Ask a Vet Archive

When it comes to your pet's health, there's no such thing as a dumb question. Search questions real clients have submitted to our popular Ask a Vet Q&A series, and then submit a question of your own.

  • I am thinking about getting a reptile, either a turtle, lizard, or snake. I have never had a cold-blooded pet before and was told they require very specific habitats to be happy and healthy. Can you offer any advice in preparing a home for my new reptile?

    As you mentioned, reptiles are cold-blooded. This doesn’t mean that their blood is literally cold, but that they are ectothermic, which means they get their body heat from external sources.

    Unlike mammals, reptiles cannot regulate their body temperature internally. This means that you must provide an environment where your reptile pet can warm him or herself. Heating lamps, heat rocks, and heat pads are all common additions to cages that aid your reptile in body heat control.

    Terrariums are the most common housing units for pet reptiles. The terrarium design makes it relatively easy to regulate the climate, and the secure walls and top make it more difficult for a crafty snake or curious lizard to escape. The type of heat source you need will depend on your pet. Consult your local veterinarian to better understand the more individual needs of your pet, such as its needs for flooring, whether grass, stone, or wood chips.


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