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Anna, Reptile Expert, Biologist
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 11549
Experience:  Have owned turtles, snakes, amphibians, and lizards. Study and provide habitat for wild herps.
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Hi, My bearded dragon has a swollen neck; seen by vet today,

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My bearded dragon has a swollen neck; seen by vet today, had x-rays and next determination, acc to him, would have to be done by u/s. He would use u/s to check out the esophagus, look for any masses that might not be visible on x-ray and aspirate (?) any fluid to see if swelling caused by infection. No blood work was done today. (I was unable to go due to work, so my babysitter brought Reaper in. She helps care for her so she knows her history, but I wanted to limit the number of tests up front, so only went for the x-rays and exam to begin with.)

Reaper has been on syringe feeding for a couple of months and just recently started spitting up the food as if she was choking (two days ago was the worst, but I'd say maybe in past couple of weeks it seemed already like she couldn't handle too much of the liquid and after second syringe it would just dribble down her neck---probably hasn't been getting adequate calories). It was scary as her eyes were tearing and looked like she was choking. New doctor saw her today (emergency basis) and said opening to her esophagus is really small, due to the swelling, and that's why she wasn't taking in the fluid and almost choking on it. Her bone density is currently good he said (past hx. of mbd) and even though her food intake has been limited past couple of weeks, her weight is up from her last visit in December. (This is a new doc as I live was able to find one closer to me to see on emergency basis today. I happened to have liked his manner much better than the other vet I use that's 40 minutes away. Both are in NY and are board certified reptile vets. )

Question: is it worth going ahead with the u/s and further testing? Doc seems to think her prognosis is "guarded" and that whether it's an infection or mass, will be hard to treat due to the delicate location. I wasn't present at the visit and I didn't stress how limited her diet has been. I do offer cut up salad but she doesn't eat it. I'm only thinking of her diet more now as I have seen your response to another poster.)

Anyway, doc today was being very kind and seemed knowledgeable, but I don't want to give up on her too soon. She's almost two years old and I've nursed her back to health using syringe food on 3 separate occasions. :(

I'm very attached to her and so are my kids, naturally. Could her swelling be in any way related to malnutrition? I wasn't as consistent as I've been in past with her 2x/day feedings of both foods (the vegetarian as well as carnivore diet). When I ran out of the omnivore powder, I just was using the carnivore for a while, etc. Maybe it's not a mass or infection at all? Or something she swallowed? Her bedding is Yesterdays News and this (current) doc says he doesn't like that b/c it can be ingested (last time she had a problem b/c she ingested the sand, it got impacted, successfully treated with laxatives and thus was switched to this! But that was my other vet, not the emergency guy who saw Reaper today)

Sorry for the long question. I was devastated today at thought of losing her. Is there still hope for a decent quality of life even if she can be treated? I actually have a policy with VPI so might get some coverage, but obviously not thousands of dollars-worth.

I'd really appreciate any input on how to proceed. All other factors seem to be okay: the temp of her tank, she gets warm baths, has a basking area and a cool area, I use a UVB (coil) lamp and change it regularly. Basking temp is about 85-90 with heat under the tank too. Thats always her preferred spot. The cooler side is about 75.

Thank you in advance!

I'm sorry to hear that Reaper is having so many problems. I wouldn't give up on Reaper yet. This could be an infection that could be treated with antibiotics. Abscesses are a common cause of swelling in beardies. Of course I can't give you a diagnosis - your vets will have to do that - but I wouldn't give up without at least finding out what is wrong.

In the meantime, there are some things you can improve in her habitat that may help her. New research has indicated that the conditions often recommended by pet stores are not the best for dragons. Your temperatures are too cold. The basking area should be 105*F to 115*F. The cool side should be 80*F to 85*F.

Yesterday's News is just as dangerous as any other loose substrate. I would get rid of it and get a solid substrate, such as reptile carpet or ceramic tile. The coil UVB bulbs are very inconsistent. They can put out so little UVB that MBD results, or so much that it can damage the eyes. A straight tube is much better.

You might want to try a different feeding method. Get some plain chicken baby food. Drop a little dollop on the end of Reaper's snout. Many times they'll lick it right off. Because she's not able to swallow well, this may not work with her, but it's worth a try. It would greatly reduce the chances of food being aspirated into the lungs or of choking if she will eat this way.

