My Pet World: Take a pass on team logo for crab's shell

Question: My son, a New England Patriots fan, has three pet crabs. We are [Denver] Broncos fans. Will the crabs get along with one another if they have different team logos painted on their shells? — D.H., Denver

Answer: I may not be paid as much as Tom Brady or Tim Tebow, but I love my job more because of questions like yours.

Painting crabs' shells with sports team logos is a craze but not a healthy one.

"Crab shells need to breathe, and the paint interferes," says Carol Frischmann, author of "Animal Planet: Hermit Crabs" (TFH Publications, Neptune City, NJ, 2011; $8.95).

"Crabs seem to require the natural characteristics of a shell, and painting it makes a difference which may be harmful to the crab inside," adds Frischmann, of Portland, Ore.

Divide your aquarium into two sections — a Patriots end and a Broncos end. You could even put up mini goal posts (use chopsticks), then see which "team" scores the most crab touchdowns.

Q: How can we tell if our 3-year-old bearded dragon (lizard) is overweight?

I've seen bearded dragons in pet stores, and they all seem to have round bellies. I asked our vet, but she doesn't know much about lizards. She did say that if Boris is overweight, it's probably as detrimental for him as it would for a dog, cat or person.

Can you help? — S.J., San Diego

A: "Determining if a round-shaped lizard is overweight isn't the easiest thing," says Thomas Mazorlig, author of "Animal Planet: Bearded Dragons" (TFH Publications, Neptune City, N.J., 2011; $10.95). "When a (bearded) dragon moves around the cage, the lizard shouldn't be dragging its belly on the floor (unless he's just eaten). Dragons love to eat and eat — and I've seen many obese dragons, which isn't healthy. I've even seen dragons with very fat legs, which isn't normal, either."

There are veterinarians with a special interest in cold-blooded pets, and your veterinarian should be able to offer a referral. Bearded dragons that are well-cared for can live 9 to 12 years. Appropriate veterinary care is important.

Mazorlig, of South Amboy, N.J., strongly suggests seeing a veterinarian to determine if Boris is overweight, and to create a weight-watchers plan for your pet.

He adds that if you're feeding Boris cat or dog food, cut it out. If you're feeding pinkie mice, cut them out temporarily, and much later you can offer one or two a month. The overall recommendation for feeding bearded dragons is half vegetable matter and half waxworms, mealworms and/or crickets.

To bring Boris' weight down, cut down on the insect delicacies in favor of more veggies. Never put your lizard on a crash diet.

Q: My 12-year-old son really wants a pair of slider turtles. These pets were popular when I was young. I checked online and found that sliders spread salmonella and are now banned in some places. Our son is so determined that he created a PowerPoint presentation on sliders that was quite persuasive. What do you think? — B.K. Tampa, Fla.

A: As your son likely pointed out in his presentation, you can keep yellow-bellied sliders as pets in Florida. However, red-eared slider turtles (a subspecies) are illegal. The explanation is that the red-eared sliders could get out and mate with the wild indigenous yellow-bellied species, according to Katrina Smith, of Baltimore, author of "Animal Planet: Red-Eared Sliders" (TFH Publications, Neptune City, N.J., 2011; $10.95)

Salmonella is a potential concern, but not if the turtle doesn't scratch or bite you, and if you simply wash your hands after handling the pet or cleaning its habitat.

Smith points out that slider turtles may live for 20 years. Also, these pets continue growing and females can reach about 11 inches (males are about half that size). That's a tad larger than a dinner plate!

Adult sliders need a minimum 55-gallon tank, equipped with a canister filter, basking platform and heat lamp, as well as aquatic decorations.

Outdoor turtles can live koi fish-type ponds (in warm climates), but require protection from raccoons and other prey animals.

Smith, adoptions coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic Turtle and Tortoise Society, suggests thinking about adoption or rescue rather than buying a turtle. Check or contact a local herpetological group about available turtles and tortoises.

Q: Do skunks really make good pets? I read in a magazine that you have a skunk with a blue tongue. Where would I find one? — C.T., Cyberspace

A: I do have a pet with a blue tongue — a Northern blue-tongue skink, a kind of lizard.

These lizards are native to Australia (and nearby islands) and are sometimes captive bred as pets in the U.S. As lizards go, they're docile (when handled from a young age) and reasonably interactive with people.

They grow to around 2 feet long and can live 20 years. They're reasonably easy to care for. I first wrote about blue-tongue lizards as an alternative to then-popular green iguanas, which grow to 5 to 6 feet, require climbing space, very specific housing and can be cantankerous. Northern blue-tongue skinks are a far better choice than iguanas for most pet owners.

A skunk is a very different matter. While skunks can be de-scented, they still have a certain odor about them. If adopted when young, they can be docile, but in many places it's illegal to have a pet skunk (without a special permit).

Skunks can be house-trained, and are very smart and very curious. They can get into trouble if not crated. Except to ward off visitors, I personally don't believe pet skunks are a good idea.

The only way a skunk might have blue tongue is after drinking a blue Slurpee!

STEVE DALE welcomes questions/comments from readers. Send email to

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