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Friday, April 13, 2012

Gecko Boy Parts

Here's another fun case, and one that most vets wouldn't touch.  In fact, the owners had gone to or called several other vets before being referred to me because I work with exotic pets.  

They had a two year old leopard gecko that was generally in very good health.  They were doing everything they were supposed to do, which can't be said about all exotics owners.  A few days before coming in they had noted something swollen around its cloaca (the single urogenital opening for reptiles and birds).  They had done their research and had a good idea of what was going on.  I was able to quickly confirm their suspicions.  The gecko had prolapsed a hemipenis.

For those who don't know much about the anatomy and physiology of reptiles, let me break the story to give a quick lesson.  Unlike mammals reptiles have a single opening, the cloaca, where the urinary, digestive, and reproductive systems empty.  In males they have a hemipenis purely for reproduction that is outside of the cloaca.  Again unlike mammals, the penis has nothing to do with the urinary system.  And to make it even stranger, many reptiles have two of them, hence the name "hemi"-penis to refer to one of them.

In a situation like this where it had been prolapsed for several days, the only option is amputation.  The prolapsed organ becomes damaged and dried and will eventually become dead and infected.  Thankfully, amputating one hemipenis doesn't affect urination and even leaves the lizard able to reproduce since he still has another one.  Thankfully the owners agreed to the surgery.  Here are some pictures!


The red object in these pictures is the hemipenis.  In the middle one you can see a slight bump on the other side of the cloacal opening which is the non-prolapsed hemipenis.  Amputation is actually pretty simple.  Under anesthesia you ligate around the base of the organ and then cut it off.


In these pictures I have the hemipenis held with my forceps, making it look longer than in the first pictures.  The bottom picture is of me doing he actual amputation after having ligated it.  And here's the "after" picture.


He woke up well and was doing fine at his post-operative recheck.  I like seeing exotics because it gives me some variety in my day and allows me to see and do things that most other vets pass on.  It's fun for me and I get to provide a service to clients that may not have other places to go.

9 comments:

  1. very interesting! Just curious since I don't know much about reptiles, do they respond well to the same type of anesthesia as mammals? And is it any riskier for them?

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  2. Anesthesia is trickier for several reasons. They are often so small that it's difficult to place any sort of catheter, and the monitoring equipment usually isn't set up for such small pets. We can't easily do pre-anesthestic blood testing in the small ones. Tracheal tubes aren't made for pets this small, and they tend to hold their breath, making gas anesthesia tricky. They are also much more prone to hypothermia since they can't regulate their own body temperature. So there are things about surgery on reptiles that makes it different and even more risky than in mammals.

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  3. I do most pocket pets but not birds or reptiles. I used to do birds, but they bite too much! I just don't know enough about reptiles and don't have enough of an interest to learn more.

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  4. how much is a procedure like this?

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    1. This will depend a lot on your vet, and most vets won't do something like this. You can expect around $300-500, though that can vary widely.

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  5. Hello Chris,
    i have a question: the position of the gecko is somewhat vertical during surgery?
    Also, how can hypothermia be avoided? Would it be advisable to use a heat mat under the gecko?

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    1. He was fully horizontal, reclined on his back. The pictures may make it seem like he's more vertical.

      Hypothermia is certainly a concern. In this case he was anesthetized for a very short time so it wasn't a real problem. Longer procedures would necessitate warming methods, which can include a warming device on an IV line, a circulating hot water pad, warm air blowers, and so on.

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  6. Gecko recently had the amputation done couple days later it started to bleed when he tried to poop a thick white hard substance came out. Should I be alarmed The vet can't see me for two days

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    Replies
    1. A quick drop or two of blood may not be a concern. The thick white substance is likely urates, a normal part of a reptile's elimination. If you weren't already aware, reptiles only have a single urogenital opening, so the defecate and urinate from the same place. I would recommend double-checking to see if the vet can't squeeze you in sooner since this could potentially be a post-operative problem (thought it also might not be).

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