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Winter Care for Reptiles

December 1, 2020
Do you have a pet snake, lizard, or turtle? If you live in a cold climate, you’ll need to take extra precautions with your pet in winter. Reptiles are very sensitive to temperatures, and can get quite sick if they get too cold! A Pickerington, OH vet discusses winter reptile care below.


Keeping your pet warm is going to be your biggest concern. You’ll need high-quality thermostat and thermometers to keep the tank at the proper temperatures. (Tip: temperature guns are helpful for this.) You may also need to supplement your main heat source. Heat lamps can be very helpful for this. Warming stones work, but can be a burn risk. Under-tank heating is a safer option. If you have a turtle or another water-loving pet, you may also need to add water heaters to their pool. Ask your vet for more information.

Backup Heat

A power loss in winter isn’t fun for anyone, but it can be disastrous to a reptile. Make sure you have a backup source ready. A designated generator is your best bet. You don’t need a large one if it’s only going to power one tank. Other options include hand warmers, hot water bottles, and heated bags (or socks) of dry rice.


Many reptiles need a certain level of humidity, both for hydration and shedding. Winter air can cause their skin to dry out, which increases the risk of dehydration. If your air is really dry, mist your pet frequently. You can also let your little buddy soak in a bowl of shallow water. Just make sure the water isn’t too cold! 


Many reptiles will go into hibernation if they get too cold. Some pet owners encourage this, likely assuming that all natural behaviors are healthy behaviors. However, hibernation is actually a stress response. It can be harmful to your pet’s metabolism, digestion, and immunity. Ideally, reptiles should not notice any change with the seasons.


Most reptiles require UV light, which helps them produce vitamin D and absorb phosphorus and calcium. In summer, you may be able to bring your pet outdoors sometimes. In winter, that light will be entirely artificial. Your little buddy’s lamp should be set on a timed cycle. Remember to change the bulbs regularly! Ask your vet for specific advice. As your Pickerington, OH veterinary clinic, we’re here to help. Call us anytime!