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VACTF Manual: Chapter 6: Animal Care Practices


Basic Animal Care Practices

  • Lizards are the most varied of all reptiles, ranging in size from less than an inch to over ten feet. They are carnivorous, insectivorous, herbivorous, and omnivorous. NOTE: Do not feed lizards cat food because they can't digest the fish oil properly.

  • More lizards are killed due to improper heating than any other single cause. As for all reptiles, the three elements affecting the body temperature include radiant heat from the sun, indirect radiant heat from the rocks and surface layer of the ground, and ambient heat of the air.

  • Again as for all reptiles, it is best to house the lizard in a cage large enough to allow a thermal gradient, by locating a heat source at one end and providing a cool retreat at the other. NOTE: Never allow lizards to be subjected to direct sunlight in a glass enclosure without the ability to escape. They will quickly die from heat exposure.

  • Captive lizards acquire water in several ways: from plants, twigs, rocks or any other surface such as the cage walls (mist the cage or area around the lizard with water twice a day), from a container (usually prefer to immerse themselves while drinking), and through the liquid contained in their natural diet.

  • Flooring varies with each species. NOTE: Avoid kitty litter because it will cause impaction. Acceptable substrates for most lizards are newspaper, indoor-outdoor carpeting, or cloth towels.

Additional recommendations

Ultraviolet light is necessary for iguanas.

Signs of neglect/cruelty - what to look for

Appearance of animal: sunken eyes, wrinkled skin, protruding hip bones in conjunction with a thin or sunken tail at the base, damaged mouth, bumps, cuts, sores, and poor coloration.

Housing Conditions: Should provide adequate space and be sufficient to the needs of the particular species.

Behavior: Judging behavior to determine animal cruelty is difficult because many lizards will "suffer in silence" long before they show any physical symptoms. The physical condition of the animal and its surroundings can be indicative of improper management (poor diet, unsanitary conditions, incorrect temperatures and overcrowding), which may constitute animal cruelty.

If any of the elements above are present, arrange to have a veterinarian examine animals.

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