Reptiles: biology and husbandry

image of Reptiles: biology and husbandry
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This chapter covers the common species of reptiles seen in veterinary practice, their anatomy and physiology, sexing, nutritional considerations and housing requirements. Includes self-assessment questions.

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4.1 The hobbyist herpetologist vivarium can be very different to the set-up used by a professional herpetoculturist , with different husbandry-related problems seen as a result.
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4.2 Common reptile and amphibian species seen in practice.
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4.2 Native reptile species in the UK.
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4.3 Lizard anatomy. (Re-drawn after Mader DR (1996) ) Snake anatomy. Tortoise anatomy Re-drawn after Mader DR (1996) ). Drawn by S.J. Elmhurst BA Hons (www.livingart.org.uk) and reproduced with her permission.
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4.4 The coccygeal vein is a useful site for blood sampling.
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4.5 Open-mouth views of a snake showing teeth in the upper and lower jaw. The tubular larynx and the forked tongue within its sheath can also be seen.
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4.6 Demonstration of the simple intubation technique in an iguana. The larynx of a cornsnake. The larynx of a tortoise (arrow indicates opening (glottis)).
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4.7 The lung of a cornsnake (arrowed). The reptilian lung is often a very simple bag-like structure.
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4.8 The heart of a Burmese python. The reptilian heart has a single ventricle and two atria. However, it functions as if it were four-chambered due to the presence of muscular flaps within the ventricle.
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4.9 Doppler ultrasonography can be extremely useful when assessing the heart rate of a reptile patient, such as this cornsnake.
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4.10 The chameleon tongue has adapted to be fired over a long distance and is prehensile, aiding in capture of prey.
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4.11 Reptiles have a common opening of the gastrointestinal and urogenital tracts. Waste is passed separately or sometimes together. Dark matter is faeces from the gastrointestinal tract, while the white matter is urates and of urinary origin.
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4.12 Hemipenes are the paired, male reproductive organs in snakes and lizards. They play no role in urination, only delivery of sperm, generally along external grooves on this organ.
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4.13 Scales of a snake as seen using electron microscopy.
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4.14 The spectacle is a single, clear scale that has replaced the eyelid in snakes. This often becomes opaque prior to ecdysis. Sloughed skins should be inspected for the presence of spectacles.
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4.15 Snakes lack limbs; however, some pythons and boas have vestigial limbs close to the cloaca, called spurs (arrowed). These can sometimes be helpful for sexing.
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4.16 Femoral pores (arrowed) can be useful in some species for gender identification but can be very subjective in others. Male leopard gecko. Female leopard gecko.
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4.17 Sexual dimorphism is exhibited in some species such as the veiled chameleon, where the male has an additional digit on his hindlimbs; this is lacking in the female.
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4.18 Probing is a popular method for sexing snakes. The male can be probed deeper then the female, due to the presence of the inverted hemipenes. Drawn by S.J. Elmhurst BA Hons (www.livingart.org.uk) and reproduced with her permission.
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4.19 Popping is a safer method for sexing snakes but requires more experience. The hemipenis, if present, is rolled out of the cloaca. Male python. Female python.
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4.20 Some species of chelonian have obvious sexual dimorphism. This is especially true in the red-eared terrapin, which has extremely long nails for use in courtship. Knowing the individual species differences is important.
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4.21 Common food items for herbivorous reptiles.
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4.22 Common food items for carnivorous reptiles.
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4.23 Common food items for insectivorous reptiles.
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4.24 Metabolic bone disease (MBD) is a common presentation in poorly managed reptiles. This is a clinical sign and not a disease in itself. It can present in many different ways. Lordosis and scoliosis of the spine can be seen in this Fijian iguana. Deformed carapace in a terrapin.
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4.25 Reptile preventive medicine consists of providing adequate husbandry and nutritional needs for each species, meeting their individual requirements through the development of varied microhabitats. These are examples of vivaria for desert , arboreal and aquatic species, each supplying different needs but using similar underlying principles of habitat design.
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4.26 A box set-up (lid removed), which meets the basic requirements of the snake.
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4.27 Thermostats, such as this pulse proportional thermostat, are essential for maintaining preferred optimum temperature ranges (POTRs).
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4.28 UVB is extremely important for any vivarium. There are many different lights available and knowledge of the types of UVB, the amount emitted and the distances that the UVB reaches are all important. Here, three different lamps are assessed using a UVB meter to produce UVB charts. (© 2011, 2012 Frances M Baines)
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4.29 Naturalistic reptile environments. Arboreal. Semi-aquatic. (Reproduced from the ). Drawn by S.J. Elmhurst BA Hons (www.livingart.org.uk) and reproduced with her permission.
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4.30 A hiding place is provided both for privacy and as a retreat from the heat.
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4.31 A clear bag can be very useful for a brief examination of small amphibians.


Self assessment questions

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