Reptile Sexing 101 – is my reptile a boy or a girl?

07/18/2017It can be difficult to work out if a reptile is a male or female as often there is very little (if any) external differences between the sexes. This is in contrast to most mammals where gender determination is generally straight forward. Birds are also becoming increasingly easier to sex as we now have access to incredible DNA technology where we can tell the ...

It can be difficult to work out if a reptile is a male or female as often there is very little (if any) external differences between the sexes. This is in contrast to most mammals where gender determination is generally straight forward. Birds are also becoming increasingly easier to sex as we now have access to incredible DNA technology where we can tell the sex of your bird from 1 drop of blood – unfortunately this technology is not yet available for reptiles.

Many reptile owners couldn’t care less if they have a boy or a girl however knowing the sex of your reptile can help you to be aware of what behavioural and reproductive conditions they may be at risk of. A good example is if your reptile is a male it cannot suffer from conditions like dystocia (difficulty giving birth) but may be more aggressive towards other males in the cage. If you have a male python it may be more prone to brumating (similar to hibernating) and not eating for longer than a female during the cooler months of the year.

Today’s article looks at the different methods of reptile sexing commonly offered by most reptile vets in Australia.

Visual sex determination
Some reptiles have obvious sexual dimorphism where the males look quite different to the females. Many geckos are a good example of this as the males develop a much larger bulge just caudal (towards the tail) to their cloaca. Several dragon and monitor species also have external differences with the males often having larger heads, more obvious femoral pores, growing to a larger size and in some cases having larger spurs at their tail base. Some species of turtles also have external differences in shell shape and tail length with the males tail generally being longer.

In many species you can also look for a ‘hemipenal bulge’ which is a tubular bulge that runs towards the tail tip for a short distance on both sides of the bottom of the tail starting at the cloaca. This bulge shows where the hemipenes (the reptile equivalent of a penis) sits and is only present in males.

Illumination
Some species are able to be sexed by placing a bright light source up against the tail base (while in a dark room) and looking for the blood vessels that run inside a males hemipenes. This works well in species that are lighter in colour with a relatively thin tail however is challenging in other species.

Probing
Probing is the most common method of snake sex determination and involves placing a smooth and round-ended metallic needle into the cloaca then directing it towards where the hemipenes would sit in a male. If the probe advances only a short way then the snake is a female as there is no hemipene for the probe to advance into.

There is a lot of potential to cause damage if this technique is done incorrectly and because of this it should only be performed by someone with an appropriate level of experience and training.

Popping
Popping involves placing a small amount of pressure at the tail base to evert the hemipenes (if the animal is a male). This technique also has the potential for harm so please do not attempt this unless you have experience.

Radiography (x-ray)
Radiography can help to determine the sex of some lizard species (and any species if they have eggs present). One method that is often used in large monitors involves plain radiography where we are looking for the ossification of the end of a males hemipene. This technique has its limitations as if this is not present it doesn’t guarantee that the animal is a female as many males do not have hemipenal ossification.

A second technique commonly used involves inserting a small amount of specialized dye into the reptile’s cloaca in a caudal (towards the tail tip) direction. The distribution of the dye looks different in males and females which allows us to determine the gender. This technique is particularly handy for bluetongue species.

Ultrasound
An ultrasound can easily determine a reptile’s gender and can also help to tell if the reptile is reproductively active. It is non-painful and can be performed in most species that are large enough (some really small species are just too small to get accurate results).

Endoscopy
Many reptiles can also have their gender determined by inserting a small (generally 1.9mm or 2.7mm) endoscope into their body cavity to be able to visually identify whether they have ovaries or testicles. This technique requires general anaesthesia so other techniques are often preferred where possible.

As you can see there are lots of different techniques for determining the sex of a reptile. Every reptile is different so if you would like to know any more about what the best way would be for your animal then please get in touch with us.

Bad birds!! Birds eating things they shouldn’t!

06/16/2017Bad birds! There are very few people that eat a perfectly balanced diet. Whether it be too much ice cream or a whole block of chocolate, we all have our weaknesses. Our pets often take this to the next level with some dogs eating socks, ferrets ingesting ear plugs and cats chewing on wool! Birds are no exception to this and todays article looks at some of t...

Bad birds!

There are very few people that eat a perfectly balanced diet. Whether it be too much ice cream or a whole block of chocolate, we all have our weaknesses. Our pets often take this to the next level with some dogs eating socks, ferrets ingesting ear plugs and cats chewing on wool! Birds are no exception to this and todays article looks at some of the things birds commonly chew on and how to avoid this from happening to your bird.

What are some of the things birds commonly eat?
It really depends on the species and where they have access to. For example, a budgie that is always kept in its cage will only be able to eat what is placed into its cage. This doesn’t mean that caged birds are safe as many owners inadvertently place dangerous toys into the cage without realising that they may cause a problem. Examples of commonly sold potentially dangerous toys include those made from rope/string/fibre as well as some metallic items.

