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Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To characterize osteolytic lesions in cold-stunned Kemp's ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys kempii) hospitalized for rehabilitation and describe methods used for the management of such lesions.

ANIMALS

25 stranded, cold-stunned Kemp's ridley sea turtles hospitalized between 2008 and 2018.

PROCEDURES

Medical records of sea turtles with a diagnosis of osteolytic lesions were reviewed retrospectively to obtain the date of diagnosis, clinical signs, radiographic findings, microbial culture results, hematologic and plasma biochemical data, cytologic and histologic findings, antimicrobial history, time to first negative culture result, treatment duration, and outcome.

RESULTS

Lesions were identified radiographically a median of 50 days after admission and were located within epiphyses or metaphyses of various appendicular joints. Lesions were associated with periarticular swelling (n = 24), lameness (16), lethargy (2), and hyporexia (2). Bacterial culture yielded growth of single organisms (n = 16), multiple organisms (2), or no growth (6). Significant differences in hematologic and biochemical data were detected between the times of diagnosis and convalescence. Cytologic and histologic findings characterized the lesions as osteomyelitis leading to septic arthritis. Sixteen sea turtles were managed medically, and 8 were managed medically and surgically. Surgery resulted in rapid improvement in joint mobility and overall clinical status. Most (22/25 [88%]) sea turtles survived and were released after long-term management.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE

During rehabilitation, cold-stunned Kemp's ridley sea turtles may be affected by osteomyelitis. Medical management based on antimicrobial susceptibility testing was effective for most turtles. Long term management efforts in turtles are justified by high survival rate.

Open access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association