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Exotic Pets
Lightening Hendricks

Age: 60+ years    Breed: Desert Tortoise


Diagnosis: Trauma to legs and abdomen

Having a pet in the family for over 50 years seems nearly impossible, but the Hendricks estimate that Lightening, their not-so-speedy California Desert Tortoise, is probably over 60 years old. She has lived in their yard for, literally, decades. Last September, however, they found her not moving, with large gaping wounds in front of both of her rear legs. The wounds were deep, all the way through the skin, perhaps entering the belly, and filled with debris and maggots.


Lightening was understandably painful and ill, not moving much and losing interest in eating. She was sedated and her wounds were cleaned aggressively. She was hospitalized for two weeks with daily wound care, antibiotics, and force feedings, when finally the wounds looked clean enough to try to surgically close them. Under anesthesia, the wounds were surgically closed and a feeding tube placed so that the Hendricks could continue to medicate and feed her at home. Lightening seemed to be recovering at home when it started to get cold outside and her instinct to brumate (reptile version of hibernate) took over. At the end of October, her wounds were still not healed, but the feeding tube needed to be removed and she needed to be allowed to brumate. The Hendricks kept their fingers crossed that their aggressive care before her brumation would allow her to wake up in the spring still healthy and healing.


In March of this year, Lightening "woke up" and started to eat on her own. A recheck revealed that the sutures could finally be removed. There were still small defects in the incision but they appeared to be healing without complication. The Hendricks still needed to clean the wounds and apply topical medication but it appeared Lightening would make a full recovery. As of June 2010, a final recheck has shown that Lightening has healed completely. The Hendricks are finally able to take a break from tending to her wounds, and are both happy and unhappy to report that she is healthy enough to be breaking into their garden and stealing green beans off their plants. While dogs may take weeks to heal, reptiles can take months or longer, but can recover from severe injuries given the proper care and time.

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