If your parrot has free access around the house, then the potential to ingest things that they shouldn’t increases considerably. Whether it be a bite out of the avocado that you have in your fruit bowl, nibbling on the chocolate you are eating or chewing on the curtain rails, all have the potential to cause serious harm. For this reason, parrots that are allowed free access around the house should be monitored closely.

Chickens also can eat things they shouldn’t. Ingestion of scrap metal that is lying around in your garden is commonly seen as is the ingestion of long grass which can cause a gastrointestinal obstruction in some cases.

What signs should I watch out for?
The signs vary considerably depending on what they have eaten however common signs that you should look out for include vomiting or regurgitation, diarrhea, inappetance, becoming unbalanced, weight loss or simply being lethargic.

Do all rope-related toys cause problems?
Not all birds will chew on rope toys however if they have access to them then there is always a risk. For example, some birds have always had access to rope toys and have never had a problem. Other birds will chew on them as soon as they are placed in the cage. We have also seen birds that have been fine with having rope toys in their cage for years and then one day they have just started to chew.

How do I stop this happening to my bird?
Prevention is the best cure! Avoid allowing your bird access to anything that might cause a problem. Avoid rope toys and instead choose safe bird toys made from natural wood. Provide a range of different enrichment activities like allowing your bird access to native foliage encouraging them to forage. Behavioural training can also really help to both increase your bond with your bird as well as keep them occupied so they aren’t bored and looking for something to chew on.

Guinea Pig Information Night!

05/11/2017Recently we hosted our Guinea Pig Education Night at Murdoch University, with over 100 guinea pig owners attending to learn more about their furry friends. Below is a summary of what we covered on the night: What to feed your guinea pig and why? – Dr Kelly Giles Hay: feeding your guinea pig a diet high in a good quality hay, whether that is by using oate...

Recently we hosted our Guinea Pig Education Night at Murdoch University, with over 100 guinea pig owners attending to learn more about their furry friends. Below is a summary of what we covered on the night:

What to feed your guinea pig and why? – Dr Kelly Giles
Hay: feeding your guinea pig a diet high in a good quality hay, whether that is by using oaten, timothy or meadow hay. Lucerne hay (also known as alfalfa hay) is also available at many pet stores for guinea pigs and rabbits, and is okay for juveniles but not generally recommended for adults. Ideally, at least 80% of a guinea pig’s diet should just be hay.
Vegetables: Just like for people, vegetables are an important part of a guinea pig’s diet. They provide essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, that guinea pigs have a daily requirement for. Interestingly, humans and guinea pigs are the only two animals that are unable to synthesise their own vitamin C, and must eat it daily. Good vegetables for guinea pig include the ‘green leaves’, such as silverbeet and bok choy.
Pellets: these are a treat for guinea pigs, and they should be kept to a minimum. Offering a tablespoon of pellets a day is the maximum any guinea pig should have a day, but pellets can provide a great way to lure your guinea pigs back into their huts at night!

Is your guinea pig happy? – Dr Sam Loughridge
We get up each day, feed the pets, make sure they have fresh water and go out to work, but have you ever paused to consider; “is your guinea pig happy?” Dr Sam investigated this question and presented his findings on Thursday night, and also spoke about a number of ways to enrich your guinea pigs life. These included some easy home projects like making houses and runs out of cardboard boxes, or stuffing hay into cardboard toilet rolls. There are also a range of toys you can purchase through our online shop 🙂

Guinea pig sex education : what you should know about the birds and the bees – Dr Nicole Su
Guinea pig sterilisation is not something that is as well known as it is in other species however it is recommended and can help prevent some nasty conditions from developing. Female guinea pigs commonly develop cystic ovaries, these cysts can cause pain, discomfort and hair loss. Males can develop daily constipation (faecal impaction) by the age of 3 years, which becomes a smelly, ongoing issue to manage at home. If you are interested in desexing your guinea pig, UPV offers discounted “Hopstart” packages that includes desexing, microchipping, a health and dental check as well as some recommended food.

Calcium and the urinary system: is calcium bad? – Dr James Haberfield
Guinea pigs fed a diet that is excessively high in calcium can cause them to develop problems such as stones forming in the bladder, ureters and/or kidney, which leads to a very painful condition. The stone causes significant damage to these organs and in the most severe cases, can obstruct urination entirely leading to fatal rupture of the bladder or kidney. Guinea pigs with bladder stones are often noticed straining to urinate, or have blood in their urine. If you notice these signs in your guinea pig, please contact your vet for treatment.

Stay tuned for our next education night, which will be announced on our Facebook page in the next few months!

A little bit about Axolotls!

04/17/2017Axolotls! Axolotls are increasing in popularity and we have been seeing more and more people bring their axolotl in to our veterinary clinics for various problems. A lot of the problems we see are related to incorrect husbandry as many people don’t realise that axolotls require a specialized set up to ensure they can live a healthy and happy life. Today...

