Wound Healing in Reptiles

Written by Tara Evans

Tara started her dream career in a mixed animal practice in Sussex in 2003. She qualified as a veterinary nurse in 2006 and continued to work in first opinion practice until she joined the Vita team in 2018. Her passion for the care and welfare of animals continues and couldn’t turn her back on veterinary nursing completely so continues to work regular shifts at a local first opinion practice.


Wound Healing in reptiles

Wounds in reptiles are often more difficult to treat than those in mammals due to their physiological and anatomical differences. There are many causes of wounds in reptiles and healing can be slower and more dependent on environmental temperature.

What causes wounds in reptiles?

Wounds in reptiles can have many causes, from burns due to incorrect positioning or strength of heat lamps, to bites from companions and tail injury due to accidental self-trauma1 . In chelonians that are allowed to roam in the garden there is also the risk of injury from predators or gardening tools. The correct housing light and heating source, diet and general husbandry for a specific species is key to reducing the incidence of injuries.

Why can wounds be difficult to heal in reptiles?

Some of the difficulties relating to wound healing in reptiles, compared with mammals, are due to the physiological and anatomical differences. Reptiles have a lower and more variable body temperature and metabolism, and their skin is less well supplied by the vascular system. This makes wound closure in reptiles significantly slower and more dependent on the temperature of their environment. Reptile skin is also dry with a heavily cornified Stratum corneum2 , and is considerably less flexible than mammalian skin, meaning that surgical closure of wounds is more problematic3 . Additionally, wound closure in reptiles is not generally recommended because reptile pus is extremely caseous and does not drain well, so there is a greater risk of wound breakdown and infection or abscess formation4 .

How to approach reptile wounds  

(see Reference 5)
  1. Pain relief – Pain in reptiles can be very difficult to assess and wounds are likely to be causing significant discomfort.
  2. Check for infection
  3. Treat as an open wound – To decrease the risk of infection, allow the wounds to heal by second intention.
  4. Clean the wound – Recent wounds that are in the inflammatory phase of healing should be cleaned with copious lavage. Necrotic tissue may need to be debrided at this stage, or at subsequent vet check-ups depending on the progression of healing.
  5. Dress the wound – A dressing will provide initial protection. These should be changed regularly while the wound is still in the inflammatory phase of healing.
  6. Keep the wound moist – When the wound is starting to move to the granulation phase, keeping the wound moist can help promote the formation of granulation tissue. Hydrocolloid gels and dressings, or a product such as Omnimatrix – which is suitable for all stages of wound healing – can be used.
  7. Consider UV light – Correct levels of UV light for a particular species can help to increase the rate of wound healing.
  8. Diet – Ensuring the correct levels of protein, vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A and calcium, are important for helping the skin and carapace to heal.
References: 1 https://www.msdvetmanual.com/exotic-and-laboratory-animals/reptiles/environmental-diseases-andtraumatic-injuries-of-reptiles 2 https://www.bioscience.com.pk/topics/zoology/item/758-comparative-anatomy-integument-in-reptilesbirds-and-mammals 3 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1557506311000607 4 https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=9003821 5 https://veterinary-practice.com/article/wound-management-in-chelonians Read more about wound healing in reptiles https://www.vitaanimalhealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Wound-healing-in-reptiles.pdf https://www.vitaanimalhealth.com/products/omnimatrix-skin-regeneration-cream/

You May Also Like…

Rabbit Ear Health

Rabbit Ear Health

Rabbits’ unique ears are a key part of their charm, but have you thought about the complexity of rabbit ear health?...


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *