Fix Your Pets February Part Three: Reptiles and Birds

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Whether or not you should alter your pet lizard depends on what kind of lizard it is. For instance, male iguanas may be neutered to help reduce aggression, and spaying for female iguanas is also fairly routine. However, spaying/neutering should be avoided if possible for a pet chameleons because they are very delicate.

Many types of female lizard may need to be spayed due to refusal to lay their eggs, and the resultant rupture and rotting of the eggs inside them. This is because female lizards in the wild search for good places to lay their eggs (fertilized or not), and if they don’t find one they like, they can simply keep their eggs inside them until they find a suitable place. Many pet lizards don’t consider their cages to be good nesting sites, preferring sandy beaches or deeply dug dirt holes, and so will keep holding their eggs inside themselves, causing the aforementioned issue which results in an infection called egg yolk peritonitis. Egg yolk peritonitis is almost incurable, and most cases are fatal. Simply keeping your female away from male lizards won’t help prevent it either, as her body will make eggs whether or not she mates.

This creates a bit of a dilemma for some lizards. For instance, if one has a female chameleon, should one avoid spaying her due to the high risk, or take the chance in order to avoid egg yolk peritonitis? The decision should be between you and your vet. Speaking of vets, it is imperative to get someone who knows what they’re doing when it comes to altering a reptile. Unlike with cats and dogs, the altering of a reptile is a major surgery, and their reproductive physiology is completely different from that of a mammal. Even a herpetologist vet who has treated your reptile for illness may not have experience with altering them, so be sure to ask them how many reptiles they have fixed before, and what kind, before letting your lizard, snake, or turtle go under their knife.

Speaking of snakes and turtles, they too can suffer from egg yolk peritonitis, and snakes present a conundrum similar to that of chameleons and other delicate lizards: they do not tolerate anesthesia well, and it is recommended that surgery be avoided with them. Turtles do not do too well with it either, the altering of a tortoise is rare due to the high risk, so generally speaking they should not be altered unless they are having a health problem related to their sex organs. However, again, the best answer is to do your research and talk it over with a vet who specializes in reptiles to decided what is best for your particular snake, turtle, or tortoise.

The dreaded egg yolk peritonitis (called “yolk stroke” by chicken enthusiasts) rears its horrid head among pet birds as well. Unfortunately, spaying and neutering are life-threatening surgeries to a bird due to their anatomy, and should not be done except in cases where the bird has an equally life-threatening condition related to the sex organs.

Alas, I couldn’t find any information about whether pet frogs and toads should be fixed, but if I had to take a wild guess, I’d say just get good at telling males from females and keep them apart if you don’t want lots of wee tadpoles!

Next time---ponies, pigs, and other livestock pets!