Friday, 21 November 2014

Also Mummy to a Bearded Dragon Baby!

I’ve never owned a reptile before – cats, dogs, rabbits and fish, but never a reptile, so when Lady O came into my life it truly was my first real experience with an animal of that nature.

Initially, when adopted, I was told that she was a he, and that he was coming up for two years old. He came in a glass vivarium with what was described as full ‘set up’ and he would need cabbage and waxworms to eat.

The bearded dragon and I – which I thought was a he – got along much better than I initially expected to. I hadn’t anticipated particularly liking this lizard all that much but after my first cuddle I was totally hooked. Honestly. I know a lot of people look at me a bit funny when I say that, and if you’re not into reptiles I do understand they’re not everybody’s cup of tea but honestly, from the first time I held Oscar I adored her (or him, as I thought at the time)

As I had no experience with caring for a Bearded Dragon, I decided to try and find someplace I could find good information to ensure my new housemate was happy. I found a brilliant Facebook page run by a team of experienced Bearded Dragon owners, and they’re fantastic. There’s so much information and they’re fabulous at helping newbie owners.

Unfortunately from their wealth of information I discovered my setup for Oscar was not a good one and despite apparently getting our beardie with full set up I realised that I had to replace basically everything.

Oscar was on wood chips upon arrival to me – loose substrates are not advised from the point of view of the ‘no risk’ group that I’m part of.  I’d been advised by my local pet shop ‘expert’ that I should swap the woodchips for playsand – another big ‘no no’ as far as ‘no risk’ goes. Loose substrates like woodchips and playsand can be ingested by the bearded dragon and cause impaction. I quickly removed the undesirable substrates and after consulting the recommendations replaced with tile, adding patches of fake grass and a piece of slate as alternative spaces for Oscar to enjoy.

It’s advised that a single beardie is housed in a vivarium no smaller than 4ft long in order to get the correct heat gradient and humidity levels. Oscar’s viv is 3ft long. Gradient can be an issue and humidity varies but remains below where it should be. I blame this also on the horrible mesh top of the vivarium rather than a solid top and air vents – now we’ve hit winter its easier to keep the humidity right because I’m drying my washing in the same room on airers next to the radiator which makes a difference. I am saving to replace with a decent viv but this will set me back in the region of £200 to kit it out fully so its taking me a while to put the pennies together!

It’s known that coiled UV lights can cause damage to the eyes of bearded dragons, yet Oscar’s viv was supplied with coils and described by the pet shop who sold it as ‘the perfect starter set up’ for a bearded dragon. Needless to say, while I’m sure most of us knew anyway that pet shops should not be trusted 100% for their animal knowledge as most of them are promoting one thing or another, please please speak to an experienced owner of any animal for full information – pet shops will sell you sets for bearded dragons and other reptiles that are completely unsuitable, and I have complained to one pet shop about the advice they are providing in their leaflet in store with regards to setting up a vivarium for a bearded dragon and what equipment they recommend is needed. This list of equipment includes a heat rock or heat mat, which is something that should never be added into a beardies viv because they cannot regulate temperature or feel the heat of such an item on their feet and bellies, so use of this could result in them burning and becoming seriously injured.

Somewhere to bask – After eating, a bearded dragon needs to bask under a heat lamp (for approximately 2 hours) in order to correctly digest their food. Oscar had a root in the vivarium to climb, but as it reaches the top it couldn’t be placed under the heat lamp as it would be too close to the bulb. I added two hides, one hollowed out piece of wood to go under the heat lamp and one to go in the grassy patch in the cool end. The one under the heat lamp she climbs on to bask at the recommended distance from the bulb – she sleeps under it at times as well.

Upon arrival with us, Oscar also had fake plant in the viv which I removed as the first few times Oscar tried going to the toilet it appeared to be very difficult and when it happened the first time there was blood and evidence that Oscar had been eating the plastic plant. Once we established a healthy eating routine for Oscar and everything was in order I put the plastic plant back in and she hasn’t eaten any of it since!

In August, the community page I’m on recommended getting tests done to make sure that there were no parasites before the dragon went into brumation. It turns out they do this hibernation of sorts, sleeping a varying amount in the winter months and requiring a slight change in care as a result.

Again, this was all new to me, but thanks to the page I managed to sort out the first set of tests which unfortunately showed parasites – again the page admin advised me on what my vet needed to know, so I got the medication for Oscar without an issue. It was at the vets that the question of whether Oscar was a boy or a girl was raised. It’s quite hard to tell with bearded dragons, and since I’d been told it was a boy dragon I hadn’t questioned it, but my vet said she was confident that it’s a girl dragon! I re-named her Lady Oscar, since it seems easier than changing her name completely and I refer to her as Lady O or Ozzy most of the time anyway. I also read up on a woman in history called Lady Oscar, and the name seems very appropriate for my bearded dragon! She is quite a character.

Today is the first time she’s been out from under her hide in over a week. As soon as she had a bit of a run around and a stretch out I gave her a nice bowl of fresh veg and a small amount of water which I dropped on her nose for her to lick. She’s basked a bit on top of the log for a while and now she’s climbed up her root so when Daddy P gets home she’ll have been awake and warming for long enough that I can take her upstairs for a bath. It’s important when they’ve been in brumation to ensure they’re hydrated before they go back to sleep again. I’m looking forward to some cuddles with her because it seems like much longer than a week that she’s been asleep I’ve really missed her!

Wrapped in a towel after a bath - How could you resist that cute little face?

Love, Mummy P xxx

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