Photo: All of these eggs and ovaries were removed from a single bearded dragon!
Spring is well and truly here! And with spring/summer comes lots of reproductive activity and problems in many of the species we see. But many people don’t realise that reptiles also get reproductive problems. Snakes, lizards and turtles can all lay eggs (though not fertile) without the presence of a male, just like chickens! However, this does not always go so smoothly…
One of the most common reproductive diseases we see is pre-ovulatory follicular stasis, usually in bearded dragons. This occurs when the follicles on the ovary start to develop, but then become static instead of ovulating and developing into eggs. These are basically egg yolks sitting in the abdomen. These can then start to disintegrate or become infected, and can make the patient critically ill! This issue requires surgery to remove the follicles. This condition is particularly common in bearded dragons, which is why elective desexing is recommended in non-breeding animals. Surgery is much less risky as a preventative procedure in a healthy animal, than as a treatment in a very sick patient.
Another condition we often see in reptiles of all species (lizards, snakes, turtles) is ‘egg binding’. This occurs when the follicles develop and ovulate into the oviduct, the shell develops around the egg and then the eggs become stuck and are not laid properly. This can occur for a number of reasons including low calcium levels and infection. Sometimes these patients can be treated with various medications, after determining the cause. However, sometimes these eggs also require surgical removal.
Reptiles can also develop a range of other reproductive diseases including bacterial infections and cancer.