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How do you give an injection to a turtle?


I honestly admit that prior to spending any significant time with exotics vets, my first reaction when considering any examination or treatment of turtles was “But how????”

Given that approximately 90% of their body is covered by a hard shell, and the remaining 10% of body parts can be retracted into it at a moment’s notice (particularly when hiding due to pain or fear or the general approach of well meaning veterinary physicians), doing any of the basics – a thorough physical exam, giving injections, IV fluids, oral medications for instance – is inevitably more challenging than in most species.

So I learned a lot from exotics vet Dr Shivananden Sawmy of The Avian, Reptile and Exotics Pet Hospital when we had a wet day in Sydney and an influx of turtles that had been unfortunately hit by cars.

One of the more helpful things of course was how to perform a physical examination, which you can watch in our video library here.

 Another was how to give a subcutaneous injection, which allows the efficient administration of pain relief – essential in trauma cases (and of course the majority of wildlife cases involve some degree of trauma). There are some tricks to patient handling, as well as key physiological differences in reptiles that make the location of injection important, which Shiva discusses in this neat video.

About the Presenter

Dr Shivananden Sawmy is an experienced wildlife and exotic veterinarian who has worked in exotic and small animal practice across the UK, as well as with critically endangered wildlife as a field biologist in his native Mauritius. At the time of filming, he was based at the University of Sydney’s Avian, Reptile and Exotic Pet Hospital, and now is a consulting zoo veterinarian at Featherdale, Mogo and Hunter Valley Wildlife Parks.

Need to know more?

Watch the “Physical Examination of the Turtle” in the Versatile Vet video library (see www.versatilevet.com/videos)

The Centre for Veterinary Education is running a Reptile Medicine TimeOnline course in Feb 2022 presented by the fabulous Dr Robert Johnson. See https://www.cve.edu.au/EventDetail?EventKey=CSTOREP22 for enrolment details.

There are several good textbooks on reptile medicine and surgery. For general practitioners, a good place to start is Reptile Medicine and Surgery in Clinical Practice by Bob Doneley, Deborah Monks, Robert Johnson and Brendan Carmel.

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