Clinical and Microbiological Ocular Findings in Mediterranean Spur-Thighed Tortoises (Testudo graeca) Post Hibernation
WSAVA 2002 Congress
*Alejandro Bayón, Pablo Martín-Atance, Mónica González Candela, Angel Albert, Giselle V. Bucker
*Hospital Clínico Veterinario. Universidad de Murcia, Campus Universitario Espinardo
Murcia, ES


A variety of ophthalmic lesions have been reported in Testudo graeca and Testudo hermanni during their annual hibernations. The main abnormal ocular findings include: mucoid ocular discharge, blepharitis, conjunctivitis, uveitis, cataracts, vitreal damage, retinopathies and central nervous damage and temporary or permanent blindness. The etiology is unclear, but the clinical findings are present in tortoises exposed to freezing temperatures.

The aim of this report is to describe the clinical ocular findings in Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoises (Testudo graeca) after hibernation and the relationship with the microbiological features.


This study was performed in 45 young (one year old) Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoises, Testudo graeca, from the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center "El Valle" of Murcia (Spain) suffering of ocular diseases after hibernation and free of signs of upper respiratory tract diseases. The climate in this area is typically Mediterranean. The ophthalmic examination was achieved with a slit-lamp biomicroscope to define changes in eyelids, cornea, conjunctive, anterior chamber, iris, or lens. Swabs from ocular discharge were cultured in blood agar and McConkey media. Bacterial isolates were identified to species using the API-20E, API-Staph and API-Coryne systems (Bio-Merieux, Barcelona, Spain).


Clinical findings: Abnormal ocular findings were unilateral in 24.4% and bilateral in 46.7% of Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoises. The eyes appeared closed 32%, mild opened 29% and opened 39%. The ocular signs of the eyes that appeared closed included blepharedema (75%) and ocular discharge (41%). The ocular signs of the eyes that appeared mild opened included blepharedema (84.6%), conjunctivitis (11.53%), ocular discharge (69.2%), corneal edema (50%), and hypopyon (7.69%). The eyes that appeared opened showed the following ocular signs: blepharedema (97.14%), conjunctivitis (45.71%), ocular discharge (82.85%), corneal edema (34.28%), lipid keratopathy (2.85%), endotheliitis (2.85%), hypopyon (8.57%), hyphema (8.57%), and cataracts (25.71%).

Microbiological features: Mycoplasma spp. was found in all of the examined turtles. Also, Aeromonas hydrophila, Pseudomonas spp, and Staphylococcus spp were isolated in most of examined tortoises.


The Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoises (T. graeca), included in this study, presented abnormal ocular signs, after hibernation, similar to those reported in tortoises exposed to freezing temperatures. These results suggest that other factors may contribute to the development of the disease such as the microorganisms. In fact, the isolated bacteria in the tortoises of this study as well as the Mycoplasma spp. have been reported to be present in tortoises with upper respiratory tract diseases.

Speaker Information
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Alejandro Bayón del Rio, DVM, PhD
Hospital Clínico Veterinario
Universidad de Murcia
Murcia, Spain

Angel Albert
Hospital Clínico Veterinario. Universidad de Murcia
Campus Universitario Espinardo
Murcia, Murcia 30100 ES

Giselle V. Bucker
Departamento Patología Animal. Universidad de Murcia

Mónica González Candela
Hospital Clínico Veterinario. Universidad de Murcia

Pablo Martín-Atance
Departamento Patología Animal. Universidad de Murcia
Campus Universitario Espinardo
Murcia, Murcia 30100 ES

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