I would definitely improve her baths to help with possible dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Buy some unflavored Pedialyte (yes, the kind for human infants). Prepare a shallow bath consisting of 1/2 water and 1/2 Pedialyte. Soak your dragon for about 20 to 30 minutes twice a day. Reptiles can absorb the electrolytes and fluids through their vents, so make the water deep enough to cover the vent.Be sure to supervise closely.

Only you can make the decision about whether to proceed with more testing. I would if she were my dragon. Even very critical cases can pull through with vet treatment and supportive care at home.

I’m sending along a care sheet, courtesy of Joan, another of our experts. Joan has many years experience keeping and rescuing beardies. I suggest that you use the care sheet as a check list to provide the best possible care for your beardie. If you have more questions, just let me know by clicking on REPLY. I hope Reaper will reach a full recovery.


(If you find my answer helpful, please click on the green ACCEPT button. Thank you.)

Bearded Dragon Care Sheet

* Bearded dragons should be housed alone.

* Ages of bearded dragons follow these guidelines:

1. 0-3 months- baby
2. 3-12 months-juvenile
3. 12-18 months- sub adult
4. 18 months + -adult

* Bearded dragons live as much as 10-12 years if well cared for properly.
* Bearded dragons have a very good temperament as long as they are cared for and handled.
* When you bring your baby home, it may be quite stressful to him/her to get use to new home. May not eat well the first 2-3 days. They may not need to be handled the first 2-3 days if skittish and nervous.
* Never use sand or any other type of loose substrate: Loose substrates can cause impaction (not being able to go Poop) in all ages of bearded dragons- they lick their environment to explore .It is difficult to keep germ free and clean. Ceramic tile, newspaper, non adhesive shelf liner and reptile carpet is what is most recommended. Use paper towels for the little one and as they get bigger you can change to something else.
* Be sure you keep your beardies home as clean as you can. Clean up by spot cleaning when needed. Clean & sanitize entire tank every 10-14 days. A good cleaning solution is a 20% bleach solution. If you choose to use wood climbing branches etc, these should be soaked in the bleach solution and rinsed well. Then bake in 250 degree oven for 30 minutes.
* Need a climbing accessory: to bask and to warm up under basking heat light and lower branches or platforms to come down and cool off.
* A hide of some sort like a cave.
* A food dish and water dish.
* Plastic spray bottle
* Can use artificial plants when they get older- 3 months or so.
* Digital thermostat and/or temp gun
* Tank size: Minimal size tank for this age is 20 gallon long
* Minimal size for older beardie: 4 months of age: 40 gallon breeder is the minimal tank size for older dragon. Can divide a 40 gallon breeder for a smaller dragon. Must have two lights for your beardie.

1. A UVB light source-best is 10.0 Reptisun that runs the length of your tank. Your dragon must have this light to metabolize calcium. If not he will get metabolic bone disease, a serious condition. You can also take your beardie outside to bask in the sun for 15 minutes each day if your temps are 80 degrees or above outside. You can purchase cages or reptariums from your pet store. Never leave a beardie outside unattended.
2. A basking type light that puts out heat and warmth above basking spot. Your beardie must have warmth to digest food & thrive.

* Lights should be on for 12-14 hours each day. Follow the seasons and light timers are a great luxury if you can get them. 6 dollars at Lowe's. No lights or warmth needed at night unless your temperatures get below 62 degrees. If they do, there are ceramic heat emitters that put out no light, only heat. Use these at night if temperatures fall below 62 degrees.

* Temperatures have to be kept at the following ranges during the day:

Babies: Warm basking log: 110-125 degrees F (43.5* to 51.5*C)
Cool side: 85-90 (29.5* to 32*C)
Adults: Warm basking spot: 105-115F (40.5*C to 46*C)

Cool side: 80-85F (27*C to 29*C)

Measure temperatures with a digital probe type thermometer or a temp gun-these are most accurate. Stick on thermometers unreliable.

