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Purchasing a reptile can be a difficult decision. Most people believe that reptiles are easier to maintain than cats or dogs, so they will purchase these animals for children as a “starter pet.” Unfortunately, this is a misconception. Reptiles are often just as difficult and expensive as caring for any other type of animal. In fact, some are more challenging.
About 90% of sick reptiles are ill due to poor management at home. It is important to research any reptile prior to purchasing to make sure that you are able to provide the best habitat possible. In general, most reptiles should have a heat source and a source of UVB to help them metabolize calcium. The majority of reptiles will also require additional supplements on their food. Reptiles are considered ectothermic, meaning they are unable to control their own body temperatures and rely on environmental temperatures to heat or cool themselves. This is why it is important to always provide a temperature gradient. The animal should have the option of moving to a warmer part of the habitat if they feel too cool or to a cooler part if they are too warm.
Purchasing the right reptile can be tricky. Some of the easier keepers (better for first time reptile owners) include leopard geckos, bearded dragons, corn snakes, and ball pythons. A good rule of thumb is not to purchase wild caught reptiles; instead purchase captive bred animals. Captive bred animals tend to have less parasites and diseases. Also you should not purchase these animals too young. If they are very small, they are unable to handle the stress of a new home and can die easily.
Certain reptiles can carry Salmonella which can cause disease in humans. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly every time you handle your reptile.
If you have any questions regarding purchasing a reptile or caring for your current reptile pet, please call your veterinarian to discuss.
Great link for general information regarding reptile care and needs.