How do remove a giant bladder stone from a small lizard? Carefully and creatively.

Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo veterinary team pulled a "MacGyver" after custom-making a critical breathing tube for Misho, one of their male chuckwallas.

Chuckwallas, typically 11 to 18 inches long, enjoy basking on rocks in the sun and eating leafy greens. But zookeepers noticed the 25-year-old lizard wasn't quite feeling himself.

“If he’s flattened out on the rock—if he’s not basking and his color changes and he’s sitting there with his eyes closed—that’s what lethargy looks like in a lizard,” said Dr. Kelly Helmick, Woodland Park Zoo's associate veterinarian.

Vets conducted an extensive exam, and radiographs confirmed what the vets suspected: Misho had grown a giant bladder stone. With Misho weighing less than a pound, the bladder stone accounted for nearly 3% of his entire body weight

“That’s a really big a very small lizard,” Helmick said, after seeing the radiograph. "As the stone shifted around, it made him uncomfortable and affected his day- to-day quality of life. It was clear it had to go."

But anesthetizing lizards isn't easy. They can go for minutes without breathing, making it harder for the gas to take effect. And their small size makes inserting a breathing tube a challenge. So zoo veterinarians got resourceful and custom-made their own breathing tube small enough to fit Misho.

Veterinarians successfully removed the bladder stone, and Misho was recuperating under the watchful eye of zoo staff.

"It's part of the fun of being a zoo veterinarian," said Helmick. "We provide the best care for our patients regardless of their size!"

Read more about the surgery on the Woodland Park Zoo blog.

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