Keeping Reptiles Newsletter
  Issue 7 Vol 7 July 2011
Karma Chameleon: Feed Your Reptile Well And Often In this Issue

Chameleons are among the most fascinating of reptiles, and even the youngest reptile lover can become captivated by the idea of adding one to the roster of family pets. However, chameleons are also one of the most neglected reptile pets, since many choose to acquire one for an anxious youngster on a whim, or without doing extensive research on the subject. A chameleon that isn't properly housed, fed, and watered is likely to die relatively quickly. Most often, the mistakes that are made by beginners are simple and based on a lack of information, but sadly, can cost a chameleon his life.

Feeding and watering the chameleon is a huge part of maintaining his health and well-being, so it's a good idea to do some research on what a chameleon needs to thrive as a pet before acquiring the animal or moving him into your home. The chameleon is an insectivore, living on a diet of live insects and small invertebrates, such as snails and spiders. Some are even known to eat small lizards, though this is not standard.

In the wild, the chameleon is typically healthy and properly nourished because he has the cycle of life working to his advantage. A wild chameleon might feed on hundreds of varieties of insects, snails, and the like, helping him to meet his nutritional needs naturally. In turn, the insects that the chameleon is feeding upon are generally properly nourished from a natural and healthy diet. If a wild chameleon is not getting everything he needs from his feeder insects, he will recognize this, and supplement his diet with wild berries, fruits, and flowers. When a wild chameleon dies before his life cycle is complete, it is typically due to predator attack or eating matter infected by pesticides; however, malnutrition is not a common problem.

Female Chameleo calyptratus
male Chameleo calyptratus
Female Veiled Chameleon
Male Veiled Chameleon

On the other hand, captive chameleons that die young most often suffer from malnutrition, the result of being cared for by owners that simply aren't well-informed enough to understand the animal's dietary needs, or to recognize the common signs of trouble. Most chameleon owners offer the chameleon less than 5 varieties of feeder insects---crickets being the most popular--- and many times, the feeder insects themselves are not in the best of health. The result of this classic error is that the chameleon does not have an opportunity to get all the nutrients he needs to survive and grow.

Whether you're raising your own feeder insects, or getting them from another source, it's important to remember that variety is the spice of life. In addition to crickets, your chameleon should be fed mealworms, beetles, houseflies, silkworms, grasshoppers, tropical roaches, and garden pests. It is also a good idea to supplement a diet of feeder insects with wild insects, particularly those you may find in your own backyard, since there is a smaller chance they've been exposed to pesticides and toxins. Unwanted moths, snails, and worms may be bad for your garden, but they're great for your chameleon.

If you have concerns about your chameleon's health or diet, it's important to take him to the veterinarian immediately. It doesn't take a long time for malnutrition to set in, and often times, reptile parents seek help too late to save an ill chameleon. Chameleons are experts at hiding signs of illness, but by the time you notice lethargy and sunken eyes as symptoms of distress, your chameleon is experiencing kidney failure, typically a result of malnutrition and dehydration. Being vigilant about your chameleon's diet, keeping an eye on how much he eats or drinks, and periodic vet exams are all integral parts of your chameleon's survival.

  1. Karma Chameleon: Feed Your Reptile Well And Often
  2. Under The Skin: 5 Things You Need To Know About Snake Shedding
  3. Get Paid to write an article
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Under The Skin: 5 Things You Need To Know About Snake Shedding

Most people know that snakes shed their skin, but the how and why of the process is one that many don't understand, until they own a snake. Although the process itself appears unique, and an abandoned snake skin is likely to capture some interest and leave people wondering, "How does the snake do that?", it's really not much different than a dog or cat shedding its' winter coat. The main difference is simply that unlike humans or other mammals, the snake has the ability to completely shed a layer of skin at one time. Here's what you need to know to understand the process of snake shedding, and how to care for your snake during that time.

Why Do Snakes Shed Their Skin?

rat snake shedding skinAlthough the proper name for the process is ecdysis, many simply refer to it as moulting. A healthy snake is expected to shed his skin 4-8 times per year. The main reason that snakes undergo this process, especially as the juvenile grows into an adult, is that as a snake grows, his skin lacks the elasticity to grow with him. As a result, he must shed the old, ill-fitting skin.

Adult snakes shed their skin with less frequency than their younger counterparts, but it is still an important part of their health and well-being.

How Does A Snake Shed?

The snake will begin the shedding process by using objects in his environment to help loosen the skin below the eyes, and covering the nose, mouth, and chin areas. Once the snake has freed his head from his existing skin, he will begin to move around, passing through objects that allow the loose skin to "catch". As soon as the loose skin is snagged between objects, it gives the snake an opportunity to simply glide out of his old skin, leaving it behind.

Does Shedding Hurt The Snake?

The process of moulting does not hurt the snake, although he may appear tired, snappish, or extremely thirsty after the skin has been shed. Give the snake a day or so after the shed before handling him or feeding him.

How Do I Know When My Snake Is Ready To Shed?

For a week or two prior to the snake shedding his skin, you may notice changes in both the appearance and the behavior of the snake. These are perfectly normal, and should inspire no cause for concern.

The snake is largely inactive for 1-2 weeks before shedding because the skin is covering his eyes, making it harder for him to see. This is characterized by a dull, bluish-white appearance to the eyes, and skin that begins to look less vibrant. As the top layer of skin prepares to be discarded, the skin underneath is still soft and doesn't protect the snake as well as he's used to, leaving the snake feeling vulnerable. Extra care should be used when handling or feeding during this time, as some snakes become "grumpy" or uncharacteristically aggressive.

Why Doesn't My Snake Shed In One Piece?

A healthy, adult snake will typically have no problems shedding his skin in one piece. If you notice that the snake has difficulty with the shedding process, or that his skin seems to flake off one piece at a time, leaving scaly patches behind on the body, it could be a sign that something is wrong.

The most common reason snakes have trouble with moulting is that the temperature and humidity levels in their enclosures are less than ideal. If you've kept an eye on things, and know the snake's environment is fine, don't hesitate to take him to the veterinarian for a quick check-up. Your snake might be sick, stressed out by his environment, or suffering from malnutrition. Fortunately, all of these problems can be corrected rather easily.

The shedding of the skin is a normal, albeit stressful, part of a snake's lifecycle. It's a good idea to keep an eye on him to make sure the process goes well, but leaving him comfortable and undisturbed is the best way to get your snake through the event.

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Reptile-cage-plans apologises for the dealy in the newsletter this year. The mail server went down with all of the subscribers and purchaser email addresses and it took some time to recover this data. The backup subscriber files were also sadly missing in action.

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