Shell Injuries: Repairing a Cracked Shell



There are a number of ways in which one can repair the cracked shell
of a turtle. The usual procedure includes washing the wound with an
antiseptic, application of an antibiotic, and closing of the crack with
epoxy. If the wound is already infected, closing should be postponed until
the wound is clean. 

Reader pomeroy@mwweb.com reports a story where someone used duct tape:

    "A little boy dropped his turtle on the cement and
    cracked it's shell.  They took it to the vet, and were told the turtle
    would have to be put to sleep.  The family could not bring themselves to
    put it to sleep, so they came up with the idea of taping the shell back
    together with duct tape.  I'm not sure how long they kept the tape on the
    turtle, but the shell did repair itself over time."

If you do have a turtle with a cracked shell, it is advantageous to seek the
help of a veterinarian to help deal with cleaning and prevention of infection.

Here is more...
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Depending on how damaged the shell was, a damaged turtle can die
of shock, an infection following the damage, or internal injuries
that accompanied the shell damage. 

Opinions vary a bit about shell repair, but here is what I know.
It is always a good idea to have a vet assist, beacause they
have sterile tools available, and they are used to working in
a sterile manner. 

Most commonly, today it is suggested that small cracks should
simply be cleaned with an antiseptic and dressed with sterile
gauze and tape and left to heal. This can take a long time, and
as long as there is an open wound, it must be kept very clean. 
Some experts propose to not repair smaller wounds so that
no infectious agents get enclosed; others suggest to repair, so
nothing can get into the wound. There is no proof one or the
other works better.

For large cracks, the shell must be repaired. This can be 
rather difficult and requires surgical skills. While small
cracks are often fixed with super-glue or something like it
(it must be a water insoluble glue, that when dry is inert),
bigger cracks are usually fixed with epoxy and strips of 
figerglass. If you are not used to working with these materials,
have someone help you, who is. It's not difficult, but a bit
tricky to mix the epoxy just right. Wear gloves to work with
fiberglass, and cover the turtle's head.

Do not squeeze the shell together; this can cause additional
injuries.

There  are a number of articles in veterinary
books (Frye, Reptile Care) and herp magazines (Vivarium). If you
seriously want to get into this, I encourage you to consult seek 
out those sources.

After repairing the shell, the turtle can/may/should be put
on a prophylactic course of antibiotics. (Opinions vary here, too.)

If the crack is not repaired, it should be washed with an antiseptic
and or covered with an antibiotic cream at all times. A water turtle
should be kept out of the water (except for a 30 minute bath twice
a day for hydration) and in a warm box. (More about on the web site under
shell problems.)



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