General Care Discussion :: Experience with broken limb?

Taking care of your turtle's overall health.

Post Posted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 12:06 am   Experience with broken limb?

My 10+ year old slider endured a fall from over a foot height about a week ago, injuring his front right leg, which I only discovered the following day. He's been kept in water since then. There's a slight depression on the forearm, and the bone doesn't feel solid. I'm guessing it's been caught under the edge of the shell.

For a while, he's mostly held the leg slightly pulled into his shell. Lately he's been much more active with it, often keeping it extended, paddling with it and pushing it against the glass, which makes me worried that he might injure it further. Otherwise, he's very lively and really wants to get out, but I don't want him to put stress on the limb. Sadly I haven't had a UV lamp or any heating gadget for a long time, though I intend to get them as soon as I can.

Main reason I'm posting on this forum instead of consulting a vet is because I haven't had any luck with vets so far. Two I contacted said they don't know anything about turtles. One of them can make an x-ray, nothing more. The closest animal hospital that can be of help is over 100 miles away, and currently there's no money nor car to make that trip. I've contacted them, they haven't responded to my message so far.

So I'm asking here. Anyone have experience with similar injuries? Some people say they heal over time without any help, but I'm skeptical towards that attitude, especially since I don't know the exact nature of the injury without an x-ray. Is there a diet that can help the healing process, or help him with his calcium intake in general? How should he be transported if he has to be taken to the vet? Should I do something with the limb?

I do intend to get in touch with the hospital again, but in the meantime any help or suggestion is appreciated.
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Post Posted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 3:11 am   Re: Experience with broken limb?

A foot drop probably wouldn't have caused a break but there isn't a good way to tell or prevent him from using it unless you find a way to immobilize it or reduce the amount of stress placed on it. It's usually shallow water or dry dock, though that is usually determined by the vet. Any rescues or zoos nearby? They might be able to offer a referral.

I'm not aware of any diet that might help. Transporting him is a bit tricky as they are usually stressed and what to get out of any container that is not their tank. On short trips, I'll hold my turtle but if you can place him in a pitch black container, he might just rest.

Any swelling or discoloration?
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Post Posted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 9:52 am   Re: Experience with broken limb?

Thanks for the reply. I noticed a slight swelling around the wrist, just below the depression. His fingers also seemed to be more openly splayed. When I touched the area, he at first pulled the leg back and whirled away from my hand with a faint hiss. But now he lets me touch it more freely. Can't tell if it's dislocated, he doesn't seem to use the right foot for support. He lifts himself up with his left leg and pushes his right leg against the glass a lot. If I pick him up, he tries to scratch and push me away like normal with his left leg, but the right feels weak. He does use it for paddling fine, but I don't know if it causes him any pain.

I only touched the area gently of course, and as said, the bone felt less solid around the swelling. I swear the foreleg almost seemed like it slightly bent in the middle, but it's hard to tell. He might be low on calcium, which is why I'm having all kinds of fears about breaks or fractures. To give more background about how he fell, he was on my bed. I checked on him every other second, and he happened to fall off just when I wasn't looking. He's already fallen from the same height at least twice, but each time he landed safely and kept going as if nothing had happened. This time he dropped in a bad position -- he was on his back and got frightened, and started darting across the floor frantically when I turned him upright. The skin on the top of his head also got torn up a bit (nothing bloody), which suggests to me that he probably hit himself with the edge of his shell. What pains me is that this could have been so easily avoided, and I'm really tormenting myself over it. There was even a pillow beside the bed just in case, and he fell right next to it.

Don't know how to reduce stress on the leg other than keeping him from shoving it against the glass. I cover the side of the tank with a large pillow to keep him from trying to rush towards me or other objects that interest him. I also put him on pillows or have my brother watch him when I clean the tank, but we don't let him walk.

Sadly I don't know of any animal clinics nearby, most vets just handle cats and dogs. The one that offered an x-ray is about a 40 minute drive away. That trip seems feasible, but I only have his tank to transport him in, and getting it down the stairs into a car might be tricky. Sadly I don't know of any other facilities. As stated, the closest zoo/hospital that handles reptiles is way too far away. They still haven't responded to my email, so I'll probably try calling them after I submit this post.

Update: On the phone they urged me to take him to the clinic anyway. Looks like the trip will have to be made.
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Post Posted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 3:04 pm   Re: Experience with broken limb?

I would not transport him in a tank, a cardboard box lined with some towels might be better. Good luck with the vet visit!
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Post Posted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 3:55 pm   Re: Experience with broken limb?

Yeah, I made some further calls about how to transport him, and thankfully found a box too. We'll be making an x-ray first to see what the issue is, but as of now we have no way to travel to the vet they recommended. I'm deeply upset that this happened right when my family ran out of all our money for the month, otherwise we'd have made the trip by now. I'm upset in general.

Thank you for wishing luck though. I'm only consulting with her via phone and email at this point, but the vet seems nice and helpful so far and has plenty of experience.
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Post Posted: Sat Dec 03, 2016 6:09 pm   Re: Experience with broken limb?

Looks like there is indeed a break, a clean one. The vet who did the x-ray says the bone's too thin to do surgery on it, but he suggests that it will reform in time, though it might cause him to limp. Still waiting for an opinion from the other vet (the more experienced one). I'm really anxious, especially since I have been given so little info, can the bone really heal like this?

They did recommend adding calcium powder to his food, but I have never seen him eat things on land. He either ignores the food or tries to take it back into the water. Any tips for feeding him outside the water?

