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Reptile Nutrition

By: Dr. Nancy Anderson

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In general, herbivores should be fed a mixture of dark leafy greens with 10 percent mixed vegetables and fruits added. Many adult herbivorous tortoises require high fiber diets. Fiber can be provided by a high quality grass hay or fresh grass – pesticide and herbicide-free.

Most herbivores and all omnivores require the addition of protein sources to their diets. Good sources are crushed hard-boiled egg with shell to provide a good source of calcium, trout chow, pinkies, alfalfa pellets, tofu and cooked white meats. Dog food or monkey chow can be used in small amounts but is usually high enough in vitamin D to cause metastatic calcification if used extensively.

In general herbivores should receive 90 to 98 percent of their calories from plants, omnivores or young herbivores should receive 70 to 95 percent of their calories from plants. Some sources report that feeding any animal proteins to herbivores predisposes these reptiles to kidney disease. This author believes that kidney disease is related to the quantity of protein and not the source of protein. It is important to remember that a tablespoon of a protein food contains about as many calories as a 1/2 cup of leafy greens. It is easy to over supplement proteins if protein is fed on a volume versus a calorie basis. In general, it is often best to feed protein foods only 1 to 2 times per week. As in insectivores vitamin and calcium supplement should be used in moderation.

In general, avoid calcium supplements that contain phosphorus and extra vitamin D. These supplements are more likely to induce metastatic calcification. As a rule, most reptile diets are already too high in phosphorus from meat and fruit. You can use Neocalglucon syrup as a calcium supplement. The sweet syrup is readily lapped from a syringe or dropper by most reptiles allowing individual dosing. This supplement can also be mixed in the food. Crushed boiled egg or oyster shells are other excellent sources of phosphorus free calcium. Healthy, adult herbivorous reptiles on excellent diets and provided adequate UV light usually only require vitamin and mineral supplements 4 to 6 times per month.

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