Axolotls!

Axolotls are increasing in popularity and we have been seeing more and more people bring their axolotl in to our veterinary clinics for various problems. A lot of the problems we see are related to incorrect husbandry as many people don’t realise that axolotls require a specialized set up to ensure they can live a healthy and happy life. Today’s article dispels a few myths about axolotls, discusses some interesting facts and also looks at a case we had in recently that required surgery.

Myth 1 – Axolotls are fish.
Axolotls are commonly referred to as Mexican walking fish however they are actually not fish at all! They are amphibians and are more similar to a frog than a fish.

Myth 2 – Axolotls like warm water.
Axolotls come from cool, still, fresh water mountain lakes in parts of Mexico. They like their water temperature to be between 17-18oC and can develop serious problems if their water becomes over-heated. This is particularly problematic in some warmer parts of Australia as it can be difficult to keep the water cold enough for them. It is very important to monitor the water temperature of your axolotl aquarium closely.

Fun fact 1
Axolotls have amazing regenerative ability where in some cases they can completely regrow their appendages if they are accidently damaged or cut off. They are so good at regrowing parts of their body that human doctors are looking into how they do this to see if there is any way that this ability could be used to help people.

Fun fact 2
Axolotls can breathe by 4 different mechanisms! They can use their lungs to ‘gulp’ air from the surface of their tank as well as using their gills, buccopharyngeal (throat) area and skin to absorb oxygen from water.

Fun fact 3
Axolotls are actually carnivores and like to eat a range of fish, crustaceans and insects.

Case Study – Axel the axolotl

Axel came in to see Dr James as he had developed a lump on one of his gills. After examining him and performing some testing it was determined that the best course of action was to remove the lump and to send it to the lab to be analysed. This involved anaesthetizing Axel to allow the surgery to be performed.

Axolotls can be anaesthetized by adding a specialized solution to their water. We achieved this with Axel by using a number of different bathes that all had different concentrations of the anaesthetic solution. Once anaesthetized the lump was able to be successfully removed and Axel recovered well.

Unfortunately the analysis on the lump showed that it was an aggressive form of cancer. The good news is that Axel is going well and we are hoping that he will continue to do so for many years to come.

Tips to keep Guinea Pigs & Rabbits Cool this Summer

01/05/2017Put the safety and comfort of your rabbits and guinea pigs first this summer The blazing sun beats down on us and we cool down by swimming, drinking ice water or sitting in an air-conditioned area. However, when the sun beats down on guinea pigs and rabbits their thick fur combined with their inability to effectively cool their core temperatures can be troubl...Rabbits need to stay hydrated

Put the safety and comfort of your rabbits and guinea pigs first this summer

The blazing sun beats down on us and we cool down by swimming, drinking ice water or sitting in an air-conditioned area. However, when the sun beats down on guinea pigs and rabbits their thick fur combined with their inability to effectively cool their core temperatures can be troublesome.

Animals try desperately to escape the heat, and those that don’t sweat or pant often struggle to lower their body temperatures, sometimes succumbing to potentially fatal heatstroke. Keeping your furry friends cool in summer is essential, and the simple act of putting them in an air-conditioned room or shaded area can make all the difference.

What else can you do to keep your furry friends cool and comfortable throughout the warmer months?

Keep the water flowing

Hydration is the first and foremost important step to ensuring your rabbits and guinea pigs remain comfortable. As much as they don’t sweat, they still need plenty of fresh water to drink, which will keep them hydrated and help them cool down.

Block out the sun

If you don’t have the option to keep your rabbit or guinea pig inside your home then ensure all enclosures are in a cool place, away from direct sunlight. Use umbrellas and parasols to keep your rabbits and guinea pigs out of the sun.

When you’re out

If you keep your guinea pigs and rabbits indoors in the air conditioning, it’s assumed that they will be cool, but that’s not always the case. Heat will sometimes hang and stagnate, and without some movement of the air, it can become suffocating.

Keep windows open for a draft to blow through your home. If it’s a particularly humid and stagnant day, keep the fan or air-conditioning on for better air circulation.

Keep them cool

A popular trick with rabbit and guinea pig owners is to put frozen water bottles in the hutch. Your pets can lie against them to stay cool. Keep a few in the freezer and use large bottles as they take longer to thaw.

But, how do you know when your rabbit or guinea pig needs assistance?

The older rabbits and guinea pigs become the less tolerant they are to hot weather. If your animal exhibits any of the following symptoms, you need to immediately contact us:

In the meantime, you can stabilise them by taking them to a cooler place, and gently wiping them down with water (if they will tolerate it) and increasing cool air flow around them by using a fan or air conditioning unit.

Contact Unusual Pet Vets for more information on how to best take care of your animal. They are specialist veterinarians with experience and knowledge on many common and unusual pets.

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