Article 

Chelonian Handling and Restraint

Diagnostic and therapeutic procedures cannot be administered until you and your staff can safely handle and restrain the turtle or tortoise patient. Many chelonian patients presented to the veterinary hospital are ill and therefore their temperament and strength level can be reduced. Normal, healthy chelonians tend to be bright, alert and very strong, making them extremely challenging to restrain. Gaining control of the head can be particularly difficult, however multiple techniques have been described.

Article 

Reptile Emergency & Critical Care Summary Page

Reptiles lack an epiglottis and the glottis is ready visualized, making intubation readily accomplished in most species. If the glottal folds are closed, apply topical lidocaine to facilitate intubation. The tracheal rings are complete in reptiles. Use of an inflated, cuffed endotracheal tube can lead to pressure necrosis because there is no elastic ligament to accommodate tracheal expansion. Always select an uncuffed endotracheal tube in small reptiles and never inflate a cuff in large reptiles …

Article  Video  Webinar 

Spotlight on Anesthesia & Analgesia in Reptiles

This live webinar event was presented by Javier Nevarez, DVM, PhD, DACZM, DECZM (Herpetology). View a recording of Dr. Nevarez’s web-based seminar and earn 1 hour of R.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credit. Lecture objectives include a review of the principles and concepts of reptile analgesia, recommended analgesics, signs of pain and pain recognition, and a review of analgesic protocols. The presentation also reviews principles and concepts of reptile anesthesia, popular anesthetic agents and anesthetic protocols, monitoring, as well as keys to success.

Article  Slideshow 

Palawan Turtle Crisis

Did you hear about the Palawan turtle crisis? In June 2015, Philippine authorities confiscated over 4,000 turtles, many of them critically endangered Philippine forest turtles (Siebenrockiella leytensis), intended for the illegal pet trade. Enjoy LafeberVet’s brief, fun slideshow that explores our Emeraid donation for the Palawan turtle crisis as well as care of many, many, many turtles. Although medical supplies are not currently required, financial contributions are still needed for this important conservation effort.

Article 

Sea Turtle Physical Examination Part 1: Eyes-Ears-Nose-Throat

Authored by experts in the field: Terry Norton, DACZM, Director/Founder of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, and Jeanette Wyneken, PhD, this article is part of a unique series on sea turtle veterinary medicine and wildlife rehabilitation. Physical examination of the head and neck are covered including eyes, adnexa, ears, nares, beak, the oral exam, throat, and cervical vertebrae. Normal findings that reflect adaptations to a marine lifestyle are reviewed and unique findings seen in green (Chelonia mydas), flatback (Natator depressus), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempi), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), loggerhead (Caretta caretta), and olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) turtles are discussed. LOGIN to view references.

Article 

Sea Turtle Physical Examination: Part 2

Part of a unique series on sea turtle veterinary medicine and wildlife rehabilitation, this article explores many components of the sea turtle physical exam. Evaluation of the shell is discussed in both cheloniids and leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea) as well as assessment of the cardiopulomonary system, skin, long bones and joints, cloaca and tail. Evaluation of the coelom by inguinal palpation is described as well as measurement of body temperature. Specialized testing such as neurologic and in-water examinations are also described. Common physical examination findings like fibropapillomas in green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and epibiota in loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) are also discussed. LOGIN to view references.

Article 

Body Condition Scoring the Sea Turtle

Weight trends can be a helpful indicator of hydration and nutritional status in veterinary medicine and wildlife rehabilitation settings. This article explores body weight and body measurements in the green (Chelonia mydas), flatback (Natator depressus), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempi), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), loggerhead (Caretta caretta), and olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) turtle. Subjective and objective body condition scoring systems used during physical examination are described and examples ranging from emaciation to obesity are illustrated. The relationship between carapace length and sea turtle sexual maturity is also discussed. LOGIN to view references.

Article 

Sea Turtle Restraint

Sea turtles are adapted to their marine environment, and they possess unique anatomic and physiologic features that influence their restraint and handling in a veterinary medicine or wildlife rehabilitation setting. Techniques for handing small and large sea turtles are described as well as recommendations for handling aides and cautions to prevent iatrogenic injury. LOGIN to view references.

Quiz 

Quiz: Can You Keep the Mediterranean Tortoises Straight?

