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Pub. 265 Hepatic Lipidosis Due to Obesity in a Free-Living Snake (Boa constrictor amarali)

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Background: Liver performs several important functions to the maintenance of physiological mechanisms. Some liver diseases may directly affect anatomical and physiological aspects of this organ, and may lead to a permanent liver injury. In snakes, the most common causes of liver disease are infections, however, approaches on non-infectious liver diseases are scarce. Therefore, the objective of this study was to describe macroscopically and microscopically liver alterations in a Boa constrictor amarali snake. Case: A adult male boa (Boa constrictor amarali) snake of 110 cm of length and weight of 3.270 kg from free-living conditions , and without previous history was rescued in an urban area and taken by the Environmental Police to the Laboratory for Teaching and Research in Wild Animals (LAPAS) of the Federal University of Uberlândia's (UFU) Veterinary Hospital, in Uberlândia MG, Brazil. The animal died and a significant amount of adipose tissue was found throughout the extension of the coelomic cavity at necropsy, limiting the visualization of its internal organs. Fragments of altered organs were collected and packed in a universal collector containing a 10% buffered formalin solution. These samples were sent to the Animal Pathology Laboratory (LPA) of the UFU. Macroscopically, the stomach presented a reddish mucosa, and mucous contents. The liver was pale, with a yellowish color and a friable consistency. Microscopically, dilated hepatic sinusoids filled with red blood cells were observed; the hepatocytes were enlarged, and its cytoplasm were filled with vacuoles of varied sizes that did not stain (severe diffuse lipidosis). It was also found occurrence of multifocal areas with loss of tissue architecture, and hepatocytes in karyolysis, charactering necrosis; and a discrete amount of multifocal mononuclear inflammatory infiltrate (multifocal hepatitis). Discussion: Obesity is connected to the occurrence of hepatic steatosis, since snakes are ectothermic animals that depend on environmental factors to maintain their metabolic rates. Obesity is a common problem in reptiles kept in captivity because they usually have constantly available food and little space to move. However, this was also observed in this study in a free-living animal found in an urbanized environment. Urbanization provides greater availability of food, and the animal does not need to go long distances to find a pray; this causes greater gain of body weight. Reptiles subjected to hot environments lose weight rapidly due to their relatively high metabolic rates. However, when subjected to low temperatures, they have a decrease in metabolism, compromising absorption, digestion, and liver metabolism, which causes fat accumulation. The animal under study is sedentary and it is a marked characteristic of this species; this strengthen the hypothesis that the animal moved little to feed because it was in an environment with high availability of prey. The animal presented accumulation of fat throughout the coelomic cavity, causing the rate of accumulation of triglycerides in the hepatocytes to exceed its metabolic degradation rate, resulting in steatosis. The early diagnosis of hepatic alterations favors the appropriate treatment, allowing the prevention of irreversible damage to this organ, and avoid the animal's death.
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Acta Scientiae Veterinariae, 2018. 46(Suppl 1): 265.
CASE REPORT
Pub. 265
ISSN 1679-9216
1
Received: 12 November 2017 Accepted: 10 February 2018 Published: 3 March 2018
1Laboratório de Ensino e Pesquisa em Animais Silvestres (LAPAS), 2Laboratório Clínico Veterinário (LCV) & 3Laboratório de Patologia Animal (LPA),
Universidade Federal de Uberlândia (UFU), Uberlândia, MG, Brazil. CORRESPONDENCE: N.B. Martins [nathanabmartins@gmail.com - Tel.: +55
(34) 996507443]. Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária (FAMEV), Universidade Federal de Uberlândia (UFU). Av. Mato Grosso n. 3289 - Bloco 2S. Bairro
Umuarama. CEP 38405-314 Uberlândia, MG, Brazil.
