Husbandry-related conditions are very common in reptiles, and nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism is frequently recognized in clinical practice. The discussion portion of this Case Challenge reviews pathogenesis, history, examination findings, and diagnostic test results with radiography, and clinical pathology. Key points of case management are explored, including correction of husbandry and dietary factors, management of hypocalcemia, as well as stabilization and supportive care. Prognosis and prevention are also discussed.
An 8-month old female veiled chameleon presents for a 3-day duration of anorexia and lethargy. Use history, physical examination findings, laboratory results and survey radiographs to solve this case challenge.
The postmortem exam is a key diagnostic tool in understanding the reasons for a snake’s morbidity and mortality. Necropsies can provide valuable information to provide a risk assessment for other animals in a population or collection and can help provide closure for a grieving owner. This manuscript reviews the snake necropsy in a systemic, thorough manner, describing normal anatomy and proper collection technique from head to tail.
Download the PDF of this Snake Necropsy Data Collection Form and Checklist.
The postmortem examination is a valuable part of the diagnostic work-up. Shared by a veterinary pathologist with a special interest in birds, this guide to avian necropsy provides comprehensive instructions for the avian postmortem exam. This article offers step-by-step guidance on avian necropsy with a variety of photographs and video clips that illustrate useful clinical techniques and normal avian anatomy. Feel confident in your knowledge of avian anatomy? You can also “Test Yourself” by identifying the structures shown in four separate images.
A 3-year old intact male guinea pig was presented on emergency for suspected bloat and with a history of chronic hair loss. Clinical examination revealed non-pruritic symmetric truncal alopecia, thin skin, severe cachexia, and an abdominal fluid wave. Alkaline phosphatase, alanine transaminase, aspartate aminotransferase, gamma-glutamyl transferase, leukocytes (neutrophils), bilirubin, and serum cortisol were markedly elevated. Abdominal ultrasonography revealed peritoneal effusion, cholestasis, and cholelithiasis. Hyperadrenocorticism was diagnosed based on…
An adult intact female guinea pig was presented with dysorexia, exhaustion and weight loss. Radiographic and ultrasound findings demonstrated a severe gas dilatation of the stomach, severe gallbladder distension, and abnormalities on the organ topography. On laparotomy, a 180-degree gastric dilatation and volvulus was noticed with a gallbladder obstruction, hepatic lipidosis, and adhesions between the bowels…
An eleven year old male neutered rex rabbit presented with lethargy and inappetence of two days duration, and an acute episode of vestibular ataxia. Anemia and elevations in plasma alkaline phosphatase and alanine aminotransferase were evident. Abdominal ultrasound revealed questionable, diffuse hepatomegaly. Computed tomography revealed hepatic venous congestion, severe dilation of the pre-hepatic caudal vena cava, and bicavitary effusion, consistent with Budd-Chiari-like syndrome. Turbulent blood flow within the dilated segment of the caudal vena cava was present on spectral Doppler evaluation. Fine needle aspirate and cytology of the liver revealed necrosis with no evidence of infectious organisms…
Dystocia is defined as the inability of a sow to deliver her litter normally. In breeding colonies, maternal mortality and loss of the pup is an important and common problem in the guinea pig. This review article discusses the pathogenesis of disease, gestation and parturition, important differential diagnoses, diagnostics, therapy, prognosis, neonatal care, and prevention. There is also a brief quiz to reinforce learning.
Inland bearded dragons are native to Australia and are a popular companion animal. Private breeders often select for desirable temperaments and various color morphologies in an effort to provide an ever-increasing variety to the pet trade. They are also bred commercially and sold by large pet retailers making them a widely available pet reptile…
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This R.A.C.E.-approved continuing education webinar was presented by Terry Campbell, MS, DVM, PhD. View a recording of this web-based seminar to earn 1 hour of continuing education credit. Cytology is a simple, rapid diagnostic procedure requiring little in terms of equipment and cost to the veterinarian. Most clinical veterinarians are familiar with sample collection techniques for domestic mammals; which also apply to the small exotic mammals. Common cytological specimens used in avian and reptilian medicine include: aspirates, imprints of biopsy material, tracheal washes, crop (ingluvies) aspirates or washes in birds, gastric washes in reptiles, sinus aspirates, lung washes in reptiles, aspiration of coelomic fluid, and fecal smears.
The “Pigeon Disease Primer” explores important differential diagnoses for common clinical problems observed in pigeons and doves. Although the clinical approach to the columbiform relies on the same concepts of “One Medicine” used in all species, many of the infectious diseases of pigeons are relatively unique to this taxonomic group, or at least much more prevalent when compared to psittacine birds or songbirds.
