Emergency Preparedness for Reptiles
Part of being a responsible pet owner is ensuring that you have the supplies necessary to care for your pets in an emergency situation. Having a backup plan in case of a disaster/emergency situation is just as essential in keeping reptiles as it is mammals. It is often impossible to predict when natural disaster will strike, and resulting power outages can be fatal to animals as sensitive to temperature fluctuations as reptiles. As such, it is prudent to have a plan and supplies set aside before disaster strikes.
How do I make sure my reptiles have enough food during an emergency?
A general rule of thumb is that is a good idea to have enough food and other supplies to continue caring for your pets for three weeks in case you are unable to leave your home during a period of unexpectedly heavy snows, wildfires, or earthquakes. For reptiles such as snakes, this is as simple as keeping a small stockpile of frozen rodents in your freezer. For reptiles with faster metabolisms such as monitor lizards, keeping enough food on hand to be prepared in case of emergency requires a bit more space and effort. Many reptile supply companies manufacture food products such as canned crickets that are preserved through freeze drying or canning. While your pet will always prefer fresh insects, veggies, and greens, these prepackaged products serve perfectly in keeping your pet fed during a bad storm or other emergency. Probiotics can be helpful in offsetting any stomach upset that may result from such a sudden diet change. It is also a good idea to keep enough bottled water on hand to keep your pets hydrated in case a natural disaster like an earthquake breaks open water pipes and leaves you without running water.
How can I make sure my reptiles stay warm during an emergency?
Reptiles are ectothermic animals, which means that they get the warmth they need to fuel their metabolic processes and stay alive from sources external to their body. In the wild, this vital heat comes to them from the sun, which is replaced by heating bulbs or mats in captivity. Without supplemental heat, many reptiles will become lethargic and stop eating. A chronic lack of supplemental heat can lead to respiratory infections, impaction, and even death in sensitive species.
As such, it is essential that you are able to provide your pet with the warmth it needs during storms when unstable conditions may occur due to electrical blackouts. If you already own a generator for use during such occasions, you can use a small amount of the electricity produced to keep your pet happy and warm. If not, there are alternative, more cost-effective solutions to this dilemma, such as shipping warmers. Shipping warmers superficially appear to be the same thing as hand-warmers, but they have some vitally important differences. Whereas hand-warmers last two to four hours and produce very high temperatures, shipping warmers can produce heat for up to forty hours and are stable at much lower, safer temperatures. A box of these warmers can ensure that your pet stays warm enough to avoid long-term health effects such as respiratory infections or impactions. In case of emergency, you can take a couple of these warmers out of their packaging and place them around a box in which you keep your reptile during the storm.
What about emergency situations unrelated to natural disasters?
While natural disasters sometimes give advanced warning to their appearance and allow you to prepare for their arrival, disaster can strike when you least expect it in the form of an injury. While reptiles may look graceful and calculated in their movements, they can often be clumsy and hurt themselves within their enclosure or while enjoying some enriching outdoors time. When this happens, it’s important to be able to care for your pet until you can get them to a qualified reptile veterinarian, if required.
How can I help my reptile in the case of a cut/bleeding wound?
Sometimes beloved pet reptiles can incur bloody injuries through unfortunate incidents such as feeding accidents or injuries from other pets. When this happens, it may be necessary to perform some degree of emergency first aid on your pet before you can take them to a qualified reptile veterinarian. In this case, styptic powder is an indispensably valuable tool to have on hand. Styptic powder is a very thick, clumping powder that when applied to bleeding wounds will help the wound to clot and stop bleeding. Some styptic powders are mixed with Benzocaine (a painkiller), and while this may seem like a good idea, most reptiles are sensitive to Benzocaine and as such these styptic powders should be avoided. In case you find yourself in an emergency situation without styptic powder, corn starch makes a decent substitute. After packing the powder into the wound, you can gently wrap the area with medical gauze to slow bleeding until you make it to the vet.
Certain reptiles with delicate tails, such as leopard geckos or crested geckos, can drop their tail when they feel threatened or are handled roughly. If this occurs, you should take precautionary measures to insure that your pet doesn’t suffer from infection. The wound can be cleaned gently with a Q-tip dipped in Betadine (a disinfectant) and then allowed to dry and heal.
Here is a good list of tools to keep in a first aid kit for your reptile:
- Styptic Powder
- Surplus of Food (frozen, freeze-dried, or canned)
- Bottled water
- Shipping warmers
- Containers/crates to carry your reptile in
- Blankets for insulation
- Q-tips, cotton swabs
What if an emergency situation occurs while I am away from home?
If disaster strikes while you are out of your home, it’s a good idea to ensure that friends or authorities you call into your home will be able to tell your reptiles apart so that they can care for them appropriately. Having labels on or near your pet’s enclosure detailing the species and care requirements will simplify matters if you have someone care for your pets in an emergency situation. Always keep your reptile vet’s number displayed near your pets in case of emergency to ensure they will receive proper medical attention in your absence.
Need further help?
The staff at Painted Reptile carries many supplies essential to your reptile’s first aid kit. Come in if you have questions regarding assembling a first aid kit for your pets and we will assist you in any way we can.
Call 818-654-9441 with any questions or stop by the shop at 18730 Oxnard St., Tarzana, Ca, 91356. UNIT 215
Written By Katia Shinkle:
SPONSORED BY: The Painted Reptile