I think a lot of people realize that veterinary medicine can present challenges different from those in human medicine. Certainly, our companions have some similar physiology and structures to our own, however the main challenge is that veterinary medicine patients are not as communicative as humans are with their physicians. I have seldom had a patient “tell me where it hurts.”
This challenge is one of the reasons, and there are many, why veterinary medicine is so fascinating. It is also the main reason diagnostics can be so important. This is especially important with some of the less mainstream species that some people choose as companions. Lou is one of those species, a bearded dragon lizard.
Lou lives in a large cage and is well taken care of by Brandon. Lou is 5 years old and has been with Brandon for most of his life with no health issues. That no longer appears to be the case. Lou has decided he does not want to eat. For Lou this is highly unusual as, according to Brandon, he usually eats every chance he gets. For the last 10 days or so, he has not touched anything Brandon has offered.
That is all the information I have to go on so it appears I am going to have to use one of my more primitive diagnostic tools, my crystal ball. To be fair to Brandon, this is the single most common presentation for a reptile patient. When they are having health issues, they generally do not eat. This could be the result of a simple problem such as a sore mouth or as complicated and severe as terminal cancer, the common symptom is they do not eat. Therefore, in Lou’s case and frankly in many cases of reptile illness, we start with the symptom of anorexia and look to a virtually unlimited list of disease possibilities.
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Brandon obviously will need to take Lou to his veterinarian for evaluation. I will share what I generally do when presented with an anorexic reptile patient, using Lou as an example. But every case has subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle differences so the thoughts I share may not translate to other lizard cases with the same symptom of anorexia. (The disclaimer!)
Physical examination is always an important diagnostic step and Lou is no exception. Through this process, we can sometimes fine tune our approach to the necessary diagnostic steps toward uncovering Lou’s problem. Again with no clues in this particular case, I will be a bit more generalized.
I recommend Lou have some radiographs taken to “look inside” his little body and a blood panel drawn to check organ system functions. A fecal examination for parasites is also warranted.
These steps will provide a good overview of what might be going on with Lou and hopefully direct us to the next step be it further diagnostics or treatment based on an illness discovered from the tests.
As stated, the best advice is to take Lou to his veterinarian.
Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto. Questions can be submitted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352.