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DrRalston, Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 2207
Experience:  Over twelve years of internal medicine, surgery, and preventive care.
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My male tortoise has a large calcium like ball which he is

Customer Question

My male tortoise has a large calcium like ball which he is trying to pass, can you recommend a way to reduce the size or to soften it ie: bthing
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Shantal-Mod replied 3 years ago.
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Expert:  Shantal-Mod replied 3 years ago.
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Expert:  DrRalston replied 3 years ago.
Hello, I am Dr Ralston. Thanks for your question.

The first question I am going to ask is what type of tortoise do you have?

The two most common occurances I would think of would be cystolith or troubles passing an egg. You have told me that your tortoise is a male, but this can be very difficult to tell depending on the species. What you are seeing as the "penis" could actually be the "ovipositor". It could be that you have a female and she is trying to pass an egg!

Please don't take offense at this statement. For all I know you could be a herpetologist. That's great if you are, especially if you are a specialist of chelonians. BUT, I have to mention it. And, just because she is 40 does not mean she can not produce an egg.

When no physical obstruction is present and patients are provided with a suitable location for egg deposition, the situation will often resolve. Reptiles often respond well to injection of oxytocin at 5-10 mg/kg if calcium is corrected first. If patients have a physical obstruction, surgical removal is necessary and should be initiated once the patient is stabilized. Occasionally, very caudal malformed eggs may be deflated by ovocentesis per cloaca and removed.

Now, if it is calcium cystolith (which is a bladder stone), it could be trying to pass through a penis. And you might infact have a male. If it is very small, you might be able to massage the penis with k-y jelly, and help it to pass. If it is very large, it will have to be surgically removed. In this case, it might have to be pushed back into the bladder during the procedure. But the tortoise will have to be anesthetized.

An x-ray can tell you for certain if that is an egg or a cystolith - bladder stone. After this is determined, the patient is gassed down, IV cather placed, an ET tube might be placed as well, and is a good idea, and then a hole is actuall created in the bottom portion of the carapace (shell) to expose the bladder. The stone is then removed, but some of them are so large that they have to be broken into pieces to get them out.

Tortoises typically do very well after this procedure. And those stones can form over a VERY long time, and become VERY VERY VERY large!

So, in short, there is not much you can do at home. If it is an egg, it will need to be removed to avoid further problems, or it can be punctured and deflated and it might pass on it's own. But, the problem is when they are straining for a long time, their own calcium levels get depleted, the muscles get weaker and it gets harder for them. In addition they might become dehydrated. They need to be rehydrated by fluids.

If it is a stone, it is likely not going to pass, and you will need surgery. Try local Vet Schools or Wildlife speciality rescues because they might have a Vet on board that can do this kind of thing.

I hope I have been helpful. Shantel was trying to find a Vet that works with reptiles and exotics. I do have an interest in them, but unfortunately, there are not a lot of us out there.

If you have questions, I would be glad to try to assist ok?