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Tortoises and bladder stones

Tortoises and bladder stones

Tortoises are prone to developing bladder stones.

In the desert, it is hard for tortoises to find water; dehydration is a contributing factor. Their diet also can be part of the problem; as vegetarians, their protein must come from plant sources.tortoises2

But it is not uncommon for pet owners to feed them dog food that is meat-based. Urates are the remaining products from protein digestion. Desert-adapted tortoises may produce a higher level of urates. There also may be a connection with a protozoon that is often found in the urine of tortoises with stones. When they are produced in excessive amounts, stones can form. The stone continues to develop over time and rolls around in the bladder, causing irritation and inflammation. It also could lead to death.

Recently, I was privileged to take part in a stone-removal surgery at Arbor Pet Clinic in Lodi. The facility is owned by my boss, Dr. Richard Turner, who is known as a local guru for exotic pets in our area. He worked with our new associate, Dr. Janice Pfeiff. When the rescue tortoise came in, Pfeiff took an X-ray and identified a large bladder stone. She thinks this tortoise is more than 75 years old and has had this stone for many years.

Because of the anatomical location of the bladder, the first step once the tortoise was under anesthesia was to create a flap in the shell. Once this was open, the bladder was easily identified because it was so full of material. The stone broke down easily into a powdery material that somewhat resembled the consistency of drywall. A pound and a half of material was scooped out, and the bladder was flushed and closed up. He still is recovering at Arbor, then will go to a foster home.

— Julie Damron has practiced veterinary medicine in our community for many years. She treats small animals and exotic pets, and is the medical director at All Creatures Veterinary Emergency Clinic in Stockton. She also is an associate at Arbor Pet Clinic in Lodi. Contact her at features@recordnet.com.