Thursday, July 28, 2011
I have kind of an unusual Ohio wildlife rehabilitator's permit. It's for songbirds, bats and reptiles, specifically box turtles. Boxies get on the wrong end of our machines more often than I'd like to see. Cars, well, they usually don't survive an argument with a wheel. Lawnmowers are bad, too. Turtles' shells often save them, but lawnmowers can inflict some truly grievous injuries.
This handsome older gentleman came to me in late June 2011 from a wooded yard in Athens, Ohio, where the caller had accidentally hit him with a rider mower. I hate getting turtle calls because it's so hard to gauge how badly hurt the animal is from a verbal description. Is he bright? Crawling? How big is the wound? Where is it? Any limbs missing? That kind of thing. I still shudder when I remember the female boxy a couple of sweet young hippies brought me. They were very vague on the phone. Her shell was in pieces, apparently. "Yes, all the pieces are there." What they neglected to tell me, because they wanted so badly for me to somehow wave my wand and magically fix this hurt animal, was that the pieces were no longer connected to the turtle. They were rattling around in the shoebox with her.
I could instantly see that this turtle had a better prognosis. Hey, he had a prognosis. What you're seeing here is not exposed flesh but pink shell bone, crushed and compressed, with the colored scutes knocked off. Oh, it had to hurt. The callers had done just the right thing--cleaned him up with some disinfectant and put Band-aids over the wound until they could bring him to Marietta. I took the Band-aids off and soaked a paper towel in Betadine, and let him crawl around while the disinfectant soaked the grass and dirt loose.
Part of the protocol for turtles with bad shell wounds is eight days of Baytril (antibiotic) injections, at about $10 a day. Ouch for turtle and rehabber. These are administered in the back legs, one every other day, with a very fine needle. Still, it hurts, and the turtle purely hates it. This is the second boxy I've had who learned within a day to keep his hinders tucked and to crawl away from me using only his front legs. That's what he's doing in the photo above--booking with his hind legs tucked.
I picked all the grass and dirt off, washed him, disinfected him again, and let him dry. I couldn't even budge the smashed-in shell pieces so I decided to let them heal as they were. He still had control over his back legs, though they and his tail were quite bruised, and I thought I could probably do more harm than good by messing about with the shell.
Time for some spackle.
The white Crisco-like substance is Silvodine cream, an antibiotic cream for burns and deep wounds. I packed the wound with cream and got some Tegaderm, which is a surgical membrane that acts a bit like skin. Silvodine, unfortunately, needs a prescription, but Chet's veterinarian, Dr. Lutz, was happy to help with that and the Baytril, too.
Peeling off the white backing and laying the clear Tegaderm over the cream. It's adhesive.
Smoothing the Tegaderm.
Better. Not all better, but on the road to recovery without risk of infection.
Next: Sluggo, you HAVE to eat something.