Turtle’s medicine

At the end of the cold season turtles wake up from the hibernation to share the summer with us. As any other animals, turtles can get sick and if it happens they need adequate therapies. At the veterinary teaching hospital of the University of Padua it is possible to present also reptile patients, for routine check ups as well as for emergency treatment.

European tortoises (those more commonly breed at our latitude) are strong animals, adapted to survive in hostile areas, but are prone to get ill because of mistakes in management and alimentation, involuntarily made by the owners.

Thousands of years of evolution in sunny arid places, with little and poor nutritious food made tortoises able to survive several days without eating, but on the other side those animals can get very sick when the diet is too high in energy. Tortoises love fruits and vegetables rich of sugar, but in the long run this diet may cause severe damages. It’s better to choose wild grass, prickly pear’s leaves or eventually radicchio. Furthermore those animals need a lot of sun. The only reason to make them live in a terrarium is for medical treatments. Otherwise this inadequate environment is likely to cause health problems.

Radiograph in ventral spine of a turtle with eggs.

Apart of chronic pathologies, turtles can also have accidentally inflicted injuries caused both by other animals or by humans. One of the most common risks are dogs, that can bite and chew their shell so badly that it may kill them. Mowers present another great risk for turtles. Unseen in the grass, tortoises could be mowed, sometimes causing severe damages. In those cases a fast and adequate intervention is essential.

Both, if the problem is acute or chronic, it is really important to present the turtle to the veterinary, in order to investigate and diagnose the origin of the problem and start a correct therapy. To achieve these results it is possible to use also advanced diagnostic techniques such as the evaluation of a blood smear, x-rays or also computed tomography.

On the cover picture of a specimen of tortoise Testudo Hermanni Boettgeri