Although pigeons and doves are a diverse group of birds, they do share some clinically significant anatomy and physiology, including a large, bilobed crop or ingluvies, crop milk production, as well as a vascular plexus found in the subcutis of pigeons. This post also touches on specialized anatomic features unique to fruit pigeons before summarizing some features of the columbid integumentary system, musculoskeletal system, and urogenital tract.
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A 5-year old female spayed lop rabbit presents with a history of acute anorexia (<24 hours) and lethargy. Use history, physical examination findings, laboratory results and survey radiographs to solve this case challenge.
Electrophoretic patterns among avian species have been found to be quite different from those seen in mammals. The protein electrophoresis patterns of psittacine species that have been studied generally include the presence of prealbumin in many species, lower normal concentrations of gamma-globulin, and increases in the…
Proventricular dilatation disease or PDD is one of the most frustrating avian conditions encountered today. The recent discovery of a causal relationship between PDD and avian bornavirus has not simplified the challenges that are faced. The detection of avian bornavirus infection is common in birds with PDD but is also detected in birds with other chronic diseases that are not diagnosed with PDD. Proventricular dilatation disease was first reported in the late 1970s…
Because of a lack of identified blood groups in companion bird species, compatibility for transfusion is based on the use of major and minor cross matches. A major cross match is performed by mixing donor red cells with recipient plasma and a minor cross match uses recipient cells and donor plasma. The appearance of agglutination or cell lysis indicates incompatibility.
Unlike mammals, a single transfusion between different bird species can be safe and efficacious. Transfusions will be most effective if the donor is…
Although hematology and biochemistry are an important part of the clinical picture in the avian patient, this bloodwork remains just ‘part of the picture’. All too often, when a clinician is unfamiliar with a species, the reaction is often to rely on laboratory results to hang a diagnosis upon. Although we have all been guilty of this, such an approach is inappropriate. For each sick bird, the following diagnostic tools should be applied: complete history, visual examination of the bird and its environment, physical examination, clinical pathology sample collection (blood, feces, swabs, aspirates, etc.), and radiography.
White blood cells are similar to mammalian lines, except that mammalian neutrophils are replaced with heterophils and mammalian platelets are replaced with thromobocytes. There are significant variations in normal differentials among avian species, in particular the total white cell count and…
Regardless of the initial cause of illness or injury, neonatal psittacine birds often develop secondary bacterial and/or fungal infections that can become serious primary problems. These infections are most commonly encountered within the gastrointestinal tract.
Hemochromatosis, “iron overload”, or “iron storage disease” is the excess accumulation of iron within parenchyma, especially in the liver and eventually in the heart and spleen. Elevated iron stores eventually lead to hepatocyte damage and fibrosis.
Guinea pigs tend to be shy, sweet-natured creatures. Guinea pigs are prey species. Their survival depends on the ability to be alert and respond quickly, and they possess acute senses of smell and hearing. Approach guinea pigs in a calm, quiet manner…
Rabbits are prey species. Their survival depends on the ability to be alert and respond quickly, and they possess acute senses of smell and hearing. Approach rabbits in a calm, quiet manner. Stressed or critically ill rabbits may not tolerate prolonged handling. Evaluation and treatment may need to proceed slowly in stages.
Abnormal urine in the rabbit typically appears white and chalky or pigmented. These changes can be related to the unique metabolism of calcium in the rabbit. Rabbits absorb nearly all calcium ingested; therefore blood levels vary substantially with the calcium content of the diet…
There is no cure for insulinoma. If the ferret lives long enough, eventually it will reach a point where clinical signs cannot be controlled and euthanasia will need to be selected to address quality of life issues.
Lymphoma is one of the most commonly diagnosed diseases in the domestic ferret. In one large study by Li et al, lymphoma was the third most common neoplasm seen in 574 ferrets after adrenal disease and insulinoma. Although a possible retroviral etiology has been proposed, no virus has yet been identified.
The average small animal veterinarian may easily become comfortable with ferrets. Ferrets are hardy and relatively stoic, and as members of the order Carnivora, ferrets are predator species that approach the world in a manner similar to cats and dogs. A relatively small number of medical problems are seen very commonly in ferrets. Careful study of these conditions and attention to the unique aspects of ferret anatomy and behavior will prepare the veterinarian for basic emergency care of the ferret.
