Helping Your Pet Reptile Through Climate Changes

The increasing popularity of pet reptiles means one can find them all over the world—finding homes in environments they would never survive in naturally. As the owner of a reptile, it is your responsibility to construct a substitute environment that still meets all of your reptiles' needs. Be careful to not underestimate this cost: reptiles are relatively cheap on the market (sometimes just a few dollars), but the cost of building and maintaining a suitable environment with proper heating can run into the hundreds. Meet with a veterinarian to discuss the specific needs of the reptile you are looking to adopt before you do so. While you must meet these needs and consequent costs all year round, there are certain changes you may see in your reptile during climate changes.

Your vet may tell you to expect your pet to “brumate” during winter (a process often mistake for hibernation). During brumation, your pet may become lethargic and move very little throughout the season. They may also alter the amount of food they eat accordingly. Depending on your species of reptile, you may need to manipulate your pet’s heaters to induce this process (though the debate regarding artificially changing temperatures is quite “heated”).

Transportation of a reptile in winter can often be a stressful process for pet-owners, but by no means should the risk deter you from taking your sick reptile to the vet if need be. There are several ways you can stave off introducing your pet to a shock of cold air. First, make sure you heat your car for several minutes before you take your reptile outside. Next, prepare a temporary environment in an insulated container. Place a bath towel inside for your pet to burrow into for the short trip. Also prepare the container with something warm, such as a hot water bottle or hand warmers. Test these items by holding them in your hand to make sure they are not too hot to the touch. Introducing water to the environment can be especially tricky, so take note that pets such as aquatic turtles can often go without water for significant periods of time (up to two hours). Again, it is important to read up on your specific type of reptile—always better to be prepared BEFORE an emergency actually hits!

A final tip centers around the type of environment you, the pet owner, live in. Many homeowners are subject to power outages during brutal winter storms—some of which can last for days! Many reptiles will not be able to survive for this long without their heat source. Invest in both a surge protector and a small generator to protect your pet from these types of situations.