Reproductive Disease in Reptiles

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Presenter: Joanna Hedley, BVM&S DZooMed (Reptilian) DECZM (Herpetology) MRCVS

Date: Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Time: 2 pm EST (New York); What time is that in my time zone?

Veiled chameleon distended coelom Mede

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Lecture outline

Lecture topics will include:

veiled chameleon
  • Normal reproductive strategies
    • Anatomy
      • Difference between reptile classes
      • Gender ID
    • Physiology
    • Oviparity vs viviparity
    • Incubation and hatching eggs
    • Sex determination
  • Pre-ovulatory or follicular stasis
  • Post-ovulatory dystocia
  • Cloacal prolapse



Reptile reproduction can be a confusing topic due to the variety of normal reproductive strategies found throughout different reptile species. It is however important to understand normal reproductive processes in order to understand the approach to some of the commonly seen problems.

Broadly reptiles can be divided into those which reproduce by laying eggs (oviparity) and those that produce live young (viviaparity). Reproduction may often be a seasonal process and the presence of a male is not always required for eggs to be produced as long as the appropriate environmental stimuli are in place. Differentiating male from female reptiles is not always straightforward especially in juvenile animals. Owners will often be unaware or misinformed of the sex of their pet, particularly if purchased when young and therefore not anticipating certain reproductive problems.

Commonly seen reproductive problems include follicular stasis, post-ovulatory dystocia and cloacal prolapses which can all be seen in captive reptiles.

Follicular or pre-ovulatory stasis occurs when follicles are produced by the ovaries but ovulation does not ensue. Clinical signs include reduced appetite, lethargy and sometimes hindlimb weakness. However despite reduced appetite, weight is often not significantly reduced and sometimes increased due to the weight of the follicles. Blood work can be suggestive of reproductive activity, although imaging is required to confirm diagnosis. Ovariectomy is usually the treatment of choice.

Post-ovulatory dystocia may occur for many reasons including husbandry deficiencies and systemic disease. If not actively straining, the biggest challenge is determining whether the reptile is truly dystocic or simply at an advanced stage of gravidity. Imaging is recommended to confirm number of eggs or fetuses present and identify any factors which may be causing the dystocia. Both medical and surgical treatment options can be considered with medical options more successful in chelonian species.

Cloacal prolapses can occur for many reasons including excessive mating behaviour, low calcium levels and dystocia, but also non-reproductive disease. Prolapses may be just cloacal or involve intestine, bladder, oviduct or hemipenes. Identification of both the type of prolapse and underlying cause are important in order to select the appropriate treatment option with the best possible outcome.


About the presenter

Joanna Hedley is a Lecturer in Exotic Species and Small Mammal Medicine and Surgery at the Beaumont Sainsbury Animal Hospital, which is part of the Royal Veterinary College in London. Joanna qualified from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in 2003. Following 5 years in mixed, small animal, exotic and wildlife practice, she completed a residency in wildlife and exotic animal medicine and earned a RCVS Diploma in Zoological Medicine. [MORE]

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RACE approval

This program was reviewed and approved by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) Registry of Continuing Education (R.A.C.E.) program for 1 hour of continuing education in jurisdictions that recognize AAVSB R.A.C.E. approval.

Please contact AAVSB R.A.C.E. program if you have any comments or concerns regarding this program’s validity or relevancy to the veterinary profession.