* Feeding a Beardie: Beardies eat live prey consisting of crickets, roaches and/or silkworms. Never feed any size of mice to your beardie. Never feed mealworms. They also must be given greens/veggies everyday. The younger they are the more live prey they should have. As they grow older the live prey decreases and the veggies/greens should be the major part of diet. Never feed anything bigger, than the space between your beardie's eyes. This includes both live prey and pieces of veggies/greens,
* A chopper or food processor is a huge help when your beardie is small. Always offer greens and veggies: collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, cabbage, red cabbage, fresh green beans, yellow summer squash, butternut squash, sweet potato, cactus pad. Apricots, strawberries, apples, blueberries, raspberries, cantaloupe- fruits are treats only.
* What is live prey? The easiest and less expensive live prey is crickets when you have a young or first beardie. The other live preys you can feed are silkworms, and special types of roaches. You can learn to raise your own live prey. Treats can be waxworms, super worms, and tomato/goliath worms. You may find that ordering live prey from the internet is the way to go..... Never leave live prey or greens/veggies in tank overnight. . Crickets can bite your beardie when sleeping.
* Babies should get 80% live prey, and 20 % greens/veggies. But since the greens/veggies are a must when they are older, get them eating their greens/veggies very early. Give greens/veggies in small pieces everyday. You should eventually start decreasing your older dragon's protein intake when they are about a year to 15 months old. Their protein intake decreases to 20 % live prey and 80% veggies/greens.
* A baby can eat 50-75 crix a day. Never feed crix or veggies bigger than the space between your beardie's eyes. Use this guide when buying crix or chopping your greens/veggies.
* You must provide calcium dust without D3 and multivitamin dust for your beardie. You should dust the live prey with calcium one time a day, and vitamins 3 times a week. Just collect your live prey into baggie and add enough calcium and vitamin to dust them. Then pour a few at a time into your tank. Some people feed their beardie in a separate tank so that no crickets can hide. Or some take out "furniture" from tank and feed this way. As they get older, 4-5 months or so dust live prey with calcium 3 times a week.
* Feed the veggies/ greens 1st thing in morning after lights on for one hour at least. Then after 2-3 hours offer crix. Then freshen green/veggies. Then give more crix. Make sure after last crix feeding there is at least 1-2 hours of lights so that they can digest their food before night time.

*Beardies over the age of one year old during the winter months will go into a Brumation like most Reptiles and Herps. It is a form of hibernation that is governed by the weather and time of year. The lights should be on a shorter period at this time. Fresh greens should be available during this period. Do not feed live prey during Brumation.

Water: Mist your little one with the spray bottle 3-4 times a day. You can also offer a small dish of water in your enclosure but be sure your dragon is not too small to drown in it. It is recommended that when your beardie is 2 months old you can bathe your baby in a small plastic container with warm water- not hot. It will help them to stay hydrated. As they get older you can move up to the bathroom sink and then to the bathtub. Very important for bath enclosure to be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed prior to bath time. Clean between dragons too if bathing more than one.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you very much Anna. I will make the changes you recommended to her habitat.

I'm wondering if perhaps her diet became too exclusively protein-based after I ran out of the omnivore powder? Would that cause the swelling?

I've given Reaper sub-q antibiotics before when she appeared to have a questionable shadow in her lung. It has since gone away. Is that the form of antibiotics she might have? (i.e, she obviously couldn't have anything orally at this point)

She hasn't eaten well in days. I plan to consult the vet again tomorrow to proceed with the u/s, but is she at risk? She actually looks fairly alert in the face and eyes. Is there anything I can do for her in the meantime? Doc says the opening to her esophagus so tiny that he'd have to thread a syringe in to feed her. Is there any other alternative?

I'm starting to really wonder if this is a nutrition problem more than an abscess or infection. But hopefully the u/s will give us some answers.

Due to the improper information dispensed to me when I got her, she unfortunately developed the MBD early (I did not own a UVB lamp). She has been a high maintenance little pet ever since, but I love her. Can I expect her ever to become "normal" again if we see it through this crisis? I just don't want to spend exhorbatent (sp?) amounts of money on the diagnostics and treatment only to have a compromised quality of life for her. But after reading your post and getting more info tonight, the situation doesn't seem so dire.

thanks in advance for your replies and your former one as well. It's been a rough day!
I'm sorry for what you're going through - I can tell how much you care for Reaper. Unfortunately, I can't tell you what her chances are because we simply don't know exactly what is wrong. Only further testing can reveal that, and once your vet knows, a prognosis will be able to be reached. Nutritional imbalances can cause a lot of different symptoms, so anything is possible. Gout is one that can result from feeding foods too rich in protein and fats. It usually causes swelling of the joints in the legs and feet, but sometimes swelling can occur elsewhere. That would be unusual, however.

