Pedro arrived one day near the ‘soon to adopt him’ family’s house. The family didn’t take long to realize that their new turtle, whom they named Pedro, was missing a back leg. Even so, it didn’t seem to slow him down (after all, we all know turtles are not ever in any hurry to get someplace).
The turtle hung around the house. Some days it would wander off, but it would later return. One day the turtle returned, and the owner discovered Pedro was missing another hind leg. This wasn’t good. All the innocent turtle could do is what we’d consider being, crawling. It didn’t take long for Pedro to heal from his wound. Although he was less mobile, he managed to “crawl” around. Pedro, being a ‘box turtle’, was still able to box up to protect himself. However, due to his mobility issues, his new family decided to make him a permanent indoor pet.
The owner, Sandra Traylor, decided to take it to Louisiana State University (LSU) to see if they might have any suggestions on how to help the two-legged turtle. Kelly Rockwell, DVM, is a zoological medicine intern. She is associated with the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. She said she had a long discussion with Traylor. After she learned the family decided to keep Pedro indoors, the staff might be able to make the turtle more mobile. She felt that if everyone worked together, they could figure out a way to add a prosthetic of some type. The staff discussed the possibility of 3-D printing something or trying to make him wheels.
The team found a Lego car kit. Rockwell and LSU veterinary student Sarah Mercer determined the best way to attach the new wheels to Pedro. Before long, the entire zoo med service, along with all of the students were helping with the project. It was determined that the axles would need to be long enough to fit his body. They all decided the prosthetic would need to be removed periodically for it to be cleaned. They tried a couple of ideas before finding the best way to make it fit Pedro properly. They used epoxy to attach the prosthetic to the turtle. Rockwell said it is the same epoxy that is used on horseshoes.
Other equipment was needed to complete the prosthetic. The team used syringe cases to assure the axles stayed together. They cut some pieces to make them smaller in order to fit Pedro.
Traylor said that her pet turtle has taken to the wheels without any problem. She said he adjusted right away to his new wheels. She is pleased that he can back up, go forward, backward, and turn. Traylor concluded, “Overall, he’s a happy camper.”
Rockwell said she loves zoo med. This is because it allows her to be very creative with her job. This was one more time that she got to be creative in order to help Pedro live a great quality of life.