Dave Dinaso went to college at Illinois State University, and shortly after returning from college in 1993 he started the Traveling World of Reptiles. In 2016 Dave began his twenty-third year performing animal shows in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs and he has no intentions of stopping any time soon. He has performed almost 9000 animal shows during this time. Dave’s interactive show is a remarkable combination of humor and education that has made his animal show, Traveling World of Reptiles the most popular around.
Dave Dinaso
Traveling World of Reptiles
Downers Grove, IL
(888) 754-8437

Since his childhood, Dave has cared for many different reptile species from rattlesnakes and tortoises to crocodiles and alligators. Almost all the animals used in his show have been bred in captivity. Dave has personally raised and handled the animals from the minute they entered the world. Dave shares 5 tips for owning your first reptile.

Choosing A Reptile

There are many factors that need to be considered when choosing your pet reptile. Most reptiles live long lives, so make sure you understand that it can be a long term commitment and there is a great deal of responsibility that goes along with it. Do your homework before making a purchase and find out how big the animal will grow, as well as what it eats and if it is considered aggressive or dangerous as it grows. Snakes are carnivorous and must be fed rodents which is not something every child or adult for that matter can stomach. What makes a good pet reptile for a 15 year old may not make a good pet for a 6 year old. For the beginner Dave recommends a lizard such as a bearded dragon, leopard gecko or crested gecko. These lizards are relatively small, easy to feed and have a docile temperament.

Bringing Your Reptile Home

To minimize this stress of moving your pet reptile from the pet store to your home, have the enclosure that you will keep it in set up and ready to go before you get home. Make sure the enclosure is large enough for the animal and decorate it in a way that will ensure that it is comfortable. For example, if your pet is arboreal provide it with a climbing branch or if it is a desert species you may want to choose or provide it with a sand substrate. Have an area where your animal can go and hide. A small little log or hollowed out space is ideal and will make your pet feel relaxed until it acclimates to its new surroundings. It’s a good idea to leave the reptile alone for a day or two before handling it for the first time until it becomes comfortable in its new home.

Heat And Humidity 

Reptiles are ectothermic (cold blooded) and do not produce much body heat. Therefore they need to be provided with the appropriate amount of heat. A screen top with an aluminum reflector type heat lamp works well. Be sure to mount the light on the far left or far right so your pet reptile has an opportunity to cool down after basking. You do not want to overheat the animal. Start out using a small watt bulb and if necessary up the wattage until the correct temperature is obtained. Many reptile species live in arid environments, while others require a good deal of humidity. If this is the case you can use a dampened substrate such as sphagnum moss or vermiculite to maintain humidity.

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Feeding Your Reptile

Generally speaking, reptiles have much slower metabolisms than do mammals and not all of them need to be fed daily. Snakes in particular can be fed weekly rather than daily. Most of the insectivores and herbivores should be provided with food more often and in certain cases every day. It is possible to overfeed a reptile and although most will happily eat anything offered to them they can become overweight which may lead to disease or even death. On the other hand, reptiles that eat insects tend to have a higher metabolism and should be fed at least every other day.

Keeping Your Pet Clean And Healthy

Simple hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of bacteria. Schedule a day of the week to clean the reptile enclosure. Use a mild detergent and never use chemicals such as ammonia to clean the cage. Dirty conditions can also make your pet sick so be consistent when it comes to cleaning. If you notice that your pet has lost its appetite or has a change in behavior this is an indicator that something may be wrong. Proper heating, feeding and housing are the three keys to keeping your new reptile healthy! With proper knowledge, it is not that difficult to successfully raise a reptile.

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Michelle Guilbeau is a writer, reviewer, teacher and business owner. She is also proud founder of CraftKitsForKids.com, MichelleGuilbeau.com and bestchicago.blogspot.com Michelle enjoys sharing her knowledge of cities, food, travel, education and parenting issues with her readers. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.