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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Stress is something of a very variable topic in itself but the term stress is used alot both by professionals and hobbyists as we see every day on this forum.
So when talking about stress, what kind of stress are we talking about? How does stress harm that particular individal an animal.

It would be great if anyone can contribute any visible expierience, photos and videos to this discussion too of possible stressed animals when they first aquired and or rescued, and what you think or know caused it in the first place.

I think this is an important topic to address, because what you will often find in alot of vet literature, if a cause of death can't be identified or an illness can't be sussed it usually is put down to stress.

With some species stress is very hard to see visually, even if your husbandry is spot on and the enclosure is as perfect as it can be, stress in lizards can still occur.

So discussion on stress, what? Why? When? And how?
:)
 

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Excessive stress can weakness a lizard's immune system making the animal more prone to diseases and bacteria who otherwise wouldn't posses a threat. It also leads to other health issues such as lack of appetite, dehydration etc.
Presumably lack of appetite, dehydration etc can also cause stress, bit of a double edged sword, surely the best is to remove the cause of the stress thereby removing the stress itself ?
 

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Finding the cause of stress is the first step. It might be husbandry conditions related such as wrong temperatures, lighting, lack of hiding spots or keepers fault, like excessive handling and wrong tank mates
 

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I got a pair of Jackson's Chameleons in Hamm, they looked great at the show but by the time we got them home they were stressed as anything, they were also slightly dehydrated and had just spent the last 24 hours or so getting home (due to a nightmare journey - I was pretty stressed too!) however, they immediately went in the shower and you could see the stress melting away. I think animals as well as people benefit from a little stress now and again, but it is constant stress that builds up to cause the major problems and it ultimately being given as the cause of death in unusual circumstances. Out of curiosity, why do you ask?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
All fab replies.
The problem with identifying stress factors is it is very difficult to differentiate what is stress and what is normal behaviour pattern, for eg a bearded dragon brumating shows identical signs of stress of one that isn't.

It is widely accepted that an animal eating is healthy or at least not stressed but in my expierience this is far from what I have seen, ill and unhealthy stressed animals can still eat, yet if we look at a royal python it can fast or months in its normal whacior patterns and so can iguanas at certain times of the year, so not eating can be a stress factor but it is largely difficult to differentiate what is normal and what is stress.

Then I'm thinking there are different kinds of stress, feed meat to a herbivore and your stressing the kidneys out even though they are eating and doing everything they should.

I think Khonsu brings up a good point too this it is a double edged sword in many cases, and it seems to be a similar thing to mbd where the term is used alot but it covers hundreds of reasons.
 

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you are quite right mate, it is a real Pandora's box of issues.

I have HUGE concerns over stress in captive reptiles as you know, the trouble is that "nature" wont let them show that they are unhappy until it is too late in most cases.

Reptiles and birds will feed and drink and still pretend to be ok even when they are not. I feel as you know from my book that stress places an enormous load upon the system. They system can deal with moderate stress levels, they have this every day in the wild when something is chasing them etc. But prolonged stress from over interaction, poor enclosures, poor technology, under feeding, poor hydration, reflection and the list goes on can over time reduce the bodies ability to deal with this "stress". this then allows nasty's to build up in a physical way which can then lead to health complications

but..... I have seen MANY occasions of stressful species simply die on the spot. Calotes were famous in the trade once upon a time for just expiring for no good reason as soon as they were unpacked. We even thought loud noise could kill them at one time. Over time however the trade has learned how to unpack, acclimatise and quarantine them and many, many more survive now.

so yes just like MBD "stress" is used to describe hundreds of conditions and complaints... we as stupid humans just need to learn what is what and what to avoid....this will happen but may take time.

I did find a link as you know to a drop in vit C levels after periods of stress. Reptiles actually make vit C inside of them selves unlike humans and other primates...but these reserves are thought to deplete during excessive stress and not be able to cope with the demand.. so a measured inclusion of C at times of great stress may be useful. time will tell

great topic :)

john
 
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
you are quite right mate, it is a real Pandora's box of issues.

I have HUGE concerns over stress in captive reptiles as you know, the trouble is that "nature" wont let them show that they are unhappy until it is too late in most cases.

Reptiles and birds will feed and drink and still pretend to be ok even when they are not. I feel as you know from my book that stress places an enormous load upon the system. They system can deal with moderate stress levels, they have this every day in the wild when something is chasing them etc. But prolonged stress from over interaction, poor enclosures, poor technology, under feeding, poor hydration, reflection and the list goes on can over time reduce the bodies ability to deal with this "stress". this then allows nasty's to build up in a physical way which can then lead to health complications

but..... I have seen MANY occasions of stressful species simply die on the spot. Calotes were famous in the trade once upon a time for just expiring for no good reason as soon as they were unpacked. We even thought loud noise could kill them at one time. Over time however the trade has learned how to unpack, acclimatise and quarantine them and many, many more survive now.

so yes just like MBD "stress" is used to describe hundreds of conditions and complaints... we as stupid humans just need to learn what is what and what to avoid....this will happen but may take time.

