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The Importance of Vitamin A

Vitamin A deficiency:

According to our local specialist reptile vet, approximately 4 out of 5 lizards he sees in his surgery are deficient in vitamin A. The main reason for this is that the Vit A contained in all supplements loses its effectiveness after about 2 months of opening, so owners think they are dusting their lizard’s food, but actually the vit A within that powder is out of date. Some symptoms associated with Vit A deficiency include: problems shedding; weepy or sore eyes; sensitivity to light or a loss of appetite. Long term a lack of vitamin A can lead to irreversible blindness.

Luckily, there are two easy ways to correct this, firstly by gut-loading your feeder insects with a vitamin A enriched good quality formula (such as Repashy Bug Burger) and secondly, by buying fresh Vitamin A every few weeks and adding this to your dusting container in addition to your normal supplement. Both bug burger and Vitamin ACE-High are available fresh every week in some reptile shops or you can buy a small container, just bare in mind that once opened, the powder only stays viable for around 6-8 weeks.

Vitamin A is also just as impotant for tortoises, the main symptom of Vit A deficiency tends to be weepy eyes. Although the bug burger is obviously not relevant, most tortoises should get their Vitamin A requirements from a variety of dark leafy green weeds and leaves. (Side note - Kale and spinach are not suitable due to their calcium binding properties, preventing calcium being absorbed or metabolised.) However, good regular supplements of vitamin A can be sprinkled on the food if necessary, just ensure that the powder is fresh and not more than 2 months old as longer will render it ineffective.

Case study:

When I was working as a reptile specialist in a reptile shop I had a customer come in to me saying that her leopard gecko had weepy eyes and also had problems shedding - shedded skin seemed to always get stuck on his toes, despite having a moss-filled shedding box in his viv . She'd been seeing a reptile vet for several months who had been charging her lots of money for regular steroids which didn't seem to be helping. She explained that she had been dusting her feeder insects with a good brand of Vitamin & mineral powder (nutrobal) she'd purchased several months ago, but the pot she had was large and she'd had it for about 6 months of more (the use by date on the botton still had several months left). I explained that although some of the vitamins and minerals would still be fine to use (like the calcium & Vitamin D) the Vitamins A, C & E would deplete over time and after 2 months would be pretty much ineffective. I suggested gut-loading all her insects with repashy bug burger and also gave her some fresh vitamin A (we sold little individual packets fresh each week). After just a couple of weeks she returned and was so happy - it had worked! She no longer had to pay for expensive steroids and her geckos eyes were no longer weepy and he no longer had issues shedding.

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