|At this time of year, we expect the clinic to look like this.|
But as we wait I thought I would take you through what will happen to a turtle as it goes through the initial triage process.
First, the turtle gets an initial exam. This includes weights and measurements, as well as blood draws and an overall body checkup. A heart rate and respiratory rate are taken. Turtles routinely come in with heart rates of 1 beat per minute and respiratory rates of 1 breathe every 15-20 mins. We look for any obvious injuries and palpate for possible breaks in the flippers. The turtle's eyes are stained to check for abrasions or ulcerations. We gauge the animal's activity level and we note algal cover.
We then start getting the turtle back up to a normal temperature slowly over a period of several days. This is accomplished in two ways. The first way is with the Aquarium Medical Center's ICU. We keep the turtles in here when they are not swimming. This allows us to control the temperature the turtles are recovering in. The other way is by swimming them in different temperatures of water. Everyday we increase the temperature of the pools until they are at the turtle’s optimal temperature. The first swim they take with us is in fresh water which helps rehydrate the turtle and kills off the majority of saltwater epibiota (algae, barnacles etc.) on the turtle.
Once we get blood results back, the turtle then receives fluid therapy specialized for each turtle. Low glucose and the turtle would get a fluids containing dextrose. Low potassium and we add potassium to the hydration. Then if the turtle is strong enough and the blood work is OK the turtle gets to keep swimming overnight. If the turtle needs more rest it gets put back in the ICU for a good night's sleep.