Brown Beard, the Bearded Dragon, has Intestinal Surgery

Brown Beard is a 9 month old, female bearded dragon. She was brought to Ohana Animal Hospital because she had not been able to go to the bathroom normally for about one month. She was straining every time she tried to go, and only a small amount of stool would occasionally be produced. The owner initially tried some mineral oil to see if that would move the blockage through the intestines, but it didn’t seem to be working. The owner was referred to our veterinarian, Dr. Zach Steffes, to discuss further options to make Brown Beard comfortable.

After discussing the problem with the owner, we decided that surgery was the best option. Brown Beard was quickly losing weight, and was starting to have life threatening systemic problems the result of the long-term intestinal impaction. Brown Beard was started on pain medications, antibiotics, and an intraosseous catheter was placed to provide fluids. She was anesthetized, and surgery was performed to remove all of the sand and other material stuck in the intestinal tract. She recovered well from surgery, and was hospitalized on fluids, pain medications, antibiotics, thermal support, and was syringe fed a liquid diet to help her put on weight once again.

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Brown Beard enjoying the sun after surgery

Brown Beard was kept in the hospital for two weeks in the intensive care unit, and is finally ready to go home. She still has a long road to a full recovery, but she is doing great. Brown Beard is a good example of a relatively common problem in reptiles. We frequently see cage substrate ingested by bearded dragons, and then get stuck in the intestinal tract. If caught early, you can often provide fluids and get the material to move through the intestines, but if caught late, surgery is often the best option. The earlier surgery is performed, the better the outcome in general. Make sure to call us immediately if you notice that your reptile is having trouble defecating. We can help!

We wish you all the best Brown Beard, and we look forward to removing your stitches in 6 weeks!! The lesson of the day is don’t eat sand. Sand belongs on the beach, not in your intestinal tract.

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