Not all pets have fur
As it was St George’s Day last Tuesday 23rd April, let’s celebrate the dragon.
Bearded dragons are perhaps the easiest of the reptiles to keep in captivity.
Having said that, no reptile should ever be considered an easy pet. They are completely dependent on their owner, so that if we get things wrong within their little enclosures their health and wellbeing can suffer dramatically.
This is because reptiles are ectothermic, or cold blooded. Whereas we mammals can generate our own warmth, up to a point, reptiles need an external heat source, such as the sun or a warm rock, to come to a temperature where they can be active, graze, catch prey or digest what they have eaten.
When a bearded dragon is unwell, the first thing I do is to ask about the set-up of their vivarium. It is not possible to keep a reptile healthy long term without at least two thermometers constantly monitoring the temperature gradient. There need to be thermostats as well, so that we can mimic night and day rhythms, and specialist light bulbs that produce UV light, which need changing at least every six months. We need to set them up with hot spots to bask in, and branches and rocks to climb on or under.
In the wild a bearded dragon would seek out a wide variety of different foods, not just insects but also plants and vegetables. But in captivity they can only choose from what they are given. Some have to make do with nothing but crickets all their lives, until they gradually become deficient. I encourage my beardie owners to remember that they are omnivores and offer a wide variety of choices in diet.
When it comes to shedding their skin they also have very specific needs, especially relating to a local area of humidity. If this goes wrong they have been known to lose a toe or the tip of their tail, when the old skin fails to peel away completely, causing necrosis and death of the extremity.
So, if your interest is in reptile keeping, please do a lot of research before getting your first bearded dragon, and make
really sure that you can maintain an environment as close to the woodlands and
scrublands of Australia as possible, to ensure its wellbeing.
25th April 2019