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Thread: UV Light and Reptile Hygiene

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    Moderator Takacha's Avatar
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    UV Light and Reptile Hygiene

    UV Light and Reptile Hygiene

    For animals, staying clean is as important as eating healthy. If birds have unhealthy feathers they cannot fly fast enough to catch their meals or avoid getting caught by predators. Monkeys groom each other to remove insects and parasites which could make them sick. What about reptiles? Common knowledge is that reptiles clean themselves by shedding their old skins as well as rubbing or brushing their skin against sand, leaves, tree barks, stones and rocks during their natural activities. They also clean by swimming and bathing. Another important factor people tend to overlook is that the sun rays are playing very important role on hygiene. UVB and UVA have ability to suppress variety of germs. Sun bathing helps them produce D3 and their thermoregulation while also disinfects their bodies.

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    Our ancestors have been utilizing the sun for hundreds of years, however our current technology has replaced the practices into common household products. For instance most people use dryers instead of hanging washed clothes outside on sunny day. People use cleaning and disinfectant products on furniture and other household items. People heavily rely on such products and tend to become blind to how animals truly interact with nature and benefit from every single resource.

    The simple test with regular house hold germs shows that hanging clothes outside on hot sunny day ( 88 °F) for 4 hours kills bacteria as effective as using high efficiency dryer on “ Sanitize & Hot “ settings ( 160 °F ) for 2 hours. (Annie Pryor Ph.D., 1) Lower temperature or less timer of the dryer setting is far from effective compare to the result of drying by sun light.

    Special Note: Common grade dryers even on the hottest setting for 30 mins will not kill germs. Also, not all dryers have capacity to reach 160 °F.

    * the base samples were prepared with dirty washcloths after washed on cold, 53 minutes cycle with Tide free and clear detergent which didn’t quite eliminate regular household germs… Yikes.

    Pathophysiological Problems in Terrariums

    Most of captive reptiles spend significant amount of time in their enclosures which contain water, humidity, heat, substrates or furnishings of any combinations and such environment is prone to bacterial contamination. The type of their diet also contributes to the level of germs on their skin and in their habitats. For examples carnivore species such as varanids are fed with raw meat, fish and eggs which are highly perishable and tend to be more exposed to microorganisms.

    Some reptiles prefer or require water pond, basin or tank for their humidity, bathing as well as drinking in their terrariums. In aquaculture, a maximum load of 1 gram of fish per 3-4 litter of water is widely accepted but in terrarium the weight of animals usually greatly exceeds this directive. Unlike fishes reptiles’ urine contains large amount of uric acid which dissolves in water and tend to build up high level of nitrates and under certain conditions nitrates may cause some form of pathology ( many of us know the health risks of nitrate contaminated water from agricultural fertilizers runoffs ). Even if the pool is equipped with biological filtration and water looks clear it can also contain bacteria such as salmonella. (P. Zwart, 2)

    Substrates in terrariums are also known factor to cause hygienic problems. Especially in larger terrarium voluminous materials lead to infrequent renewal of the substrate. In addition, glass or wooden walls prevent the disinfecting action of UV from the sun. Such Terrariums are far from hygienic. Undesirable conditions of the substrates can cause pathogenic bacteria and may lead infections such as coccidiosis and stomatitis. When animals in the environment induce minor lesions on the toes it can give entrance to bacteria. As a result, abscessation of one or more toes may occur. Especially in green iguanas such abscesses tend to spread to the knee or the elbow joint. (P. Zwart, 2)

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    Effect of Sunlight on Bacteria

    How effective are UVB and UVA lightings to suppress bacteria? The article below is just one example.

    In Zambia, contamination rate of salmonella is higher in chickens and causes economic loss in healthcare and food industry. The use of chemicals to control the organism in processing plants and on farms can be economic burden to farmers and processors particularly in developing countries. Sunlight in tropical latitudes is particularly high in UVB and UVA . The aim of the study is to investigate weather exposure of salmonella contaminated surfaces to such sunlight could be used as a cost-free method of surface decontamination. (3)

    Sunlight was simulated using a combination of two fluorescent lamps, one of which supplied visible light in the wavelengths and intensities present in tropical sunlight, the other of which supplied UV-A and B light at a similar intensity. Together, these lamps provided a full spectrum of light corresponding to that encountered in Zambia. They were mounted at the top of a humidity-controlled incubator containing three shelves. The first shelf was mounted 10 cm below the lamps so that surfaces would be exposed to a light intensity equivalent to that found at a tropical latitude of 15°S (corresponding to the area around Lusaka, Zambia). The lights were controlled by a time switch so that they would be on for 12 h and off for 12 h over a 24 h period, so that a day/night cycle would be simulated. The second shelf was blacked out so that it would not be exposed to light. Relative humidity ( between 55 and 70% ) and temperature ( 25°C ) were controlled & monitored every hour. (3)

