Tortoise Owner Shell-Shocked by Vet Diagnosis

February 15, 2023

An Essex animal lover was left shell-shocked when vets revealed her tortoise needed urgent life-saving surgery to remove a huge bladder stone which was almost a third of her body weight.

Alei Wigmore, from Leigh-on-Sea, admitted she feared the worst as Frieda, her precious pet for 50 years, prepared to go under the knife.

So, it was a weight off her mind when Daniel Calvo Carrasco, a specialist vet at Linnaeus-owned Southfields Veterinary Specialists in Basildon, removed the enormous 600-gram blockage – a similar weight to a small bunch of bananas!

Alei said: “We were incredibly shocked and the thought of losing Frieda after 50 years was very upsetting.

“We had no idea she even had an issue. We only knew she had looked to lay eggs in the summer but we couldn’t find any.

“Consequently, when we she had her pre-hibernation check, we asked for an X-ray and that was when this large mass was identified.

“We felt guilty in case we had contributed to it and anxious about what could be done, as we knew Frieda would not survive with the stone so leaving it was not an option.

“We were also very concerned as we knew it would be a big deal for her and we had no experience of tortoise surgery.

“It was a worrying time but Daniel at Southfields was nothing short of amazing.

“He spent hours in our first consultation running through our husbandry (it turned out we were just unlucky), checking Frieda and explaining the procedure and way forward.

“At the end of the appointment, we felt reassured she was in the best hands and stood a really good chance of pulling through.”

Frieda certainly was in good hands. Daniel, an RCVS specialist in Zoo and Wildlife Medicine and a European Specialist in Avian Medicine and Surgery, has more than a decade’s experience in caring for exotic animals across the world.

He explained: “Frieda first presented at her local vets as she had been straining to pass her eggs and not laying any.

“An x-ray revealed there was a large mass in the coelom (the reptile abdomen) and that’s when Frieda was then referred to us.

“She was 1.9kg when she was admitted to Southfields and the bladder stone was 600g, almost a third of that. Even I was shocked by the size of it.

“It was so large the best method of treatment was surgery. We took her to surgery and entered the ceolom (reptile abdomen) by cutting through the bottom of the shell.

“Once inside, we removed the stone and the eggs that had become stuck. We replaced the shell and fixed it in place with dental putty and woke her up. From pre-medication to recovery, it took about six hours.”

Alei is delighted and full of praise for Daniel and the Southfields team, adding: “Everyone was kind, interested and genuinely wanted to know about her throughout the whole process.

“There was a lot of thought and care, and I would definitely recommend Southfields without any hesitation.

“Frieda’s recovery has taken a while, as it would with a tortoise. She stopped eating shortly after surgery and needed daily injections until we got her eating again.

“She’s so much better now. I am sure she is much more comfortable and is certainly making up for missing out of a few weeks of food!”

Southfields is dedicated to providing the highest standards of veterinary care for pets and providing a seamless service to owners and referring vets.

The referral centre, which moved to a new state-of-the-art £16 million hospital last summer, offers specialist services such as anaesthesia and analgesia, cardiology, dentistry, dermatology, diagnostic imaging, exotics, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, radiation and soft tissue surgery.

For more information about the care we offer for Exotic pets at Southfields, click here.