Death by Laying

blueberlin

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Hi friends,

My Lotte died a couple of weeks ago, quite suddenly and without warning. I had her little body sent to a specialist for autopsy. The diagnosis was that she had died of acute inflamation of her oviduct (Salpingitis) and ensuing sepsis. The diagnosis states that such an inflamation is often the result of excessive reproduction.

Lotte was of the type of axolotl that breeds constantly throughout the year - every three weeks, once even the day after the last batch had hatched. There was no rest period and no slow period in her breeding. She only stopped because I separated her and the male into two different tanks. Lotte had been living without male company since October 2008.

Has anyone else information or experience on this?

-Eva
 

blueberlin

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I'm sorry - I didn't mean to be unclear. I wasn't looking for sympathy. Actually sympathy makes it a bit harder not to be sad, if you know what I mean - thank you anyway for your kind words, of course. Actually I was looking for more information on the diagnosis of death by excessive breeding?

-Eva
 

Greatwtehunter

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Ok, I am a little confused. She's been alone and not laying eggs since October of last year yet she still died of excess breeding?
 

blueberlin

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Indeed. Confusing to me, too. I am guessing that her organs did not flare up overnight but had been sick for awhile and just now reached the point where they became fatal.

Another possibility is that at the start of July, I added another female to Lotte's tank. Perhaps not being alone anymore triggered something in her hormonal balance? The diagnosis' summary said (I'm translating) "Inflamation of the oviduct is often the result of excessive reproduction or disruption of the hormonal balance..:" (or high temperatures, which is not the case here).

I have long maintained that axolotls should be separated by sex because excessive breeding takes its toll on the female. To be honest, I somewhat justified by this diagnosis. To be fair, though, I am looking for more info here.

-Eva
 

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In my opinion, the salpingitis finding is incidental. The cause of the axie's death was likely to be from the sepsis (scepticaemia/bacteriaemia) which is a systemic blood borne transport of bacterial toxins (and maybe even septic emboli). In practice, many tend to jump at the first sign of a pathology and assume its the primary cause of death, but in reality, its not always the case.

A breach in protective skin barrier externally or mucosal damage (gut wall etc) can all cause this blood borne infection which can first present as a subclinical chronic nature that flares up into a fulminant course. In the axie, the oviduct traverse very closely to ureters and even the colon. An infection via these other organs is very possible.

Its more likely there was scepticaemia first that subsequently caused the salpingitis, rather than the other way around, especially from an axie that has a breeding hiatus. Sceptic embolic (tiny chunks of blood borne bacterial clusters) can lodge around the oviduct and other finely vascularised organs.

Uterine or oviduct problems are indeed common in mammals especially undesexed animals, however this does not apply to the axie because their reproductive anatomy and physiology differs. Repeated breeding (and intromission) can innoculate pathogens into the female tract and cause an infection if there are tears in the mucosa and if the animal is immunocompromised. However, the female axie is an egg layer and means of fertilisation is non penetrative via spermatophore packets.

The best way to investigate this further is cytological analysis of the oviducts. The histopathology alone can indicate inflammation but only microscopic analysis can reveal the types of immune cells infiltrating the tissue. This would give clues to the chonicity, severity and type of inflammation present to characterise the likely aetiopathogenesis.

In the adult female axie, excessive breeding can be detrimental in the following ways.

1 - Depletion of nutritional resources and hence worsening body condition. Egg laying is a high nutrition, high energy demanding function.

2 - Egg bound. This is very rare in axies, but certainly possible and occasionally encountered. Sometimes eggs that are destined for oviposition (laid) end up being trapped along the tract. This trapped egg/eggs can result in scepticaemia.

3 - Fibrosis or scar tissue formation in reproductive system. Strictures and scar tissue can occasionally form as a result of microtrauma/inflammation.

Salpingitis in the axies due to a hormonal imbalance cause is not likely.
 

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Hi friends,

My Lotte died a couple of weeks ago, quite suddenly and without warning. I had her little body sent to a specialist for autopsy. The diagnosis was that she had died of acute inflamation of her oviduct (Salpingitis) and ensuing sepsis. The diagnosis states that such an inflamation is often the result of excessive reproduction.

