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Egg implosion procedure in a Yellow foot tortoise   (Geochelone denticulata) - Chris Tabaka DVM

Related Care Sheets or Articles:

Yellow-foot Tortoise – Geochelone denticulata - Chris Tabaka DVM and Darrell Senneke   

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Copyright © 2003 World Chelonian Trust. All rights reserved


There are a number of things that can go wrong during the ovipositioning (egg laying) process.  These problems can range from eggs that are too large to pass through the cloacal opening to ova that are bound to the oviduct due to infection or other causes.  You can also run into situations where the ova is/are floating freely in the coelomic cavity rather than in the oviduct to actual egg fractures in the oviduct/cloaca that can cause severe damage when they are passed.  Nutritional as well as disease issues can also lead too egg binding problems.  In many of these situations, a surgical approach becomes necessary.

 

The surgical approach can consist of a variety of techniques.  For many aquatic species, especially those with poorly developed plastrons (ex. Chelydra,  Macroclemmys ), a rear limb fossa surgical approach can be undertaken with excellent success.  This soft tissue surgical technique is far less invasive than the more typically required transplastronal egg removal procedure, as in the Chaco Tortoise in the first photo set below, which requires proper equipment as well as orthopedic work with the plastronal bone/shell.    Sometimes though, neither procedure is required and one can get relatively "lucky" such as in the following case.

 

Transplastronal Egg Removal Procedure - Chaco Tortoise

Radiograph of free floating ova requiring removal via transplastronal surgery

Top:  A protective plaster patch was kept in place for 18 months  after surgery

Bottom: After removal of protective plaster showing healed incision 

Tortoise today: The poor conformation of this tortoise is an indication of possible future problems   

 


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THE ANIMAL PICTURED BELOW WAS ANESTHETIZED FOR THIS PROCEDURE


The  case below involves a long term captive (15 plus years), wild caught adult female Geochelone denticulata.  This animal had been kept in a group setting with a male for the past eight years and had never laid during that time.  The male however, had some medical issues which had prevented him from being able to breed properly until the 2002/2003 season.  During the summer of 2003, she was moved to more northern climates whereupon she started laying ova off and on around her pen.  These ova were typical of captive tortoise ova from females that have not laid for a long period of time in that they were misshapen, overcalcified, and extremely large.  She also did not dig a proper nest but rather would dribble them out of her cloaca around the yard. 

 

In the fall of 2003, she attempted to lay an ova that was simply too large to pass through her cloaca/the shell opening.  The following is a pictorial of this situation.

 

Note in the following picture, the severe cloacal mucosal swelling as she tries to expel the oversized egg.

 

 

The egg can be seen in the following picture.  It is quite obviously much too large to pass naturally!

 

 

The ideal approach at this point is to utilize a syringe and large needle to suck out the internal contents of the egg.  One can then digitally collapse the ovum attempting to keep the inner membrane of the shell intact.  This typically allows one to remove most if not all of the eggshell intact.  By utilizing this approach, one can minimize the number of sharp eggshell shards floating freely in the cloacal area.  In a situation such as this one unfortunately, that was not a possibility due to the severe, severe hypercalcification and thickening of the eggshell.

 

As you can see in the following picture, the old gal is definitely ready to have the ova removed.  She is depressed, mildly dehydrated, and far from her typical bright, alert, active, hungry self.

 

 

Again, the ideal technique at this juncture is to utilize a large bore needle and syringe and suck out the contents of the ova then follow that up with digital implosion and removal of the entire eggshell en masse.   Copious amounts of KY jelly are also utilized during this procedure to help express the contents. 

 

Unfortunately, in this situation, due to the severe hypercalcification of the eggshell, this was not possible.  After applying large amounts of KY jelly into the cloaca both around and behind the ovum, a larger hole was made in the eggshell and the contents drained through the cloacal opening.

 

If the egg had been farther up the cloaca, this technique would not have been possible due to concerns about lacerations to the oviduct/cloaca and free yolk, an excellent bacterial growth medium,  escaping into the coelomic cavity and leading to subsequent coelomitis (peritonitis).   Due to the proximity of the egg to the cloacal opening as well as being able to visualize the affected tissue, this was not a concern in this instance.

 

 

The results of the procedure can be seen in the ensuing pictures (there are few good pictures of the bulk of the eggshell due to a lack of hands and need for speed!).

 

 

 

 

Remnants of the eggshell can be seen in the following pictures.  These remnants were carefully, slowly, and with large amounts of lubrication removed from the cloaca. 

 

 

 

 

And last but not least, we have a satisfied, thirsty, relieved patient who over the next several day s returned to her normal bright, active, voracious feeding self!

 

 

 

 


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