Hepatic Lipidosis Due toObesity in a Free-Living Snake (Boa constrictor amarali)
Nathana Beatriz Martins1, Lucas Arthur Ricardo Ferreira1, Tainara Santana Galvão da Silva1,
Ana Carolina de Andrade Mello Cintra de Amorim Alves1, André Luiz Quagliatto Santos1,
Amanda Bizare2, Rafael Rocha de Souza2 & Alessandra Aparecida Medeiros3
ABSTRACT
Background: Liver performs several important functions to the maintenance of physiological mechanisms. Some liver
diseases may directly affect anatomical and physiological aspects of this organ, and may lead to a permanent liver injury.
In snakes, the most common causes of liver disease are infections, however, approaches on non-infectious liver diseases
are scarce. Therefore, the objective of this study was to describe macroscopically and microscopically liver alterations in
a Boa constrictor amarali snake.
Case: A adult male boa (Boa constrictor amarali) snake of 110 cm of length and weight of 3.270 kg from free-living condi-
tions, and without previous history was rescued in an urban area and taken by the Environmental Police to the Laboratory
for Teaching and Research in Wild Animals (LAPAS) of the Federal University of Uberlândia’s (UFU) Veterinary Hospital,
in Uberlândia MG, Brazil. The animal died and a significant amount of adipose tissue was found throughout the exten-
sion of the coelomic cavity at necropsy, limiting the visualization of its internal organs. Fragments of altered organs were
collected and packed in a universal collector containing a 10% buffered formalin solution. These samples were sent to the
Animal Pathology Laboratory (LPA) of the UFU. Macroscopically, the stomach presented a reddish mucosa, and mucous
contents. The liver was pale, with a yellowish color and a friable consistency. Microscopically, dilated hepatic sinusoids
filled with red blood cells were observed; the hepatocytes were enlarged, and its cytoplasm were filled with vacuoles of
varied sizes that did not stain (severe diffuse lipidosis). It was also found occurrence of multifocal areas with loss of tis-
sue architecture, and hepatocytes in karyolysis, charactering necrosis; and a discrete amount of multifocal mononuclear
inflammatory infiltrate (multifocal hepatitis).
Discussion: Obesity is connected to the occurrence of hepatic steatosis, since snakes are ectothermic animals that depend on
environmental factors to maintain their metabolic rates. Obesity is a common problem in reptiles kept in captivity because
they usually have constantly available food and little space to move. However, this was also observed in this study in a
free-living animal found in an urbanized environment. Urbanization provides greater availability of food, and the animal
does not need to go long distances to find a pray; this causes greater gain of body weight. Reptiles subjected to hot environ-
ments lose weight rapidly due to their relatively high metabolic rates. However, when subjected to low temperatures, they
have a decrease in metabolism, compromising absorption, digestion, and liver metabolism, which causes fat accumulation.
The animal under study is sedentary and it is a marked characteristic of this species; this strengthen the hypothesis that
the animal moved little to feed because it was in an environment with high availability of prey. The animal presented ac-
cumulation of fat throughout the coelomic cavity, causing the rate of accumulation of triglycerides in the hepatocytes to
exceed its metabolic degradation rate, resulting in steatosis. The early diagnosis of hepatic alterations favors the appropriate
treatment, allowing the prevention of irreversible damage to this organ, and avoid the animal’s death.
Keywords: ectotherm, hepatocellular lipidosis, snakes, amaral’s boa, hepatic steatosis.
2
N.B. Martins, L.A.R. Ferreira, T.S.G. Silva, et al. 2018. Hepatic Lipidosis Due toObesity in a Free-Living Snake (Boa
constrictor amarali). Acta Scientiae Veterinariae. 46(Suppl 1): 265.
INTRODUCTION
Boa constrictor amarali is a non-venomous
snake of the Squamata order (Ophidia suborder) with
wide distribution in the Brazilian territory [5], especial-
ly in the Northeast, Southeast and South regions [14].
Snakes, like other reptiles, are ectothermal
animals that depend exclusively on the environment
for the maintenance of their physiological, biochemi-
cal, and immunological processes. Thus, alterations in
growth and reproduction rates are expected considering
the seasonal effect, since the seasons affect their total
food intake and vulnerability to predators [2,3,6,15].