I did find a link as you know to a drop in vit C levels after periods of stress. Reptiles actually make vit C inside of them selves unlike humans and other primates...but these reserves are thought to deplete during excessive stress and not be able to cope with the demand.. so a measured inclusion of C at times of great stress may be useful. time will tell

great topic :)



john

Fab response right there and if I'm honest reading your book was partially what made me do some reading into the vet books, its a very frustrating topic.
Really appreciate your input on this one :)


Thanks Mate :)
I think to eliminate stress factors they do have to be understood per individual species, and a large part of that is understanding natural history of those in our care too.
 

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To clarify there are two kinds of stress, long term and short term. Both operate through various different hormones and pathways. I'm only really familiar with human stress hormones and pathways. I highly doubt we share the exact hormones but I'm hoping reptiles do use similar pathways and experience similar effects. Regardless it might be beneficial to explain how we experience stress anyway to this discussion.

Short term: epinephrine and norepinephrine (also known as adrenaline an noradrenaline)

This is what you feel when you go bungee jumping, base diving or preform other dangerous activities. This 'adrenaline rush' is caused in the brain (more specific the hypothalamus), when it processes and dangerous or stressful situation. It sends a signal to your adrenal glands (they are attached to your kidneys) and they begin the excrete epinephrine and norepinephrine.

This has several effects:

- Your body releases more glucose (the 'fuel' your body runs on) in the blood stream. This glucose is 'made' from glycogen, a substance stored in your liver as a long term energy supply.
- Increased blood pressure.
- Increased breathing
- Increased metabolic rate
- Your blood flow is redirected from non-essential systems(like your digested track) to you muscles, lungs, brains etc.

As you might guess this all happens really fast.

Examples of when this might happen:
- Sky diving
- Your under attack
- Pretty much most situations where you actively sense (life threating) danger

Long term: mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids

These work quite a bit differently. Unlike short term stress these hormones aren't activated by nerve signals by your brain. These hormones are released in reaction to other hormones (ACTH). Unlike epinephrine and norepinephrine these two hormones work radically different.

The effects of glucocorticoids:

- Your body releases more glucose in the blood stream. This glucose is 'made' from proteins and fat in your body.
- It suppresses the immune system

The effects of mineralocorticoids:

- Kidneys take up more water and sodium from urine. (Not completely accurate but that's another story)
- Blood volume and pressure is increased.

These processes happen very slowly over the course of months, weeks or days.

Examples of when this might happen:
- Social pressure
- Environmental stress
- Anything that puts intense mental pressure on you for increased periods of time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
To clarify there are two kinds of stress, long term and short term. Both operate through various different hormones and pathways. I'm only really familiar with human stress hormones and pathways. I highly doubt we share the exact hormones but I'm hoping reptiles do use similar pathways and experience similar effects. Regardless it might be beneficial to explain how we experience stress anyway to this discussion.

Short term: epinephrine and norepinephrine (also known as adrenaline an noradrenaline)

This is what you feel when you go bungee jumping, base diving or preform other dangerous activities. This 'adrenaline rush' is caused in the brain (more specific the hypothalamus), when it processes and dangerous or stressful situation. It sends a signal to your adrenal glands (they are attached to your kidneys) and they begin the excrete epinephrine and norepinephrine.

This has several effects:

- Your body releases more glucose (the 'fuel' your body runs on) in the blood stream. This glucose is 'made' from glycogen, a substance stored in your liver as a long term energy supply.
- Increased blood pressure.
- Increased breathing
- Increased metabolic rate
- Your blood flow is redirected from non-essential systems(like your digested track) to you muscles, lungs, brains etc.

As you might guess this all happens really fast.

Examples of when this might happen:
- Sky diving
- Your under attack
- Pretty much most situations where you actively sense (life threating) danger

Long term: mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids

These work quite a bit differently. Unlike short term stress these hormones aren't activated by nerve signals by your brain. These hormones are released in reaction to other hormones (ACTH). Unlike epinephrine and norepinephrine these two hormones work radically different.

The effects of glucocorticoids:

- Your body releases more glucose in the blood stream. This glucose is 'made' from proteins and fat in your body.
- It suppresses the immune system

The effects of mineralocorticoids:

- Kidneys take up more water and sodium from urine. (Not completely accurate but that's another story)
- Blood volume and pressure is increased.

These processes happen very slowly over the course of months, weeks or days.

Examples of when this might happen:
- Social pressure
- Environmental stress
- Anything that puts intense mental pressure on you for increased periods of time.
That is a fab response in summary if I'm honest, the interesting thing is I suspect you are at least 90% right though I actually don't know for sure myself, just based on a discussion I read on this forum down months back.

