Diagnostic Performance of Readily Available Analytes in the Diagnosis of Inflammation in Gopher Tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2017
Justin F. Rosenberg1, DVM; James F.X. Wellehan, Jr.1, DVM, MS, PhD, DACZM, DACVM (Virology, Bacteriology/Mycology), DECZM (Herpetology); Jorge A. Hernandez2, DVM, MPVM, PhD; Sarah E. Crevasse1; Carolyn Cray3, PhD; Nicole I. Stacy2, DVM, Dr med vet, DACVP
1Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA; 2Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA; 3Division of Comparative Pathology, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, FL, USA


Hematology can be a useful diagnostic tool for evaluating systemic health in many species and can provide valuable information into the presence of underlying inflammatory disease; however, reptilian hematology is often unreliable since the reptilian patient may exhibit a leukocytosis, leukopenia, or normal leukogram during times of infection and/or inflammation.5,6 Thus, there exists a need to develop more reliable methods for diagnosing and monitoring inflammation in reptiles. Several readily available diagnostic tests such as erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), lactate, fibrinogen, and plasma protein electrophoresis (EPH) can provide insight into inflammatory disease in a multitude of species.1-4 These tests are nonspecific in that they detect changes caused by inflammation of any etiology, but provide useful information about the presence of systemic inflammation. To the author’s knowledge, none of these analytes have been extensively evaluated in terrestrial chelonians. The objective of this study was to investigate the diagnostic performance of readily available inflammatory markers in the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus). In total, n=24 healthy and n=38 sick animals met the inclusion criteria. Reference ranges for healthy tortoises were established for ESR, lactate, fibrinogen by heat precipitation, EPH, and hematology. Receiver operating characteristic analysis revealed that the highest performing diagnostic tests were ESR (AUC=0.812; 95% CI=0.693–0.900), absolute heterophils (AUC=0.771; 95% CI=0.646–0.869), WBC estimate (AUC=0.767; 95% CI=0.642–0.866), and lactate (AUC=0.766; 95% CI=0.641–0.864). These results provide additional tools for the diagnosis and monitoring of inflammatory disease in gopher tortoises. Clinicians may consider adding ESR and lactate to the minimum database for this species.


The authors would like to thank Dr. Marjorie Bercier, Dr. Kyle Donnelly, Hollie Chiles, Cindy Coalter, and Justin Allen for their contributions to the animals cared for at the University of Florida Zoological Medicine Service. Additionally, Kathy Russell and the students/staff at Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo are recognized for providing long-term care to the healthy tortoises used in this study.

Literature Cited

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3.  Lewbart GA, Hirschfeld M, Denkinger J, Vasco K, Guevara N, García J, Muñoz, Lohmann KJ. Blood gases, biochemistry, and hematology of Galapagos green turtles (Chelonia mydas). PLoS One. 2014;9(5):e96487.

4.  Parkinson L, Olea-Popelka F, Klaphake E, Dadone L, Johnston M. Establishment of a fibrinogen reference interval in ornate box turtles (Terrapene ornata ornata). J Zoo Wildl Med. 2016;47:754–759.

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Speaker Information
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Justin F. Rosenberg, DVM
Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences
College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL, USA

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