Liver is a key organ in digestion, and in the
metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins, and
promotes processes of detoxification, immunoregula-
tion and vitamin reserve [4]. Liver is the largest deposit
of fat tissue and fat reserve in the body [10].
Lipids are normally transported from adipose
tissue and gastrointestinal tract to the liver as free fatty
acids or chylomicrons, respectively. Excess lipid in
the liver is called hepatocellular lipidosis or hepatic
steatosis. It occurs when the triglycerides accumulation
rate in hepatocytes exceeds their metabolic degradation
rate or their release as lipoproteins [11].
Macroscopically, mild steatosis may not be
detectable, but livers with detectable steatosis appear
enlarged, yellowish, soft, friable, with rounded and
wide lobe edges. When incised, the surface of the cut
can undergo protrusion, since the liver parenchyma
is soft and friable. Microscopically, hepatocytes with
lipidosis are vacuolated depending on the severity [11].
In reptiles, several factors may favor the occur-
rence of hepatic steatosis [9], but the main causes are
those related to the metabolic syndrome [8], such as
obesity, insulin resistance and hyperlipidemia [1,12].
The objective of this study was to report a case of
hepatic steatosis in a free-living Boa constrictor amarali
snake, in an obesity situation, and describe macroscopi-
cally and microscopically its liver alterations.
CASE
A adult male adult boa (Boa constrictor
amarali) snake popularly known as jibóia-cinzenta in
Brazil, with 110 cm of length and weight of 3.270 kg,
and without previous history was rescued from free-
living conditions in an urban area and taken by the
Environmental Police to the Laboratory for Teaching
and Research in Wild Animals (LAPAS) of the Federal
University of Uberlândia’s (UFU) Veterinary Hospital,
in Uberlândia MG, Brazil. The animal remained in the
institution for clinical evaluation.
During its permanence in the laboratory, it had
dysecdysis and scales appearing whitish. A collection
was performed with a deep scale scraping. The mate-
rial was placed in a microscopy slide, and potassium
hydroxide was added to clear the sample for visual-
ization of fungal forms. The result of the mycological
analysis was negative.
The animal died naturally and the necropsy
examination was immediately performed. The main
findings by opening of the coelomic cavity were: a
significant amount of adipose tissue throughout the
extension of the cavity, limiting the visualization of
its internal organs; the stomach had a diffusely red-
dish mucosa and a moderate amount of a transparent
mucous; and the liver was enlarged, with a slightly
yellowish color, rounded edges and friable consistency.
Fragments of stomach and liver were collected
and packed in a universal collector containing a 10%
buffered formalin solution. The samples were sent to
the Laboratory of Animal Pathology (LPA) of the UFU.
Histological slides were made according to routine
techniques and stained with hematoxylin (Harris®
Hematoxylin)1 and eosin (Yellow Eosin®)1 [17].
According to the microscopic examination,
the stomach had submucosa capillaries filled with red
blood cells, with a discrete lymphohistiocytic inflam-
Figure 1. A- Presence of adipose tissue throughout the extension of the
coelomic cavity (arrow), limiting the visualization of internal organs.
B- Pale liver, with slightly yellowish coloration and friable consistency
(arrow). C- Hepatocytes presenting increased volume, with cytoplasm
filled by vacuoles of varied sizes that do not stain (arrow). D- Hepatocytes
presenting increased volume, with cytoplasm filled by vacuoles of varied
sizes that do not stain (arrow).
3
N.B. Martins, L.A.R. Ferreira, T.S.G. Silva, et al. 2018. Hepatic Lipidosis Due toObesity in a Free-Living Snake (Boa
constrictor amarali). Acta Scientiae Veterinariae. 46(Suppl 1): 265.
matory infiltrate; the mucosa had increased number of
goblet cells with increased volume, and cytoplasmic
vacuolization (mucosal gastritis).