Many chemicals and hormones are not at all different in us than animals, te only difference was, how the animals used and responded to various stimuli and chemical reaction.

Dopamine
Serotonin
Adrenaline
Etc can all be found in reptiles, so it would make much sense to me on that.


As most know I have quite a few iguana here, this is where it can get really weird, I keep in mind many of my own movements are not all that dissimilar to there natural predators so each one of 8, will respond very differently to he exact same approach, to some its stressful if I go and put my hand in to others, they will respond with a territorial display and yet others will happily climb out onto my arm.

Talk about complicated behaviour so I don't just think its specie specific either it can alot of the time be individual, perception (same as us) some people respond with stress behaviours to spiders others don't.

Great response creed :)
 

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I recently did a Uni course in Animal welfare. It was so interesting.

they are advocating the use of simple blood tests to measure and plot levels of cortisol in the blood. This is of course released at times of stress.

This is the standard method of ascertaining levels of stress in farm and working animals.

there is no reason why it could not be used I n our hobby also

john
 

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It's definitely a very interesting and complicated system. Unfortunately science considered most cold blooded animals as dumb instinctive creatures. There hasn't been much research (I know of) published how a reptile brain and hormones really works. For many years we even referred to the 'most primitive part' of our brain as the 'reptile' part of our brain. We know that that's rubbish now, but still don't quite understand how reptile physiology works.

The levels of cortisol (a glucocorticoid) would definitely be useful to know. I'm wondering if stress hormones of ectothermic animals work similar to endothermic animals. Since their energy expenditure is much lower, would they also benefit in the same way from increased glucose levels?
 

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It's complicated. You could have a pair of lizards for years, seemingly healthy, but they may have been causing each other stress for years, but to all intents and purposes they seemed fine. Then you add another factor, like changing them to another cage, or perhaps the heating goes dicky for a few days. These apparently not so important issues that usually would not impact them suddenly causes them to go off their food for a week. Then you notice your animal is losing weight. You're at the vet and the animal's being treated for parasites that have multiplied due to stress. The vet trip stresses them out, feeding them the parasite treatment stresses them out and then you bath them in reptoboost to get some liquid in them, and taking them out of their cage and putting them in a tub of water to get the reptoboost in them also causes more stress. The weight loss and general ill state of the animal is also stressfull in itself. The cagemate on the other hand is fine and seemingly unnaffected, never stopped eating, and the other one goes downhill and doesn't recover.

I guess we just don't really know how stressed an animal is until it has taken a serious turn for the worst. Bigger cage, smaller cage, adding a cage mate, removing a cage mate, changing cages, breeding, not breeding. Moving things around in the cage.My feeling Is that stress is often accumulative, but it's difficult to know what could be stressful and become life threatening.
 
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It's definitely a very interesting and complicated system. Unfortunately science considered most cold blooded animals as dumb instinctive creatures. There hasn't been much research (I know of) published how a reptile brain and hormones really works. For many years we even referred to the 'most primitive part' of our brain as the 'reptile' part of our brain. We know that that's rubbish now, but still don't quite understand how reptile physiology works.

The levels of cortisol (a glucocorticoid) would definitely be useful to know. I'm wondering if stress hormones of ectothermic animals work similar to endothermic animals. Since their energy expenditure is much lower, would they also benefit in the same way from increased glucose levels?
There is actually a brilliant series called Biology of the Reptilia. One of the latest editions was on just exactly this topic. Youd be surprised how much work and research there is on just this topic. I'd recommend checking the series out for anyone interested in the deep and dirty of this topic. Its a thick read, but super interesting. Here is a link:

http://www.amazon.com/Hormones-Behavior-Biology-Reptilia-Series/dp/0226281248
 

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There is actually a brilliant series called Biology of the Reptilia. One of the latest editions was on just exactly this topic. Youd be surprised how much work and research there is on just this topic. I'd recommend checking the series out for anyone interested in the deep and dirty of this topic. Its a thick read, but super interesting. Here is a link:

Hormones, Brain, and Behavior (Biology of the Reptilia Series): Carl Gans, David Crews: 9780226281247: Amazon.com: Books
Looks wonderfull I'll check out an pick it up when I have the chance.

Thanks!
 

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I don't no much on this subject but I have worked with a lot of different animals since I was a child and I feel that every animal has it's own little way of life just like us some people have a routine to go shops every morning for a news paper ,my rankin dragon is waiting at the glass for me wen I get back every day without fail ,if I ever stopped getting the news paper at certain time my dragon is going to be out of routine things like this could effect animals a lot I think leading to stress you can't tell the lizard you have work that week nights as far as he knows you ain't part of the routine any more what is leaving him to stress out thinking what has gone wrong we are all creatures of habit and no one likes this to be interfered with even animals ,some people like marmite some don't same as animals I may be well of course lol
 
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