured animal. A healthy lizard should also have a clean vent area and its underside should not be encrusted with dirt or fecal material. Gently feel the lizard's body and extremities as you handle it. The lizard should be free from any lumps or bumps that could indicate injury or infection.
Be sure to wash your hands before and after handling your lizard. Some smaller lizards may not be physically able to tolerate human contact; for example, some geckos may suffer skin damage from excessive handling. Generally you should be careful to support and grasp the lizard's front and hindquarters when picking it up. Do not pick it up by its tail, which may detach. Although many species of lizard can regenerate their tails, they will not be as long as the original tail and sometimes they may be a different color and shape than the original tail was. This is also quite physically stressful on the lizard. If your lizard does lose its tail, simply keep the area clean and the new tail should grow in without help. If the tail does not grow back, you should consult your vet. Some lizards have dewlaps. If your lizard extends its dewlap or bobs its head, it may be stressed, frightened, or exhibiting territorialism. Some lizards will be more stressed by handling than others will; it is up to you to determine how much handling your lizard can tolerate.
Good husbandry and overall cleanliness are the easiest ways to keep your lizard in a general state of good health. If the enclosure is dirty, too wet or dry, or too hot or cold, your animal will certainly not thrive as well as a lizard kept under correct conditions.
Some lizards are not obviously sexually dimorphic. This means that it may be difficult to visually distinguish the sexes. However, in many species it may be possible. Often females can have heavier-set bodies than males, and males may have broader heads, heavier jowls, different skin coloration, larger bodies, and or larger dorsal crests. Determining the sex of your lizard will obviously be important if you plan on breeding it.
Keep records of breeding, origin, and illness. Some people may wish to keep feeding and shedding records as well.
Zoonoses are diseases that are transmissible from animals to humans. People that are most at risk are those who are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed, patients undergoing immunosuppressive therapies, infants and young children, the elderly, and those with a chronic disease that compromises the immune system.
Potential zoonotic risks: Aeromonas, Campylobacter, Citrobacter, Cryptosporidia, Enterobacter, Erysipelothrix, Klebsiella, Mycobacterium, Proteus, Pseudomonas, Salmonellosis, Serratia, and Yersinia enterocolitica
The best way to avoid these and any other zoonoses is to maintain sanitary conditions and hand washing before and after handling your reptiles. If you suspect that you may have acquired a zoonotic disease, you should certainly bring it to the attention of your physician.
Diseases & Parasites - Part 6 of 7
Please note that this section is intended to serve only as a description of health problems and some possible treatment procedures. It should be seen as an outline, aiding to form your expectations of treatments and helping you recognize symptoms of problems. Unless you are qualified to diagnose ailments or to perform these treatments, you should see a veterinary professional.
Burns - skin damage caused by excessive heat. These may be general, covering the whole animal in extreme cases, but are more usually found localized over specific areas of an animal.
Physical Symptoms - visible damage to the skin, varying in extremity and ranging from areas of gray or red coloration to blistered areas.
Cause/Transmission - caused by direct heat touching the animal's skin. They may be occasionally caused by an exposed heating element in the animal's enclosure.
Treatment - for serious burns or burns covering a large area of your animal, consult your veterinarian. Less serious burns may be rinsed in a povidone iodine solution.
Constipation - the inability to defecate causing the buildup of waste in an animal's body.
Physical Symptoms - abdominal distention, loss of appetite, and lethargy.
Cause/Transmission - dehydration, temperatures that are too cool, basking temperature too cool, severe parasitic infection, digestive impaction.
Treatment - generally soaking the animal in a tepid water bath will help to alleviate this problem. If it continues, consult your veterinarian.
Dysecdysis - incomplete shedding of the skin or difficulty in shedding of the skin. This may shrink as it dries and could cut off circulation to the area where the skin remains. It may eventually result in loss of extremities or systemic infection.
Physical symptoms - skin remaining after a shed, especially in the area of toes, crests or spikes, tails, tail tips, and dewlaps.
Cause/Transmission - may be attributed to poor husbandry, stress, systemic disease, endocrinological disorders, scarring, dehydration, skin infections, or dietary problems.
Treatment - remove old skin by soaking the animal in a tepid water bath and then gently rubbing the affected area. This may need to be done over a period of days. If the tissue underneath suffers from necrosis, bathe it with a disinfectant or povidone iodine solution. Consult your veterinarian especially if the condition continues.
Dystocia - sometimes known as "Egg-Binding" or "Egg Retention". This is a life-threatening situation that occurs when eggs or young cannot pass through the oviduct and cloaca.
Physical Symptoms - lethargy, reluctance to walk, and in the case of lizards inability to properly use hind legs, stress.
