Saturday, February 28, 2015

Glenn the bearded dragon

Glenn poses in front of The Veterinarian Magazine article which was about him.
This month's issue of The Veterinarian Magazine featured someone who has become a member of the family. Glenn, a Centralian bearded dragon, sustained a severe injury to his tail which required amputation. 

bearded dragon bite wound
You can see the lesion around the middle of the tail in this image.

Note the corresponding radiographic lesion.
(If you're wondering where the name came from, a work experience student called Jack came up with it - and it happened to be the exact same name as the herpetologist who identified Glenn as a Centralian beardie, Dr Glenn Shea. It is not the first time Dr Shea has been honoured by the naming of a reptile after him. In fact, so respected is Dr Shea in herpetology circles that he has several species named after him, including this one).

Glenn Shea herpetologist
Glenn meets Glenn.

bearded dragon in car
Glenn in transit.
Veterinarians Jane Roffey and Robert Johnson, of South Penrith Veterinary Clinic, performed the surgery. The tail amputation itself was very straightforward, but for the uninitiated, bearded dragon anaesthesia is tricky. At the time, Glenn - a juvenile - weighed just 61grams. So he had the tiniest volumes of pre-medication - 5mg/kg morphine and 1mg/kg midazolam.

Dr Roffey monitors anaesthesia during the procedure.
He was induced with alfaxan via his tail vein but the difference between a reptile just chilling and a reptile under general anaesthetic can be difficult to tell...the most striking thing I noticed was that he changed colour, darkering significantly. Jane used an IV catheter with the stylette removed to intubate him and Robin the nurse kept him breathing using IPPV (intermittent positive pressure ventilation). At one point he appeared alarmingly dead...but an ultrasound confirmed his heart was beating away. There were just no instruments quite suitable for monitoring this.

Glenn made it through the surgery, although it took about two days for the anaesthetic to wear off and he didn't eat for around 24 hours.

Because his species is not found locally he can't be released, and he needed a carer. So in he moved and life changed.

He was diagnosed with mild metabolic bone disease so requires daily calcium supplementation, as well as a good dose of UV light to convert cholesterol in his skin to vitamin D (this helps him absorb calcium from his diet). I've never before been so conscious of when the sun is shining or the need to get him outside for some UV light (most Aussies are trained to slip, slop, slap and avoid UV like the plague).

You can read all about Glenn in the February issue of Veterinarian Magazine.

Veterinarians and vet students who want to learn about reptiles can join the Australian Veterinary Association's Unusual Pet and Avian Veterinarians (UPAV) special interest group (visit

Or if you want to know more about husbandry of reptiles, you might want to pop over to the Hawkesbury Herpetological Society's annual exhibition at Penrith Panthers on Sunday. More info in this post here.