Whether it’s iguanas, bearded dragons, uromastyx or tortoises, there are a range of herbivorous reptiles available. Indeed, many people prefer to keep a pet that can be fed on fruit and vegetables rather than having to deal with live crickets and suchlike which make some peoples skin crawl!
You would be shocked at the number of exotic pet shops I have been in where herbivorous reptiles have had nothing but a day-old shrivelled-up bowl of iceberg lettuce to eat and clearly this isn’t sufficient for a whole raft of reasons.
In this article then I would like to provide some simple guidelines will help you to maximize the health of your pet reptile when it comes to feeding plant-based foods.
Different fruits and vegetables contain different nutrients and it is obviously essential for your pet reptile to receive a wide variety of different foods in order to stand the best chance possible of receiving all the nutrients it requires.
Therefore feeding just one item for prolonged periods of time should be avoided. For best results, a range of food items should be fed each day, carefully chopped to encourage your pet to sample as many of these food items as possible.
Not all plant foods are created equal. Lettuce, for example, contains mainly water and can cause diarrhoea so is generally best avoided except on very rare occasions. On the other hand, plants which may often be overlooked, such as watercress and dandelion leaves are packed full of nutrients and offer a lot to a herbivorous reptile.
So try to get to know which foods are better than others so you feed only the best to your pet.
Whilst some pets will eat grass, dandelions, chickweed and a variety of other wild plants, be careful of chemicals. Fumes from cars, herbicides and pesticides may all be present, not just in “wild” foods but also in shop-bought fruit and veg.
Wherever possible try to source organic produce and wash it thoroughly before feeding to your pet.
Not only do plant-based foods quickly lose their nutrients after picking but they may also dry up or go mouldy if left in the cage for too long. All fresh food should be changed at least once a day and ideally even more often to keep an enticing selection of food available at all times.
Remember that as there are less calories in plants than animal foods, typically a herbivorous reptile will need to eat far more, and far more often, than for example a lizard feeding on crickets.
Various vitamin and mineral dusting powders can be bought from specialist reptile dealers and should be added to the fresh food. This further adds to the nutrient content of the food and reduces the chances of deficiencies.
As food can go off quickly in the warm environment of a reptile cage, try to place all food in a bowl which makes disposal of uneaten food easier. In addition, check around the cage regularly as stray pieces of food often find their way into water bowls or corners of cages.