Do give the baby food on the snout method a try, If Reaper will take it in, she can
swallow as slowly as she likes. I don't know of any other method to get food into her besides the syringe or tube.

As for a normal life, again, there's no way to know. If the cause is an infection, yes, she could return to normal if it can be cleared up. If it's a tumor, then probably not. I wish I could simply say, yes, go ahead with the testing, or no, it's a waste of money, but there simply si no way to know what the outcome of the tests will be. You'll have to look at your situation, especially your finances. It is possible that you'll spend a lot of money only to find out she has an untreatable condition or a condition so advanced it doesn't respond well to treatment. But, it's also possible that she can be treated and returned to a good life. Unfortunately, that's how it often is in medicine, whether it's human medicine or veterinary medicine. I hope that whatever you decide, it will work out well.

Anna and 3 other Reptile Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX service has been wonderful. I can't thank you enough.

I saw in the info you added courtesy of Josn that she really stresses the protein veggie balance. I read on another website (or maybe it was here?) also an expert concerned that the beardie was getting too much protein after the owner reported inflammation. I appreciate your response re the possibility of gout. But you said it was unlikely. I'm wondering if your colleague or you could give me any more information on this protein/veggie imbalance and the potential problems that can ensue? I'm really starting to wonder if that's the problem.

I stress this because it gives me some relief to think the problem may be dietary (vs a tumor or other condition in her throat, which vet thinks that due to the sensitivity and vital nature of this area, could be hard to operate on if that's what's called for). I will speak to the vet later today and still go ahead with the tests based on the hopeful feedback you've given me, but I would like to be as informed as possible about rule-out conditions and since the issue of diet wasn't stressed (yet) by him (again maybe because I didn't get to present the full hx to him directly), I would like to go into the tests and visit as informed as possible.

Any further info you or your colleague can provide on this specific issue would be greatly appreciated. I will, in the meantime, try the baby food method.

I will certainly keep you posted on Reaper's progress. Thank you for your time and concern.
It would be unusual for gout to cause swelling in the neck area - it usually occurs in the legs and feet. To give you more thorough information, I'm going to give you a link to the condition in reptiles. This site includes information on what abnormalities may show up on blood work. If you read it, you'll have a good understanding when you see the vet.

An adult beardie should have 80% plant matter, especially greens, and 20% prey insects. The most common problem with too much protein is kidney failure, and that is often the end result with gout, so both are included in the link I gave you. Hepatic lipidosis can also occur, but it is more likely in obese lizards. Here's a link on that if you'd like to read more:

If you scroll down on this site, you can read the best information available on feeding:

You seem to be someone who likes to know more than the basics, so I thought you would appreciate the depth of these online articles.

There's no need to click on accept again. Thank you for accepting above.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX been wonderful and so respectful. I truly appreciate it very very much. It's a tough time to go through, deciding whether to euthanize or not and wondering what I could have done differently.

The vet, by phone today, thought that my lizard's condition is not at all nutrition related.

He, too, is being very respectful, but essentially telling me that there is no great best-case scenario. He's encouraging me to consider euthanizing. Her prognosis, acc to him, is not good.

He says if it's an infection, it can't just be treated with sub-q antibiotics, but would require treatment to the site itself given the degree of swelling. i.e., invasive and expensive.

If it's a tumor, same. It's in such a delicate area that removal of a mass could prove very complicated and no guarantee of good quality of life.

My choice is whether to go through the $800 worth of diagnostics with u/s & aspiration & blood work today/tomorrow, which he is more or less (kind-heartedly I believe) saying may not be worth it, because that will just be the beginning. After that comes the treatment itself.

Meanwhile, the lizard looks alert and even if her limbs are mushy due to the early MBD, she reacts happily (?) to see me. I'm about to try the baby food. I feel like letting her go prematurely would be cruel, but I honestly don't have the discretionary funds to spend on anything. Insurance company doesn't want to be quoted on anything over the phone, just gives general potential reimbursements. However, I do have some coverage, which makes me lean toward at least wanting to have definitive answers.

My 10 year old is going to take it hard and my soon-to-be-ex did not hesitate to say "not worth it. have the kids kiss her goodbye, take pictures, good luck." That is, not only no emotional support or understanding of the situation, but unlikely to want to contribute to any of the costs down the line.

