My reptile’s throat lining is discolored. What should I do?
Healthy pharyngeal mucosa in reptiles
The normal throat lining of a reptile is usually pink. Exceptions include certain species of geckos, agamids, and spiny iguanas: These can have a pigmented, i.e. a partially or completely dark-colored pharynx. Furthermore, bearded dragons or chameleon species can show a yellow discoloration of the throat, which is quite normal.
It is therefore very important that you know exactly which type of reptile you own: This way you can better recognize if your animal should be ill. In addition, reptiles place high demands on their keeping. These are very different from species to species and the animals can quickly become ill if the keeping conditions are not optimal.
Pathological discoloration of the pharyngeal mucosa
When a reptile’s throat lining is discolored, there are several possible causes:
- Red coloration of the throat can be an indication of an inflammatory process. This can then lead to further respiratory problems. These include difficult/accelerated breathing, mucus secretion from the nose and mouth, mucous coatings and ulcers on the pharyngeal mucosa, breathing noises, and a stretched head and neck position. The latter can be an indication of shortness of breath.
- Point-like red discoloration of the pharyngeal mucosa is bleeding. These can be caused by minor injuries, but also by the so-called mouth rot. This is an infection in the mouth and throat area. Poor housing conditions and parasites are among the triggers. In the case of sepsis (blood poisoning), punctiform bleeding can also occur, but these are not limited to the throat.
- A pale/white mucosa is due to anemia. Numerous causes such as injuries, organ failure, poor circulation, malnutrition, parasites, and tumor diseases (cancer) can act as triggers.
The bluish color of the throat mucosa can indicate a life-threatening lack of oxygen. Triggers can be cardiovascular weakness and respiratory diseases. For some lizard species, however, the blue coloration is part of the species-specific markings.
- Jaundice can occur with bile duct diseases, liver failure, or pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). This leads, among other things, to yellowing of the mucous membrane. Exceptions include certain bearded dragons and chameleon species, which have a species-specific yellow coloration.
If you notice such discoloration of the pharyngeal mucosa in your animal, please consult a veterinarian experienced in reptiles. Rapid action is vital, particularly in the event of shortness of breath or suspected blood poisoning!