Many of our scaly friends like to chow down on some fresh veggies and fruit but did you know that some can be toxic or may not give the best nutrition that your reptile needs to survive. It is always a good idea to feed a variety of different fruits and vegetables because feeding them just one type of green can prevent your herp from getting all the nutrition it needs in its diet, or it can turn a healthy vegetable into a toxic one when given in too high of a volume.
A great example of this would be spinach. Spinach is an excellent source of beta-carotene (Animals convert to vitamin A), protein and calcium but it also contains oxalates, which has the potential to bind calcium (adversely affects the absorption and utilization of calcium in the animal’s body).
Other vegetables that are high in oxalates; kale, lettuce, swiss chard, and parsley. These vegetables should be a part of your reptile’s diet but only in smaller quantities and mixed with a variety of different vegetables. Parsley has also gotten a bad rep, but it can be another great source of beta-carotene. Just like spinach Parsley has some great benefits to our scaly friends. If Parsley is given in too large of quantities, your herp can fall victim to photosensitization, which means it can have a skin reaction to sunlight resulting in redness, swelling, irritation and pain. This is why it is important to know which vegetables to feed your reptile in moderation and that variety is key to providing a healthy diet.
Some great healthy leafy greens you can safely feed to your herp on a regular basis include collard greens, turnip greens, dark greens, such as romaine or red leaf lettuce (avoid iceberg lettuce because it has zero nutritional value). Some vegetables you can offer include shredded squash, zucchini, bell peppers and carrots.
Fruits are also great to add to your scaly friend’s diet. Keep in mind fruits should only be a very small portion of their diet because they tend to have inverted calcium: phosphorus ratio (mineral imbalance can lead to a variety of health problems). Fruits that are safe to offer in small quantities include papaya, strawberries, banana, blueberries and apple (be sure to remove the core and seeds because this is highly toxic to reptiles.
Variety in your scaly friend’s diet is always best. The more you can vary your reptiles diet the less risk there is of a nutritional problem occurring. That doesn’t just apply to the fruits and vegetables you feed but also helps to have a variety of proteins as well.
If you ever have any questions or concerns about the diet you are feeding your reptile be sure to discuss this with your herp vet.
Written By: Alaina Langford, ACA