A Turtle’s Slow, Steady Recovery

Being a veterinarian carries a heavy responsibility. Not only do you have to help your patients at the clinic, but you’re basically on call 24 hours a day when it comes to your friends and relatives. Is it a burden? Not really. After all, helping loved ones can be quite rewarding.

It was no different when my wife’s cousin called me one day concerning his pet Drano.

“Hey, John, this is Lester. Do you know someone who can help us with our turtle?”

“Sure, I do,” I replied. “Me. I actually have a special interest in turtles. Tell me what’s going on.”

“Well, my nephew gave me a turtle a while back and we have grown attached to him. His name is Drano. Anyway, the other day we found him floating on his back in our pond. We thought he was dead.”

Lester continued: “When we picked him up, his legs and head just hung limp. We were pretty sad and also surprised because he seemed fine the day before.”

“It’s difficult to tell when a turtle is sick,” I explained. “Many times, owners don’t even know that their turtle is under the weather until it’s too late.”

“You’re telling me,” Lester harrumphed. “Anyway, we dug a hole in our yard, said a prayer and our mournful goodbyes. Crazy thing is that just before I covered him with dirt, I saw his leg twitch.”

“He wasn’t dead after all,” I chimed in. “Turtles can be tricky like that.”

“After the initial shock, we took him into the house and put him in a smaller enclosure. At first, there wasn’t any movement, but as the hours went by, Drano started to move a bit more. That was two days ago and now he’s even more active. We’re still worried, though, because he hasn’t been eating and there are bubbles coming out of his mouth.”

“It sounds like Drano is still very ill. The bubbles, lethargy and poor appetite might mean he has an infection. Stop by my house and I’ll give him some medication.”

Lester swung by the next day and I gave Drano an injection. I explained that turtles have a very slow metabolism. The injection that I had given usually lasts only 12 hours in a dog, but it will be in Drano’s system for three days.

For the next two weeks, Lester or his wife Cora drove to our house every three days so that I could give Drano his injection. Soon, there were no more bubbles and Drano became more active. Eating, however, was still a problem. I convinced Lester to leave Drano with me so that I could work on his dietary intake. Trying various food items and feeding techniques, I spent the next two days bent on the arduous task and finally succeeded on day three. Thank goodness.

I’m happy to say that as of the writing of this article, Drano is making a slow and steady recovery. He averted a very close call. Hopefully, he won’t be seeing the bottom of a grave again for years to come.

Dr. John Kaya is director of the Windward Community College veterinary technician program and associate veterinarian for VCA University Animal Hospital. thewildside808@ gmail.com