Successful Treatment of Severe Ulcerative Dermatitis in an Aubry’s Flapshell Turtle (Cycloderma aubryi)

Scientific Studies

Successful Treatment of Severe Ulcerative Dermatitis in an Aubry’s Flapshell Turtle (Cycloderma aubryi)

  • October 4 2023
  • Companion Studies

Published: The Journal of Herpetological Medicine and Surgery, Volume 32, No. 4, 2022 pp.262-270

Keyword: Photobiomodulation, PBM, Laser therapy, Shell rot, Ulcerative Dermatitis, Softshell turtle

Author(s): S. DiRuzzo, P. Praschag, L. Miller, M. Brodsky

Overview     

This study describes successful treatment of severe ulcerative dermatitis in a softshell turtle using advanced imaging (CT), surgical debridement and ostectomy, supportive care, husbandry modifications, and photobiomodulation (PBM).  This report highlights that PBM can be a valuable therapeutic tool that should be considered for treatment of ulcerative dermatitis in softshell turtles, especially patients with delayed wound healing or chronic dermatologic lesions.  

Materials/Methods    

An adult, wild-caught, intact female Aubry’s flapshell turtle (Cycloderma Aubryi) that had been in the collection for 21 months presented with rapid onset of multifocal, tan-white, 1.5cm and smaller crateriform, ulcerated lesions on the carapace and plastron. Empirical antibiotic therapy, initiated on the suspicion of an infectious etiology, yielded no clinical improvement and the disease progressed. Multifocal osteomyelitis was visible deep to the dermatological lesions on the carapace and plastron on computed tomography (CT) imaging, and culture results included Stenotrophomonas maltophilia and Achromobacter (Alcaligenes) xylosoxidans. Two months after surgical debridement and ostectomy, healing of lesions was incomplete and slow to progress. Photobiomodulation (PBM) was initiated. 

Results   

17 days after PBM was initiated on some of the lesions, grossly visible indications of progressive healing were evident.  There were no indications of healing in the untreated lesions.  Treatment with PBM was subsequently implemented for all lesions and the patient made a full recovery.   

Conclusions

PBM can be a valuable therapeutic tool that should be considered for treatment of ulcerative dermatitis in softshell turtles, especially patients with delayed wound healing or chronic dermatologic lesions, and it is a therapeutic modality that warrants continued research and evaluation for use with exotic species.  Therapeutic modalities that support or enhance wound healing allow patients to be returned more quickly to optimal husbandry conditions and may play an important role in achieving successful outcomes in aquatic turtle species.