Gopher Tortoise #18-2830

Gopher Tortoise #18-2830
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Jul 15 2018

Gopher tortoises play a very important role in our ecosystem here in Southwest Florida. They dig burrows for their homes, but these burrows also provide a home to over 250 other species. 

This adult male gopher tortoise was admitted to the clinic from Cape Coral after it was hit by a car. The tortoise suffered large fractures along its carapace (upper shell) that will require surgery.

Status Updates

Surgery Part 1 - Jul 16 2018 3:00 pm

Surgery on a tortoise can be a very long process. it takes a long time for anesthesia to take effect and a long time for it to wear off due to their slow metabolism. Once the patient is fully anesthetized, his fractures are cleaned and reduced so that the shell pieces line up.


Surgery Part 2 - Jul 16 2018 3:30 pm

After the fractures are cleaned and lined up, the veterinarian drills small, shallow guide holes on either side of the fracture. These holes will be used for the tiny screws that will be used along with wire to hold the fracture together while it heals. ***This is a medical procedure performed by a veterinarian and should only be performed by a veterinarian. DO NOT ever attempt to repair a tortoise or turtle's shell yourself.***


Surgery Part 3 - Jul 16 2018 4:03 pm

Once the holes are drilled, the screws are placed in the tortoise's shell. The screws are very shallow and do not go entirely through the shell. A total of 10 screws are used for this particular patient.


Surgery Part 4 - Jul 16 2018 4:27 pm

After the screws are in place, wire is wrapped around the tops to hold the pieces of the shell together. The wire is stiff, but allows the veterinarians to tighten or loosen it if necessary.


Surgery Part 5 - Jul 16 2018 4:58 pm

Once all the wires are tightened in place, a bandage is placed over the "braces". A feeding tube is also placed to help provide the turtle proper nutrition over the next few days. Radiographs are then taken to confirm the placement of the screws and feeding tube.


Bandage Change - Jul 18 2018 4:54 pm

The tortoise received a bandage change this afternoon. Antibiotic ointment is placed on the fractures and new bandage is placed over the "braces". The tortoise was noted to have decreased mobility in it's hind legs, which sometimes happens with vehicle strikes. The tortoise may require some help getting around until full function of the legs returns.


Slow and Steady - Aug 09 2018 9:17 am

The male gopher tortoise continues to show slow but steady improvement. Function of his back legs has improved and he is now placing them as he walks. Rehabilitation staff attached a halved pool ball on his plastron (under shell) so that his back limbs are always higher then his front. This helps him get around while staff and volunteers can monitor the use of his legs. His shell fractures continue to heal and he was recently discontinued from some of his pain medications.


Hardware Removed - Aug 23 2018 1:27 pm

The gopher tortoise's screws and wire were removed today which means its fractures have stabilized. It is still having some trouble with it back legs, but hopefully through physical therapy, this issue will resolve.


Slow and Steady - Sep 10 2018 1:16 pm

The tortoise continues to be bright, alert and responsive and loves graze time! During a vet check recently of the tortoise's rear pelvic limbs, it was noted that there is motor ability still present. The tortoise can place rear legs every now and then but does not actively walk using them. He does well with wheels, but volunteers have to remove them when he goes outside for grazing.


Vet Check for Neuro Ability - Sep 21 2018 9:32 am

The tortoise had a vet check for neurological ability recently and to adjust the wheel placement. When viewed outside, the tortoise seems to place left back foot a little better then its right.


Slow and Steady - Oct 03 2018 12:36 pm

The tortoise continues to make slow progress in its rehabilitation. It has been eating well and becoming much more active. Dr. Bast, the staff veterinarian, noted that she saw the tortoise placing its hind limbs actively during graze time. Although it is taking a long time, staff remains hopeful due to the small improvements.