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Suturing Lizard Skin and Expecting the Unexpected in Veterinary Practice


Simultaneously the best and worst aspect of veterinary practice is what seems like the endless ways in which animals can thwart our best therapeutic intentions. The best because this is one of the reasons the work can be so interesting– you have to really know the species and the individual animal to know what MIGHT happen based on physiology, or anatomy, or behavior, to interfere with treatment plans. The worst because any interference in treatment plans can be SO frustrating and at times can seriously affect patient outcomes.

One great example of this is suturing lizard skin. When we filmed exotics veterinarian Dr Petra Schnitzer of the University of Sydney perform an ovarectomy on an egg bound Bearded Dragon (watch the full video in the library), she casually mentioned as she was suturing up at the end of the procedure, to be aware that lizards can occasionally shed their skin in the post operative period, therefore shedding any skin sutures and potentially opening up the wound. And of all the ways in which animals may screw up their surgical wounds, this has to be one of the best.   It’s a great reminder that first principles can be applied across species, but you also have to be familiar with species differences, to anticipate something like this happening and plan accordingly.

There are hundreds of examples like this in every possible veterinary scenario. It’s why lifelong learning is a part of the game, and why learning from the best clinicians in each field when you can is so important – to learn from their past mistakes, and to get the tips that have made their day to day handling of cases more efficient and successful.

On that note – this video excerpt features tips on suturing lizard skin from Dr Petra Schnitzer of The University of Sydney’s Avian, Reptile and Exotic Pet Hospital. Listen out for her explanation why skin shedding may be more common in the post-operative period.

About the Presenter

Dr Petra Schnitzer is a passionate birds and exotics veterinarian who has extensive experience in clinical zoological medicine and teaching in this field, both as a mentor for veterinary students at The University of Sydney’s Avian Reptile and Exotic Pet Hospital, and for students of the General Practitioner Certificate in Exotic Animals for IMPROVE international in Europe.

Need to know more?

Watch the full video “Desexing of the Egg Bound Bearded Dragon” in the Versatile Vet video library (see www.versatilevet.com/videos)

The Centre for Veterinary Education is running a webinar on Basics of Veterinary Care for Unusual Pets, led by Dr Robert Johnson, who is an extensively published expert in reptile medicine and surgery. See https://www.cve.edu.au/EventDetail?EventKey=CSWEB2106 for more details.

There are several good textbooks on reptile medicine and surgery. For general practitioners, a good place to start is Reptile Medicine and Surgery in Clinical Practice by Bob Doneley, Deborah Monks, Robert Johnson and Brendan Carmel.

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