Pet vet

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NOTHWEST/TELEVISION - JEFF KAHLER Jeff Kahler is a vet­eri­nar­ian in Modesto, Calif. Ques­tions can be sub­mit­ted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto, Calif. 95352.

Bran­don has been tak­ing care of Her­bie for seven years. Her­bie, a box tur­tle, was a lost soul that Bran­don found walk­ing in the street when he was 11 years old and has been part of Bran­don’s life ever since. He lives out­doors in the spring, sum­mer and early fall, and spends the win­ters in­doors in a heated ter­rar­ium.

Her­bie has had no health prob­lems while in Bran­don’s care un­til he re­cently be­gan to develop a swelling or mass on the left side of his head. Bran­don no­ticed Her­bie not eat­ing with his nor­mal amount of en­thu­si­asm, es­pe­cially when it came to snails, Her­bie’s fa­vorite food.

For all his seven years with Bran­don, the sight of a snail would bring Her­bie sprint­ing for the food dish; of course, for a box tur­tle sprint­ing is a rel­a­tive term.

This de­crease in glee over snails be­came more ev­i­dent over a few weeks un­til Bran­don fi­nally no­ticed the swelling.

It is likely not pos­si­ble to defini­tively de­ter­mine the cause of Her­bie’s swelling sim­ply by look­ing. It may be a swelling filled with liq­uid such as a cyst or it could be a solid mass le­sion. In order to fig­ure out how to help Her­bie, we need to know what we are deal­ing with.

The first step would be a sim­ple test called a fine nee­dle as­pi­rate — a nee­dle at­tached to a sy­ringe is in­tro­duced into the le­sion to siphon out some of the ma­te­rial in­side. The ma­te­rial would be looked at un­der a mi­cro­scope.

It is im­por­tant to dis­tin­guish this pro­ce­dure from a nee­dle biopsy. A nee­dle biopsy in­volves ac­tual tis­sue re­moval from a le­sion with a some­what larger nee­dle. This har­vested tis­sue is then sent to a pathol­o­gist for pro­cess­ing and mi­cro­scopic ex­am­i­na­tion. This is a more in-depth test and also is bet­ter at iden­ti­fy­ing a mass.

In Her­bie’s case, I am con­fi­dent that a sim­ple fine nee­dle as­pi­rate will give us the nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion.

Hav­ing dealt with many box tur­tles over the past three decades as a vet­eri­nar­ian, I am go­ing to ven­ture an ed­u­cated guess that Her­bie’s le­sion is an ab­scess in his left ear canal. These are fairly com­mon in some species of tur­tles, box tur­tles es­pe­cially, and are usu­ally caused by an in­fec­tion that starts in the mouth or throat and goes up the eu­stachian tube into the mid­dle ear.

Peo­ple have this tube, too; it’s the one we try to open up when we fly on an air­plane to equal­ize the pres­sure across the eardrum.

When a bac­te­rial in­fec­tion sets up shop via this eu­stachian tube into the mid­dle ear in a tur­tle, the in­fec­tion elic­its a re­ac­tion from the body which causes pus to form. This de­vel­ops into an ab­scess, caus­ing the swelling Bran­don has re­ported in Her­bie’s neck.

Rep­tile pus is very thick and some­what chunky, so it can­not be ef­fec­tively drained with a nee­dle. In­stead, Her­bie will need an anes­thetic pro­ce­dure to al­low sur­gi­cal lanc­ing and clean­ing out of his ab­scess.

Along with ap­pro­pri­ate an­tibi­otic ther­apy and con­tin­ued clean­ing at home, Her­bie’s con­di­tion should be en­tirely cur­able and re­turn him to his snail-lov­ing self.

Spe­cial to the Demo­crat-Gazette/DUSTY HIG­GINS

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