Featured Patient: Gamera
A 12-year-old, African spur-thighed tortoise recently had its left
front leg amputated at Washington State University's College of
Veterinary Medicine and is doing well with a swiveling wheel
attached to his shell.
The tortoise was relinquished by its owner on April 20 because
the animal's leg had suffered a severe thermal injury and tissue
damage from an unknown source. The veterinarian making the
initial diagnosis referred the tortoise and its ownership to
WSU's veterinary teaching hospital for definitive care. In this
case, the injury was life-threatening so the decision to
amputate was made.
Subsequent surgery by Dr. Courtney Watkins, a final year surgery
resident, and Dr. Nickol Finch, head of WSU's Exotic Animal
Service required that the limb be amputated at the shoulder and,
as a precaution, that a temporary feeding tube be surgically
To help the animal ambulate after the surgery, a small swiveling
ball-type caster was attached to its shell with an epoxy
adhesive. The animal took to his new prosthetic quickly with
little encouragement and ambulates well on most surfaces.
"Understandably, complicated amputations in tortoises are not
common surgeries so we did not know how well he would eat
afterwards," said Dr. Finch. "The feeding tube just ensured we
could keep his nutrition up."
The nutritional strategy worked. On admission, the tortoise
weighed almost 20 pounds and today weighs more than 23 pounds.
The tortoise is part of a larger group of similar animals native
to northern Africa known as sulcata tortoises. They are
increasingly found in the U.S. pet trade and are captive bred
also. The largest such tortoise on record topped 232 pounds. The
oldest known sulcata tortoise in captivity is 56 years old.
WSU's tortoise is named Gamera. The name comes from a fictional
giant, flying turtle from a popular series of Japanese giant
monster films produced in 1965. Gamera was a creation of Daiei
Motion Picture Company to rival the success of Toho Studios'