I'm in a tough spot. I hardly slept last night thinking about it.

In the end, I think my inclination will be to do the testing, but I'm so stressed about the whole thing, I can't think that clearly about it.

Do your thoughts on the matter seem different given the vet's above-mentioned advice? Is it worth going back to my original vet? (she has terrible bedside manner and I always feel she will run up the bills but maybe she'd feel more optimistic?)

I just don't know.

Again, many thanks.
I understand, Gloria. You've now gotten more information from your vet, and most vets will not advise euthanasia if they think there's even a reasonable chance that something can be treated. That information does change my thinking somewhat. Whether to pursue the testing or not, though, also depends on how you'll feel afterward. If you don't do it, will you feel guilty and always wonder? If you do it, and then have to euthanize anyway, will you regret spending all that money? I know this is not an objective way to make the decision, but when it comes to our pets, we can't always be objective. If you want the logical, objective decision, it would be to follow the vet's advice, but at this point, your own feelings about it are just as important as Reaper's prognosis. That's what I'd advise you to go by.

As for the original vet, you could tell your present vet that you want to get a second opinion before making your decision. Then make an appointment with her and let her know, too, that you are getting more than one opinion because you want to be sure. After she gives you her advice, you don't have to agree to treatment right away, but can take some time to think it over.

I'm glad to be as much help as I can because I know how hard this is for you. IF I'm mostly serving as a support system now, that's fine. I'm here for you just to talk if that's what you needs.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you Anna,
You must be my guardian angel. I think going with my feelings rather than logic is extremely sound advice, because you are right: I'll always wonder. I don't want my pet's life's end to be determined by a couple of hundred dollars.

She's right now licking the baby food. Slowly, but surely. I've decided I want to do the tests and will bring her in tomorrow. (Vet is closed early today.)

Again, going with my gut: I don't think I'll go back to vet #1. She's quite a distance away and honestly, she's been very rude in the past, even through this situation, despite the fact that she's been the lizard's primary doctor. Her curt, annoyed response is always to bring her in so she can look at her herself. If I even think to ask about expenses, she gets annoyed and impatient. She doesn't hesitate to run up a big bill with tests and really does not deal in the realm of emotions. I wouldn't feel comfortable at this point with her telling me she wants to do surgery, etc. The new doc has been extremely respectful and patient, reviewing all the questions and hypotheses thoroughly. He will go ahead with whatever I decide and has been very understanding. I almost think he's as worried about my quality of life post-surgery as he is for the lizard. lol. He looked at her chart and understands how much I've put into caring for her these past 2 years, since she's had several complications starting early on. If I'm going to go through surgery or euthenasia, I'd rather do it with him than doc #1. Also, as you can see, I'm very emotional about this and prefer to spare myself unpleasant contact with an insensitive care-provider at this time.

I know I must seem all over the place, but it's a complicated situation given all that my family has been through in the last year (divorce, etc.). Losing a pet unnecessarily or even necessarily is a major stressor. Ironically, I'm actually a psychologist myself. It's nice to be on the receiving end of support and empathy. Not many people understand how one can become so attached to a reptile. I have great friends, but most of them are chuckling about how quickly they would have parted ways with a lizard. I may have thought the same thing, I tell them. But I say, as soon as an animal cocks its head up at you and looks into your eye, it's more automatic than you realize to suddenly feel "okay, I"m this animal's mom now." lol

Well, I will let you know how things go. Even seeing her eat the baby food has made things a lot easier. You're right. I'm not sure I need so much in the way of info anymore. You've been tremendously helpful in both providing information and kindness.

Thank you and I'll keep you posted. Right now my goal will be just to keep Reaper comfortable until the tests and get a little food into her if possible. I'm laying off the calcium liquid as she's been spitting up the fluid more than the mushier stuff. Maybe it's easier for her to control the baby food/slurry than fluid. Her esophagus is so swollen, according to the vet, that it's only about the size of a pinhole. Even tube feeding would require a thin threaded tube.

Okay, I have rambled a LOT on this public website. It's sort of embarrassing, but it's been extremely helpful. Thank you again for seeing me through this.


You can be certain I understand, Gloria. owned many pets over the years, and I've gotten quite upset over losing a large goldfish after trying everything to save it. All living creatures are important. It sounds like you've reached a point where you're comfortable with your decision. I'm glad.