Cystocentesis may be performed in the conscious rabbit, however it is not unusual for the rabbit to jump or flinch strongly when the needle enters the abdomen. In some individuals, it may help to restrain the rabbit in dorsal recumbency while the nose or head is stroked. If the rabbit resists manual restraint or is particularly high strung or nervous, then sedation or general anesthesia is indicated.
Heavy metal poisoning in birds most commonly occurs from ingestion of substances containing lead, or less commonly zinc. Acute heavy metal toxicity is occasionally seen in companion parrots that ingest or chew on objects containing metal because of their curious nature and innate desire to forage. Chronic lead poisoning most frequently affects free-ranging wildlife such as ducks, geese, swans and loons and is most commonly seen during migration in the late fall and early spring. Lead toxicity also occasionally occurs in upland game birds such as mourning doves, wild turkey, pheasants and quail. Lead poisoning has also been reported in raptors, presumably from the ingestion of lead-contaminated prey.
Although the medical approach to anemia is the same as in dogs & cats, some red cell parameters and some differentials differ in the ferret.
The ferret with moderate to severe anemia will exhibit pallor of the mucous membranes, nasal planum and skin. If a clotting disorder exists, petechial, ecchymotic and purpural hemorrhages can also be observed. The owner may complain of lethargy and reduced activity.
Common reproductive conditions of the reptile include prolapse of the cloaca, oviduct or copulatory organ, yolk coelomitis, dystocia or egg binding, as well as follicular stasis. This review article on twelve key facts explores clinically relevant anatomy and physiology and appropriate husbandry as well as key points of urgent care and general principles of case management.
The goal of this case study is to reinforce and highlight common concepts, situations, and presentations that reptile veterinarians encounter on a regular basis, while also expanding knowledge by including content not entirely available in textbooks. This case study is based on a report prepared by Veterinary Answers consultant Dan Johnson, DVM, DABVP (Exotic Companion Mammal). An 8-year old ovariectomized green iguana presents today for gradual onset of ascending tail necrosis (gangrene) over weeks to months…
An egg necropsy is an important part of the diagnostic workup to evaluate the cause of dead-in-shell. First, candle the egg and obtain basic measurements. Next enter the egg through the air cell. Carefully examine the shell membranes, then expose the interior of the egg. Collect culture samples as needed. Proceed using this form to gather standardized data and appropriate measurements.
Download Avian Necropsy Form 2
Download this avian necropsy form, adapted from a form by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Research Animal Resources Center.
Looking for a list of education resources on herptile medicine? Review this list of books and journals.
Why is this bird bleeding? Anticoagulant rodenticide exposure in birds of prey has been documented in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Anticoagulant rodenticides have been commonly used over the past decades for control of rodent populations and these rodenticides can cause toxicosis in birds of prey via consumption of poisoned prey.
Anticoagulant rodenticides are divided into two categories: first generation rodenticides like warfarin and second generation rodenticides, such as brodifacoum. Second generation anticoagulant rodenticides are more toxic and also have…
Hemorrhage in the critical patient can occur from a number of reasons. Before a blood sample is collected, carefully weigh the risk to the exotic animal patient against the clinical value of the test results. What will you do with this information? How will it affect your clinical plan? EDTA is the most commonly used anticoagulant in small mammals; lithium heparin is commonly used in birds and reptiles. Whenever possible, make a blood film immediately after venipuncture using fresh blood free of anticoagulant. Most adult small mammal hematocrits range from…
This case study is based on a report prepared by Veterinary Answers Consultant, Gwen Flinchum, DVM, Dipl. ABVP (Avian). A 5-year old female umbrella cockatoo is presented for lethargy, open-mouthed breathing, and difficulty gripping of 2-3 days duration.
Historically, routine Gram’s stains were performed in apparently healthy birds. As our understanding of avian medicine has grown, avian veterinarians have questioned the reliability and validity of Gram’s stain cytology as a screening test. Cytology is indicated when specific problems are reported during a detailed medical history or when…
What is atherosclerosis?
Atherosclerosis is characterized by fibrous plaques between the tunica intima and the internal elastic lamina of the vasculature. The heart, great vessels, and peripheral vessels of all sizes can be affected. Atherosclerosis begins with the formation of fatty streaks, which can eventually progress into fibrous plaques and complicated lesions…
Small mammals, such as rabbits and rodents, are stoic by nature and have evolved to mask their illness to avoid predation. This behavior can create a false sense of security in owners and a clinical challenge for veterinarians. In some cases, an animal that appears clinically normal may in fact have a terminal illness. Use hematology and biochemistry analysis to characterize the true physiological status of these species and aid in disease diagnosis.