Reptile Health Care
The best way to avoid shedding problems is to spray your reptile’s cage with water once a day whilst it is in its shed phase. This will increase the humidity in the cage and will usually result in a complete shed skin. If, however, your snake or lizard has a stuck shed there are a few things you can try in order to remove it safely. Soaking your reptile in warm water for around 15 minutes will loosen the stuck shed and allow you to gently pull it off. Another method you can use with snakes is to moisten a hand towel with warm water, wrap the towel around the snake whilst holding it and let the snake crawl through the towel, this should pull any stuck shed off the snake. You can also rub some tissue oil or sunflower oil onto your reptile to loosen its shed skin. There are products you can buy at pet shops to assist your reptiles with shedding but they can be expensive and I have found that you can easily remove stuck sheds using just warm water.
If your reptile has not defecated for a while the best way to get it to have a bowel movement is to put it in a bath of warm water. This gets the gut moving and often results in a bowel movement. You can also try gently massaging your reptiles belly while it is having a warm bath. Remember that reptiles do not defecate as often as mammals and birds do and some species of reptiles will go for quite a while without passing anything. If your reptile eats something it cannot digest or something which is too big to pass out of its digestive tract it will get a gut impaction. Sometimes the impaction can be remedied at home by giving the same treatment as constipation. I have also found that giving electrolytes helps reptiles with gut impactions as they often stop eating because of the impaction and are dehydrated and weak. I use Exo Terra Electrolyte drops which you add to your reptile’s water dish. If the impaction has not passed in a few days you will need to take your reptile to the vet. Force feeding a liquid diet can also get the gut moving and can make your reptile pass the impacted material. These home remedies only work for objects small enough to be passed through your reptile’s digestive tract such as sand etc. Larger items that cannot be passed will have to be surgically removed by a qualified reptile vet.
Sometimes your reptile will scratch itself on cage decorations, scrape its nose on the glass or get a minor burn from a heat pad. Minor wounds such as these can be treated at home while more serious wounds need to be treated by a vet and the most serious wounds can be a medical emergency. Most minor cuts and scrapes will heal on their own without any treatment but you can help the process along by putting some Bactroban anti-bacterial cream on any wounds. Savlon is also a good product to use when cleaning minor cuts and scrapes. I had an Axolotl that developed an abscess on the top of its head. I treated it at home by putting the Axolotl in a separate container of water filled with anti-bacterial fish tank drops. The abscess burst and Mercurochrome was put on the wound to kill off any bacteria. The abscess healed very quickly using this method of home treatment and I am sure that it will work with other amphibian species. Watch all wounds you are treating for signs of infection such as redness or puss. If the wound gets infected take your reptile to the vet. Keep all reptiles which have open wounds in clean, dry cages as dirty humid conditions are a breeding ground for bacteria.
I had a Leopard Gecko which developed an eye infection. I did end up taking her to a vet but there is also a home remedy that you can try should one of your lizards develop an eye infection. Saline solution can be used to flush your lizard’s eyes out. This will wash out any debris such as retained shed skin, substrate etc. and will also help moisten the eye. A lizard with an eye infection will keep its eyes closed so you will have to use a lot of saline solution as most of it will not enter the eye. I used Salex saline solution and a bottle that is used to flush your sinuses out which is also a Salex product. Salex solution comes in a sachet that you mix with water. Both the Salex sachets and the sinus flushing bottle can be purchased at your local pharmacy. I also raised the humidity in the Leopard Geckos cage and put her in a humidity chamber to help moisten her eyes. You can make a humidity chamber using a plastic tub or plastic terrarium that you put warm water in and then put over a heat pad or in a warm cage to produce humidity. Humidity chambers are also useful for shedding problems and if you ever need to get a dehydrated reptile back to health.
Force feeding should only be attempted with reptiles which have not eaten in a while and that refuse to eat by themselves. Force feeding should always be a last resort and should be performed only once you have tried every other method to get your snake or lizard to eat by themselves. Force feeding is best done with a liquid diet administered through a syringe and a feeding tube. You can purchase syringes without needles from a pharmacy or your local vet. For the tube I like to use soft aquarium tubing. I cut the end of the tube at an angle so I can use it to pry open the reptile’s mouth. When force feeding snakes pass the tube down past the neck into the first fifth of the snake’s length. When force feeding lizards pass the tube just passed their necks. Make sure to avoid passing the tube into the trachea of your reptiles to prevent your snake or lizard from aspirating on the liquid diet. For the force feeding liquid diet I use Hills a/d which is a tinned dog and cat food that you can purchase from most vets. The mixture I use is as follows: 1/2 teaspoons Hills a/d with 1 teaspoon warm water with 1/5 teaspoons of calcium powder.