I receive many letters from parents who are thinking of getting their young children a lizard, particularly a water dragon, or they have just purchased one and are overwhelmed with all that must be done for the lizard. Here is an example of a typical letter that I might receive, and my replies to the persons questions:
"I've got two children, ages 6 & 4, who have their heart set on getting a Chinese Water Dragon. My son (6) has wanted a lizard for forever and we visited a pet store yesterday and were told that the CWD would be the best pet for my son. I know that I will end up doing most of the work, which I am ok about because they are adorable and seem so even tempered, but I am nervous about how often they can be handled and how tough they can be in a household with the kids."
To be honest with you I can think of a number of different lizards that would be much easier to care for - a Leopard gecko, or African fat tailed gecko are both handlable, easy enough to care for, like a dry climate- high temps though, perhaps a small water dish, and an overturned flowerpot with some damp moss in it to create a moist area the lizard can go to if it needs to shed ... there is more required but they are a bit easier to care for than a water dragon.
If you are willing to definitely be the main caretaker of a water dragon, and you must be aware now that they have very very specific housing requirements- high humidity (which can be tough to achieve), large water dish- has to be changed daily, live plants in the enclosure are good too because they give the dragon a hiding area and help provide moisture in the air. ... etc. etc....
I'm really not trying to discourage you, just warn you that while water dragons are fairly even tempered, tame and handlable, they are a medium sized lizard with a lot of special requirements compared to some other lizards that you may think of trying.
There are many parents on my water dragon mailing list that have become the main caretakers of their childrens pet lizards, and or other reptiles and pets. So the main thing to consider is- are you as interested in this lizard as your children are? If so then proceed with the purchase 'cause they are beautiful to care for and worth every second of care. :)
Yes, they are handlable but they can be skittish at first and need time to adjust to a new home. Please read the behaviour of water dragons page for more info on taming and handling dragons. Also be sure to read the Water Dragon FAQ for more information on care and common ailments that almost every owner must deal with at some point.
"My son is very responsible for his age and I will be supervising him whenever he is handling his pet, but how often can they be handled and do they actually enjoy it? Or is there a better "lizard" for my son?"
I think they become accustomed to being handled and might enjoy riding around on a shoulder but as for being held in the hands (two hand hold, even loosely) no they don't like that. If and when you get one handle it mostly by resting it on the palm of your hand, on your arm or shoulder ... it will enjoy that a lot more than a two handed grip.
You will definitely have to supervise your son when he handles the dragon ... dragons are hardy enough but their tails should not be grabbed as they will break off, and unfortunately they don't grow back on water dragons ... that's one possible mishandling injury...
Another important thing to consider. Most reptiles carry some form of salmonella or another. Not all forms of salmonella will make you sick- you might not even notice if you get infected, or you might only have very mild flu like symptoms but there is always the danger of becoming very ill with salmonella.
Young children, ill people, the immunosupressed (cancer, hiv), and the elderly are more susceptible to infection and to the more severe complications of such and infection.
Now I know some people have become very very sick from salmonella that came from iguanas, and I think some people have had a bad case of salmonella from water turtles. I have not heard of anyone being infected by their water dragon- that's not to say that the water dragon you purchase may be free from the bacteria, but that if it carries one- hopefully the fact that I haven't heard of a case directly linked to a water dragon means that the strain they carry isn't too bad- do not quote me on that! :)
So that means that you and both of your children should wash your hands very carefully after touching the dragon, and that any dishes, tools, or cleaning supplies used for the water dragon not be washed in an area where food is prepared.
You can wash your dragons water dish and or food bowl etc. in the bathroom i.e. the tub, or a utility sink, but do use a mild bleach and water solution in the tub afterwards to kill any bad germs ... that really is similar to a procedure that you should follow when preparing chicken or eggs ... contaminated areas should be washed with a mild bleach solution afterwards.
I'm not trying to scare you- this really does scare some people badly ... I'm just trying to give you some facts. As I said chicken and eggs often carry salmonella and most of us have them in our house, also dogs, cats, mice and many many other pets including birds carry salmonella bacteria too so it's just as easy to get it from them as it could be from a reptile ... so wash your hands. :) For more information about this bacteria please visit the Salmonella page.
So, If you are thinking of getting a water dragon, or have just purchased one, please be aware of all that I have said above, continue to learn by reading many of the informative pages that I have on my site, Join the water dragon mailing list so that you can be in contact with hundreds of other water dragon owners, and be prepared to put some work into keeping your water dragon healthy and happy.
Green Water Dragons, Sailfin Lizards and Basilisks (General Care and Maintenance of Series) by Philippe De Vosjoli
Basic but detailed information about the care, diet, and health of green water dragons, sailfin lizards and basilisks.
Anoles, Basilisks and Water Dragons : A Complete Pet Care Manual (More Complete Pet Owner's Manuals) by Richard D. Bartlett, Patricia P. Bartlett (Contributor)
Discussion of the general care of many species of anole, basilisks and water dragons. Excellent information regarding enclosures, cage building, and insect care and breeding.
Eat This Bug : A Guide to Invertebrate Live Foods for Reptiles and Amphibians by Lynn Davis
This book is a guide for owners of reptiles and amphibians who feed insects and other live foods to their pets. Advice is offered for selecting , ordering and raising your own supply of live invertebrate foods. More than a dozen species of live foods are discussed. The book includes instructions on keeping cultures of insects, and recipes & diets for insects.
Mar, 19, 2010
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