Vet360, December 2016 - Page 35

EXOTICS Introduction to The Reptile Integument Elliott DL Dip Vet Nur BVSc, Bird and Exotic Animal Hospital, Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital, Tel: 012 529 8105 The most obvious characteristic distinguishing the reptiles from other classes of animals is the presence of a scaled skin. Scales consist of modified epidermis and are formed from specialised keratin. Scutes, present in crocodilians and turtles also have underlying bony plates, the osteoderms. These structures act as a natural armour for the bearers. As the keratinised scales cannot grow, the reptile must regularly shed its skin. In snakes the skin is shed periodically in its entirety, while lizards and crocodiles will shed fairly continuously in small patches. Some species of gecko will immediately ingest the shed skin. The scaled reptilian skin is much less permeable than that of mammals. Reptiles thus have very low levels of insensible water loss. Their daily fluid requirement, depending on the species is approximately 10 to 20ml/ kg. Snakes and certain geckos have eyelids that have fused into a clear shield over the eye. These animals should always be examined after shedding to ensure that the eye cap or “brill” has come away from both eyes. When suturing wounds on reptiles, there are several points of which to take note: • The skin is the layer with the greatest holding ability – the muscles are fragile • The scaled skin has a tendency to curl inward, Issue 06 | DECEMBER 2016 | 35