Veterinary practices are often more hesitant to deal with snakes than with other pet reptiles, yet for the most part snakes are probably the easiest reptile patients to capture and restrain in clinical practice. This article reviews the defense mechanisms of snakes as well as transport, restraint techniques, and potential complications.
Reptiles lack an epiglottis and the glottis is ready visualized, making intubation readily accomplished in most species. If the glottal folds are closed, apply topical lidocaine to facilitate intubation. The tracheal rings are complete in reptiles. Use of an inflated, cuffed endotracheal tube can lead to pressure necrosis because there is no elastic ligament to accommodate tracheal expansion. Always select an uncuffed endotracheal tube in small reptiles and never inflate a cuff in large reptiles …
This live webinar event was presented by Javier Nevarez, DVM, PhD, DACZM, DECZM (Herpetology). View a recording of Dr. Nevarez’s web-based seminar and earn 1 hour of R.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credit. Lecture objectives include a review of the principles and concepts of reptile analgesia, recommended analgesics, signs of pain and pain recognition, and a review of analgesic protocols. The presentation also reviews principles and concepts of reptile anesthesia, popular anesthetic agents and anesthetic protocols, monitoring, as well as keys to success.
Depending on their age and size, snakes may be fed multiple times in one week or every 2 to 4 weeks. If nutritional support is truly needed, then assisted feeding is indicated in the hospitalized snake. Tube feeding is commonly performed in critically ill snakes after fluid therapy and supplemental heat is provided.
Respiratory tract disease is common in captive snakes. Pneumonia and/or tracheitis are typically caused by opportunistic Gram-negative bacterial infections that are allowed to take hold due to poor husbandry practices. Disease is often unapparent to the owner until the problem is quite advanced and open-mouth breathing is observed. This presenting problem article explores key points of urgent care as well as general principles of case management.
Primarily a disease of captive reptiles, dysecdysis is sporadically seen in free-ranging reptiles. Among captive reptiles, difficult sheds are most common in those with a complete shedding cycle: snakes and some geckos such as the leopard gecko and African fat-tailed gecko. Some skinks with relatively tiny digits, are prone to retaining shed skin on the digits.
Snake behavior will vary with the species, however the normal snake tends to be alert, responsive, and curious. Frequent tongue flicking is a sensory gathering behavior used to deliver scents to the vomeronasal organ. The normal snake is generally active, often coiling or twining its body. This is particularly true for smaller species. Signs of aggression in the snake may include…
Thermal burns are a common injury in snakes and lizards. Companion snakes and lizards may come in contact with poorly protected heat sources or old “hot rocks” that short circuit. Even free-ranging reptiles may be at risk for thermal injuries during grass or forest fires. This presenting problem article “Burns in Snakes and Lizards”, explores a basic understanding of burns in reptiles, then moves onto key points of urgent care as well as general aspects of case management, including patient history, physical examination, differential diagnoses, diagnostics, therapy, and finally prognosis.
The basic principles of fluid therapy are the same in the reptile as seen in birds and mammals, however reptile anatomy and physiology make some features of this crucial supportive care procedure unique. This article reviews fluid resuscitation with the use of crystalloid fluids and colloids, indications for replacement fluids including signs of dehydration and osmolarity values reported in reptiles. Routes of fluid administration in reptiles are described include subcutaneous, oral, soaking, intracoelomic, intraosseous, and intravenous via the cephalic vein, jugular vein, and in rare instances intracardiac catheter placement. Patient monitoring, including blood pressure measurement and signs of overhydration, are also explored.
Cardiocentesis is used in snakes of all sizes, although the patient should ideally be greater than 200 grams. Lymph contamination is also less likely with cardiocentesis when compared to caudal tail venipuncture. Based on a study in ball pythons…
The paired ovaries and testes, which range in color from yellow to grayish-pink, are located dorsomedially within the coelom although their exact location is species-specific. The right gonad sits cranial to the left, particularly in snakes. Females possess a right and left oviduct, but no true uterus. The oviduct empties directly into the cloaca through a genital papillae
Among exotic animals, venous cutdown is most commonly employed in reptiles like lizards and snakes although intraosseous catheters are also placed in lizards. Similarly, when an exotic companion mammal like a ferret or rabbit suffers from severe hypovolemia, dehydration, hypotension, and vascular collapse, intraosseous catheters have largely replaced venous cutdowns but this technique is occasionally employed.
