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A Word About Impaction In Reptiles

Many people wrongly assume certain substrates (such as aspen) 'cause' impaction. However, this is incorrect and it is often due to the reptile deliberately ingesting the substrate in order to make up for a vitamin deficiency caused by the owners.

Here is a case study that my reptile specialist vet experienced. A client came to the vet with their blue-tongued skink. They said it had eaten a load of its aspen bedding and it was blocking the back of its throat. Sure enough, when examined, there was a blockage of aspen in the throat that the vet removed. However, it transpired that the skink had actually broken its back! In the wild, reptiles often ingest small stones and minerals in the environment to correct a imbalance in their body. In this case the owners hasn't been providing enough vitamins in the diet and also hadn't noticed that their lizards back was broken! The poor lizard was so desperate to try to cure himself, he did what nature programmed him to do - seek out minerals in his environment, only problem was that the only thing in his environment was aspen.

So it wasn't actually the aspen that caused impaction, it was a vitamin deficiency. (Luckily, the lizard survived - his spine was fixed with a make-shift lolly stick splint and his owners were given advice on correct vitamin supplementation!)

So it is important to ensure that your tortoises always have cuttlefish bone and your lizards' diet has the correct vitamins. Particularly ensure any feeder insects are gut-loaded as well as dusted with vitamin A and minerals. (See my blog post on the importance of vitamin A)

I have written a much more detailed blog post regarding reptile substrates here.

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