Very few people will see what you've written here, and those who do will only see your first name. In my opinion, there's nothing to be embarrassed about - you simply care a great deal for Reaper. By the way, it makes me very happy that she's licking up the chicken. That may relieve a bit of her hunger.

I'm glad I can help. Even a psychologist can't be expected to offer herself support. I was a teacher for many years, and am used to doing this for people. Do stay in touch with me. I'll keep you in my thoughts.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hi Anna,
I thought I'd let you know the results of the tests that were done today and Reaper's prognosis.

After u/s, vet discovered a tumor close to Reaper's heart. Her heart is enlarged (due to pressure from the tumor?) and the cavity is filled with fluid. It's the tumor and enlargement that are causing the pressure on Reaper's esophagus, so the problem is actually not at all from the esophagus itself. Her breathing is labored and the doc saw that even the liquid calcium I had given her this am was still in her throat.

Vet recommends euthanizing her at this point. Removal of the tumor would prove very complicated and potentially dangerous since it could puncture her lung or other vital organ(s).

I actually feel like I have peace of mind about the decision now. There is a lot to be said for having all the information at your disposal when making an emotional decision such as this one. So, thank you so much for helping me think that through.

I will bring Reaper home tonight so that my son can have a chance to say goodbye to her. (This morning when he was upset about my taking her to vet, I told him that we were still in the testing phase and that this would not be his last time seeing her, so I feel even more so that his getting to see her again is the right thing to do.)

She is scheduled to be euthanized tomorrow morning.

The costs of the procedures today were actually less than predicted, since the diagnosis was apparent pretty early on. Yet, I feel the extra $600 or so was money well spent to have this clear diagnosis and clear prognosis.

(FYI, the vet said all her other conditions had absolutely nothing to do with this tumor. He gave me a whole explanation about how few of these dragons have come over from their native Australia and that there's therefore been a lot of inbreeding of these animals over the years, hence the congenital diseases that they sometimes carry. It would be great if the "pet industry" were a bit more sensitive to their actions, but that's a topic for another time & board. )

If you have any thoughts about handling such a situation with a child, I'd be open to hearing about it. Right now I'm at work and haven't seen Reaper, so I don't feel so bereft, but I have the feeling that the evening and tomorrow morning will be rough, especially for my son. I obviously want him to have his time with her and get to hold her and say goodbye. Maybe we'll take a picture, if he wants, of them together. I hope he will be okay going to school tomorrow. I don't think it's appropriate to bring him to the vet for the procedure.

Somehow God steered my path to find this wonderful vet and this "justanswer" service, which connected me to you. Maybe it's my mom & grandma too guiding my life from up above. But I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your support and understanding. You've been amazing.

All the best to you and may you receive all the kindness you've shown to me a hundredfold in return to you in your own life. If you'd like to hear how things go tomorrow, I will share that with you as well.

Take care and (((hugs)))),


Hi Gloria,

I'm sorry to hear the sad news, but I'm happy that you've been able to make peace with what you have to do, and to know completely that it's the right choice.

If you'll tell me how old your son is, I may have some ideas for you.

Hugs to you, too. You need them right now.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you for your kind words.

I have a 10 year old son, who is the one that is most attached to Reaper. Reaper is really his pet. We got her for him after a good academic year when he was in 3rd grade. He's now in 5th. Each time the topic of her being ill has come up, he's gotten very upset. But usually he's a strong, resilient kid. Kind-hearted.

My younger son is 5. He professes no attachment to Reaper. lol. (Reaper has taken a lot of attention away from him these past couple of years.) But I still think he should know what's happening on some level and I'm sure he too has an attachment to Reaper. I expect his concern will be more for his big brother.

I'll see them all together tonight after I get home from work. Reaper is being picked up for me by a friend today.

That is going to be sad. I think it would be an excellent idea to take some pictures with Reaper. Then depending on what your son is interested in, he could make a scrapbook about her with the photos, perhaps poems he's written, pictures he's drawn, etc. I've found doing something like that helps many kids. He could also do any of those things individually if he doesn't want to do a whole scrapbook. the little one could do the same things if he's interested. If hands-on activities are more his style, a clay sculpture of Reaper might be good. If he likes to do things online, here's a site where he could leave a memorial:

I don't know what your religious beliefs are, but if they fit with it, you may want to share this poem with your kids or put it in a scrapbook:

Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Author unknown...