    In the study there was a significantly higher reduction in the number of Salmonella cells on surfaces when exposed to simulated tropical sunlight compared to surfaces kept in the dark. A significantly higher death rate occurred after even 1 h exposure, and a total decrease of Salmonella cells could be achieved over the course of a 1-day period of exposure (12 h light and 12 h dark). (3)

    Although there were significant decreases in bacterial numbers on the surfaces, none showed complete decontamination. Previous studies (La Ragione et al. 2001) have shown that Salmonella is resistant to drying when placed on surfaces in droplets, but none to date have examined the additive effect of exposure to sunlight. The test showed that cells are killed by sunlight regardless of the surface dryness. (3)

    In a dirty environment, such as surfaces of the poultry-processing plant and farms, exposure to sunlight will be less effective, although a reduction in bacterial numbers will still take place. It is possible that under such conditions initial removal of organic material from surfaces would make sunlight exposure more effective in achieving a decrease in Salmonella contamination. (3)

    The results of the study show that exposure to tropical sunlight could be used as a method of Salmonella decontamination of surfaces under field conditions. This could be a cheap method of control of Salmonella in the poultry production chain environment in developing nations and lessen the need to depend on expensive chemical disinfectants. (C. Nyeleti, T.A. Cogan and T. J. Humphrey, 3)

    Conclusion

    Keeping our reptiles in captive without giving them access to UVB and UVA during their basking is probably same as us being forced to take shower with no soap provided.

    Some species are more tolerant to pathogen contaminated environment than others and may not require as much UV rays in perspective of vitamin D3 synthesis. However, in order to complete ecosystem to call their habitat “ terrarium “ the right amount of UV rays should be provided as their daylight regimen. The basking area needs to be large enough that they can rotate their bodies and adjust their positions and distances from the heat & UV sources is important.

    A healthy balance of hygiene for reptiles and their terrariums require the right combination of clean water, regularly renewed substrates ( or floor covers ), clean furnishings, UV and fresh air flow from ventilation. Also, the terrarium needs to be large enough to arrange these contents in the right positions.

    After all the civilization, afar from wild life for so long most humans have lost natural instincts and perceptions wild animals preserve. However, we still yearn to be closer to the nature by going hiking, beach, and we also desire to have plants and animals in our lives. Probably humans can never understand the true magnitude of longings towards the nature our captive reptiles feel. Their terrarium should be designed for them to feel safe, comfortable and enjoyable with proper ecosystem that will reduce their stress caused by such isolation from nature.

    As responsible reptile owners, we all need to research what type of natural habitats our captive reptiles are originally from. Then provide the environment closer to the habitat beyond the already-proven studies. Dogs & cats took thousands of years to adapt into human life. We have such a short history of understanding captive reptiles in comparison. If we are willing there are many resources available to learn their natural history & behavior patterns. Advanced equipment such as humidifiers and lighting systems are now widely available and we can apply to improve our reptile husbandry and quality of their lives.

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    References

    1. Annie Pryor Ph.D. in biochemistry. Does Sunlight Kill Germs?
    2. P. Zwart (2001) Pathophysiology: Assessment of the husbandry problems of reptiles on the basis of pathophysiological findings: A review, Veterinary Quarterly, 23:4, 140-147, DOI: 10.1080/01652176.2001.9695103
    3. C. Nyeleti, T.A. Cogan and T. J. Humphrey. "Effect of sunlight on the survival of salmonella on surfaces." Journal of Applied Microbiology. Blackwell Science Ltd, 11 June 2004. Web. 30 July 2017. Paraphrasing
    Last edited by Mr.Coolmoon; 05-08-17 at 23:20.
    Hello~ my name is Taka. I have a red iguana Charby

  2. The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to Takacha For This Useful Post:: coolmoon (06-08-17),dimzel (30-07-17),Johnny (04-08-17),Slick (06-08-17)
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    Administrator coolmoon's Avatar
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    Very nice Taka, thank you.
    Saving the world, one reptile at a time. They make me want to be a better person. My name is Ann.

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    Taka, thanks a lot !!! Great article.
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    My name is Irina. Sorry my mistakes in English.

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    It is a unique and very logical approach to the uv light for reptiles approach. Thank you, Taka.
    Hello all my name is Mariana, mother to the green iguana Johnny

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