Dehydration Kills Monitors!
Sadly on January 24 my Savannah monitor of 5 years passed away from errors in husbandry. It has taken me this long to find it in myself to discuss it, But I feel very strongly about getting this paramount information out so that others may benefit from it.
This particular monitor was raised on a diet of primarily invertebrate foods, so the mythological "fatty liver disease" was not the problem. He was given 40 acres of prime country real estate to roam upon, so he was incredibly well exercised, his cage was located in my reptile room that is environmentally controlled to never fall below 80 degrees (F) and his basking area was maintained at 125-135 at all times except at night.
We never even knew anything was wrong until one day in November he started coughing, We took him to a vet for a checkup, and unfortunately this vet was not qualified to diagnose yet alone treat reptiles, and he incorrectly assumed that a Baytril regimen would cure this, and I foolishly believed him.
After 14 days of steady Baytril treatments, my monitor was not improving one bit, so we decided to find a different vet and we found Dr. Sanford who has two masters degrees in zoological medicine, and is reptile certified.
She did the blood work and found that his uric acid levels were off the charts, she prescribed a treatment for gout but also advised us that his chances for recovery were slim to none, as his internal body chemistry had been so far out of balance for so long that she believed that permanent organ damage had already set in.
After only three doses of his gout medication he began vomiting blood, then diarrhea set in and it became very clear that he was suffering in ways I hope I never have to witness again as long as I live.
The decision was made that putting him down was the only humane option available.
The official post mortem diagnosis was long term low level dehydration, a condition that is brought on by insufficient humidity in the enclosure, a fate that all too many Savannah Monitors suffer when kept in anything but ideal conditions.
In conclusion, If you have a Savannah Monitor (Or any other monitor lizard) you simply must have at least one accurate digital hygrometer installed in your cage, you must maintain the ideal humidity levels for the species you keep, or the Monitor will eventually die a very ugly death.
There must be substrate deep enough to support burrowing, if you do not follow this advice, I don't care how "healthy" your lizard may look, they are dying slowly inside. By the time symptoms manifest and become visible it's too late.
The laws of survival in the wild mandate that they remain vigorous and functional until their final moments or risk falling prey to the next predator up the food chain. Therefore even if you ASSUME your animal is doing fine, the hard cold truth is it may not be so.
Proper caging and proper humidity levels are the ONLY way to ensure a long and healthy life...
The attached photograph is hard to look at, so I will not embed it in this post, you may click the link and view it at your own discression.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and best wishes to all of you and your captive monitors..