A small celebration of life or funeral service is comforting to some kids. If you have Reaper's body cremated, you could let your son choose an urn. If she's to be buried, he could design a stone. You can use one of the decorative concrete patio blocks sold in home improvement stores.

Donating money to a reptile rescue in Reaper's name and explaining how that is helping other lizards can be a bit of a comfort.

Finally, if he seems to need some counseling from anon-family member, this site offers free pet grief counseling by trained volunteers:

If your younger son is mostly concerned about his brother, help him make a sympathy card for him.

I agree with you that your son shouldn't see the procedure. I do think it would be appropriate for him to take the next school day off if Reaper's death is affecting him deeply. Not only does that give him a little more time to process his grief, it's an acknowledgment of the importance of an animal's life and of the your son's love for Reaper. Over the years, I've dealt with many kids whose parents sent them to school while they were still grief-stricken, and they simply weren't able to function normally yet. They would have been better off at home.

I hope one or two of these ideas will be useful to you, Gloria. I'll be thinking of you tomorrow, and yes, let me know how it goes.

Anna and 3 other Reptile Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
These are all wonderful ideas and so touching. I will definitely consider all of them and discuss with my son what he'd like to do.

The Rainbow Bridge was beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. I will share it with Jesse too. I think he'll appreciate it.

You raised the issue of his going to school and it's making me rethink whether or not to do the procedure tomorrow morning. If I did it that way, I'd then be sending Jesse off to school knowing his pet is being put to sleep and then I won't be home until dinnertime to be with Jesse afterschool. (I have to work tomorrow.) Not an ideal situation.

I may consider postponing the procedure until Saturday morning. I don't want Jesse to go through a day like that on his own. It means getting someone to stay with the kids on Saturday while I go take Reaper and it also means having Reaper with us an extra day. I had wanted to minimize her distress but she seems to be hanging in there. Maybe I can figure out a way to get home early tomorrow. It's complicated. Thank you for reminding me to think that part through.

I just finished work and am headed out. I'll give this all some thought as I commute home.

Thank you again.

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Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hi again, Anna.

Okay, this evening was brutal. My son kept asking if there was absolutely any way that the surgery could be performed. He was inconsolable. Literally saying there was no way he could say goodbye to Reaper. Couldn't even bring himself to take pictures with her or let me talk about putting her to sleep. Of course, this threw my whole sense of certainty into doubt. I myself have not seen Reaper's images since I've more or less been getting all the results over the phone.

Since I only just absorbed the "real" diagnosis today and the severity of it, I think waiting an extra day for a second opinion (from Reaper's primary vet whom I had "fired" in my mind a couple of days ago for poor bedside seems reasonable. What do you think?

My plan is to call this current vet in the am, postpone/cancel the 9:30 am euthanasia, and ask him to send the blood work results and all the images he took (x-ray and u/s of tumor) to my original vet (the rude one who is 40 minutes away lol). She may be rude, but she also may have more confidence in her skills, have more state-of-the-art equipment, etc. Her sole specialty is birds and exotics. Maybe she will think it's operable. He certainly seems knowledgeable, but with both diagnoses (when he thought it was her esophagus and then today when he ascertained it was a tumor), he thought Reaper's prognosis was poor. Maybe he's 100% correct, but... what if he's just not that skilled or experienced in operations such as this one? I'll might always second-guess myself.

By pulling out of the appointment, I run the risk of offending vet #2 (the new guy), of getting insulted by vet #1 ("why didn't you bring her to me sooner?"), but if it means knowing in my heart that I did best I could by Reaper and my son, it will be worth it. Reaper herself actually looks pretty alert and content. I feel like at the very least we can take 24 hours more to say goodbye to her and/or obtain as much information as we can to be sure there is no other choice.

I feel like an obsessive lunatic who is going in circles, but this NOW seems like the best approach. Part of me wishes I could have lived with the certainty of putting her to sleep, because there would have been some resolution to all this heartache, but once my son started to ask those questions and I was looking at Reaper move around in her tank, that certainty vanished. They were legitimate questions.

I now feel like I myself need an electrolyte bath, I'm so dehydrated from crying tonight. :)
I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep and hopefully finding resolution to all of this by Saturday.

