Sulcata swallowed a screw...

BarefootInABug

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We have had Smokey for a year. He is a rescue and we have NO history on him. Not even sure he is a him. We believe he is approximately 5 yrs old, maybe 16" long and only slightly pyramided. This afternoon we were fencing in a new enclosure for him and he managed to climb a step and swallow a screw. The screw is an inch long #10 or #12. We went to the vet immediately and had him x-rayed. The screw is in his stomach. We are taking him to the nearest teaching vet tomorrow for a possible surgery. They told us that if it stays in his stomach they can use a scope and go in through his armpit and remove the screw. If it has moved then they will have to crack his shell to surgically remove it.

My question is...has anyone had a tortoise expel a screw or other sharp object on their own? Should we risk the shell crack or wait and see if he passes it on his own? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
 

dmmj

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I would probably take a wait-and-see approach I know that when cats and dogs swallow toothpicks and various other sharp objects they usually have them eat something stringy (I can't begin to remember what it is) to wrap around the object so it is less dangerous when it is passed. Those damn tortoises eat anything
 

Tom

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There is no reason why the screw shouldn't pass through harmlessly. Soak the tortoise daily to get the GI tract moving and feed a lot of spineless opuntia pads for the water contents and lubrication properties. Keep the soak water warm through out and leave him in the tub for an hour.

In the wild, tortoises eat fully spined regular cactus, and those nasty spines pass through with no problem. If you've ever looked at a turd from a grass eating species, you know they don't digest everything. I would not do surgery if it were my tortoise, but I would be checking every turd until I found it, and also looking for any indication that there might be a problem. Lethargy, lack of appetite or a change in behavior would make me immediately consider surgery.

Also, what type of fencing are you making? Tortoises need a visual barrier type of fencing, or they are likely to damage themselves. If you are using chainlink or hog wire, add a visual barrier along the bottom. You can use 16" tall by 8 ' long strips of plywood for this. One sheet of ply will get you 24' of coverage. Since your tortoise is small, you can use 12" high strips and get 36' of coverage per sheet, but you might have to go taller once he gets bigger.

Post a plastron shot showing the tail and anal scutes and we can tell you if you've got a male or female.
 

Sleppo

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I was told once by a vet that if an animal eats glass or anything with a sharp edge immediately feed them bread. I’m assuming it’s done in hopes it would “pad” the object as it passes through the GI tract. In no way is this medical advice just something I’ve heard. Hope he/she passes it with no issue, please keep us posted.
 

Tom

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I'm with Tom. I wouldn't go the surgery route just yet. I'm willing to bet this screw will pass harmlessly.
Do you remember the member here whose tortoise swallowed a 2 inch sewing pin a couple of years ago? She posted an x-ray of it. If I remember correctly, the pin passed harmlessly and surgery was not needed.
 

jsheffield

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Sorry for your trouble... I'm hoping it passes without mishap.

FWIW, I'd take advice from Tom and Yvonne over my vet, as regards tortoises, any day of the week.

The satisfaction of doing something sometimes outweighs the wisdom of doing nothing.

I'd feed and soak a lot, check every poop, and opt for the surgery if you see blood or a change in your tort's activity or appetite.

Jamie
 

dmmj

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Sorry for your trouble... I'm hoping it passes without mishap.

FWIW, I'd take advice from Tom and Yvonne over my vet, as regards tortoises, any day of the week.

The satisfaction of doing something sometimes outweighs the wisdom of doing nothing.

I'd feed and soak a lot, check every poop, and opt for the surgery if you see blood or a change in your tort's activity or appetite.

Jamie
FWIW? explanation please :)
 

BarefootInABug

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I'm with Tom. I wouldn't go the surgery route just yet. I'm willing to bet this screw will pass harmlessly.
I agree with this in theory but it is a simple surgery now as compared to a very elaborate and in depth surgery later. We are waiting for the specialist now to see what they say.

Thank you so much for all your advice. I will let you know what happens.
 

Yvonne G

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I agree with this in theory but it is a simple surgery now as compared to a very elaborate and in depth surgery later. We are waiting for the specialist now to see what they say.

Thank you so much for all your advice. I will let you know what happens.
Putting a tortoise under anesthesia is NOT 'simple'. It's not the same as putting a mammal under anesthesia. Tortoise lungs are fragile and they don't always come out of it.
 
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