Four Things You Absolutely Must Know Before Adopting a Reptile

I adore cats, and I follow multiple dog rescues on Facebook. But allergies have kept me from having a fur baby of my own. Fortunately, I am still the loving mother of a bearded dragon.

Since adopting my “scaley princess,” I have learned how reptiles like bearded dragons, snakes, and leopard geckos can make wonderful pets. Unfortunately, some people treat reptiles as little more than trophies or disposable pets, or maybe a dog with scales. If you are thinking of adopting a reptile, there are four things that you must consider first!


1. Do Your Research

Not only do reptiles and mammals have different nutritional and environmental needs, but not all reptiles have the same needs. For example, bearded dragons and iguanas need UV lighting. Different snakes require different humidity levels. Leopard geckos eat only insects.

Whatever reptile you choose, make sure you understand its needs and are prepared to meet them in your home and budget–on their terms, not your own!

pet iguana

2. A Reptile Is Not A Dog

“Well, duh, isn’t that obvious?” you ask. It should be, but some people do treat their lizards like nothing more than dogs with scales! Many mammals have been shown to demonstrate affection and other social behaviors. Rats can even show compassion.

Less is known about the emotions of reptiles, but they are generally regarded as less social animals. Two lizards on top of each other are not cuddling like puppies–they are more likely competing for dominance and basking space. Mistaking behaviors like this can cause stress on the animals and reduce their quality of life. Don’t treat your pet like the animal it isn’t!

3. Reptiles Need Enrichment

“Enrichment” is a term that many vets and zoos use to describe activities that encourage natural behaviors. Cold-blooded reptiles do spend a lot of time sitting around and soaking up warmth, but they still benefit from mental stimulation! Try giving them lots of things to climb on, and rearrange their “furniture” periodically. Switch up the type of substrate you use–but make sure it’s still suitable to the species. Give them time out of their cage every day, take them outside if it’s warm, or feed them at a different time of day.

pet bearded dragon

4. Prepare To Learn A Lot!

With the appropriate care and attitude, a reptile can be a rewarding and even educational companion! My bearded dragon, Aravis, will sometimes hide in her cage for days, seemingly for no reason. To my disappointment, Google and other online sources were no help in figuring out why. Finally, I noticed that she tends to hide when the weather changes–she feels the barometric pressure drop and hides to escape the rain that follows. To quote Jurassic Park, “Clever girl.”

Keeping a reptile may not be the same as keeping a mammal, but this doesn’t mean that they are not fun, fascinating pets. With the proper knowledge and care, even the most cold-blooded critter will warm your heart!

Author Bio: Emily Jacobs is a freelance writer and content marketer living in Northwest Ohio with her bearded dragon, Aravis. When she’s not working for clients or writing for her website, she enjoys cooking, road trips, jogging, and reading morbid history.

Why do dogs love antlers?

Why Your Dog Loves Antlers

Dogs can't get enough elk antlers. Delicious and nutritious antler treats.

Dogs can’t get enough elk antlers. Delicious and nutritious antler treats. The elk ask the dogs to wait until we shed them first.

“Why would my dog like antlers? They are hard and smell flavorless.”

This is what a lot dog parents think when they first hear about antlers for dogs.  However, dogs LVE chewing on antlers.  Still confused?  We were.

Here are some quick reasons dogs like antlers:

  • Chewing: Antlers are long lasting and satisfy the dog’s need to chew.  Whole antlers last longer than center-cut antlers (cut in half with marrow exposed).
  • Highly Nutritious: High Protein, Calcium Phosphorous.  Low in fat.  Also include plenty of Magnesium, Sodium, Copper, Zinc and Iron.  Left on the ground in the wilderness, mice and other animals consume antlers for their nutritional value.
    Elk Example Nutrition:
    Protein........ 45%
    Calcium........ 22%
    Phosphorous.... 11%
    Fat............  1%
  • Safe: Events of accidents from chewing deer antlers compared to pig bones or cow bones is very low. Still, no dog should be left unattended when chewing antlers.  Sharp edges can occur and may need to be sanded down to prevent injury.
  • A Variety of Shapes, Sizes, and Texture: No two antlers are alike, your dog will enjoy the variety. Be sure to chose the right size for your dog.  When it antler gets small enough to become a chocking hazard.  It’s time to take it away and get them a new one.

Why people like antlers:

  • Humane and sustainable: Animals (Elk and Deer) aren’t harmed for their antlers.  They are shed naturally each season, picked up, cleaned and ready for chewing.
  • Clean: Elk and Deer antlers don’t smell or stain. Both dogs and people enjoy them.

What is the difference between Deer, Elk and Moose?  Deer antlers are dense and hard. Elk antlers are softer and more spongy on the inside. Moose antlers are flat and don’t make for an idea dog chew.

If the antler has dried out and lost it’s flavor, soak it in broth, smear some canned food or even coconut oil can spark their interest again.

Don’t let your dog chew more than ½ inch per day.  Too much at once can cause stomach upset. Always supervise! Antlers have had reports of causing crown fractures and large splinters can break off (although rare) and be hazardous.  Other hard items to watch for; bones, hard-pressed rawhide, hard nylon bones, bully sticks. Bully horns from water buffalo can be concerning as they splinter in thick chunks.

Antlers begin as cartilage and grow fast! Faster than any other bone grows. Growing as much as an inch per day during the summer! As antlers start to grow, they are still soft, blood flows through veins and the cartilage antlers are covered in velvet (a thin skin of fur).  When fully grown, these antlers begin to harden and the velvet dries and is rubbed off (usually on trees). In the winter the cartilage mineralizes into hard bone and then fall off.

Antlers are amazing natural structures. Scientists are studying them to unlock the secrets of fast cell regeneration and dogs are enjoying them for health and fun!

Written by Jesse a HealthyPets staff member who loves all animals and is a licensed falconer, you can follow him and his animals on his instagram.

BONUS: Where do these antlers come from?

Antler Hunting or Shed Hunting can be illegal where you live. Some states have seasons for it.  Check your state’s department of fish and game/wildlife.  The antlers that are sold through are purchased legally through antler auctions. Many times it is boy scouts that pickup antlers to be auctioned helping with their fund raising as well as a neat, fun activity. Still, the easiest way is to let ship them to you.

The Truth About Pet Skin Conditions

Pet parents spend a lot of time searching the internet when something is wrong with their pet. While the internet can be a great resource, some of the information is not always reliable and this is particularly the case when it comes to pet skin conditions.  Misinformation can prompt owners to think that their pets are dying of skin cancer or have skin issues that require exotic diets.  It turns out that both these situations are extremely rare.

Advanced Dermatology teamed up with Veterinarian Krista Magnificio to create a comprehensive guide for pet owners that clears up many common misconceptions regarding pet skin conditions. They wanted to try and dispel common myths regarding two of the most talked-about culprits of a pet’s skin (diet and cancer).  In the guide they cover the primary causes of pet skin conditions, the signs you need to look out for, and the things to discuss with your veterinarian if you suspect your pet has a skin condition that needs to be addressed.