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Jordan : Spike

Published on December 15, 2023.

Story from Jordan : Spike

Spike the Central Beraded Dragon is a rescue reptile who came to me back in 2018 in pretty poor condition.

He was malnourished, had never been bathed and was suffering from parasites. Through a lot of special care I was able to get him back into great condition.

I’d had Spike for 5 years when his regular vet at Sugarloaf realised that he was likely older than we’d initially thought and the new estimate was no younger than 8 years old which is getting up there for a bearded dragon.

We decided to draw some bloods to test to make sure everything was working well in his older age but we’d also noticed a suspicious lump in his neck area.

Late August the bloods came back and everything was good however Spike had elevated lymphocytes which could indicate infection or even lymphoma.

We opted to biopsy the mass we’d seen and unfortunately it came back as Chromatophoroma, a rarely diagnosed, agressive and fast growing tumor that affects animals like reptiles and amphibians, originating from pigment cells called chromatophores.

Sugarloaf vets is a smaller facility and as such didn’t have the equipment or facilities to treat this and so his vet Dr Kathy referred us to North Ryde SASH.

At SASH we met Dr Janet from exotics early September for a consult and CT. Upon the surgeon reviewing the CT they believed the whole tumor could be removed.

One week later Spike went in to surgery but in just that week the tumor had grown and they found it had begun to invade his oesophagus. The surgery still went ahead albeit with a changed plan.

In order to remove the tumor the surgeon had to cut out a portion of Spike’s oesophagus and perform a reconstruction. Needless to say this was a very delicate proceedure with such small anatomy to work with but the surgeon pulled it off wonderfully.

A feeding tube was placed and Spike stayed overnight for observation before being cleared to go home.

He had a long road ahead of him with his recovery which consisted of daily cleaning of the tube site and surgical incision (5cm from mid beard to lower throat!), feeding a special formula food via the tube and administering two different pain relief medications PLUS an antibiotic injection into his little arms.

Spike tolerated all this well all things considered and was making improvements with each follow up visit.

Later in his recovery he did develop an infection that was resistant to the antibiotic he was on and so that meant switching antibiotics. Thankfully this cleared the infection up nicely and in time Spike was able to have the tube removed and begin re-learning to eat as normal.

Today Spike is doing great with his recovery being described as better than anyone had expected it to go.

At no stage during all this did Spike seem like he’d given up fighting.

The team at SASH did an amazing job in the face of a diagnosis that’s so rare and aggressive and without them and their skill Spike would likely not still be with me today. Because if SASH he’s gotten to celebrate at least one more Christmas.

Spike’s case just goes to show how important it is to be regularly checking your pets over, get to know what is and isn’t normal for them regarding appearance and behaviour and have any abnormalities checked out. The sooner you catch a problem the better the outcome tends to be.

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