Cause/Transmission - abnormally formed or abnormally large eggs or young, two or more eggs attached to each other, obstruction of oviduct by cysts or abscesses, malpositioned eggs or young, lack of suitable nesting site, poor husbandry, internal parasites, poor physical health of reptile.
Treatment - soak the affected reptile in tepid water. Consult your veterinarian. Commonly oxytocin or calcium borogluconate injections may be administered. Surgical removal of the eggs or young may be necessary. Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat or prevent septicemia.
External Parasites - arthropods that survive by feeding off of the host animal. Usually by sucking blood. The most common of these are mites and ticks. Mites are very small arthropods about the size of a pin head resembling small ticks (which are also mites). They live by sucking blood and are found on both captive and wild-acquired animals and have a life cycle of about two weeks. Long term infestations may cause scarring, scale damage, and small skin hemorrhages. Ticks are red or brown arthropods approximately 1/4 of an inch in length. They live by sucking blood and are usually easily visible.
Physical symptoms - Ticks and mites are small insects with round bodies tightly attached to your animal's skin. Mite infested lizards may display signs of itching or skin irritation. Mites may be visible as tiny black, orange, or red bugs on the reptile or surfaces it comes in contact with. "Dust" of white or gray color may also be visible; these are the mites' feces. Mites are most commonly found around the the head and under scales. Ticks are visible on the surface of the animal's skin.
Cause/Transmission - mites and ticks can crawl from one reptile to another. They may also be transmitted via handling and infested substrates or housing. Ticks are usually found only on wild caught animals.
Treatment - remove ticks by plucking them off of the animal with forceps or tweezers. Be certain you have removed the tick's head or infection may result. Disinfect the area with a povidone iodine solution. Mite problems should be discussed with a veterinarian. Mites are often treated with an internal parasiticide will be recommended by a veterinarian. These are extremely effective. Occasionally strip insecticides are used. These may be risky, as there is a very fine line between the level of airborne toxin that will kill the parasites and the level that will harm your animal. When using such a strip, all water and food must be removed from the cage and you must make sure the enclosure is well ventilated. Place the strip in a plastic or cardboard container with holes cut in it to allow the parasiticide to escape. Be absolutely sure that your animal cannot touch the strip. Usually six millimeters of strip are used per ten cubic feet of cage space. After such a treatment, clean the cage well. This treatment may have to be repeated once a week for a month. Spray parasiticides like pyrethrins are available and are usually quite safe. They may be sprayed directly onto animals and the enclosure. Formulas made for kittens and puppies under 12 weeks of age may also be used no less than once each week. Most pet supply stores sell very safe parasiticides, although these may be less effective. Other highly effective external, spray formulas may be more toxic and will have to be diluted. In all cases be sure to read and follow the specifications on the packaging in addition to consulting your vet. Soaking is another way to temporarily remove the majority of the mites from a animal's body; however, it leaves the mites on the animal's head alive, and this is an area where they tend to congregate. The animal is placed in water and allowed to soak for an extended period of time. Rubbing olive oil over a reptile's body can also help to suffocate mites. This should only be done with adult reptiles and you must take special care not to get any oil in the reptile's eyes or nostrils. Again, mites in these areas will remain living and will repopulate the animal if left untreated. Ivermectin may never be used on tortoises or turtles. Remember that the enclosure must be thoroughly treated as well.
Internal Parasites - parasites inhabiting the host's internal organs. Varieties range from single celled parasites (such as Monocercomonas and Giardia) to worms (such as tapeworms).
Physical Symptoms - often there will be no symptoms although some animals may have decreased appetites, weight loss, or regurgitation. Subcutaneous parasites often can be felt just under the skin. Fecal or blood examinations by a veterinarian are the preferred methods of diagnosis.
Cause/Transmission - internal parasites are usually passed from one animal to another through direct and indirect contact between hosts which can include infected prey items.
Treatment - consult your veterinarian. Many will recommend medications such as Metronidazole, Oxfendazole, Fenbendazole, Levamisole, or Ivermectin.
Metabolic Bone Disease - most commonly seen in, but not limited to, herbivorous lizards, a calcium deficiency that causes the animal's bones to soften or break easily. In severe instances when the disease is untreated, paralysis or death may result.
Physical Symptoms - squeeze the animal's jaw gently. If it feels soft or if it "gives", the bones may have become soft. Lethargy or bent, collapsed backs or spines may be another symptom. Most commonly, swellings on the limbs are evident.
Cause/Transmission - diets low in calcium or inability to process calcium due to insufficient sunlight/UVB exposure.
Treatment - ensure your animal is fed a proper diet including high calcium greens, and that it has plenty of exposure to sunlight. Consult your veterinarian if the condition continues to worsen.
Minor Cuts or Scrapes - minor skin damage caused by the abrasion away or slicing of the skin.
