Thursday, April 29, 2010

Box turtles to the vet

My box turtles Fred and Ethel had a checkup this week. We went to Acacia Animal Health Center in Escondido, CA. This is the most upscale deluxe vet office I’ve ever seen, complete with boarding training, dog daycare, and upscale prices.

The service was excellent, the people are wonderful. The price blew me away: $63 for an exam, $50 for the second turtle. The reason for this luxury treatment? My box turtles needed their nails and beaks trimmed. It is recommended that you get this done every year, and I regret to admit it had been more like 5 years since I had taken them in.

Turtles can wear down their beaks by eating hard foods but mine seemed to need some help. The vet says they appear exceptionally healthy, so a nutritional deficiency didn’t seem to be the answer. Sometimes a cuttlebone (like you would put in a birdcage) will help, and it is a good source of calcium. Mine ignore it.

The doctor used a dremel tool to grind down the beak. Any kind of clippers might split the beak and cause an infection. You can see their nice short beaks in the photo above. Before clipping, the end of the beak extended down below the lower jaw like a hook.

They are kept in an 18 “ x 36” terrarium, so they don’t wear down their nails either. If they were out in the yard they could dig, but a predator would eat them. Also, box turtles are masters at hiding. Let one loose, and they’ll go under your deck and disappear forever. So keeping them in the back yard is not a good option.

Regular clippers work well on turtle toenails, and just like dogs and cats, you have to be careful not to cut into the quick and cause bleeding. I decided to let the veterinarian do it. 

The charge for “grooming” was $39.50 each. ACKKK!! So for a mere $200, my box turtles are happy, healthy and well groomed. No wonder I only take them in every five years. I won’t wait that long again, because their overgrown beaks could impair their ability to eat. I’m not convinced every year is necessary. I’ll let you know about a year from now.

Box turtle care website:

The photo above was taken at the vet’s office. A nice touch; they photograph every client that comes in an add the photo to their file. Then they sent me a copy.
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