To evaluate neurological tests and expected results in inland bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) and generate recommendations for bearded dragon–specific neurological examination.
26 healthy adult inland bearded dragons.
A complete neurological examination utilizing tests described in both mammals and reptiles was performed on each lizard, and test feasibility and outcome were recorded.
Tests with poor feasibility included oculocardiac reflex (successfully completed in 62% [16/26] of animals) and voluntary ambulation and swallowing by use of a food item (0% [0/26] of animals). Tests with outcomes considered abnormal in mammals but attributable to normal bearded dragon behavior included head position (head tilt present in 12% [3/26]) and head movement (head bob present in 4% [1/26]). Many tests had absent or inconsistent outcomes, including menace response (present in 19% [5/26]), proprioceptive positioning (present in 4% [1/26] in the thoracic limbs and 0% [0/26] in the pelvic limbs), vent reflex (present in 27% [7/26]), and myotatic reflexes (biceps present in 8% [2/26]; patellar, gastrocnemius, and triceps present in 0% [0/26]). Extensor postural thrust was absent in all successfully tested animals, but a novel reflex termed the caudal thoracic extensor reflex was noted instead in all observed animals (100% [21/21]).
Tests with poor feasibility or inconsistent outcomes should have low priority or be excluded from neurological examinations of inland bearded dragons. Normal behaviors should be considered for head position and movement. A bearded dragon–specific neurological examination protocol derived from these findings is described and recommended in order to decrease stress and improve neurolocalization.