Welcome to the Treatment Room!
The treatment room is where most veterinary procedures take place at the GSTC. Treatments can range from a simple weekly weigh-in or bandage change to surgery requiring anesthesia. Visitors to the GSTC can view procedures in the treatment room through a large glass window in the gallery. Education staff and volunteers are on-hand to help interpret procedures, as well as to answer guest questions.
Every treatment is different, but many procedures include similar elements:
Keeping track of a patient’s weight is important for assessing its health, as well as for determining how much food to include in its diet. Smaller patients, like diamondback terrapins and box turtles, can be weighed on a gram scale in front of the treatment room window. Larger patients, like loggerhead sea turtles, must be weighed on a kilogram scale at the rear of the treatment room. An upturned bucket, referred to as a “turtle tamer,” helps to immobilize animals on the scale.
Blood is usually drawn from the cervical sinus, a branch of the jugular vein located in the neck. It’s a blind stick, so collecting blood can be a tricky process. Once collected, samples are placed on a blood rocker, a device that keeps the blood moving and prevents it from clotting. Centrifuges are used to separate the blood into different components for analysis. We can run a basic blood profile in-house, gaining information about patient glucose levels, packed cell volume (PCV), and total protein. This information helps our staff to know if a patient is anemic or dehydrated. Samples can also be sent to an external laboratory service for a more complete analysis. A complete profile provides the same information as a basic, but with additional values that help indicate essential organ function and health. A complete blood count (CBC) is also performed during a complete analysis. This involves a microscopic examination of the red and white blood cells circulating in the blood and gives us a good indication of overall health status.
Sea turtles shells are scrubbed with betadine and cleaned with alcohol wipes to help prevent infection. They are often also scraped down with surgical tools, or debrided, to remove excess keratin.
Products and Medications
Turtle patients require a wide variety of medications and treatments, depending on the nature of their injuries. Here are some things you might see used on patients during treatments:
- silver products are often used on our turtle patients. Silver has natural antibacterial properties, and can be applied in various forms including gel, cream and mesh.
- honey and honeycomb are other commonly used treatments at the GSTC. Honey has many natural antibacterial properties and can often be obtained at minimal cost. The acidity of honey helps to create an antibacterial environment in wounds, and the thickness of honey helps create an osmotic gradient that pulls out infectious material. Just like silver, honey comes in a variety of forms like gel, gauze, and paste, each of which can be used in a slightly different manner.
- fluid therapy is given to patients that are dehydrated or not eating well. Fluids are typically given subcutaneously (just below the skin), but can also be provided in the body cavity (coelomic cavity) or in a vein. The amount and type of fluid administered depends on the weight of the animal and the blood values of the patient.
- injections deliver medications to patients in liquid form, via a needle and syringe. Antibiotics, vitamins and minerals, and steroids can all be administered via injection.
- bone cement can be used to cover and waterproof wounds on a turtle’s shell. It starts out as a sticky liquid, allowing it to be molded to match the injury’s shape and size. Antibiotics can be mixed in, making bone cement extra advantageous for healing. Once hardened, bone cement provides a waterproof covering that can remain on a patient for up to several weeks at a time!