Lack of appropriate levels of Vitamin A in the diet.

Why Vitamin A is Important:

Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin that is an essential part of the diet. It is important in the functioning of the skin, mucous membranes, retina (part of the eye), muscles, immune system, reproductive system and other systems of the body.

Symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency:

The first symptom owners typically notice is swollen eyelids (especially in turtles) — this can become so pronounced that the eyes cannot be opened. Other symptoms include:

  • Swelling around eyes and mouth
  • Nasal discharge
  • Stomatitis (inflammation of the lining of mouth)
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite; weight loss
  • Decreased growth rate
  • Can be fatal in severe cases

In addition, reptiles suffering from vitamim A deficiency can be more susceptible to skin and respiratory infections. A diet deficient in vitamin may also be lacking in other nutrients; metabolic bone disease my be seen along with vitamin A deficiency.


If your reptile is exhibiting symptoms of vitamin A deficiency, you should take your pet to a herp vet. Vitamin A deficiency is best treated if caught early — severe cases can leave lasting problems. A course of injectable or oral vitamin A may be prescribed, along with instituting dietary changes to prevent a recurrence. Any secondary infections or other nutrient deficiencies will also need to be treated.


Animals feed a healthy well balanced diet do not usually have problems with vitamin A levels. A healthy diet includes properly gut loading insect prey (especially with vegetables high in vitamin A), and supplementing with a multivitamin. Foods rich in vitamin A include apricots, broccoli leaves and flowerets, carrots, collard greens, dandelion greens (no pesticides or fertilizers!), kale, mustard greens, papaya, parsley, sweet potatoes, turnip greens, yellow squash. These are all good to offer to your feeder insects. Generally, a good reptile multivitamin should given as well: more on that below.

Vitamin Supplements – Type:

There is some controversy over the best form of vitamin A to provide. Because too much Vitamin A is also harmful, some experts recommend using a supplement with beta carotene rather than vitamin A; the body then converts beta carotene to the needed vitamin A. However, some animals are not able to make this conversion. For example, there is some evidence that chameleons are in this group so they can suffer vitamin A deficiency even if receiving a supplement. Choosing a supplement with vitamin A is likely fine as long as you do not overdo it.

Vitamin Supplements – How Often:

Your best bet is to discuss a supplementation schedule with your vet as requirements depend on age, body condition, reproductive status, etc. Still, little is knows about the specific amounts needed by our pets. Many experts recommend that a healthy adult reptile fed a varied, properly gut loaded diet only need a multivitamin once a week (calcium supplements more often), and juveniles every other feeding.

The Bottom Line:

Feeding your reptile a varied, healthy and well-balanced diet is the best way to prevent a deficiency in vitamin A. If you suspect your reptile is suffering from any sort of deficiency or illness, please see a vet as quickly as possible.

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Filed under: Reptiles Health