Physical symptoms - visible cuts or scrapes.
Cause/Transmission - sharp surfaces in the animal's enclosure which catch on the animal's skin, repeated contact with jagged or rough surfaces that has abraded the skin, physical skirmishes with other animals. Many times a animal will rub a part of its body, like its nose, repeatedly on a rough rock or screen and may abrade its skin. Live prey items can also scratch or bite your animal.
Treatment - clean the area with a povidone iodine solution. Consult your veterinarian.
Mouth Rot - bacterial infection with various causes. If untreated, Mouth Rot (also known as Infectious Stomatitis) can spread to affect not only palatal tissues but also jawbones, gums, and teeth. Eventually it might spread to the esophagus and internal organs.
Physical Symptoms - bright pink or red coloration in the mouth, tongue, or gum line. White or whitish-yellow substance similar to cottage cheese visible at gum line, in corners or mouth, or under lips.
Cause/Transmission - bacterial. High risk activities include unsanitary conditions, stress, stale water, rubbing the nose against abrasive areas in the cage, or striking at hard objects.
Treatment - Moisten a cotton swab in a dilute povidone iodine solution and swab the visible cheesy substance out of the mouth. Consult your veterinarian for treatment since antibiotics may be necessary.
Nail Damage - ripped out or broken nails. May be prevented by eliminating materials with small holes (cholla wood, for example) from the lizard's enclosure and by keeping the lizard's nails trimmed or filed.
Physical Symptoms - bent, sensitive, or bleeding toes, claws hanging loosely by shreds of skin.
Cause/Transmission - nails caught in small holes in climbing materials, wire mesh, cloth, or other items are removed suddenly or forcefully by the lizard.
Treatment - bathe the area in a povidone iodine solution. See your veterinarian. Some claws hanging by skin only may need to be removed.
Renal Dysfunction - sometimes seen in Iguanas. Kidneys failing resulting in a animal that can no longer filter wastes from its blood.
Physical Symptoms - weight loss, lethargy, refusal of food, frequent drinking, swollen neck or dewlap, distended abdomen.
Cause/Transmission - dehydration, improper diet or diet high in animal protein, natural causes or old age. Animals successfully treated for renal dysfunction may have heightened susceptibility to the disorder later.
Treatment - correction of diet or husbandry practices, fluid and hydration therapy.
Respiratory Infection - bacterial or viral infections of the respiratory tract. Includes such diseases as Pneumonia or Runny Nose Syndrome (chronic rhinitis).
Physical Symptoms - nasal bubbles, mucous in the animal's mouth, gaping of the mouth, gurgling noises indicating fluid in the lungs, wheezing, coughing, or open mouthed breathing.
Cause/Transmission - Stressful situations lower a animal's resistance to respiratory infections and some animals may be particularly susceptible to respiratory infections after laying their eggs, giving birth, having been transported, or being too cold or wet.
Treatment - make sure the temperature and humidity in the enclosure is correct and remove it from undue stresses. Consult your veterinarian. Respiratory infections are usually treated with antibiotics.
Breeding - Part 7 of 7
It is somewhat more difficult to breed lizards than it is to breed other reptiles such as snakes. Many lizards may need to be hibernated before they will breed. It is advisable to only attempt hibernation or breeding with healthy animals.
If you cannot readily determine the sex of your lizard, there are several methods of sexing. Some may only be performed by professionals or veterinarians, but others are as simple as looking more closely at certain areas of the lizard. Male lizards are distinguished by the presence of two hemipenes, which are their reproductive organs.
The first method of sexing is to look at the lizard's pre-anal or femoral pores. In males, these pores are usually larger or more readily visible than in the female. These pores are located on the rear thighs near or just above the cloacal vent. Another visual clue may be found at the base of the tail. Male lizards will generally have a thicker tail base than female lizards because of the presence of hemipenes.
Another, more accurate method of sexing used in some lizards involves injecting a saline solution near the hemipenes. This causes one or both hemipenes to evert (if present), which demonstrates the sex. This should be performed by a veterinarian.
Unlike snakes, lizards cannot usually be probed due to the convoluted shape of the hemipenes.
Although commonly referred to as "hibernation", the technical word for the state of dormancy in reptiles is brumation. This process requires specific temperature conditions. Humidity levels and photo-periods may also have to be modified. You should take the time to check the requirements for individual lizard species before attempting to hibernate yours. Simply lowering the temperature of the enclosure may result in a lizard that is not cold enough to hibernate but too cold to remain healthy. Some lizards may not be able to hibernate.
