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Abscesses form when bacteria invades a wound. The wound can be a major cut or even a small scratch. The lizard’s immune system is then unable to fight off the impending infection from the bacteria. The wound then becomes infected and an abscess can form. They can appear anywhere on a lizard’s body and do not always occur at the site of the initial injury or even within close proximity to an injury. An abscess can even form months after the initial injury has healed.
Abscesses are localized infections that will usually appear in conjunction with systemic infections. An abscess is a pocket that is usually filled with pus, usually subcutaneous. Subcutaneous abscesses are generally the easiest to locate and treat. It is important to physically examine your lizard often for any injuries including small scratches or punctures from their claws. If you notice an injury, have your veterinarian look your lizard over and properly treat the wound to lessen the chances of an abscess forming.
It is important that you do a physical examination of your lizard at least once a week, but more often is advised. This allows for you to immediately notice any changes to your lizard that may require veterinary attention. Lizards can be fragile when they are suffering from an illness or injury. If you notice any of these symptoms, call your veterinarian for an appointment.
Lizards will develop abscesses when bacteria invade a wound. The smallest scratch or puncture wound can cause an abscess. Usually, a healthy lizard can fight off the bacteria that get into wounds by producing antibodies that kill the bacteria.
When your lizard becomes stressed from the injury, their body is unable to produce the necessary antibodies to fight off any infection from the bacteria. It may take a few months for an abscess to present after the injury has healed and many times an abscess does not present at the site of the initial injury. Make a note of when your lizard suffered an injury, the type of injury and the location on their body of where the injury occurred.
Your veterinarian will begin with a physical examination, feeling for any lumps that should not be there. If a lump is present, your veterinarian may attempt to draw any fluid out of the lump. If fluid is able to be drawn, testing on that fluid will be done to determine what medications need to be given.
If there is no lump present, your veterinarian will draw blood for a complete blood count, CBC. They will also do an x-ray, looking for any internal abscesses that cannot be felt when palpating the lizard. If possible, a biopsy of any internal masses that may be abscesses is done.
Once your veterinarian has diagnosed an abscess, they will begin treatments on your lizard. Subcutaneous abscesses are treated by lancing the abscess and then flushing it with some type of irrigation solution, usually a 1% chlorhexidine diacetate solution.
After the initial lancing and flushing of the abscess, the abscess will be left open to continue to drain any additional pus. The site will need to be flushed daily and treated with topical antibiotics. Systemic antibiotics may also be given.
When there is an internal abscess, your veterinarian will treat aggressively with systemic antibiotics to see if the abscess will resolve itself. Surgery may be an option if the abscess does not resolve with antibiotic treatment.
Abscesses located in bony areas such as joints may cause extensive problems if not treated immediately. The joint can become immobile and cause your lizard to lose the use of that joint. The infection can begin to eat away at the cartilage and bone and permanent damage will occur.
Supportive care may be required if your lizard is suffering from an extensive infection that has caused the abscess. In these cases, your lizard will need to be checked into the animal hospital immediately and intravenous fluids started.
If left untreated, your lizard will become extremely ill from an abscess. Death will likely occur if veterinary attention is not sought and the appropriate antibiotics given. If treated early enough and with the right medications, your lizard should make a full recovery from an abscess.
Early detection and treatment is the key to keeping your lizard healthy. Be sure to perform a physical examination of your lizard often so you can catch any changes that could be potentially life threatening.
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Hey I have a Savannah monitor she’s about 2 years old and I guess she cut her foot somehow and it got infected and turned into an abscess I believe on her back right foot it’s a lump with a fluid feeling and it’s irritating her i can also see the point of injury where it got infected I’ve taken all the substrate out of her tank and replaces it with clean towels and did my best to quarantine her I’ve given her two baths so far with dawn soapy water and I’ve called multiple vets and none that are near me will help her is there something I can do from home or should I take her to the vet I’m only 18 so I don’t have the most money to help but she means a lot to me an my family i have multiple reptiles and this is the first time I’ve had to deal with this is there anything I can do:/
Aug. 22, 2018
Dr. Michele K. DVM
It seems to me that you have done all of the home care things that might have helped, and Marley may be to the point where she needs medical help for this problem. I do think it would be a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian, as they can look at her, determine what might be happening, and get treatment for her before it continues to spread.
Aug. 22, 2018
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