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Exotic Specialists Remove Headphone from Turtle’s Stomach

December 13, 2015

A turtle is prepared for a CT scan in an attempt to locate an ingested foreign body.

A turtle is prepared for a CT scan in an attempt to locate an ingested foreign body.

While the overwhelming majority of animals seen at the UC Davis veterinary hospital are dogs, cats and horses, the Companion Exotic Animal Medicine and Surgery Service annually treats thousands of non-traditional pets through regularly scheduled appointments and emergencies. One of those emergencies was a 28-year-old turtle that was suspected of eating a headphone ear bud. The owners found visible bite marks on one of the ear buds, but could not find the matching one of the pair. As an after-hours emergency, the turtle was brought to UC Davis, one of the few 24/7 emergency facilities in Northern California capable of treating a turtle.

After radiographs failed to positively identify the ear bud, the hospital’s Diagnostic Imaging Service performed a CT scan, as that was the best imaging modality for finding the ear bud and determining its location. The scan revealed an object that closely resembled an identical bud the owners brought with them. An endoscopic retrieval, if possible, or surgical intervention was recommended to remove the foreign object from the turtle’s stomach.

Drs. David Guzman and Claire Grosset were able to successfully pass a 5.3mm diameter bronchoscope through the turtle’s esophagus, and produce a clear image of the ear bud in the pylorus of the stomach, within a large mass of ingested meal worms the turtle was fed earlier that evening. Luckily, rubber tipped endoscopic forceps were able to be used to grasp the foreign body and remove it through the oropharynx, avoiding invasive surgical intervention.

Other animals regularly seen by the Service include more than 250 different species of birds, reptiles, ferrets, rodents, rabbits, and fish.

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About the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
The William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis—a unit of the #1 world ranked School of Veterinary Medicine—provides state-of-the-art clinical care while serving as the primary clinical teaching experience for DVM students and post graduate veterinarian residents. The VMTH treats more than 51,000 animals a year, ranging from cats and dogs to horses, cows and exotic species. To learn more about the VMTH, please go to Timely news updates can be received on its Facebook ( and Twitter ( pages.

Media Contact:
Rob Warren
VMTH Communications & Marketing Officer