Lotte was of the type of axolotl that breeds constantly throughout the year - every three weeks, once even the day after the last batch had hatched. There was no rest period and no slow period in her breeding. She only stopped because I separated her and the male into two different tanks. Lotte had been living without male company since October 2008.

Has anyone else information or experience on this?

-Eva


I lost a female to this a few years back. The necropsy report was very similar to yours.
 

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This is already a vague fear I had for my Elektra, and now I know it's not just an idea I dreamed up.
 
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blueberlin

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Ok I've translated the necropsy (thanks for the vocab, Johnny) report as best I could. It was in German medical jargon, neither of which are my first language. The good doctor was kind enough to spend some time on the phone with me, though, to help me understand what all was written there. I've only listed the parts that say something other than "no abnormalities found".

Note that when an axolotl dies, its decay is shockingly fast. Lotte was less than 24 hours dead and already her skin was shedding masively. Certain parts of the necropsy indicate autolysis or bacterial ... um... infestation?... which are results of decomposition.

I suppose I should write some kind of disclaimer that this is all medical icky stuff. If a reader is offended by medical icky stuff, the reader should skip the rest of this post. :happy: Second disclaimer is about the translation: as I wrote above, most of these words are new to me. I hope I've translated them at least closely enough to indicate what the good doc meant.

-Eva

Report:

Anamnesis: sudden death.
Body length: 14 cm (head to rump length)
Body mass: 102 g
General condition: good nutritional state, no autolysis
External skin: detachment of outer skin layer, secondary bacterial infection [decompoition]
Gills: autolysis of epithelial cells
Esophagus: edema
Coelom [abdominal cavity]: discharge of clear, urine-like liquid in the coelom (5 ml), serosa inflamed
Heart: myocarditis, mild
Lungs: edema (interstitial, diffuse, mild)
Intestine: empty, light inflamation at end area
Liver: very small, grey-yellow. grau-gelb. Fine-particle [?] degeneration
Kidneys: Swollen, congestion
Ureter: inflamed
Gonads: inactive, left ovum inflamed
Oviducts: both sides massively swollen, massiv geschwollen, gelatinous consistency, massive inflamation. Bacteria in nests. [sic]

Summary: Cause of death are salpingitis (inflamed oviducts) as well as sepsis. Inflamation of the oviducts is often the result of excessive reproduction or disruption of hormonal balance, sometimes also caused by overly warm environmental temperatures.

End report.

Another mystery to me is the small liver. (Its color of coure tells me nothing, either.) If there were some problem in nutrition, the liver would rather be enlarged, no?

-Eva
 

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I am by no means qualified to make an analysis, however from what I read on the subject back then, it sounds like a secondary systemic infection was the result of the inflammation. What makes me wonder about your necropsy report is the edema of the esophagus. I wonder if this is a side effect of the inflammation?

When I lost that female to similar causes, my vet suggested a fridging period after egg laying ceased for any females related to that one. This is very interesting to me, as while I am currently not breeding axolotls (due to a lack of males), both of my females are descended from that one. (F5 and F9 generations)
 

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The pathology report reinforces my intial speculation that the primary cause of death is generalised bacteremia and scepticaemia. The multi organ involvement (heart, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, renal and hepatic as well are reproductive tract) highly suggest a haematogenous dissemination of an infectious agent and toxicity (from sepsis).

These organs are normally involves simply because they are highly vascularised organs with fine vasculature that can trap and lodge septic embolic (nests of bacteria) and the high blood perfusion and metabolic activities of these cells predispose them to toxic insult.

Oedema is caused by these 4 main mechanisms.

1 - Increased hydrostatic pressure (Blood pressue increase and pushes fluid out vessels)
2- Decreased oncotic pressure (reduced albumin or water 'binding/holding' proteins in the bloodstream)
3 - Lymphatic blockage
4 - Sodium retention

Generalised oedema (multi-organ) tend to occur with decreased oncotic pressure. This can be caused by malnutrition, a protein losing enteropathy (pooing out undigested nutrients), parasitism, alimentary tract disease, liver disease amongst others.

