A “hands-off” examination of the animal in its enclosure should be performed before a routine “hands-on” examination. Eyes should be clear and free of discharge. The oral cavity should be opened with care because aggressive manipulation can lead to broken teeth, beak (chelonians), or damage to the mucous membranes.
A rubber spatula or folded piece of radiographic film or credit card may be gently inserted into the mouth of a lizard or snake to visualize the oral cavity The skin should be clean and free of defects. The limbs should be checked for range of motion and palpated for any skeletal deformities
Physical Exam- Lizards Lizards also have no diaphragm, careful not to squeeze the breath out of them. Gila monster and beaded lizards are poisonous. Examine rostral end of animal for evidence of damage due to leaping against glass or nasal discharge. Feel the jaw for softness (evidence of osteodystrophy). If skeletal or soft tissue abnormalities are found- do radiographs.
Vago-vagal response Used to temporarily restrain most small lizards and some turtles and tortoises. Apply gentle digital pressure on eyes for a few moments- induces a 20-30 second drop in blood pressure and heart rate. Will remain quiet and motionless for a few minutes. Loud noises or other external stimuli can abolish the effect. Can be repeated.
Chelonians- Turtles and Tortoises Grasp turtles or tortoises by the shell laterally just cranial to the hind limbs Be very careful with snapping and soft- shelled turtles- very long necks. Tend to relax when turned upside down. Soft-shelled- use cloth or gloves for a secure hold.
Chelonians To examine the head- can remove with a large pair of forceps and then place thumb and forefinger behind the occipital condyles. Better way- to examine either end, Can push on the opposite end desired into the shell to cause the desired end to leave the shell due to space limitations.
Chelonians Handling of a large turtle or tortoise
Physical exam - Chelonians May have to anesthetize to examine head closely. Observe for nasal discharge, and check tympanic membrane for concavity. Convexity may be due to otitis media. Can check for dehydration as in small animals
PE- cont…… Check shell for hemorrhage or softness- can be due to nutritional deficiencies, bacteria or trauma. Palpate extremities Check cloaca for swelling or discharge. If feces are available, can perform a fecal float.