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Holistic nursing approach to trauma wound management in a loggerhead sea turtle

02 December 2021
8 mins read
Volume 12 · Issue 10
Figure 1. Day 1 following dressing removal.


Wildlife Vets International provide support to many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) around the world with many species. The requirements for each species and project are different, but they are linked by the need to assess and if possible address all elements that will allow wound healing to occur. Sea turtles are a highly charismatic species and face many threats in the wild. Veterinary care of sea turtles needs to be optimal and carried out in a timely manner. Providing correct husbandry is essential for the healing of all reptile wounds, including sea turtles. It is important to remember we are nursing an intelligent, exothermic, ureotelic species, with a requirement for UV light, which is likely to be experiencing significant stress which we need to try and mitigate. Veterinary nurses are well placed to assist in assessing all these factors, documenting these assessments, creating care plans/bundles and, of course, carrying out the wound management itself. Dealing with the wound healing of wild animals is very challenging and complicated. A dynamic and holistic approach is essential, although sometimes overlooked, and every effort must be made to reduce treatment times. This will both improve welfare while under veterinary care, and will hopefully allow a timely return to the wild. New wound management products are becoming available all the time, and it is important that veterinary professionals are always looking for how they can use these in their wild animal patients, as well as always questioning why they use the materials they use.

A loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) was brought into the rescue centre by a member of the public — the turtle has sustained a traumatic head injury (Figure 1).

Species: Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta)

Age: Adult

Sex: Female

Wound location: Dorsal skull

A loggerhead sea turtle, that became known as ‘Chanel’, arrived at the rescue centre 2 months before the authors' arrival, after being rescued by a member of the public who had found her washed up on the beach. She had sustained a large, traumatic head injury, which was suspected to have occurred during a collision with a boat propeller. Sea turtles are prone to getting entangled in fishing gear and such incidents may often result in injuries or drowning. They may also fall victim to collisions with speed boats, especially near nesting beaches. Several cases of deliberately killed animals washing ashore have also been reported from different sites.

The wound was reported as a large, extensive injury, with parts of the brain tissue exposed and fractured bone fragments present.

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