In liver disease, if there is a inflammatory or neoplastic infiltrate into the liver such as hepatic cancers and hepatitis, the liver can become enlarged (hepatomegaly). However, liver disease can also manifest as hypoplastic or aplastic livers, meaning they are very small and/or underdeveloped. In these cases, the liver structures either fail to develop fully or cellular degeneration and necrosis occurs that depeletes the functional tissues. Albumin (and many other proteins) are synthesised in the liver and liver disease can cause hypoalbuminaemia and subsequent systemic oedema.
 

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um.... huh? :eek:
 

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I think what Rayson was getting at is that the damage to the internal organs was caused by bunches of bacteria clogging up the many tiny blood vessels present in those organs, and that the root cause of the massive system wide infection could be for any number of reasons.

As for the swelling of the esophagus, this was most likely a result of fluids going where they shouldn't. Kind of like when your tank filter clogs up and water leaks out around the intake pipe rather than out the spout.:eek:

(Man, I love those posts full of medical jargon, I think I just learned more about cell membranes and fluid pressures than I need to know...:D)
 

blueberlin

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I think I am just particularly slow today. Perhaps monosyllabic (why is that word so long?) answers would be better for my little brain. Is the above confirming or refuting the diagnosis? As I understood it, Lotte had an inflamation of her oviduct/ovum, which basically burnt like wildfire through her innards. Pushed poison through her little body and that killed her.

-Eva
 

Darkmaverick

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I think that the bacteraemia/sepsis caused the salpingitis and other inflammation of the other organs (myocarditis (heart), ureters, intestines etc.), and not salpingitis causing the sepsis.
 

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This explanation is a fair summary of what the pathologist thought:

"As I understood it, Lotte had an inflammation of her oviduct/ovum, which basically burnt like wildfire through her innards. Pushed poison through her little body and that killed her."

But the two explanations offered as to how the infection got there - excessive breeding/high temperature do not appear true because she has not bred for a long time and you keep temperatures in the correct range.

This does not mean the findings are wrong, infections can and do move around, an infected mouth, skin cut or intestinal infection can cause a blood infection which causes abscesses throughout the body, most of which heal but occasionally persist and flare up like this at a later date. This is basically what Rayson is saying! He's the vet, I'm a pathologist- both of us are a bit out of our field of expertise, I'm not qualified beyond pet-keeper in axolotls!

Poor diet can cause an enlarged very fatty pale yellow liver. The liver can shrink rapidly if there is an infection. Some infections are directly toxic to the liver and cause it to shrink. Your pathologist seems to have blamed the infection rather than the liver and he is probably right.

There is often the problem of where do you stop investigating. Ideally a culture to know what the infection was would be nice but it is possible to keep throwing money at investigations until you have none left.

Unfortunately post mortems tell you what the patient died with. They are not quite as good as popular media leads you to think when it comes to saying what the patient died of. It is good to see you trying to get explanations for the death, there are still some unexplained loose ends but you know far more than if you had just buried the body in the garden.
 

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The diagnosis states that such an inflamation is often the result of excessive reproduction.
-Eva
Did the person who wrote this have any specific knowledge about axolotls, or were they drawing on their knowledge of other animals? There is no way I would blame this on excessive reproduction, considering that the axie hadn't reproduced in almost a year. Is there any chance that you planted this idea in the person's head by mentioning that you had separated her because she had bred excessively in the past?
 

blueberlin

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Hi Jen,

The doctor is specialized in "lower vertebrates and exotics". His website is here (not a blurb, anyway it's only in German). Folks from all over Germany send him their (living, dead, sick) animals for diagnosis. Pedantically speaking, he did not say that she died of excessive reproduction, but that such inflamations are often caused by it. I never actually had contact with him beyond the phone call after I'd received the report. I gave Lotte to the receptionist with a quick list of info on the aquarium, tankmate, feeding regimine, death.

I am sort of compiling a list of questions to send to him but want to get them all together before I send them so as not to bother him repeatedly. An explanation of the time between last breeding and death is of course the first question. Why the liver was small. Which came first, infection or sepsis, assuming one can know.

By the way, I am very grateful for the time you all are spending here. I think I am learning from it, even if I am more confused now than when I began.

-Eva
 
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