“Never Say Never.” Antibiotic Use Rectifies Diseased Oviduct in a Galapagos Tortoise (Geochelone nigra microphyes)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2009

Thomas W. deMaar, DVM; Colette H. Adams

Gladys Porter Zoo, Brownsville, TX, USA


An approximately 100-year-old, wild caught, 148.8 kg Galapagos tortoise (Geochelone nigra microphyes) had a long-term history of producing mucus and poorly shelled eggs. The materials were produced during observed Galapagos tortoise nesting season in south Texas (Nov-May) and were randomly scattered throughout the enclosure. Histopathology of materials expressed from the cloaca occasionally contained fibrin and inflammatory cells. Biopsies obtained by endoscopy of the oviduct indicated salpingitis. Cultures showed consistent bacteria. Salpingitis has been reported in a variety of reptiles,3,5 including tortoises4. Surgical oviduct removal has been recommended as treatment for salpingitis.1 Considering the genetic value of the animal, an extended course of antibiotics was instituted. Chloramphenicol (Viceton® Tablets, Bimeda, Inc, Oakbrook Terrace, IL, USA; 3 g PO SID) was used for periods of up to 60 days. The initial choice of chloramphenicol was based on microbial sensitivity, membrane penetration, and ease of oral administration (bland taste). Complete blood counts were monitored, and no erythron abnormalities were detected. On two separate occasions during the following season, the tortoise excavated a nest and deposited well-shelled eggs, of which five hatchlings emerged. Successive microbial cultures of materials of suspected reproductive origin yielded Klebsiella oxytoca and Citrobacter sp. in addition to enteric organisms, Staphylococcus sp. and Streptococcus sp.

Enrofloxacin Adverse Reaction

In order to rotate antibiotic therapy, other antibiotics were prescribed based on microbial sensitivities. The animal demonstrated malaise and anorexia with two attempts of oral enrofloxacin (Baytril® Taste Tabs®, Bayer HealthCare LLC, Shawnee Mission, KS, USA; 680 mg PO SID), and it was discontinued. This parallels a published report of an adverse reaction to intramuscular injection of enrofloxacin in a Galapagos tortoise.2 However, the animal tolerated a 30-day course of oral ciprofloxacin (Cipro®, Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals, Princeton, NJ, USA; 1500 mg PO SID). For the following season, additional chloramphenicol therapy has been provided and further oviposition is anticipated.

Literature Cited

1.  Bennett, R.A. 1991. Reptilian surgery, part II. Management of surgical diseases. In: Johnston, D.E. (ed). Exotic Animal Medicine in Practice, Vol. 2. Veterinary Learning Systems, Trenton, New Jersey. 115–125.

2.  Casares, M., and F. Enders. 1996. Enrofloxacin side effects in a Galapagos tortoise (Geochelone elephantopus nigra). Abstr Proc Am As Zoo Vet. 446–7.

3.  Frye F.L. 1991. Biomedical and Surgical Aspects of Captive Reptile Husbandry, 2nd ed. Krieger Publishing, Melbourne, Florida. 377.

4.  Holt, P.E. 1979. Obstetrical problems in two tortoises. J Small Anim Pract. 20:353–359.

5.  Zwart, P. 1996. Some data concerning the pathology of subchronic egg-binding and salpingitis in reptiles. In: Proc Eur Assoc Zoo Wildl Vet. 1–7.


Speaker Information
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Thomas W. deMaar, DVM
Gladys Porter Zoo
Brownsville, TX, USA

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