Monday, May 6, 2013

Spring Vet Visit

It’s always a big deal when the vet visit rolls around. Recently Dr. Maas of The Center for Bird & Exotic Animal Medicine arrived with his big house-call cart. He is always prepared if any of the animals need tests or cultures done on them on site. Because our vet’s time is valuable, we want to make the most of it. So, Animal Care prepared all our questions before he arrived, and went through them one by one while he was there.

Our mood was a bit somber the day Dr. Maas arrived. We had just lost an animal – Zea the corn snake – unexpectedly. We were glad the visit had already been scheduled to give us a chance to see if any other problems might emerge. As we went through each area of the Reptile/Amphibian/Mammal (RAM) Zone, Dr. Maas addressed all our concerns about each group of animals.

Here are our notes:

Naked mole rats

All colony members appeared to be in good weight. The colony has no “skinny guy” or weakest individual. The colony’s behavior is more cooperative and less agonistic than in past visits. This behavior could be due to the enrichment we’ve added to keep them busy and/or the lowering of the colony’s ambient temperature. This lower temperature of the colony may be moving individuals out of a reproductive phase and into a maintenance phase which would entail less fighting for position.


One axolotl has been floating near the surface of the tank much of the time. Dr. Maas observed micro-bubbles in the water and said the most likely, and quite common, cause of floating in aquatic animals was from over aeration in the water. He noticed that our filter was discharging water from over six inches above the waterline, adding an unnecessary amount of air to the tank. Dr. Maas suggested that we either break the velocity of the filtered water as it falls into the tank or raise the water level in the tank. This was done and the floating problems of the axolotl was diminishing within 24 hours.


Overall the turtle looks great. His scutes (shell plates or scales) are healthy and will pick up color as he outgrows his past health problems. Previously he had trouble shedding his scales. Now Ali has no retained scales!

We discussed feeding and Dr. Maas made two general recommendations: Replace food every six months to prevent deterioration of the vitamins and consider live prey. We are currently discussing pros and cons of live food. Stay tuned. We will keep our readers informed.

Leopard gecko

Lydia’s skin is not fully shedding from her feet. Dr. Maas instructed us to make a shallow, tepid water bath for her, to which we add a small amount of dish soap to help wet her skin. Soak her for ten minutes, and then gently remove the softened skin deposits from her toes. Repeat only if necessary.

Boa constrictors

Estella looks good, but is still slightly heavy. What we are doing, feeding her smaller portions, is helping her weight control. Any handling of the boas is all for the good as well. Another suggested activity is to put her on her tree and let her slither down?

Esteban looks good and is of a good weight. His scar from a recent operation is very well healed and is barely visible. Dr. Maas noted that Estrella looks good as well. Come see a snake presentation. You will be helping our snakes stay active and healthy!

Corn snakes

Nacho looks great. He has good weight, good color, no observable problems. He has clearly been handled regularly from a very young age. Because holding on with the tail is something corn snakes mostly learn from handling rather than instinctively, Nacho is well-adjusted to people.

Tillamook was very close to shedding and Dr. Maas only gave him a visual exam. He has been rejecting food but not enough to be of concern – yet. We should monitor his eating. Skipping meals is fairly normal in winter for snakes, and normal pre-shed, but as it gets to late spring we should note if his appetite does not return to normal.

Zea’s remains were taken back to the clinic for necropsy. Gross necropsy results did not conclude anything unusual.

A meeting with a veterinarian can be stressful for the animals and having so many animals examined is a workout for all of us. But we ended the session feeling upbeat about the health of our collection and the quality of our husbandry procedures. We are also more confident that our loss of Zea does not reflect a poor prognosis for the rest of the collection.

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