Drowned - don't try this at home!

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Drowned - don't try this at home!

Post by Heather » 07 May 2021, 13:43

Earlier this week I read a fascinating article in my BCG (British Chelonia Group) newsletter (no 260, Mar/Apr '21) - Veterinary Corner.

A 60y/o Hermann's, missing for two days, was found at the bottom of the garden pond. The short version is that 5 days later it was discharged, alive & well, by the vet.

Having read the article, I did some googling, & found a long thread of incidents on one tortoise site, recounting many drownings. The only one not to survive was euthanised by a vet as 'no hope'. The owner subsequently also googled, & realised that the vet may have been hasty, sadly.

I now know that chelonians have a 'dive reflex' & can lower their metabolic rate & survive lowered levels of oxygen by 'cardiac shunting'. Modern veterinary medicine is needed, in most cases, to prevent subsequent infections. 'First aid' is relatively simple, & in some cases appears to be successful, without veterinary help. A bit like CPR for mammals (mainly us!), a little knowledge of this kind can, & will, save lives!

I searched this site for 'drowning' & only found two references, neither relevant, so I'm guessing this ability to survive is not 'common knowledge'..?

I feel that all tortoise owners should be aware of this trait, so that, if the unthinkable happens, they don't give up. The descriptions of 'drowned' torts were pretty gruesome & unhopeful, so the moral is - never give up.

However, please, don't try this at home!....


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Re: Drowned - don't try this at home!

Post by Nina » 07 May 2021, 18:05

Thanks for posting this, Heather! I've just read that article too, and I learned a lot because I'd never heard of cardiac shunting (for those of you who haven't heard of it either, it is a process whereby the blood flow can bypass the lungs and continue to deliver oxygen to other body tissues. I gather that all ectothermic animals (torts, lizards, snakes etc.) have this ability, but it's something I never knew about before, so this has been really informative.

Aren't they amazing creatures!


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