Do Lizards Pee?
Believe it or not, many proud lizard owners have wondered if their pet can actually pee (urinate). I admit it may sound weird, but we all need to know, and that is why you are here, right?
Do Lizards Pee? The answer is no, well not exactly! Reptiles only have one tube that gets rid of everything, urine and faeces. They excrete a smooth paste like texture that expels all of their waste.
So, how is this Lizard Pee Possible?
All animals need to get rid of the nitrogen waste that piles up in their bodies. If we didn't, that nitrogen waste would turn into toxic ammonia. However, not every animal uses the same method to get rid of the nitrogen waste.
Uric Acid and Lizards Pee
You might have noticed slimy bird poo piling up on the hood of a car. Gross! That nasty texture is caused by uric acid, which birds produce instead of urine. Reptiles are just like birds when it comes to uric acid.
Mammals like you and me have two separate tubes for getting rid of waste, both solid and liquid, but reptiles only have one tube that gets rid of all their waste at once. It might seem weird, but it makes a lot of evolutionary sense for lizards.
Since they don't urinate like humans and other mammals, reptiles retain a lot more of the water they drink. Even though it takes more energy for a body to process water that way, retaining as much water as possible is an important survival tool for lizards that live in dry climates.
Do lizards have a bladder?
They may not pee the same way as mammals, but most lizards still have a bladder. It can modify urine like a human bladder. Its main function, however, is to act like a reservoir of water inside the lizard's body.
When you consider that a Gila monster has to endure a three month dry season every year in its native deserts, it starts to make sense that lizards would want to carry around a big pouch of water in their bodies.
Dehydration can be a real problem for lizards of all kinds. The lack of water causes their uric acid to crystallize into bladder stones which can be painful and uncomfortable. They might even cause damage to the lizard's organs.
Even lizards without bladders can develop uric acid crystals when they get dehydrated, so it's important to make sure your pet lizard is always drinking as much water as it needs. If you think your pet lizard might have bladder stones or any other symptoms of dehydration, you should consult a veterinarian right away.
The Effects This Has on Lizard Drinking
Lizards, regardless of the specie, common callareds, Iguanas, you name it, they need water to survive just like every plant or animal on Earth. It's easy to say they need water, but do lizards want water the same way you or I do when we get thirsty on a hot summer's day? That's a trickier question to answer.
The part of the human brain that causes the feeling of thirst is the hypothalamus, which sits at the base of the brain. Your hypothalamus also regulates your body temperature, controls your appetite, and releases hormones into your body. It's still unclear how the brains of other animals work compared to ours.
The exact way different kinds of animals experience the world around them is currently being studied, but the science is far from settled. Some research into iguanas has shown that they drink water in response to physiological thirst stimuli.
However, the researchers described the response time to some of the stimuli as being "leisurely" compared to other animals. Short of teaching your lizard to speak, you're unlikely to find out exactly how it experiences thirst. That doesn't mean it doesn't need water to live, though!
Do lizards actually drink?
Scientists once believed that some lizards absorbed water through their skin instead of drinking it through their mouths. This was always a tough theory to believe because permeable skin would lose more water than it could ever absorb in a hot, dry desert.
The truth, scientists discovered, is even stranger than they imagined. The lizards were actually trapping the water under their scales and using their skin to push the water across their backs and into the corners of their mouths. The phenomenon behind this survival strategy is called capillary action.
Capillary action describes the way water reacts to factors like surface tension and adhesion to move through a space. Water can even move against gravity if the capillary action is strong enough.
That might be a complicated process, but the end result is a nice stream of water running off the lizard's back and into the lizard's mouth. Whether they harvest it off their backs, sip it from dew, or lap it out of streams, lizards do actually drink through their mouths. The water they drink is supplemented by the water they retain from foods that they eat.
What do baby lizards drink?
Of all the babies on planet Earth, lizard babies are some of the most resilient. Not even a new born baby lizard needs its mother's protection to survive. In fact, some lizards can even take care of themselves before they hatch!
In response to predators, delicate skinks hatch themselves prematurely and sprint away the instant they touch the ground.
That's one independent baby! They might be limited in their diet because of their smaller mouths, but otherwise baby lizards are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves.
That means they drink water much like adult lizards do. They drink moisture off of leaves or (depending on the species) out of dishes, and they retain the water from the insects they eat.
If your species of baby lizard likes to drink from a dish or bathe in a pool, make sure the dish is wide and shallow enough that your lizard can't accidentally drown in its water.
Is lizard pee poisonous?
You've probably heard that urine is sterile. That's only half true for us humans. Our organs contain harmless microbial bacteria that gets mixed in with our urine, so you can't really call our urine sterile. Still, human urine is relatively clean and non-toxic due to the waste removal processes in our bodies.
The same can't be said for the uric acid that reptiles produce. The mix of feces and uric acid that lizards excrete can make humans very sick because it often contains salmonella. Salmonella bacteria causes all the vomiting and cramping symptoms of a stomach bug cranked up to high, even dangerous, intensity.
Salmonella is also the bacteria responsible for typhoid fever. When it comes to your pet lizard, make sure you handle any waste it produces with great care. If you own a pet lizard and you're experiencing the symptoms of salmonella, you should always seek medical attention.
Where do desert lizards live?
You probably already know that lizards are cold blooded, which means they don't regulate their body temperatures the way you or I do. Instead, the bodies of cold blooded (or ectothermic) animals heat up or cool down depending on the temperature of their surroundings.
