Eighty-five year old Alfred – Pet of the Month January 2017
Alfred is an eighty-five year old tortoise who first presented at the hospital in July 2016 with an eye infection and anorexia. Mrs Pearse, Alfred’s owner explained “Alfred usually stops eating at the end of August before hibernation but in June he simply stopped eating and refused any food however hard I tried to tempt him to eat. We could see he was losing a lot of weight and realised we needed to take him to the hospital.”
Vet Dee Collins started him on treatment for his eye and supportive treatment – rehydration and hand and syringe feeding – for his anorexia. However, despite appearing bright, Alfred was still not eating after ten days of treatment. Dee explained how this presented a problem, “Because syringe feeding can traumatise the throat and is labour intensive and stressful for both tortoise and owner (many tortoises will refuse to open their mouths), we decided to place a semi-permanent feeding tube in Alfred. Under general anaesthetic, this tube was inserted into the oesophagus via the skin and this meant that Alfred’s owner, Mrs Prease, could be feed him through the tube, without having to restrain or stress Alfred.”
Maintaining a feeding tube is not an easy feat and Mrs Pearse did extremely well. Alfred needed the tube cleaned daily and three tube feeds daily, which were time consuming and took a lot of dedication. Mrs Pearse explained “When Dee told me what she was recommending, at first I thought “How am I going to handle all this – the tube feeding and scheduling the regular feeds each day?” But we took one step at a time and it just became part of our lives. Alfred has been a part of our family for so long – he was my mother’s and when she died we took him on. He has been there to see our children and now our grand children growing up. We wanted to do everything we could to help him.”
The feeding tube remained in place for six months during which time Alfred’s appetite slowly improved. Mrs Pearse made big changes – Alfred became an indoor tortoise and did not hibernate at all over the winter (it is not recommended to hibernate tortoises who are not fully healthy). He pulled the feeding tube out himself in February, by which time he was eating well enough to not need it any more. Since then he has been doing really well and although very old now he seems very happy in himself.
Mrs Pearse added “If Alfred dies having enjoyed another summer in the sun although I would be devastated, he is getting very old and I would know we did our very best for him. The team at Quantock showed huge dedication in helping him through this episode – we have travelled from Taunton for many years for the care they give tortoises and they did not let us down. We are very grateful.”