As for how he's doing, he's active as normal but doesn't rely as much on his injured leg. He does swim with it, scratches himself (weakly) and sometimes grabs his food. I'm fearful that he might do damage to it, but I don't know if or how the leg could be restrained in any way.
Last edited by Wyx on Sat Dec 03, 2016 10:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Post Posted: Sat Dec 03, 2016 9:41 pm   Re: Experience with broken limb?

Sorry to hear about the prognosis. I have no clue about it reforming, though it sounds plausible... it's just a very rare and unfortunate break.

They normally don't eat out of water because of no saliva and fixed tongue. Some people either make their own pellets, moisten other pellets and allow the powder to dry, gut load some live crickets, or inject it into something like an earthworm for the turtle to eat.
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Post Posted: Sat Dec 03, 2016 11:09 pm   Re: Experience with broken limb?

Thanks for the suggestion. The doctor said that injuries like this are actually fairly common and told me not to worry about it. Asked us to check back in a couple of months. But as mentioned, I still want to hear what the other vet has to say.
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Post Posted: Sun Dec 04, 2016 10:54 pm   Re: Experience with broken limb?

Well, all of us turtle keepers like to worry. I think a second opinion is highly valuable, though maybe a rehabber would provide a more accurate answer for you. I think the phone consultation has been good too, you are doing all you can.
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Post Posted: Tue Dec 06, 2016 8:00 am   Re: Experience with broken limb?

Managed to have a chat with the vet, but she said the x-ray is too low quality to be of much use. My turtle kept fidgeting around, so they could only take blurry pictures. She also said that the injury is too old now to perform surgery on it. But the clinic she works at is too far away, so we wouldn't have been able to make the trip anyway.

But on a positive note, she said that it will heal with time, just have to nurture him properly and keep him from doing damage to the leg. She recommended a diet of full fish and calcium powder with as much vitamin D intake as possible. As of now, we don't know whether an extra vitamin injection would be necessary.
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Post Posted: Tue Dec 06, 2016 10:17 am   Re: Experience with broken limb?

Vitamin injections are something most vets like to push.... I have no idea why. Has she offered a time table? They x-ray that was taken, did the technician hold the turtle during procedure?
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Post Posted: Tue Dec 06, 2016 12:19 pm   Re: Experience with broken limb?

Just put him on a table and kept his leg extended with a string.

Only thing they told me (beyond general tips on what to feed him and how to set up his tank) is to go back for a check in a month or two. But if it looks like the injury has worsened, we have to head back asap. She even brought up the notion of amputating the limb, which sounds too horrific to even consider. A vitamin shot seems reasonable since I currently lack a UV light, though I don't know if I'd trust any nearby vet to do it. When I first contacted them, they flat out told me that they're not that familiar with exotic animals and directed me to the female vet I have been making calls with. But when we took the x-ray, they suddenly presented themselves as more knowledgeable.
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Post Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 11:54 am   Re: Experience with broken limb?

Updates:

He seems to be healing nicely and can now walk without limping. He's been kept in his tank for these past few months, but lately he just can't stand being in there and constantly wants to get out. Keeps splashing the water all over the place and banging himself against the glass. I have barely slept for weeks now because he's constantly making noise. The little guy is full of energy.

So now I let him roam relatively freely, but he requires a lot of attention, since as usual he keeps bumping into furniture, entangling himself in cables and trying to climb all over the place.

I've been giving him a lot of calcium and some vitamin supplements, but he refuses to eat the small fish that the vet recommended. He's mostly just interested in dried shrimp and raw pork and I can barely get him to eat anything else. His leg is still a bit swollen a bit and the spot where the break happened is still outwardly visible. He can apparently walk with it and stand on it fine, but I'm not sure it can endure another fall or larger stress. Unfortunately, he keeps targeting places he could easily fall down from, get stuck in, or injure himself. He immediately heads for low shelves, electric outlets, the back of my PC, behind my bed, and all sorts of dirty places, knocking over things and pushing and slamming himself against objects. He's even trying to climb up the wall. Why does he keep doing that? Mind you, he's been behaving like this for years even before the injury, but now he's really overdoing it.

I couldn't take him back to the vet for a checkup so far, partly due to the cold, snowy weather and partly due to the lack of money. So as of now, I can't exactly be sure how much his bones have healed.
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Post Posted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 12:17 am   Re: Experience with broken limb?

How big is his tank? I'd try to get him to a normal routine as soon as possible. While it's great that he has an appetite, a very poor diet can do a lot of permanent harm. What calcium/vitamin supplements are you using? Do you have a UVB lamp over his tank?
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Post Posted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 3:26 am   Re: Experience with broken limb?

Tank is about 70x40x30 cm with no rocks or anything in it apart from his heater, and yes, there's a UVB lamp above it. I have Exo-Terra brand calcium + vitamin D supplements that I stuff into his meat or sprinkle over his shrimp. I also have a multivitamin solution made for amphibians and reptiles from a smaller, local brand, of which I add a few drops to his water. The vet recommended a diet composed exclusively of small, full fish, but after months of trying to get him to eat them, he's only eaten half a fish.

He's gotten pretty used to staying outside his tank, he's been allowed to roam more or less freely in the house for several years, only going back into the tank to eat and sleep. But because of the injury, we had to keep him waterbound for over two months, and I guess he hasn't quite gotten used to staying in the tank for so long. The only way I managed to keep him calm inside the tank is by placing various objects, pillows, clothes, or my own head in front of him, just to give him something to look at. But when I get up, he immediately starts splashing about like mad, which he does even during night time unless all lights are turned off.

I read that many turtles regularly do this, trying to escape their tank or climb to higher places. But this has gotten to the point where I can barely focus on anything else because he makes so much noise.
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