Thermal burns may result from any source of heat that a reptile is exposed to. Any heat source that allows direct contact between the reptile and the source itself (such as heat rocks and spot lights) are typically to blame for most thermal burns.
Thermal burns are potentially very serious and life-threatening injuries (especially if an infection sets in). The key is to prevent such an injury from happening in the first place.
Here is a list of 7 ways that you can prevent thermal burns with your reptile:
- DO NOT place a reptile’s cage in direct sunlight, especially if it is a glass enclosure.
- DO NOT heat the entire bottom or top of the enclosure! You want to heat just a portion of the enclosure so the reptile can thermoregulate and move between warmer and cooler temperature zones according to its needs.
- DO NOT place any type of heating device inside the enclosure where the reptile can come into direct contact with it. Because I have seen way too many reptiles with thermal burns caused by “heat rocks,” I strongly advise against using these. Keeping a heating source outside of the enclosure also helps to prevent an accidental electrocution if water spills from the water bowl.
- DO buy and use a thermometer for the enclosure and monitor it regularly. In fact, I advise placing several thermometers throughout the enclosure: (a) in the basking spot; (b) in the warm end of the enclosure; and (c) one in the cool end of the enclosure. Making sure you are providing the correct temperatures throughout the temperature gradient will ensure that your reptile is not practically hugging or touching a heat source to maintain its required temperature.
- DO ensure that the enclosure is properly ventilated. This will allow excessive heat to rise and escape from the enclosure.
- DO check all heating devices personally and regularly to make sure they are working properly. This is accomplished by feeling the heated areas and checking them with a thermometer
- DO wire in backup thermostats in case your primary thermostats malfunction.
I feel it necessary to point out at this point that research has yet to show why a reptile will continue to remain in direct contact with a heat source until third degree burns have been inflicted. It is unknown if a reptile simply cannot feel a burn developing or if they fail to realize that moving away will prevent the burn from getting worse.
In an upcoming article, I will discuss how you identify a thermal burn and the appropriate treatment options available for an injury of this nature.
By Candace, SaveTheReptiles.com