Sapphire: Eggbound cornsnake

Meet Sapphire, a lovely cornsnake who came in to see us after she was struggling to pass her eggs.

Diagnosis and treatment

She’d passed a clutch of 6 eggs two days previously, but there were still two obvious eggs that hadn’t made their way out yet.

An x-ray revealed there was actually also a sneaky third egg higher up that wasn’t obvious based on visual cues alone. She was given fluids, her cloaca lubricated, and left alone in a warm and dark place in the hospital with an appropriate area to lay her eggs.

She managed to pass the two easily visualised eggs on her own, but was unable to pass the third final egg, even with calcium and oxytocin. Dr Catherine therefore performed an ‘ovariectomy’ under general anaesthesia to help remove the problem egg, and we are happy to report that Sapphire has done really well post-surgery and is back to enjoying normal snake life.

Information for owners

Difficulties with passing eggs are not usually an emergency situation in reptiles, but delays in treatment will increase the risks of possible complications and pressure from retained eggs can cause inflammation.

There are many reasons why a reptile may struggle to pass their eggs. This can vary from husbandry issues like inappropriate temperatures and humidity or a lack of appropriate nesting site, to medical issues like infections of the reproductive tract, dehydration, or nutritional deficiencies.

Sometimes we can also get “obstructive dystocia” where the eggs can’t fit out because they are oversized or misshapen, or because the mother has something blocking the way out like a tumour or a bladder stone.

Good nutrition, appropriate temperatures, and a safe and appropriate place to lay their eggs are all key factors to decrease the likelihood of reproductive problems. Problems can usually be managed successfully if diagnosed early, and the reptile is in good health overall.