Are you confident in your knowledge of the Mediterranean tortoises commonly seen in the pet chelonian trade? Take the LafeberVet Fast 5 Quiz on the genus Testudo species featured in five Basic Information Sheets: Egyptian tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni), Greek or spur-thighed tortoise (T. graeca complex), Hermann’s tortoise (T. hermanni), marginated tortoise (T. marginata), and Russian tortoise (T. horsfieldii).

Client Education Handout 

Mud Turtle Client Handout

The mud turtle (Pelusios castaneus) is native to West Africa and its natural habitat consists of aquatic habitat surrounded by dense forest floors or submerged savannah. Shared by Dr. La’Toya Latney of PennVet, this educational handout will help your client understand how to care for and maintain this aquatic turtle species in captivity. Recommendations for indoor and outdoor housing as well as nutrition are described as well as common problems seen pet turtles.

Client Education Handout 

Leopard Tortoise Client Handout

The leopard tortoise (Geochelone pardalis) is found throughout the southern edge of the Sahara and in Southern Africa from the Sudan to Ethiopia. Leopard tortoises inhabit hot arid desert, scrublands, and savannah. Shared by Dr. La’Toya Latney of PennVet, this educational handout will help your client understand how to care for and maintain this tortoise in captivity. Recommendations for indoor and outdoor housing as well as nutrition and breeding are described as well as common clinical problems.

Client Education Handout 

Chinese Box Turtle Client Handout

The charming Chinese box turtle (Cuora flavomarginata) is native to the rice patty and pond environments of Taiwan and southern China. Shared by Dr. La’Toya Latney of PennVet, this educational handout will help your client understand how to care for and maintain this semi-aquatic turtle in captivity. Recommendations for indoor and outdoor housing as well as nutrition and breeding are described as well as common clinical problems.

Client Education Handout 

Sulcata or African Spurred Tortoise Client Handout

Sulcata or African spurred tortoises (Geochelone sulcata) are “gentle giants” found throughout the southern edge of the Sahara in Africa. Sulcata tortoises inhabit hot arid desert, scrubland, and savannah. Shared by Dr. La’Toya Latney of PennVet, this educational handout will help your client understand how to care for and maintain this popular tortoise in captivity. Recommendations for housing as well as nutrition, breeding, and common clinical problems are described.

Article  Information sheet 

Basic Information Sheet: Mediterranean Tortoises

Mediterranean tortoises belong to family Testudinidae and genus Testudo and include: Testudo marginata (marginated tortoise), T. weissingeri, T. horsfieldii (Russian tortoise), T. graeca ibera (Greek spur-thighed tortoise) not to be confused with the spurred tortoise, Geochelone sulcata, T. hermanni (Hermann’s tortoise), and T. kleinmanni (Egyptian tortoise).

Use our Mediterranean tortoise Basic Information Sheet to compare taxonomy, physical characteristics, differences in diet and housing needs, as well as preventive care and diseases of this group of chelonians. Login to view information sheet references.

Information sheet 

Basic Information Sheet: Egyptian Tortoise

The Egyptian tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni) is also know as Kleinmann’s tortoise or Leith’s tortoise. The native habitat of the Egyptian tortoise consists of desert and semi-desert scrub, although this species is also found in salt marsh margins, sandy gravel plains, as well as the rocky escarpments of the “wadis”, a stream bed that is usually dry except during the rainy season.

Use our Egyptian tortoise Information Sheet to review taxonomy, conservation status and physical description as well as diet and housing needs of this chelonian species. Login to view information sheet references.

Information sheet 

Basic Information Sheet: Greek or Spur-Thighed Tortoise

The Greek or spur-thighed tortoise (T. graeca complex) is a small to medium-sized tortoise. Subspecies are found from northern Africa through central Asia. Use our Greek tortoise Information Sheet to review taxonomy, conservation status, physical description, diet and housing needs, as well as important medical conditions of this chelonian species. Login to view information sheet references.

Information sheet 

Basic Information Sheet: Hermann’s Tortoise

The natural habitat of Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni) includes evergreen and oak forests with arid, rocky hill slopes and scrubby vegetation, as well as herbaceous scrub and grassy hillsides.

Use our Hermann’s tortoise Information Sheet to review natural history, taxonomy, conservation status, physical description, diet and housing needs, as well as important medical conditions of this chelonian species. Login to view information sheet references.