That can be a real problem for desert lizards. If the desert heat gets too intense, a cold blooded lizard is liable to burn to death from the inside. That's why desert lizards often bury themselves beneath the sand, where it's much cooler and they're far likelier to survive.
Some desert lizard species don't even bother coming out during the day. The western banded gecko is only active at night, when the desert is cooler. In the case of such geckos, it's not a question of where they live— it's a question of when!
Where do desert lizards get their water?
Even though water's hard to come by in the desert, the lizards adapted to dry environments are able to make do. Remember the lizard I talked about in Question 5? That's the Texas horned lizard, a desert species.
Its ability to drink off its back helps it get the most of any moisture it encounters in its hot, sandy environment. The thorny devil lizard has similar harvesting methods on the skin of its feet, using the surfaces of its legs like straws to pry water from soggy sand.
Many other desert lizards rely almost entirely on the insects they eat as their main source of water. By the way, make sure you don't mess with a Texas horned lizard anytime soon.
While researching this article, I discovered that these formidable critters have a totally unique defense mechanism. When they get frightened, they shoot blood out of their eyes to ward off predators. Call me crazy, but a Texas horned lizard might not be the best choice for a pet!
How do you give your pet lizard water?
It's very important that you give your lizard water in whichever way is best suited to its particular species. Chameleons, for example, will only drink water through a drip system, whereas iguanas need a daily misting.
You'll also need to mist the lizard's tank to match the level of humidity your lizard prefers. While bearded dragons often avoid water dishes and prefer to get water from the insects they eat, other lizards will want bowls to drink from or even bowls to bathe in.
Some lizards will have trouble shedding if they don't have water dishes for soaking. Lizards are very diverse and they live in just about every biome on Earth. In fact, there are lizards native to every continent except for Antarctica.
That means there are as many different kinds of environments that lizards like as there are different kinds of environments on the planet. Don't let that discourage you!
The most important thing to remember is that your lizard is unique. How you give your pet its water will depend entirely on its species, as well as the part of the world its species originally came from.
How often should you change your pet lizard's water?
A clean water supply is essential for your lizard's health and happiness. Experts recommend changing your lizard's water supply every day. You'll also need to replenish the water supply if your lizard soils it in any way.
Remember: your lizard's waste has dangerous illnesses living in it! In addition to changing the water, it's important to clean up the dishes for your lizard. Water containers should be washed daily with soap and warm water. It's also a good idea to thoroughly disinfect the containers once a week.
What's the best way to apply a mist spray on your pet lizard?
The best way to care for your lizard will depend on its species. However, there are some good rules of thumb when it comes to misting any species of lizard. You might have seen someone use a spray bottle to punish a misbehaving dog.
The reason a spray bottle works as a disciplinary tool for dogs is because dogs hate getting sprayed in the face with water. A surprising blast of water to the face is unpleasant and startling for just about anybody. Your lizard is no exception!
If you need to mist your lizard's body, never spray it directly in the face. That kind of misting is a startling, disturbing experience for lizards. Instead, you should mist your lizard gently across its back.
How often should you apply a mist spray?
Different lizard species prefer different amounts of mist. If you're the proud owner of an iguana, for example, you need to mist your lizard on a daily basis with fresh water from a clean spray bottle. Some gecko owners also choose to mist their pets once or twice per day.
Other lizards that like humid environments might not need to be misted themselves, but could still want their tanks to be misted so they can drink water off of leaves.
For these lizards, a thorough tank misting every morning ought to do the trick. Every lizard has its own preferences. If your lizard is happy and healthy, you're probably providing it the right amount of misting.
What is a fogger?
Regular tank misting can be a chore for some lizard owners. You're also opening your lizard's habitat up to human error. It might be a good idea to buy a fogger, a kind of humidifying device that automatically moistens your lizard's tank at regular intervals.
Foggers are distinguished from automatic misting systems by the size of the water droplets they produce. The water droplets from foggers are far smaller, which helps them stay in the air longer. Foggers vary widely in reliability and usability. Make sure you thoroughly research the different foggers on the market before you purchase one for your pet lizard.
What can a fogger do for your lizard?
The right fogger can simulate the humidity your lizard prefers in its natural habitat. It can also humidify the tank on a programmed schedule, keeping the environment consistent around the clock.
However, you'll want to be sure the model of fogger you purchase suits your lizard's unique needs. Some foggers heat up while they operate. For some species, that heat can be incredibly uncomfortable or even dangerous.
The owners of those lizards will want to invest in an ultrasonic model, which won't heat up while it's fogging your lizard's tank. Also, the fogger will still need water refills to function correctly. A good fogger will simplify your lizard care chores, but no product can replace the care and attention your lizard needs from you on a daily basis.
Hopefully, the research and information in this article will clear up any misconceptions you might have about pet lizards. Their reptile physiology is pretty different from our mammalian bodies.
Lizards get rid of their waste differently, drink their water differently, and need special attention from their owners to make sure they're living in the right environment for their species. If you still have questions, don't hesitate to consult a pet expert for advice. You won't regret going the extra mile to ensure the health and happiness of your lizard.
Did you enjoy this article? I sure hope so! Leave your opinion in the comments so I can write articles you'll have fun reading.
If you have a pet lizard of your own, you can also let me know in the comments how he or she likes to drink water. If you did enjoy the article, share it on social media so that more people can take better care of their lizards!