An Eggs-act Diagnosis For Scarlet

People are always amazed at the type of pets that come to our hospital. Dogs and cats are no surprise, but anorexic chameleons or itchy mice definitely raise an eyebrow. From a financial standpoint, the office visit alone could easily buy several replacement pets.

These pets, however, are not just animals, but rather cherished family members.

This story is about Scarlet, a red-eared slider that was with her owner for more than 20 years.

Christy brought Scarlet in for an exam because Scarlet had not eaten for more than a week. Because of their slow metabolism, turtles can go weeks without eating, but the question still beckoned: Why was Scarlet not eating?

“Doc, do you think she has pneumonia like the last time?” asked Christy.

“Anything is possible,” I replied, “but when she had pneumonia Scarlet’s skin took on a reddish hue. She also was blowing bubbles from her nostrils. This time she looks perfectly fine on physical exam.”

“Whew, thank goodness. Administering all of her medications was quite an ordeal,” Christy said while breathing a sigh of relief.

When Scarlet had pneumonia, Christy administered two different antibiotic injections throughout the week. After six weeks of antibiotics, Scarlet finally started to turn around. Her skin color slowly returned to normal and her weeks of anorexia became a distant memory. As we reminisced about the incident, Cindy and Judy, our veterinary technicians, took Scarlet to get X-rays.

When the X-rays were brought to the exam room, the problem became very obvious. Scarlet was egg-bound. In other words, she had a handful of eggs and could not lay them without help. The exact number was difficult to determine because of the overlapping shells, but we estimated close to 30.

I informed Christy that Scarlet needed an injection to stimulate egg-laying and if nothing occurred in an hour she would need to repeat the injection at home. Since this condition could be related to a nutritional deficiency, I also reviewed dietary recommendations. With a smile on her face, Christy kindly reminded me that we already went over this topic.

“If you’re going to advise me to add feeder fish to her diet, I’m going to have to stop you right there, Doc. The feeder fish that I gave her during her previous bout of pneumonia are still in Scarlet’s pond. She has no interest in eating them. In fact, I think she considers them friends,” laughed Christy.

The next morning Christy called to tell me that she needed to administer the second injection when she got home. She stayed awake most of the night but eventually fell asleep, and when she woke, Scarlet had laid a total of 32 eggs. The eggs were not fertile since Scarlet did not have contact with a male turtle. Female turtles can store sperm in their body for many years, but Scarlet has been by herself for more than 20.

Christy reported that Scarlet’s appetite returned and she was back to her active self, swimming with her friends the feeder fish. Yes, the office exam, X-rays and injection totaled $265, but a healthy happy turtle is priceless.