BEARDED DRAGON SURGERY

By: Dr. Mandi Maimone, Animal Medical Center

Charmander is a 2 year old, intact female Bearded Dragon. Her owner has many reptiles and is very knowledgeable about the care required for these types of pets. She has had Charmander since she was only a few weeks old.

The patient initially presented for an exam because her owner noticed her breathing heavily. She was otherwise eating well, 20-30 super worms per day and some greens, and having normal bowel movements about once a week.


On examination Charmander appeared healthy but her abdomen felt full on palpation. An x-ray was taken to evaluate her for several possible disease processes. The patient was found to have many eggs/follicles present on the radiograph. The presence of the large amount of eggs was the reason for her heavy breathing. They were filling up her abdominal cavity and creating pressure on her lungs and leaving less space for her lungs to inflate when she took a breath. Bearded dragons, and other reptiles, do not have a diaphragm separating their thoracic (were the lungs and heart are located) and abdominal cavities, like mammals do.

Because Charmander has not been with a male Bearded Dragon to fertilize her eggs, her owner was not planning on breeding her, and because she was having trouble breathing, the decision was made to spay her (perform a hysterectomy) so she would no longer produce eggs. At this point, because the patient was not laying the eggs she was considered to be “gravid”. There was also a possibility that the follicles had ruptured causing infection. Reptiles can develop severe abdominal infections, or peritonitis, as a result of ruptured egg sacs or follicles. The patient was started on an antibiotic and an additional calcium supplement. Reptiles can become calcium deficient when producing eggs because the female is using large amounts of calcium to produce the shell on the eggs.


Charmander was brought to surgery and an abdominal incision was made. Reptiles have a large blood vessel called the ventral abdominal vein that must be avoided when performing surgery. The uterus and ovaries were visualized and the patient had about 50-60 non-calcified egg sacs present. Two of the sacs had partially ruptured leaking into her abdominal cavity. The ovaries and uterus were removed and her abdomen was flushed to help prevent infection. It is very important to remove all portions of the ovaries in reptiles when they are spayed. If any remnants are left behind, they can still produce follicles. The sutures placed in her skin to close her surgical incision will remain in place for a few months. This is very different from the 10-14 days that sutures stay in place after performing surgery on mammals. Charmander was given pain medication following surgery. Reptiles take a much longer period of time to recover from anesthesia than mammals do. She was monitored overnight and went home the following day.

Charmander was evaluated the week after surgery. She had begun to eat well and had gained back some of the weight she lost following her procedure. Two months after surgery she was x-rayed again and there were no abnormalities. She has continued to eat well and is acting normally.