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.
Prolapse in reptiles can involve the cloaca, a common receiving chamber for the reproductive, urinary, and gastrointestinal tracts. Prolapses can also originate from the distal gastrointestinal tract, reproductive organ, or urinary bladder—in those species with a bladder like the green iguana and leopard gecko…
Like other shedding problems, retained spectacles or “eye caps” are a sign of an underlying problem related to patient health or husbandry. If retained spectacles are not removed, they can interfere with vision, damage the eye, and/or serve as a source of infection
According to the Humane Society of the United States,17 deaths and many more injuries have been related to large constrictors since 1978. Given the tens of thousands of large constrictors sold, the incidence of fatalities and injuries is relatively low, however every incident—including the death of four babies in their cribs and three additional children—is particularly tragic since these cases are completely preventable. In this client education handout, safety tips involving snake feeding, housing, and behavior are discussed.
There are several species of kingsnake and their habitat and range vary. The Eastern kingsnake is found in humid forests of the eastern seaboard states and as far west as the Appalachians and Alabama. The California kingsnake is native to desert, arid grassland, and rocky hillsides of Baja Mexico and the western United States. Pets may be bred in captivity or wild-caught. Kingsnakes are fairly docile, medium-sized, hardy reptiles, that make…
The corn snake is also known as the red rat snake. Corn snakes are found in woodland and forest regions of the southeastern and central United States as far west as Kentucky and Louisiana and as far south as Mexico. Pets may be wild-caught but most are captive bred and many color morphs are now available in the pet trade.
The group of snakes called “boas” consists of over 40 species. Most popular pet boas are New World species, however boas are also found in Africa and Asia. Most boas live in environments that range from tropical rain forest to dry woodland and scrub forest. Sand boas (Gongylophis spp.) may be found in desert and savannah land and Rosy boas (Lichanura spp.) live in dry, rocky habitats.
Pythons are found in Africa, Australia, and Asia under conditions that range from rain forest to desert. Some species are primarily ground dwellers, but most can be found in bushes and trees. The larger species are often found near water and are strong swimmers.
Pet boas and pythons may be…
October 21st is Reptile Awareness Day. Although Reptile Awareness Day was founded with the worthy goal of exploring the ecological challenges that reptiles face, celebrate with LafeberVet by taking our quiz that focuses on clinical information. Are you aware of these reptile-centric facts that will benefit you, your staff, and of course your reptile patients?
A collection of online resources related to reptile and amphibian medicine. This list of links come from a variety of professional organizations and conservation websites.
Stomatitis, also known as “mouth rot”, ulcerative stomatitis, necrotic stomatitis, and/or periodontal disease is a common problem in snakes and lizards. Stomatitis is less common in chelonians and crocodilians, and often presents as a stomatitis-rhinitis complex in tortoises. This presenting problem article explores the pertinent anatomy involved, key points of urgent care, as well as tips for case management.
Are you prepared to see herptiles in your clinical practice? This equipment list, created by a veterinarian board-certified in reptiles and amphibians, provides recommendations for basic equipment needs as well as tools for advanced reptile care including amphibians and even crocodilians.
Fluid therapy is an important part of supportive care, and there are several routes available for fluid support in the reptile. Subcutaneous and/or oral fluids are appropriate for mild to moderate dehydration, while intracoelomic, intravenous, or intraosseous fluids are administered to critically ill reptiles or to patients with moderate to severe dehydration.
Reptile owners are routinely instructed on oral or intramuscular drug administration techniques for outpatient care. In many instances and in many species, parenteral injections are preferred over the oral route. Injectable medications can be delivered intramuscularly, subcutaneously, intracoelomically, intravenously, or…
Nutritional support is indicated in reptiles with a 10% drop in body weight, and force-feeding is sometimes indicated with a history of anorexia. Interpretation of anorexia can be difficult in some reptiles, particularly snakes and chelonians. Never rush to feed a reptile. The patient must first be warm, housed at its preferred optimal temperature zone, and must be adequately hydrated.