FrankieDepartment: Zoological Medicine Service
My wife was talking to one of her co-workers one day about our four male turtles. The co-worker mentioned that she knew a family that owned a large red-eared slider and were planning on moving but were not taking the turtle with them. The family was going to leave the turtle in the tank with no way out, which would have meant a slow, painful death. I couldn’t believe that anybody could do this to a helpless animal. The next morning, I told my wife to bring the turtle home with her.
Once my wife arrived home with the turtle, we compared her with our other four turtles and realized that she is female. It was apparent that she had been neglected—she had shell rot, the eyes were swollen to the point where they were almost closed, and she ate like she hadn’t had a meal in weeks. My wife and I decided to name her “Frankie.” We fed her well and provided the correct husbandry for her, and her eyes got better with time.
However, we noticed that something still just wasn’t right. Frankie’s skin appeared pinkish, she was sluggish, and she just didn’t seem to feel very well. We took her to a local veterinarian who took some X-rays and gave her an antibiotic, assuming she had some sort of infection. The antibiotic didn’t seem to have much effect on her, and he noticed some other concerns with her health that would probably need to involve a specialist. He suggested that we take her to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
At the hospital, Frankie received a complete examination and was admitted because of concerning test results. She also needed to be dry-docked to clear up some of the toxins in her body. The cause was first thought to be coming from kidney disease or renal failure. Frankie also had lots of old and decayed follicles that had possibly been in her body for years. It was evident that Frankie needed the follicles to be removed surgically, but surgery would not be an option if Frankie’s kidneys were not working properly or if she was in renal failure. Her doctors believed that the issue might be with another of her organs, so one final test was run.
Sure enough, the elevated numbers were being caused by her liver. So, thankfully, they could now proceed with the surgery. We waited and prayed that everything was going well, and, finally, we received the call that we had been hoping for. The surgery was a success, and, most importantly, Frankie had awakened, was alert, and was trying to bite everybody. Her doctors had removed the dead follicles and spayed her in the process so that she wouldn’t have to go through this again. They also did a liver biopsy and found that Frankie had Hepatic Lipidosis (fatty liver) which would heal itself very slowly if Frankie stayed on a low-fat diet and lost a lot of her weight.
After a few days, we took Frankie home and fed her through a feeding tube until she was strong enough to eat on her own. She slowly recovered from the surgery and was so much happier, was not sluggish or pink-skinned anymore, and seemed like a completely new turtle. We also continued to clean her shell to help heal the shell rot.
It has been two years since Frankie’s surgery and the results of tests show that all critical numbers are normal.
Frankie is 22 years old and hopefully will live 22 more. If not for the knowledge and expertise of the doctors and staff at the UGA Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Frankie would not be alive today. The true hero in all of this is Dr. Steve Divers, whom we credit for saving Frankie’s life.
-Scott and Katherine Wilcher