Preventing Nutrient Deficiency in Your Reptile

By PetcoBlogger on Jul. 11, 2017


Reptile nutrition and the integration of vitamins and supplements can be a debatable topic. Most of the food we feed our pet reptiles on its own doesn’t offer complete nutrition for a healthy life. Many pet reptiles—especially insectivores and herbivores—need vitamins and/or supplements (like calcium) for their complete health. One of the keys to your reptile’s complete health is providing that balance of fresh fruits and vegetables, feeder insects (like Vita Bugs), commercial diets (such as pelleted formulas) and vitamins and supplements.

Without essential nutrients, your reptile can develop life threatening conditions. A common condition is fibrous osteodystrophy, or more commonly known as metabolic bone disease (MBD). This condition occurs when there is something causing a calcium imbalance within your reptile, such as a lack of vitamin D3, lack of Ultraviolet lighting (UV), improper habitat temperatures or a presence of a substrate that can impair calcium absorption. Early signs of MBD include softening of the plastron or shell in turtles and tortoises, softening or swelling in the lower jaw, hard knobs on the bones of the legs and bumps along the spine or tail.

In order to metabolize calcium in their diet, reptiles need vitamin D3. This can come from one of two ways:
1) Ingesting through their food and/or supplements
2) Use of UVB lighting

What does that mean? Basically, Vitamin D3 helps reptiles metabolize the calcium they need.

The key to a reptile’s complete health (and especially diurnal reptiles) is full-spectrum lighting. This helps them process the supplements you’re providing in their diet. The combined use of supplementation and UV lighting helps reduce the risk of MBD.

The light they need covers any light between infrared lighting to near-ultraviolet light. Your reptile’s light exposure should mimic their natural environment. Timers are a good solution to allotting the amount of light they would receive during the day. Temperatures may differ from species to species, but it’s always a good idea to monitor your reptile’s habitat with a thermometer.

What you choose to feed your reptile is an important part of preventing MBD. The food that your reptile eats should have the correct phosphorus to calcium ratio. Carnivorous reptiles should be provided food that has previously eaten nutrient heavy food before being given to your pet.

These supplemental nutrients are meant to prevent and counteract the effects of threatening conditions. Adding nutrients to your pet’s diet can be as simple as spraying a liquid supplement on their food or dusting their diet with a fine powder. If you're looking for guidance on what supplements to use for your pet or if you think they may be suffering from MBD, consult your veterinarian. 

With proper nutrition, care and habitat maintenance, becoming a pet parent to a reptile can lead to a long rewarding life for both you and your pet. 


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