Sully the Tortoise Successfully Undergoes Bladder Stone Removal Surgery

PetMD Editorial
Updated: March 02, 2016
Published: February 11, 2016
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Slow and steady wins the race, so it makes perfect sense that a 6-year-old Sulcata tortoise named Sully is making a gradual but healthy recovery after having bladder stone removal surgery. 

According to a press release from BluePearl Veterinary Partners, Sully—who underwent the prodecure at their facility in Tampla, Fla.—was brought in by his owner to treat a nosebleed. An x-ray revealed that Sully had a bladder stone the size of a softball and would need to be operated on. 

Dr. Peter Helmer took on the unique case and the even more unique surgery. Dr. Helmer explains to petMD that "the exact reason for the formation of these stones is not known," but they can cause great discomfort for the tortoise. 

The procedure itself required some stealth maneuvering, considering the tortoise has a much different exterior than most pets. Dr. Helmer had to create a flap in the [bottom] part of the shell in order to get to the bladder. He explains that "Sully's bone was approximately 15mm thick."

From there Helmer and his team used a surgical saw to create the opening, but as he notes, "You have to be very careful when cutting the bone, as the delicate soft tissue is just underneath and the saw could cause a lot of damage if significant care isn't taken."

In the end, the bladder stone removal was successful and Sully is on the mend. 

"He is slowly recovering," Dr. Helmer says, adding, "He is not eating on his own yet, but that is expected. A feeding tube was placed at the time of surgery to be able to help with his nutritional needs until he is eating on his own. It also helps to deliver oral medications as it is very difficult to give a tortoise a pill." 

While Sully is expected to be able to eat on his own within a few weeks, the bone could take upwards of a month to heal entirely. 

Still, even after that trying experience, Dr. Helmer confirms that Sully was nothing but a top-notch patient.

"He has a great temperament.  He responded to head scratches and he is really a neat pet."

For owners who are worried their pet tortoise may have a bladder stone like the one Sully had, Dr. Helmer described the symptoms to look out for in these otherwise stoic creatures. Some of the symproms include "blood in the urine, lack of appetite or lethargy, straining to urinate, multiple small urinations instead of larger amounts being voided."

Image: BluePearl Veterinary Partners