Reptiles and amphibians

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There are small number of reptiles and amphibians indigenous to the British Isles, including grass snakes, slow worms, sand lizards, common frogs, natterjack toads and palmate newts, as well as some introduced species, such as the edible frog and red-eared terrapins. Veterinary surgeons may occasionally be presented with reptiles and amphibians that are sick or injured. This chapter covers: ecology and biology, anatomy and physiology; capture, handling and transportation; clinical assessment; first aid and hospitalization; anaesthesia and analgesia; specific conditions; therapeutics; husbandry; rearing of young reptiles and amphibians; rehabilitation and release; and legal considerations.

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31.1 The grass snake is easily identified by the yellow band around the neck. (Courtesy of C Seddon)
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31.2 The adder, or viper, Britain’s only poisonous snake, is usually characterized by a dark diamond zigzag down its back. (© Secret World Wildlife Rescue)
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31.3 Common lizard with an injury to the tail. The distal tail tip is missing, probably through autotomy. Ideally gloves should be worn when handling reptiles and amphibians to reduce the risk of zoonotic disease transmission and of traumatizing the animal’s skin, but this can reduce dexterity and the author does not usually do so. (Courtesy of E Keeble)
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31.4 Slow worms are legless lizards. Note the characteristic sexual dimorphism between the male (on the left) and the larger female (on the right) At least one blue spot (arrowed) can be seen on the female; this is a normal feature of some slow worms.
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31.5 Common frog. Frogs are distinguished from toads by their smooth skin. This casualty had been attacked by a domesticated cat, a common cause of injury.
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31.6 Some British toads. (a) Common toad. (b) Natterjack toad. (a, courtesy of C Seddon; b, courtesy of P Dawson)
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31.7 Male palmate newt. Males have a filament at the tip of the tail and black webbing on the back feet. (Courtesy of E Keeble)
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31.8 Grass snakes may sham death and appear as injured or dying to the inexperienced. (Courtesy of ME Cooper)
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31.9 Common toad with extensive injury to the hindleg presumed to have been made by contact with a garden strimmer. Preferably a damp substrate should be used to examine amphibians, as opposed to the Vetbed seen in this picture. (© Secret World Wildlife Rescue)
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31.10 A grass snake being restrained for removal of netting. Although ideally gloves should be worn when handling reptiles and amphibians to reduce the risk of zoonotic disease transmission and of traumatizing the animal’s skin, in practice it is sometimes necessary to act quickly – and bare hands often provide more dexterity and greater sensitivity. (© Secret World Wildlife Rescue)
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31.13 As a general rule, adult reptiles (such as this grass snake) and amphibians should be released at the site where they were found. (© Secret World Wildlife Rescue)
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