Lizard and Snake Haematology

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Blood (plasma and cells) is approximately 6% of the body weight of snakes and the normal PCV of a snake is about 0.20 to 0.30 l/l (20-30%). Blood cells form in the bone marrow and spleen, and early in life, the liver.


Identification of blood cells can be a problem due to lack of comprehensive reference material for reptile haematology, lack of standardised nomenclature for leucocytes, species variation, inappropriate anticoagulants, improper sampling technique and lymph dilution. Automated counting techniques may not be suitable for reptile blood samples because of the nucleated red blood cells. Reptile leucocytes are fragile and the proper technique in preparation of blood smears is important to obtain valid differentials.

Blood cells include erythrocytes which are nucleated, leucocytes (heterophils, eosinophils, basophils, lymphocytes, monocytes and azurophils) and thrombocytes.


Blood parameters in reptiles are influenced by a wide array of variables that include species, age, sex, nutritional status, physiological status, season, environment, blood sampling technique, sample handling, use of anticoagulants and methods of staining. It is also not uncommon for blood samples to be contaminated with lymph. Therefore it is preferable to obtain a set of normal reference values for each individual reptile during times of health under known environmental and nutritional conditions. The morphology of cells may provide more information than the cell counts.


Romanowsky stains, although time consuming, give the best results. DiffQuik may give adequate results. Reticulocytes are detected with new methylene blue, brilliant cresyl blue and other supravital stains. Cell-specific stains are available.

Lizard and Snake Haematology Learning Resources
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Advances in reptilian hematology and blood chemistry. Knotek, Z.; Trnkova, S.; Knotkova, Z.; Svoboda, M. ; Czech Small Animal Veterinary Association, Prague, Czech Republic, 2006 World Congress Proceedings. 31st World Small Animal Association Congress, 12th European Congress FECAVA, & 14th Czech Small Animal Veterinary Association Congress, Prague, Czech Republic, 11-14 October, 2006, 2006, pp 334-336, 14 ref.

Reptile hematology and serum chemistry. Stahl, S. J.; The North American Veterinary Conference, Gainesville, USA, Small animal and exotics. Proceedings of the North American Veterinary Conference, Volume 20, Orlando, Florida, USA, 7-11 January, 2006, 2006, pp 1673-1676, 4 ref.

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