Innovative Wound Care in Freshwater and Marine Turtles
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2009
Terry M. Norton, DVM, DACZM; Erika Kemler; Michelle Kaylor; Jeannie Miller
Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Jekyll Island, GA, USA; St. Catherines Island Wildlife Programs, Midway, GA, USA


Traumatic injuries caused by boat propellers, automobile collisions, and a variety of predators are common in aquatic chelonians. The incidence of boat strike injuries in sea turtles in Georgia have increased over the last decade and now account for 15–20% of strandings. As coastal development increases, we expect to see an increasing level of interaction between boats and sea turtles. Several treatment modalities have proven useful for traumatic injuries encountered in sea turtles and other aquatic chelonians, including:

1.  A skull fracture caused by boat propeller strikes was repaired with a movable external fixator. This device allowed the infected bone to be cleaned and debrided daily while slowly closing the fractured skull.

2.  Deep boat strike wounds have been treated with heavy debridement and cleaning followed by packing the wound with honey and honeycomb. Wound healing properties of honey include high osmolality, low concentration hydrogen peroxide activity, antibacterial phytochemicals, and stimulation of the immune system.

3.  Vacuum-assisted wound care has been used successfully on a number of aquatic patients. Aquatic turtles present challenges with this method of therapy, because they must be kept out of water when the suction is on.

4.  Bacterial osteomyelitis cases have been treated with bone cement impregnated with antibiotics and Doxirobe gel (Pharmacia & Upjohn Co., Division of Pfizer Inc., NY, NY) placed directly on the wounds. Both products protect the site being treated and provide very high concentrations of antibiotics directly on the wound over an extended period of time.


Speaker Information
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Terry M. Norton, DVM, DACZM
Georgia Sea Turtle Center
Jekyll Island, GA, USA

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