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It’s Not Snake Oil

Tom Mazorlig//March 31, 2015//

It’s Not Snake Oil

Tom Mazorlig //March 31, 2015//

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Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are fairly common in pet herps. According to John Mack, owner of Ohio-based Reptiles by Mack, “calcium and vitamin A deficiencies are probably the most commonly seen deficiencies, depending on the species.” Stocking supplements and some over-the-counter medications to help with other herp health issues can bring in sales and build your store a reputation for reptile expertise.

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

It is usually a good idea to provide a pet herp with vitamin and mineral supplementation. This ensures the pet is getting optimum nutrition and goes a long way toward enabling it to live a long and healthy life.

A high-quality multivitamin and multimineral supplement is a must-have for most species. One aspect of these products to educate hobbyists about is whether or not the supplement contains vitamin D3. Reptiles make D3 when they are exposed to natural sunlight or lighting that emits ultraviolet B waves (UVB). If a reptile is kept outdoors or under very intense UVB lighting, it’s best to use a supplement without D3. Otherwise, a supplement with D3 is usually best, although this will also depend on the species.

Zoo Med offers ReptiVite in formulas with or without vitamin D3. It is a complete vitamin, mineral and amino acid complex specifically formulated for reptiles. It does not contain fillers like soy, yeast or sucrose.

Exo Terra Multivitamin contains a perfect balance of vitamins, amino acids, minerals and trace elements. The vitamin A in the product is in the form of beta carotene, which may reduce the risk of overdosing.

For many species, using an additional calcium supplement is important for optimal health. As with vitamins, there are a number of brands and these come with and without vitamin D3.

One of the newest products is Exo Terra Calcium, a liquid calcium and magnesium supplement. The magnesium in this supplement helps the animal absorb the calcium and has its own important role in bodily functions. The liquid formula is easily absorbed by the digestive system.

Other good calcium supplements include Fluker’s Calcium Supplement, Zoo Med’s Repti Calcium and Zilla’s Food Spray Calcium Supplement.

Medications and Treatments

Most reptile keepers have to deal with mites at one time or another. Mites are blood-sucking arachnids, similar to ticks but smaller and infesting in great numbers. They are mostly seen on wild-caught reptiles but they easily spread from one enclosure to another. To get rid of these pests, Allen Both, owner of Reptile Kingdom in Toms River, N.J., recommends Provent-a-Mite spray.

“It works great on corn snakes, kingsnakes and most other species,” he said. “I don’t recommend it for emerald tree boas, green tree pythons or mountain kingsnakes.”

Sick reptiles and amphibians may not eat and even if they do, they may need extra energy and nutrients to help them recover. Zilla Jump-Start provides concentrated calories and nutrients to help speed recovery and boost appetite. This is a good product to stock for customers and to use on store livestock that is feeling under the weather.

Eye problems are especially common in turtles and tortoises. These often stem from vitamin A deficiency. One product to address this issue is Repti Turtle Eye Drops by Zoo Med. Used as instructed, it opens and cleans inflamed turtle eyes and helps prevent eye disease caused by vitamin A deficiency. According to the company website, it’s especially good for the eye problems of box turtles.

For wounds on turtles and other semi-aquatic reptiles, API Turtle Fix is a safe way to treat topical bacterial infections. It helps repair damaged tissue.

Stocking the Shelves

“We recommend to stock and sell the various UV lighting, calcium, vitamin D3 and a full-spectrum reptile vitamin,” said John Mack. “These vary again depending on the species, so good resources and training for your staff will not only help you sell more supplements but will keep your customers happy and coming back if they perceive you as a reliable resource.”

Even if you are stocking these products, the best thing you can provide for more serious problems in reptiles and amphibians is the advice that the keeper take his or her animal to a veterinarian for expert appraisal and care.