I feel like you have been through this process alongside me, Anna. My son's father, as I mentioned, was ready for Reaper to be put to sleep before he even knew what her condition was. Currently he's on a Caribbean vacation and knows nothing of what's happening (didn't call to follow up, talk to our son, etc.). So, it's been a tremendous relief to be able to report all the intricacies of this with you. I can't really expect my 10-year-old to be the voice of reason in all this, can I? :)

So... to be continued! Thank you for "listening" and slogging through my long, obsessional posts.

Good night for now,
I'm sorry not to get back to you sooner, Gloria. I went to bed early last night and didn't see your post until now. I imagine you've canceled your appointment by now. I agree with you that the questions are legitimate. I would tell vet #1 that you're getting a second opinion for your son's sake. He shouldn't be offended then, especially if he's a parent himself. I don't know how to handle vet #2, with the poor bedside manner - guess you'll just have to grit your teeth.

Vet #2 may be willing to do the surgery, but there's a possibility Reaper won't live through it. But again, you're doing it more so your son knows EVERYTHING possible was done. I don't know how you feel about lying to kids to protect them. If you are OK with that, I'd consider it given your son's reaction to the putting to sleep option. If vet #2 says nothing can be done, you could tell your son the operation was tried and Reaper was too weak to live through it. That way, you won't be responsible for it. Another option, since Reaper is doing all right now is to wait until she has obvious symptoms so your son will see that she is suffering. I don't really like that for two reasons. The tumor may eventually put pressure on the airway, and Reaper would suffocate, or it may cause serious suffering and we don't want your son to witness\ that or Reaper to go through it. You are in a very tough situation, and I honestly don't know what I'd do in your shoes. I do agree with you that, given the new situation, seeing vet #1 isn't a bad idea. Good luck.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
okay, the super-specialist vet #1 with her high tech equipment was actually very nice today. She didn't think she agreed that the mass was on the heart, but she did some more xrays and definitely agrees there is a mass. She is not so quick to recommend euthanizing. She was able to tube-feed her (the other vet was saying could not get a tube in her throat b/c opening too small) and now we're scheduled for another u/s and possibly cytology with this super-specialist vet and her super-expert u/s expert. That will be on Monday. Today cost another $400 for the feeding, exam and 3 views of xray.

HOwever, this vet (who is actually Reaper's primary) says it may be one of two things: potentially cancerous (in which case we will know from cytology or even the u/s on Monday if Reaper can be treated), or potentially an infection that can also be treated.

While Reaper's prognosis not great, this vet does not feel as hopeless.

Also, it appears the two vets have had a history with each other, so there may be a battle of egos going on here, but I honestly think (ironically), she is not the one driving this . I think the new vet (the local guy who is the man) is certified, etc., but not as thorough and perhaps doesn't have the state-of-the art equipment. He had been quick to recommend euthanizing both days he saw Reaper, from two different operating diagnoses (first a throat mass and then later, after u/s, the body mass).

Today, the vet was showing me that the mass actually is not near the heart, but further down the body cavity. It does appear it may have originated close to the lungs but still she feels she can't feel she knows anything definitive until her own people run the tests.

I do feel good about the continued exploration. Reaper is not labored breathing or in pain, we were able to feed her. Yes, it's costly, but she's our pet and I owe it to her and all of us to know the answers.

I believe the vet we have been working with (the new local vet) was doing his best appraisal, but I also think the woman has more expertise and better people/training/equipment. She's associated with the top teaching hospital in our area and I trusted everything she was presenting to me today. Her bedside manner can be a little gruff, but she was okay today. She did wonder why I went to someone new and I just used location and emergency as my answer.

So it may be that I spent all this money on the newer vet unnecessarily only to repeat the tests on Monday, but I feel okay about it.

He has continued to ask for feedback and honestly, it would have been helpful if when he did the u/s he had video-taped it (as the woman vet says is standard practice). All he provided (and had) was an image which isn't very helpful to read.

Okay, so the saga continues. I just thought I'd keep you posted Anna!
Thanks and have a good weekend.
Thank you, Gloria. It makes me happy to know there is at least a little hope. And it gives me confidence in this vet to hear she is associated with the teaching hospital. It's also good to hear she was nice to you this time. It's great to work with a pet owner who will go to such lengths; not very many will. Be sure to keep me up-to-date as you learn anything new.

Under the circumstances, I know you can't really have a nice weekend, but do try to at least relax a bit. You've had an extremely stressful week.