ISSN 2398-2985      

Pigment changes

Jreptile
Contributor(s):

Agata Witkowska

Joanne Sheen


Introduction

  • Cause: normal age-related change in certain species, response to environmental stimuli, dysecdysis, trauma related changes, scarring, thermal burns, bacterial/fungal dermatitis, gray patch disease in turtles.
  • Signs: pigment changes may go unnoticed for a while – these may take place as a normal age-related change in certain species such as green tree pythons or be a result of illness/trauma/disease. They may start off anywhere on the body and become progressive, eg thermal burns in reptiles will progress within a few days of the initial injury.
  • Diagnosis: based on clinical signs and history. Cytology, culture and sensitivity, biopsy may be needed if a disease process is suspected.
  • Treatment: dependent on underlying cause. Most pigment changes are of cosmetic consequence only.
  • Prognosis: good to guarded depending on underlying cause.

Pathogenesis

Etiology

  • Pigment changes take place in certain species as a response to diet and habitual changes; this is because of altered pigment cell number or the amount of pigment within cells.
  • Skin color changes are a long-recognized phenomenon in chameleons (Family: Chamaeleonidae):
    • It occurs as a response to external stimuli such as temperature or stress and is thought to help with communication within individuals.
    • In response to these stimuli, the pigment-containing cells chromatophores will relax or contract shifting the distribution of contained pigment and altering the external appearance of the animal.

Predisposing factors

General

Specific

  • Environmental temperatures should be strictly controlled for poikiliotherms and checked daily .
  • Thermal injuries Burn injuries are frequently seen in snakes that wrap themselves around unprotected heat sources.

Timecourse

  • Thermal burns Burn injuries may not be evident for several days post-injury.

Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Prevention

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Outcomes

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed Papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Wilson D, Heinsohn R & Endler J (2007) The adaptive significance of ontogenetic colour change in a tropical python. Biol Lett 3 (1), 40-43 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Scheelings T (2019) Anatomy and Physiology. In: BSAVA Manual of Reptiles. BSAVA, UK. pp 1-26.

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