Information sheet 

Basic Information Sheet: Marginated Tortoise

The marginated tortoise (Testudo marginata) is found in Greece and Sardinia, as well as Italy, southern Albania and the Balkan Islands. This species was also introduced into Turkey. Its natural habitat consists of dry scrub, woodland, and hillside.

Use our marginated tortoise Information Sheet to review taxonomy, conservation status, physical description as well as diet and housing needs of this chelonian species. Login to view information sheet references.

Information sheet 

Basic Information Sheet: Russian Tortoise

The Egyptian tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni) is also know as Kleinmann’s tortoise or Leith’s tortoise. The native habitat of the Egyptian tortoise consists of desert and semi-desert scrub, although this species is also found in salt marsh margins, sandy gravel plains, as well as the rocky escarpments of the “wadis”, a stream bed that is usually dry except during the rainy season.

Use our Egyptian tortoise Information Sheet to review taxonomy, conservation status and physical description as well as diet and housing needs of this chelonian species. Login to view information sheet references.

Article 

A Guide to Esophagostomy Tube Placement in Chelonians

The use of esophagostomy tubes (E-tubes) allows administration of oral medications and critical care nutrition to turtles and tortoises while minimizing stress and the risk of esophageal trauma associated with repeated rigid gavage tube feeding. Esophagostomy tubes are very well tolerated in chelonians and the patient can even eat normally with the tube in place. Patients can be medicated and fed on an outpatient basis, and once fully recovered, the E-tube is easily removed in the veterinary clinic.

Article 

Turtle Tweets: Chelonian Ophthalmology

A simple retweet of a turtle eye examination at the National Aquarium inspired a day of terrapin-friendly tweets by LafeberVet. Twitter topics ranged from turtle and tortoise ophthalmic anatomy to chelonian clinical problems like blepharedema, commonly associated with hypovitaminosis A in aquatic turtles.

Article 

Oxalic Acid Content of Selected Foods

High dietary levels of oxalic acid or oxalates may promote urolith or bladder stone formation in herbivores like the guinea pig and tortoise. The following chart shows the oxalate content in 100 grams of selected raw foods.

Article 

Calcium Content of Selected Foods

The following chart shows the calcium content in 1 cup of selected foods. Select treats for adult rabbits and rodents that are high in fiber, low in calcium, and low in carbohydrates and sugars.

Article 

Assessing the Sick Chelonian

The lethargic, weak chelonian may exhibit a lack of carpal or truncal lift. It may sit flat on the exam table instead of lifting up on all four feet, and it may not be able to retract its head into the shell with the expected degree of strength. It can be challenging to…

Article 

Feeding the Hospitalized Turtle or Tortoise

Turtles and tortoises display a variety of dietary strategies ranging from the complete herbivory seen in many tortoises to the strict carnivory displayed in aquatic species like the snapping turtle. There are also many chelonians, such as the Eastern box turtle, that may be considered opportunistic omnivores. This review article, critiqued by reptile nutritionist, Susan Donoghue, discusses clinical concerns related to feeding the hospitalized turtle or tortoise. Topics covered range from recognizing true anorexia to food items to avoid. Practical technical concerns related to nutritional support such as tube feeding and daily caloric requirements are also discussed.

Article  Presenting Problem 

Presenting problem: Diarrhea in Chelonians

If you see reptiles in your clinical practice, you will encounter diarrhea in tortoises, and less commonly turtles. This paper describes the basics of case management beginning with anamnesis, continuing with information on the examination, tests and potential treatments and concluding with client education.

Article 

Fluid Administration in Reptiles

The basic principles of fluid therapy are the same in the reptile as seen in birds and mammals, however reptile anatomy and physiology make some features of this crucial supportive care procedure unique. This article reviews fluid resuscitation with the use of crystalloid fluids and colloids, indications for replacement fluids including signs of dehydration and osmolarity values reported in reptiles. Routes of fluid administration in reptiles are described include subcutaneous, oral, soaking, intracoelomic, intraosseous, and intravenous via the cephalic vein, jugular vein, and in rare instances intracardiac catheter placement. Patient monitoring, including blood pressure measurement and signs of overhydration, are also explored.

