Free expert veterinary advice has supported organizations across 5 continents in providing life-saving treatment to sick and injured sea turtles
VetCT, a provider of teleradiology, teleconsultancy, and education services, announced in a release1 that its celebrating one year of offering free access to its specialist services supporting the rehabilitation of rescued sea turtles worldwide. The company launched these services in December 2022,2 and since then, wildlife charities, zoos, and clinics in North America, Australia, Africa, Asia, and Europe, have benefited from VetCT’s team of exotics experts’ advice regarding diagnostic imaging and management of sick and injured sea turtle species.
According to the release,1 this has helped 12 organizations support the care of over 50 turtles, including loggerhead, olive ridley, Kemp’s ridley, and green sea turtle species.
Max Polyak, DVM, lead veterinary surgeon at the Olive Ridley Project in the Maldives, spotlighted the story of Shara, an adult female olive ridley found floating and incapable of diving. “Shara had signs of pneumonia and an abnormal accumulation of gas in her lower intestinal tract due to plastic ingestion, identified with support from VetCT’s teleradiology report. This accumulation of gas was the underlying cause of her buoyancy disorder.”1
He added, “With intensive medical management of her infection and after passing a considerable amount of plastic in her feces, she no longer had any gas in her intestinal tract and showed significant improvement. We then continued to focus on her dive training using Targeted External Weight Therapy to correct the behavioral aspect of her buoyancy disorder and retrain her how to dive. Shara progressed well and after discontinuing her TEWT she continued to show normal diving behavior and was released on August 17, 2023, with a satellite tag.”1
Terry Norton, DVM, DACZM, of The Turtle Hospital, Marathon, FL, described various cases, including Tiki, a juvenile green sea turtle found floating, weak, and debilitated. Blood work revealed severe hypoglycemia, moderate anemia, and increased plasma uric acid, BUN, sodium, and potassium.1 Physical examination showed that Tiki was thin, dehydrated, and several joints in both front flippers were enlarged.
“CT and radiographs submitted to VetCT revealed multifocal osteomyelitis,” said Norton, in the release. “Fecal examination was positive for Caryospora, a significant coccidia species in green turtles. Blood culture was submitted and positive for Salmonella marina. Ceftazidime and ampicillin were started. With extensive supportive care and treatment over the next few months, Tiki gained weight and became stronger. Repeat blood culture and radiographs, again reported by VetCT, confirmed that the osteomyelitis and septicemia had resolved. Tiki was released on July 12, 2023.”1
"We're so grateful to the team at VetCT for providing their expert radiology reports, helping to guide the diagnosis and treatment of these turtles, and ultimately contributing to their successful management and release back into the wild.”
Trevor Zachariah, DVM, DACZM, veterinarian at Brevard Zoo, Melbourne, FL, which carries permits to conduct sea turtle rehabilitation, has also had experiences with several turtles benefiting from VetCT’s support.
“We had a green sea turtle called ‘LJ’, who had severe injuries presumed to be from a boat propeller blade. LJ had suffered full thickness carapacial fracture with coelomic membrane exposure and entrapped lung tissue. We had managed the injuries for two months with vacuum-assisted closure, debridement, and bandage changes and performed a CT to check healing progress. The VetCT report was great, showing detailed annotations of fracture healing and remaining lung changes, guiding ongoing management and continued rehabilitation for LJ until his release in January. It’s great they’re providing free reports and advice that helps us to treat these amazing animals.”1
When the program was launched in 2022, VetCT’s global team of over 270 specialists and support staff selected sea turtles to be the company’s flagship species. Along with veterinary support, VetCT has hosted in person and online sea turtle talks, spearheaded company-wide events to reduce plastic pollution, and fundraised for Wildlife Vets International, a charity supporting conservation projects for sea turtles and other endangered species.1
Copper Aitken-Palmer, DVM, PhD, DACZM, exotics specialist at VetCT who helped debut the sea turtle initiative said in the release, “We are delighted to be working with partners globally to provide free access to our services for rescued sea turtles. Sustainability is a guiding principle in all we do at VetCT and supporting the rehabilitation and release of these keystone marine species supports the health of delicate marine ecosystems for decades to come. Following the stories of these animals to final release is incredibly rewarding.”
Organizations, clinics, and charities interested in accessing the free services for rescued sea turtles can register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more, watch this dvm360® interview of VetCT head of communications Liz Barton, MA, VetMB, MRCVS, MCIPR, discuss VetCT’s sea turtle initiative.3