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| Most Important Points To
Remember When Feeding Insectivorous Lizards |
Aspects Of Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) |
It is said that animals are what they eat. In the case of insectivorous
reptiles and amphibians it is simply not enough only to feed the correct
prey, but the correct preparation also plays a role in the health of these
animals. The most commonly seen metabolic abnormality in
herptiles, namely Metabolic Bone Disease
(MBD) is because of inadequate
preparation of feeder insects prior to feeding. To prevent
this disease, and other metabolic disorders, the nutritional
value of commonly fed insects should be increased. The two
main methods to increase the value of feeder insects are by gut loading
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Gut loading is the process where feeder insects are fed vitamin and mineral rich
foods prior to feeding to other animals. It can either be done
by adding gut loading foods to their current rations or by
only supplying gut loaded foods. Gut loading should take place
24 to 48 hours prior to being used as food.
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Dusting is simply the process of coating the outer part of
feeder insects with powdered mineral and/or vitamin mixtures.
A few feeder insects can be mixed up in a plastic bag or
bottle with a pinch or two of the desired mixture. Excess
powder is gently shaken off and the insects are immediately
fed after coating before they have the chance to clean themselves.
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The most important mineral to
lizards is calcium (Ca). Most insect maintenance food such
as grains and cereals are deficient in Ca and should be
When it comes to the correct metabolism of calcium, the calcium : phosphorus ratio (Ca : P)
is also important. The ratio should be in the region of 1.2-2
: 1. Calcium is best given in combination with vitamin D3, especially to basking
ultraviolet (UV) lamps or natural sunlight is indicated, but
not supplied, or to nocturnal lizards where UV requirements
are not indicated. In the absence of UV light, vitamin D3 aids
in the uptake of calcium and phosphorus. When UV eradiation is
present vitamin D3 can be produced from dietary vitamin D
Where vitamin D is given in its inactive form
(colecalciferol), it will be converted to the active form
1,25-dehydrocolecalciferol) via the kidneys. Because vitamin D is a fat
soluble vitamin it can accumulate in the body where it may cause vitamin
D toxicity (hypervitaminosis).
It is important to note that most
multivitamin combinations do not have enough calcium for Ca supplementation
and should be used in conjunction with a suitable Ca source
Calsup® (8% calcium) or calcium hydroxide,
available from veterinarians or pharmacies, can be
used as a general calcium dusting powder for most herptiles.
They may also be used in combination with other vitamins and
minerals to increase calcium levels of gut loading
foods. General mineral
mixtures are not adequate for calcium supplementation meaning that
calcium supplementation should be done separately. Commercial
and other dusting powders are available from a specialist pet
shops or reptile friendly vets.
The frequency of supplying minerals
depends on the type of animal. Most minerals are supplemented 2 to 3 times a week (calcium usually 2 times a week and 3 times a week to gravid and
growing herptiles). Supplement requirements for each species is mentioned
on their specific care sheet.
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Gut Loading Mealworms:
can be gut loaded by
adding high levels of vitamins and minerals to their
substrate. It might be necessary to move the desired amount of
worms to a smaller container.
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Larvae or beetles can be
dusted. Where calcium is supplied ad lib, for example to
Leopard geckos, larvae can simply be put out in these
containers. gently shaken up with the mineral-vitamin powder placed in a
container with a lid or in a plastic bag.
Make sure to shake off the excess powder.
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Gut Loading Crickets:
Many crickets that are commercially available are
indicated as gut loaded. It is not always clear weather these
crickets are gut loaded prior to packaging (meaning they are
theoretically only of value up to two days after purchase) or
are fed gut loaded foods in the containers they are sold in.
Various greens and vegetables such as lucerne/alfalfa
(Medicago sativa), carrots, carrot greens and parsley
can be fed
as gut loading foods. Fish flakes can also be used
but dusting with appropriate calcium will still be necessary.
Calcium, Ca-combinations or other mineral and vitamin combinations for gut
loading can be bough from specialist pet shops or reptile
friendly vets. Different mixtures of calcium with different
concentrations are available. Calsup® (containing about 8%
calcium) can be used in gut load mixtures or as dusting powder.
Never feed crickets total gut loading mixtures with more than 8%
calcium as it will cause increased mortalities.
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"If you think I should add more
information to this section or think that something is incorrect, contact
me and let me know. I would love to hear your ideas or methods
you might use that is different than ours."
Last updated 12 June 2005 by Renier Delport
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