Weight Management in Exotic Reptiles
The body temperature of reptiles is dependent on their external environment. Every reptile has a specific temperature range (preferred optimum temperature zone, or POTZ) at which their metabolism, immune system, and digestive tract functions best, and when they are not kept within this temperature range, they are not able to digest food properly and do not have an optimal body condition, even if they are fed properly. Also, the presence of UV light is vital in their environment to activate Vitamin D in their skin to let them absorb calcium from their food.
Many reptile owners lack information about the environment, food types, and portions that should be fed to their pets. For eg. Tortoises and Iguanas will eat meat if offered to but it wouldn’t be necessary when they are in the wild. Because of this, many pets suffer from either malnutrition or obesity and become victims of diseases like fatty liver syndrome (excess fat), soft tissue mineralization (excess Calcium and Vitamin D3), Gout (excess proteins), Hypovitaminosis, Nutritional Secondary Hyperparathyroidism or Renal Secondary Hyperparathyroidism.
To understand whether your reptile is overweight or underweight, one needs to know the metabolic weight of their pet. A variation of 10% in weight is considered to be a cause of worry. Also, the Body Condition Score (BCS) chart below can give information about body condition based on the relation between body weight and length. One can consult a vet to know the Metabolic weight of their pet and understand the weight management needs for their pet.
Weight management requires owners to assess and provide the type of food, portion of food, and enrichment sources or natural activities within the terrariums (like branches or rocks to climb or substrates to exhibit natural behavior and burn off their excessive fats) based on their pet’s requirements. Each reptile has unique requirements in terms of managing their weight. Read more to understand about weight management in Lizards, Turtles/Tortoises, and Snakes.