Urolithiasis in Chelonians: 38 Cases (1987–2012)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2012

Krista A. Keller1, DVM; Michelle G Hawkins2, VMD, DABVP (Avian); Jodi L. Westropp2,3, DVM, PhD, DACVIM; E.P. Scott Weber III2, VMD, MSc; Annette L. Ruby3, BA; Philip H. Kass4, DVM, PhD, DACVPM; David Sanchez Migallon-Guzman2, LV, MS, DECZM (Avian), DACZM

1William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA, USA; 2Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA, USA; 3G.V. Ling Urinary Stone Analysis Laboratory, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA, USA; 4Department of Population Health and Reproduction, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA, USA


Urolithiasis is commonly reported in chelonians.2-5 The aims of this retrospective study were to evaluate the presentations and clinicopathologic, imaging, and surgical procedures performed in chelonians with urolithiasis. The medical records of client-owned chelonians presented to the University of California, Davis, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) between 1987 and 2012 were reviewed and 38 cases with confirmed urolithiasis were identified. The inclusion criteria were confirmation of urinary calculi through computed tomography (13/38), ultrasound (5/38), postmortem examination (21/38), or surgery (20/38). Cases that had radiographs with only a suspicion of the presence of urinary calculi were not included. The most common species represented was the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) (29/38). Of the 34 patients that the sex was reported, 18 were male and 16 were female. Sixteen patients presented either as a referral for suspected urolithiasis or for signs directly associated with the clinical manifestation of urolithiasis including constipation, egg binding, and/or cloacal prolapse. Thirty-one patients had blood work available for analysis. For the desert tortoises, the mean hematology and plasma biochemistry values that were outside of reference intervals1 included packed cell volume, heterophil count, concentrations of aspartate aminotransferase, total protein, and globulin. Of the 20 animals that had surgical intervention for their calculi, 60% received a plastronotomy (12/20) and three cases received lithotripsy intervention. Twelve of the 38 presented cases had calculi analyzed and were all composed of 100% urate. Urate urolith prevention strategies, including diet and environmental changes, should be evaluated further in chelonians.

Literature Cited

1.  Dickinson VM, Jarchow JL, Trueblood MH. Hematology and plasma biochemistry reference range values for free-ranging desert tortoises in Arizona. J Wildl Dis. 2002;38(1):143–153.

2.  Homer BL, Berry KH, Brown M, et al. Pathology of diseases in wild desert tortoises from California. J Wildl Dis. 1998;34(3):508–523.

3.  Mader D. Calculi: urinary. In: Mader, DR. Reptile Medicine and Surgery. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders; 2005:763–771.

4.  Mader DR, Ling GV, Ruby AL. Cystic calculi in the California desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii): evaluation of 100 cases. In: Association of Amphibian and Reptile Annual Conference. October 5–9, 1999; Columbus, OH. 81–82.

5.  McKown RD. A cystic calculus from a wild western spiny softshell turtle (Apalone [Trionyx] spiniferus hartwegi). J Zoo Wildl Med. 1998;29(3):347.


Speaker Information
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Krista A. Keller, DVM
William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
School of Veterinary Medicine
University of California
Davis, CA, USA

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