Article 

Blood Collection in Chelonians

The left or right jugular vein is the vessel of choice in most chelonians less than 4 kg body weight. The risk of lymph dilution is low with this site. The phlebotomist holds the head and extends the head and neck, while an assistant supports the turtle’s body and holds off the jugular vein at the base of the neck. (With a small chelonian, it may easier to…

Article 

Basic Husbandry: Hospitalizing Non-Traditional Pets

No single hospital environment can meet the needs of every exotic animal and caging systems must be tailored to meet the specific needs of each patient. Read about those caging requirements that remain constant among exotic animals as well as the species-specific needs of each taxa from birds and small mammals to fish, amphibians, and reptiles.

Article 

Reproductive Anatomy & Physiology in Reptiles: Nine Key Facts

The paired ovaries and testes, which range in color from yellow to grayish-pink, are located dorsomedially within the coelom although their exact location is species-specific. The right gonad sits cranial to the left, particularly in snakes. Females possess a right and left oviduct, but no true uterus. The oviduct empties directly into the cloaca through a genital papillae

Article 

Vascular Cutdown Techniques

Among exotic animals, venous cutdown is most commonly employed in reptiles like lizards and snakes although intraosseous catheters are also placed in lizards. Similarly, when an exotic companion mammal like a ferret or rabbit suffers from severe hypovolemia, dehydration, hypotension, and vascular collapse, intraosseous catheters have largely replaced venous cutdowns but this technique is occasionally employed.

Article 

Reproductive Disease in Reptiles: Twelve Key Facts

Common reproductive conditions of the reptile include prolapse of the cloaca, oviduct or copulatory organ, yolk coelomitis, dystocia or egg binding, as well as follicular stasis. This review article on twelve key facts explores clinically relevant anatomy and physiology and appropriate husbandry as well as key points of urgent care and general principles of case management.

Article  Presenting Problem 

Presenting problem: Prolapse in Reptiles

Prolapse in reptiles can involve the cloaca, a common receiving chamber for the reproductive, urinary, and gastrointestinal tracts. Prolapses can also originate from the distal gastrointestinal tract, reproductive organ, or urinary bladder—in those species with a bladder like the green iguana and leopard gecko…

Client Education Handout 

Aquatic and Semi-Aquatic Turtles, Care of

Aquatic turtles are personable, popular pets, however their upkeep can be labor intensive. This educational handout will help your client understand how to care for and maintain semi-aquatic turtle species such as sliders (Trachemys spp.), painted turtles (Chrysemys), pond turtles (Graptemys spp.) and aquatic turtles, like softshell turtles (Apalone spp.) and matamatas (Chelus fimbriata). Recommendations for diet, indoor and outdoor housing, as well as common problems seen in pet turtles are described.

Article  Presenting Problem 

Presenting problem: Shell Fractures in Chelonians

Shell fractures are one of the more common presentations of order Chelonia to the private exotic animal practitioner. Shell fractures are frequently caused by vehicular trauma, lawn mowers, predation by dogs and raccoons, or drops from balconies or porches.

Often seen as a “chronic” issue, having occurred days before they present, shell fractures need to be treated as an emergency situation and dealt with both as a localized and as a systemic problem. In this presenting problem article, key points of urgent care are described as well as general case management.

Client Education Handout 

Ear Abscess in Turtles

Ear or aural abscess is extremely common in box turtles and aquatic or semi-aquatic turtles like red-eared sliders. This educational handout will help your client understand this clinical problem, the veterinary treatment commonly required as well as follow-up care and monitoring.

Client Education Handout 

Box Turtle, Care of the

Box turtles are one of the most common reptile pets in the United States. There are many subspecies of the box turtle, with the Eastern box turtle and three-toed box turtle being most commonly kept as pets. This educational handout will help your client understand how to care for and maintain this species in captivity. Recommendations for pet turtle diet and housing, as well as common clinical problems seen in veterinary practice are described.

Information sheet 

Basic Information Sheet: Red-Eared Slider

Red-eared sliders are native to the eastern and central United States river valleys. Most pet sliders are captive bred and hatched. Red-eared sliders are hardy and outgoing. Although pretty and personable as pets, red-eared sliders occupy a niche of dark history in herpetoculture, first as transmitters of Salmonella bacteria to small children, second as an invasive species that have disturbed ecosystems throughout the waterways of the world. The former problem is the result of husbandry and marketing practices of large-scale commercial producers; the latter due to illegal release of unwanted pets.

