has been taking care of Herbie for seven years. Herbie,
a box turtle, was a lost soul that Brandon found walking
in the street when he was 11 years old and has been part
of Brandonís life ever since. He lives outdoors in the
spring, summer and early fall and spends the winters
indoors in a heated terrarium.
has had no health issues while in Brandonís care until
he recently began to develop a swelling or mass on the
left side of his head. Brandon noticed Herbie not eating
with his normal amount of enthusiasm, especially when it
came to snails, Herbieís favorite food.
all his seven years with Brandon, the sight of a snail
would bring Herbie sprinting for the food dish; of
course, sprinting for a box turtle is a relative term.
decrease in glee over snails became more evident over a
few weeks until Brandon finally noticed the swelling.
is likely not possible to definitively determine the
cause of Herbieís swelling simply by looking. It may
be a swelling filled with liquid such as a cyst or it
could be a solid mass lesion. In order to figure out how
to help Herbie, we need to know what we are dealing
first step would be a simple test called a fine needle
aspirate ó a needle attached to a syringe is
introduced into the lesion to aspirate out some of the
material inside. The material would be looked at under a
is important to distinguish this procedure from a needle
biopsy. A needle biopsy involves actual tissue removal
from a lesion with a somewhat larger needle. This
harvested tissue is then sent to a pathologist for
processing and microscopic examination. This is a more
in-depth test and is also better at identifying a mass.
Herbieís case, I am confident that a simple fine
needle aspirate will give us the necessary information.
dealt with many box turtles over the past three decades
as a veterinarian, I am going to venture an educated
guess that Herbieís lesion is an abscess in his left
ear canal. These are fairly common in some species of
turtles, box turtles especially, and are usually caused
by an infection that starts in the mouth or throat and
goes up the Eustachian tube into the middle ear.
have this tube too; itís the one we try to open up
when we fly on an airplane to equalize the pressure
across the eardrum.
a bacterial infection sets up shop via this Eustachian
tube into the middle ear in a turtle, the infection
elicits a reaction from the body which causes pus to
form. This develops into an abscess, causing the
swelling Brandon has reported in Herbieís neck.
pus is very casseous or thick and somewhat chunky, so it
cannot be effectively drained with a needle. Instead,
Herbie will need an anesthetic procedure to allow
surgical lancing and cleaning out of his abscess.
with appropriate antibiotic therapy and continued
cleaning at home, Herbieís condition should be
entirely curable and return him to his snail-loving