If your cat, dog or parrot gets sick, you will probably take it to the vet and expect to get treatment and drugs to cure the illness. Even very complicated surgery is performed on domesticated pets these days. But what happens if your crested gecko or any other reptile or amphibian that you may be keeping gets ill? Have you ever taken a snake to your vet around the corner? Would you trust any vet with your gecko’s disease? Over the past few years or decade, reptiles have become more popular as pets, however very few vets would know how to treat your crested gecko properly. Fortunately, you can find experienced vets via ARAV (Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians). However, even experienced vets may struggle to cure your crested geckos’ disease. The size of crested geckos and the difficulty in handling them makes treatment of these animals more difficult. Therefore, you want to do everything possible to prevent your crested geckos from falling ill. Here are the main points that you need to consider if you want to keep your geckos happy and healthy:
One of the most crucial elements of health, both in animals and in humans, is hygiene. Your crested gecko cage should be easily accessible and you should have good visibility of all areas in the cage. Check your crested gecko cage on a daily basis and clear all excrement, uneaten food and shed skin. Every 8 weeks (depending on the number of geckos you are keeping in one cage) you should give the cage a complete clean, i.e. remove all plants, climbing branches and remove and dispose of the substrate and wash the cage using a specialised disinfectant (e.g. Zilla Terrarium Cleaner) You should keep in mind, that crested gecko excrement is likely to contain salmonella, so make sure that you wash your hands after handling your geckos and working on the cage.
As with humans, your crested geckos’ diet should be varied and contain nutrients such as phosphate and calcium. Fortunately, crested geckos are omnivorous and will enjoy both meat and plant products. Although your geckos may enjoy baby food (e.g. pureed fruit), you should ensure that you vary your menu. It is tempting to just feed baby food as it is available everywhere, but you should be aware that crested geckos need nutrients that may not be that important to human babies and meat should form about a third of the geckos diet. While baby food is fine to give to your geckos on a regular basis, I would also recommend to use commercial crested gecko food, such as Repashy, as this will include a good balance of crucial nutrients. When feeding fresh fruit or baby food, you should apply calcium powder, which is available in well-stocked pet shops and online.
While you may not like keeping insects in your home, I believe that you should regularly feed live crickets. Apart from providing important nutrients, live crickets will also provide your crested geckos with some valuable exercise and thrills.
3) Temperature, humidity and ventilation
These three elements form the climate in your crested gecko cage and are naturally important to maintaining your geckos’ health. As crested geckos are native to rainforests, your cage should be warm and humid. This is turn makes your cage a great breeding ground for bacteria and moulds as well! Good ventilation is of the utmost importance to reduce the proliferation of bacteria or moulds in the cage, both of which may harm your geckos. Your cage should have two ventilation grids, one close to the bottom of the cage and one at the top, to allow proper circulation (think of your shower room without any ventilation!).
4) Know the basic illnesses
Despite your best efforts your crested geckos may get affected by illness or other little ailments. Early detection is crucial if you want to help your gecko effectively. It is therefore very important that you take the time to watch your geckos. Are they eating well? Is their behaviour in any way unusual? Do they shed their skin in their entirety, or do little bits stick to the skin for long? Changes in behaviour may indicate health issues.
You should acquire a basic knowledge of the most common crested gecko diseases and health problems so that you can act fast and effectively if something is troubling your geckos. Books on crested geckos will provide you with just that knowledge and will help you determine whether you should consult a vet or whether you can treat your gecko yourself.
Think of your crested geckos’ natural home
I believe that too many reptiles are kept in sub-standards which are likely to lead to disease and early death in these creatures. Too many people think that they can quite easily and cheaply convert a plastic box or a cupboard into a crested gecko cage and neglect fundamental elements in the design (e.g. ventilation, easy to clean). By keeping the native habitat in mind as a model, you can create a home for your geckos that is both natural and easily manageable. By being responsible and keeping the basics in mind, you can ensure that your geckos stay healthy and happy.