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Using tonic immobility to calm a tegu?

Sean32817

Member
Messages
48
Location
Orlando
I took Rex to my local reptile shop to confirm that his weight was good since overfeeding and obesity seems to be the number one concern for tegu.

The good news is that he's in excellent health and shape but the bad news is that the shop was exceptionally busy and the second I opened up the tub I had him in, everyone rushed over to admire him so with Rex already being agitated by the ride and not caring for crowds and noise, he spazzed out.

A guy who turned out to be an employee at Gatorland scooped him up and immediately turned Rex on his back, instantly putting an end to Rex's struggles.

While Rex was opening his mouth at the guy after he was returned to the upright position, he didn't further struggle and once I took control and started petting him he calmed, which made me feel good that he recognizes me as someone safe and that he trusts.

Flash forward to this weekend and when attempting to get Rex back into his home he decided he wasn't cooperating and began doing death rolls and tail slaps so I attempted to flip him.

It wasn't even necessary as I worked with Rex's roll and with him just on his side he instantly calmed down and allowed me to pick him up and return him to his home.

Now back at the pet shop someone had asked if inducing tonic immobility was bad for Rex and the guy from Gatorland assured us they do it all of the time with gators and it doesn't harm them.

I was curious and doing some research, the first thing I ran across were dire warnings that flipping the animal on its back causes it to stop breathing and this is what "puts it to sleep."

This is incorrect and likely results from the reports of how orcas will flip sharks upside down and cause them to suffocate - the shark suffocates because it needs to keep swimming to force water through its gills.

I found a number of studies done with alligators and they confirmed with various medical imaging equipment that what actually happens is the same thing that happens to you and I when we stand up too fast and get a head rush.

For the reptile, this temporary bit of dizziness - or outright feinting if you hold the animal upside-down too long - is what causes the animal to stop moving and oftentimes, calms it down due to the animal having forgotten why it was being aggressive.

None of the studies report any long term damage to the animals and the fact that vets regularly use this trick on various types of animals to calm them or even knock them out to perform limited surgery leads me to believe that it's safe, especially seeing as how professional alligator wrestlers will perform the move on their gator several times a day for years.

I don't know how these forums handle links so I'm not including any but a Google search of "tonic immobility alligator" will produce a wealth of articles if you wish to further research this on your own.

Rex was breathing fine when the Gatorland employee flipped him and was also OK when I half-flipped him, so my question isn't on the safety of this trick due to my own observations and research, instead, I'm wondering if due to how smart tegu are that they are capable of remembering that you've done this to them and whether that results in any long term mental issues, such as the tegu being afraid of you or resenting being flipped?

Ultimately I would prefer for Rex to simply be kewl with being picked up all of the time and show that same "oh it's daddy, I'm safe now" that he did at the pet shop but I'm an outdoor person and I'd rather not have an excessive amount of "tegu tattoos" all over my forearms.
 

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