Generally, you should not feed your lizard for about two weeks before you hibernate it, as cold lizards cannot digest food properly, causing health problems. During hibernation you should provide water for your lizard and commonly lizard keepers check their animals at weekly intervals. After bringing your lizard out of hibernation, you should generally wait a few days before gradually bringing them back to their normal feeding schedule. In some lizards like the Uromastyx, the femoral pores will secrete a thick fluid, indicating that the lizard is ready to breed. Some male lizards may become more aggressive or territorial than usual during the breeding season.
In order to breed your lizards, it may be best to introduce the male into the female's cage. Lizards usually mate by the parallel alignment of the cloacas, allowing a hemipene to be inserted into the female where it will deposit sperm to fertilize the female's eggs. Many male lizards will bite the neck of the female lizard while mating and then wrap their body around hers to effectively position their bodies for copulation. Some female lizards may be able to store sperm in their bodies for extended periods of time before fertilizing their eggs. This greatly increases the chances of successful conception.
You should separate your lizards again after copulation. Many female lizards show pregnancy well. Some Geckos will actually have eggs visible beneath their skin, while other lizards will have large, lumpy abdomens. Gravid egg-laying females generally should be supplemented with extra calcium, although some may stop eating at some point.
While some lizards give birth to live young, others lay eggs. These live-bearing species are known as ovoviviparous species, while egg-laying lizards are called oviparous.
Some species of lizard, Water Dragons for example, may lay their eggs regardless of whether or not they have been fertilized. These lizards should be treated in the same manner as egg-laying lizards that have been bred.
Generally lizards should be provided with a nesting box. Clear plastic enclosures with an entrance hole cut out may work well, as you are able to see the eggs once they have been laid. Peat moss usually makes a good nesting material, and you will often know when the lizard is laying her eggs because she will dig some out of the box while fixing her nest. Some lizards, like Day Geckos, may prefer to lay their eggs in what they perceive to be secluded or protected spot, like a crack or hole in a branch or in a leaf joint. Others will scrape out a shallow depression in the ground or some may dig a burrow and line it with vegetation or other material. Burrowing lizards can usually be satisfied with a nesting box.
Eggs can be removed from the enclosure/nest box and incubated at a specific temperature and humidity. This is necessary in order for the eggs to be able to hatch. Such specifications will vary between different species of lizard, and you should find out what the correct levels are prior to laying so you can be prepared. Experienced lizard keepers also keep the incubator set up and running properly prior to laying. The temperature at which lizard eggs are incubated may be used to determine the sex of the hatchlings. Slightly higher incubation temperatures (by a few degrees Fahrenheit) will yield more males than normal. Conversely, slightly lower incubation temperatures (by a few degrees Fahrenheit) will yield more females than normal. When moving any lizard egg, try to be as careful as possible. Also, it is best for the egg if you try to keep it in the same position in which it was resting after laying. Some lizards are known as gluers. This means they attach their eggs to the surface on which they lay. Attempts to move the eggs might break or damage them, and when dealing with glued eggs you should move the entire object onto which they are glued into your incubator. Non-gluers lay eggs that are not physically attached to a surface. Do not separate eggs that are stuck to each other, even if one is a bad egg. Do not "turn" eggs. Unlike birds, reptile eggs must remain in the same position if they are to properly develop.
As baby lizards are hatched or born, if they are in the same enclosure as the parents, you should remove them from the enclosure due to the danger of parental aggression. Unlike mammalian animals, the mother lizard has nothing to do with her young; they must survive without any parental help. Usually young lizards will not feed until after their first shed.
Additional Breeding Information for Basilisk - Green
Successful breeding of the Green Basilisk will require maintaining proper humidity, temperature, and light. It will also require healthy lizards and the proper procedure for incubation. They will need a high relative humidity to necessitate breeding (about 80%) and temperatures in the mid- to upper 80s are optimal. 12 hours of light to 12 hours of dark, seems to work well. Separating females from males prior to breeding will increase the chances of them successfully mating. The male will grab the female by the skin on the back of her head and mating may last as long as 20 minutes. Pregnant females should get noticeably fatter after a week or two, and by week three, they will look for a place to bury eggs. For ground material, use a slightly damp mixture of peat moss, soil, and sand.
Clutch sizes vary from 8-18 eggs and they may lay multiple clutches per season, sometimes up to four or five. Incubate the eggs at about 84 degrees Fahrenheit in a 1:1 (by weight) mixture of water and vermiculite. The eggs will hatch in between eight to ten weeks later, and the hatching usually takes one to two days to complete. They should reach sexual maturity at about 1.5 to 2 years of age.
Please Note: This care sheet is copyright © The Central Pets Educational Foundation (CentralPets.com). It may be freely distributed provided that this notice and Copyright remains included and unchanged. We encourage veterinarians, clubs, pet stores, breeders, humane societies, and others to use this to educate people and promote better pet care. Additions, suggestions, corrections, and questions regarding this care sheet are welcome and should be directed to content@CentralPets.com