Veterinarians treat sea turtles with fibropapillomatosis

Sea turtle with eye tumors awaits surgery.

Green sea turtles, once listed as an endangered species, are rebounding in record numbers today in Florida but now face a new threat: fibropapillomatosis (FP), reported One AAHA-accredited hospital is helping.

Doug Mader, DVM, of AAHA-accredited practice Marathon Veterinary Hospital (MVH), along with five other veterinarians from MVH, volunteer at the Turtle Hospital, a rescue and rehabilitation hospital for sea turtles in the Florida Keys.

In the 20 years that Mader has been volunteering, he has seen the number of FB cases increase dramatically, a phenomenon he likens to the canary in the coal mine, a predictor of the changing environmental climate

“When I first started here 20 years ago, I would do six to eight [tumor removal procedures] a month,” Mader told “Now, we are doing six to eight a week.”

 “We suspect the cause of the disease is herpes, although we can’t fulfill Koch’s Postulates,” Mader told NEWStat.

FB causes both internal and external tumors.

If a CT scan or endoscopy reveals internal tumors, the patient is euthanized.  

If the tumors are external, they are surgically removed and the turtle stays at the hospital for a year to insure it is tumor free before being released to the wild.

When asked what the most rewarding part about his volunteer job is, Mader didn’t hesitate. “It’s releasing the turtles back into the wild. I’ve been present for about 50 releases. It is always a big day of celebration.”

Photo credit: Turtle Hospital

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