Reptile medicine is advancing admirably, but even experienced veterinarians are sometimes baffled by conditions that show generalized symptoms – lack of appetite, loose stool, lethargy, etc. Recently, an interesting case involving a Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius) has opened up a promising new window into reptile health care.
Aging – or not?
The animal in question, a 13 year old Leopard Gecko, began losing weight, shedding frequently and passing loose stool. In older animals, there is sometimes a tendency to write such things off as more or less “normal”, but many herps are surprising us with their longevities (a Red Salamander in my collection is near 30, a Ball Python at a zoo topped 50 years of age, and so on…) and so age may not always be a factor. After many tests, the ailing gecko was referred to Dr. Thomas Boyer in San Diego, CA.
A Bold Diagnosis and Treatment
Suspecting Hyperthyroidism (excessive Thyroid Gland activity) Dr. Boyer had a CT Scan performed at the Veterinary Imaging Center of San Diego, which had on hand 1 of only 5 CT Scanners in the USA that are small enough to handle Leopard Geckos. Hyperthyroidism had never previously been detected in a Leopard Gecko, but the CT Scan confirmed the veterinarian’s suspicions.
The standard therapy – treatment with Radioactive Iodine – was also untried, but Dr. Boyer was able to extrapolate from studies done on mammals (not an easy task, I’m sure!). Now (March, 2010), 3 months after treatment, the lizard’s thyroid values are normal, and the animal is in fine shape.
A Lesson for Herp Owners
It is this type of dedication and ability that keeps our hobby, and the conservation of reptiles and amphibians, moving ever forward. Search for a dedicated veterinarian (please see my articles below) and don’t be so quick to assume that your pet is just “getting old” – captive Leopard Geckos have lived in excess of 30 years!
Please see my articles on Reptile and Amphibian Health for more on the care of ailing geckos and other species.
An interesting article on Leopard Gecko natural history and use as a lab animal is posted here.