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    Interesting Reptiles

    Check out some of these interesting reptiles!

    Lucy the Tortoise

    “Lucy” is a magnificent 12.5-pound Leopard Tortoise. Her owner is an experienced keeper and takes excellent care of the tortoise. Lately, Lucy was digging excessively in her enclosure, and a radiograph revealed that she had produced four eggs. Tortoises, like chickens, can produce eggs in the absence of a male, and Lucy did this last year around the same time (November) as well. We gave an injection of a hormone to induce labor and help her expel the eggs without surgery, which she did within 90 minutes of her visit. The radiograph was useful to confirm the diagnosis and know with certainty how many eggs to expect.

    Improper bedding results in GI impaction in a bearded dragon

    This poor lizard suffered bad advice from a pet store. His diet was unbalanced, leading to thin, soft, translucent bones on the radiograph seen below. He also was kept on sand that was supposedly “digestible” and ate too much, trying to correct his imbalance. This resulted in a colonic impaction (bright white on the radiograph). The owner read on the web that sand could be a problem when there was no stool for two weeks, so he switched to ground walnut shell bedding. The lizard ate that too, making the impaction worse (gray, lumpy material in between the black, air-filled lungs). The last photo shows what we were able to remove after several days of oral laxatives, hydration, and manual removal of the impaction: an impressive amount of sand, walnut shell, and inflammatory membrane. Now we’re working on the calcium deficiency that started the whole thing.

    Egg binding in a parson’s chameleon

    Chameleons are difficult to care for in captivity, but this keeper does an outstanding job. He has a greenhouse with UV-transmitting glass and raises five kinds of cockroaches and also walking sticks to feed his Chameleons. This beautiful lizard was brought in as she was not eating and a distended abdomen. Radiographs showed that she was full of eggs, visible as symmetrical, round opacities looking like clusters of grapes. Medical efforts to get her to lay the eggs by herself failed, and she had to undergo a sort of a lizard Caesarian section. The sedative caused her to turn a bright canary yellow like Tweety Bird temporarily. We removed 49 eggs, and she did well.

    Snake shedding, retained eyecaps

    Snakes periodically shed their skin. When the old skin is separated from the new skin underneath, lymph fluid collects in the cleavage zone between layers and makes the snake look dull or opaque. Snakes (and some geckos) lack eyelids and instead have a clear scale, the spectacle, which covers each eye like a goggle. Snakes are usually opaque for 5 to 7 days, after which they clear up for another 5 to 7 days before they actually shed.

    The outer layer of the spectacle is shed with the skin, and likewise, it gets opaque before the snake sheds, making the eye look milky and blind.

    This Indigo Snake is normally jet black top and bottom, but become dramatically opaque when he was getting ready to shed.

    The Rhacodactylus geckos, like this R. sarasinorum, have spectacles. Here you can see there is a tear-filled space between the spectacle and the cornea of the eye. In the other photo you can see some shed skins showing how the outer layer of the spectacle is shed with the skin.

    Sometimes a spectacle is retained or fails to come off with the shed. The skin around the spectacle is thinner than that of the spectacle itself, so this is where it tears. If a spectacle is retained, the eye looks dull, and torn loose skin around it always is visible.
    If the eye is gently rolled back a little, the edge of the retained spectacle becomes obvious. Once loosened by applying a moist cloth for 5 minutes, it gently and without force can be lifted off.
    Like Ball Pythons and Indigo Snakes, snakes with bulging eyes can develop wrinkled spectacles (first photo). This is normal, but is often mistaken for retained eyecaps. Well-meaning owners try to remove them, but end up removing the full thickness of the living spectacle. This exposes the cornea and results in scarring and blindness (second photo). Don’t try to remove spectacles yourself unless you have been properly trained to do so.

    Two-headed reptiles are really conjoined twins

    Reptiles with two heads often appear in the news as unusual freaks, but they are fairly common in reality. This defect happens when a fertilized egg begins to divide into two eggs, which normally would result in identical twins. In these cases, the division of the egg is incomplete, so only the front half of the body is duplicated, while the back half remains single. Some conjoined twin reptiles have multiple birth defects and die shortly after birth, but many live full and normal lives. All of these examples were seen at Vernon Hills Animal Hospital, and all were doing well. In each case, both heads eat.

    Bearded Dragon
    Desert Kingsnake
    Yellow-Bellied Slider