Information sheet 

Basic Information Sheet: Box Turtle

Box turtles are indigenous to North America. Free-ranging box turtles spend much of their time in woodland and grassy habitats, near streams or other water sources. Most box turtles offered for sale in the pet trade are…

Article  Quiz 

Understanding the Chelonian Shell

The shell is a bony structure unique to order Chelonia. No other animal, living or extinct, has its body enclosed within a bony shell similarly constructed in its entirety. LafeberVet’s “Understanding the Chelonian Shell” describes pertinent shell vocabulary terms and explores shell function, morphology, growth, and pathology.

Article  Quiz 

Reptile Awareness Day Quiz

October 21st is Reptile Awareness Day. Although Reptile Awareness Day was founded with the worthy goal of exploring the ecological challenges that reptiles face, celebrate with LafeberVet by taking our quiz that focuses on clinical information. Are you aware of these reptile-centric facts that will benefit you, your staff, and of course your reptile patients?

Online Resources: Herptile Medicine

A collection of online resources related to reptile and amphibian medicine. This list of links come from a variety of professional organizations and conservation websites.

Article  Presenting Problem 

Presenting problem: Aural Abscess in Turtles

The turtle ear is a simple structure that sits caudoventral to the eye covered by a large scale called the tympanic scute. As in many reptiles, the external ear is absent in chelonians. The tympanic membrane sits flush against the skin just underneath the tympanic scute. There is one ossicle, the columella, which crosses the large tympanic cavity to insert medially on the oval window of the cochlea. A narrow Eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the oropharynx.

Aural abscesses are well-encapsulated, caseous plugs that slowly develop until it fills the tympanic cavity. The cause of aural abscessation is not completely understood…

Article 

The Snapping Turtle – Tips for the Practitioner

At the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre, previously the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre, we encourage private practices, emergency clinics, and rehabilitation centers to aid in the initial treatment of these injured turtles. We admit turtles from across the province, and it is extremely beneficial to the turtle to get immediate care locally before transfer. Snapping turtles are incredible in their ability to heal (albeit slowly!) and we cannot stress enough that the injuries can appear horrific, and yet can go on to heal, with subsequent release of the turtle back into the wild…

Article  Presenting Problem 

Presenting problem: Stomatitis in Reptiles

Stomatitis, also known as “mouth rot”, ulcerative stomatitis, necrotic stomatitis, and/or periodontal disease is a common problem in snakes and lizards. Stomatitis is less common in chelonians and crocodilians, and often presents as a stomatitis-rhinitis complex in tortoises. This presenting problem article explores the pertinent anatomy involved, key points of urgent care, as well as tips for case management.

Article 

Basic Husbandry: Hospitalizing the Sea Turtle

Debilitated sea turtles are often too weak to be housed in water upon presentation to a veterinary medicine or wildlife rehabilitation setting. Instead these patients are maintained on a padded surface or waterbed. Once the turtle is stronger, it should ideally be transferred to a rehabilitation tank. LOGIN to view references.

Article 

Reptile and Amphibian Equipment List

Are you prepared to see herptiles in your clinical practice? This equipment list, created by a veterinarian board-certified in reptiles and amphibians, provides recommendations for basic equipment needs as well as tools for advanced reptile care including amphibians and even crocodilians.

Article  Video 

Catheters in Reptiles

Fluid therapy is an important part of supportive care, and there are several routes available for fluid support in the reptile. Subcutaneous and/or oral fluids are appropriate for mild to moderate dehydration, while intracoelomic, intravenous, or intraosseous fluids are administered to critically ill reptiles or to patients with moderate to severe dehydration.

Article  Video 

Administration of Medication in Reptiles

Reptile owners are routinely instructed on oral or intramuscular drug administration techniques for outpatient care. In many instances and in many species, parenteral injections are preferred over the oral route. Injectable medications can be delivered intramuscularly, subcutaneously, intracoelomically, intravenously, or…

Information sheet 

Basic Information Sheet: Red-Footed Tortoise

“Red-foots” are a medium-sized, hardy tortoise with energy and personality. The red-footed tortoise is native to a wide variety of habitats ranging from humid tropical forests to the dry savannah or semi-arid land of Central and South America. Generally, the species prefers a humid environment.

Red-footed tortoises make excellent pets. Hatchlings in the pet trade are usually captive-bred in the United States, whereas adults may be wild-caught imports…