Tifton veterinarian helps save turtle with hook in throat - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Tifton veterinarian helps save turtle with hook in throat

By  Stephanie Springer  - bio | email

TIFTON, GA (WALB) –A Tifton veterinarian encountered a rather unusual case when a family brought in a turtle they accidentally caught while fishing.

The turtle had a hook stuck in its esophagus, and the family didn't want to see it die.

Dr. Larry Branch is used to working on all kinds of creatures. "Raccoons, skunks even some hedge hogs have been in for some surgery," said Branch.

But when this little turtle came in, things got interesting. "When I first saw this turtle with a fish hook in his mouth, my first thought was should it be saved because most people don't want turtles in their pond," said Branch.

Dr. Branch says clients brought in the turtle after accidentally hooking him while fishing in a pond and they didn't want to see it die.

"Dr. Branch has one of the biggest hearts I know, he is not going to turn any stray or wild life that he knows he can help," said Jessica Gailey, veterinarian assistant.

"Poor fellow got our sympathy, especially with the grandchildren involved, so we decided to do the work," said Dr. Branch.

So Dr. Branch and his team of animal lovers got to work. The first challenge was getting the turtles head out of his shell. "Turtle anesthesia is especially challenging because they have a slow metabolism and drugs that are normally quick acting in dogs and cats are slow in turtles," said Dr. Branch.

And since the line was cut short, it was hard to even see the hook. "The biggest problem we had was getting down deep into a tiny little throat we could just barely see the fish hook," said Dr. Branch.

But with some creative thinking, "After running around the building for a while we actually found a soap bottle with a plastic tube that was just right for the job," said Branch.

And almost two hours of work they got the hook out of his esophagus. "It's hard for me to believe he would have lived long with a fish hook stuck behind his tongue in his esophagus," said Dr. Branch.

Dr. Branch says the turtle stayed overnight and even ate some dog and cat food. He won't be returning to the same pond.

Dr. Branch says if you go fishing make sure you take any leftover bait off the hook. If something does happen do not  pull on the fishing line, make sure leave plenty of fishing line attached so doctors can follow that line back to the hook.

Dr. Branch named the turtle Cooter because they think he is a Florida River Cooter.

They plan on releasing the turtle on the Alapaha river.

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