Microscopically, the hepatic sinusoids were
dilated and filled with red blood cells (hyperemia); the
hepatocytes were diffusely enlarged, with vacuolated
cytoplasm, filled by vacuoles of varied sizes that did not
stain (severe diffuse lipidosis). It was observed areas with
loss of hepatic tissue architecture, hepatocytes presenting
nuclear pyknosis and karyolysis (multifocal coagulative
necrosis), and presence of several foci with discrete mono-
nuclear inflammatory infiltrate (multifocal hepatitis).
DISCUSSION
The snake evaluated in this report was found
in an urban environment, with greater availability of
food, thus, the animal probably had no need to go
long distances to find a pray, which caused it to have
a greater weight gain.
Ectotherm - body temperature dependent on
the environment and not on internal metabolism - is
one of the most important characteristics of reptiles,
which affects almost every aspect of their physiology
[5]. Moreover, reptiles are heterothermic, thus, they
have a wide range of body temperatures depending on
environmental conditions. Environmental temperature
affects their central body temperature, forage behavior,
digestion, nutrient absorption, and metabolic rates [7].
Therefore, the animal’s accumulation of fat
was probably due to its low predation activity - it had
no need to go long distances to find prays in the urban
area - and its overfeeding during the winter or times of
low temperatures, when its metabolic rate, absorption
and digestion decrease.
Reptiles subjected to hot environments lose
weight rapidly due to relatively high metabolic rates [7].
However, when subjected to low temperatures, its metabo-
lism decreases, compromising absorption, digestion, and
liver metabolic activity, which causes fat accumulation.
Snakes are carnivorous, thus, their main energy
sources are protein and fat. They consume about 25%
to 60% of energy metabolized as protein and 30% to
60% as fat. Excess calorie intake can lead to rapid
growth in juveniles and obesity in adults [7].
Some species store fat for later uses, such as
hibernation and reproduction. The appetite of reptiles
that do not hibernate or do not use fat reserves in the
reproductive season, increases when the environmen-
tal temperature is high, and they do not mobilize fat
reserves, which leads to obesity [7].
Obese reptiles store fat in the coelomic, subcu-
taneous, and parenchymal deposits, and fatty infiltra-
tion of organs may occur. Lack of exercise, especially
forage activity, is a likely factor in obese animals.
Some species are more sedentary than others, such as
pythons, boas and vipers [7].
The species under study is commonly sedentary;
this strengthen the hypothesis that the animal moved
little to feed because it was in an environment with
high availability of prey. The accumulation of fat found
throughout the coelomic cavity caused the accumula-
tion rate of triglycerides in the hepatocytes to exceed
the metabolic degradation rate, resulting in steatosis.
Obesity is a common problem in reptiles kept
in captivity, because they usually have available food
and little space to move [7]. However, this was ob-
served in the free-living animal in the present study,
which was found in an urbanized environment.
Several factors may favor the occurrence of
hepatic steatosis in reptiles [8], but the main causes are
those related to the metabolic syndrome [9], such as
obesity, insulin resistance and hyperlipidemia [1,12].
Hepatic alterations caused by infections was the most
common in the study specimen, mainly viral - adeno-
virus that causes hepatitis [13], and arenavirus associ-
ated with inclusion bodies in the liver [16]. However,
literature about hepatic disorders of non-infectious
origin in this species is scarce.
Information on biological and physiologi-
cal aspects of snakes, and early diagnosis of hepatic
alterations favors the appropriate treatment, allowing
the prevention of irreversible damage to this organ, and
avoid the animal’s death.
MANUFACTURER
1SP Labor Comércio de Produtos para Laboratório Ltda. Presi-
dente Prudente, SP, Brazil.
Declaration of interest. The authors report no conflicts of interest. The
authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of this paper.
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constrictor amarali). Acta Scientiae Veterinariae. 46(Suppl 1): 265.
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