As I type this we are in the grip of one of our sporadic summer heatwaves. And as usual, it’s caught us all on the hop!
We are getting quite a few panicked phone calls from customers whose vivaria temperatures are going through the roof, wondering what to do about it, and worried that their pet will be adversely affected.
Well, first the bad news. YES, overheating can be deadly. Too much heat will kill much, much more quickly than cold will.
But all is not lost! There are things you can do to ensure your pet’s safety in these trying times.
So how can you tell if your pet is too hot? Well, reach for your trusty digital thermometer! It might be that the temperature is on the high end of normal for the species you keep; as a species we are dreadful at estimating temperature, and what is uncomfortable for us might be just fine for your bearded dragon. Even more than usual, keep an eye on your temperatures – at night as well as during the day. It might be that your efforts to cool your vivarium work so well that the temperature drops too low at night!
Double check what temperatures your pet needs, and check what you’re actually getting. Salamanders will be in trouble quite quickly, but uromastyx and tortoises love it at a much higher temperature!
If your animal does overheat, the symptoms can be quite alarming. Lizards will gape, try to hide in the coolest area, may become aggressive, and can even have fits in really bad cases. Snakes will ‘stargaze’, a behaviour usually associated with serious disease – the snake will lift and tip its head backwards, as though looking up at the sky. They will also corkscrew aimlessly, and can also have fits.
This is an emergency, and you should get to your local vet as soon as possible. Ideally a reptile specialist, but any vet will be able to help you in an emergency like this.
First aid measures include soaking in cool (NOT COLD) water. If you use cold water the blood vessels closest to the surface will constrict, drawing blood down into the core of the animal where it will not cool down at all. Cool water will gently lower the temperature of the blood closest to the surface, which will be carried to the brain and other major organs.
(This is true for all animals – ice water is positively dangerous in an overheating situation!)
Try and get your reptile to drink. Most will drink the water they are soaking in, and there are reptile-specific electrolyte mixtures available that will really help. Get them to drink, and get them to a vet if they won’t ingest fluids.
No, there is no truth in the internet ‘fact’ that reptiles drink through their skin – it’s even more waterproof than ours is! – or through their vents. Yes, if you get fluids right up into the lower intestine they will absorb it, but the passive process of having their bottoms in water will not make a blind bit of difference. Yes, amphibians can absorb water (and oxygen) through their skins, but even they need to drink.
Being sprayed with water will stimulate them to drink, and some reptiles actually have scales that will channel the water towards their mouths.
Hyperthermia (too much heat, as opposed to hypothermia, which is too little) is a killer. But be prepared, follow these instructions, and you and your reptile can enjoy the heat safely!
A specialist reptile supplies company with a huge range of selected products to cater for all your needs. You can shop with us online or visit us at our Kidlington shop. We can supply you with reptile vivariums, livefoods, frozen foods, lighting, heating, hides and decorations to name a few!