Acupuncture for Tortoises

I was recently asked by another vet about acupuncture for a tortoise who lost hind limb function. Here’s my response: I do treat tortoises, including my own :) The most important thing you can do is get a good skeletal anatomy chart of a tortoise. Familiarize yourself with their structure, especially limb structure, and transpose the points based on their locations that you already know for other species.


Hindlimb paresis/paralysis tortoises is typically caused by one of the following: renal or coelomic mass or abscess, neoplasia compressing spine or sciatic nerves, enlarged kidneys/severe renal disease. TCVM: Phlegm, Stagnation, KIdney and or Spleen Deficiencies. Some cases are not truly paresis/paralysis, but extreme weakness due to nutritional deficiencies, poor diet, or anorexia. TCVM - Qi deficiency, Blood deficiency, Spleen Qi deficiency, Wei Syndrome. Not hydrated = Yin Deficiency. If the shell is deformed, nutritional deficiencies and/or renal disease are likely part of this tortoise’s problem set, but that doesn’t rule out neoplasia. To be complete, radiographs, advanced imaging and/or laparoscopy would be the gold standard to reach a Western diagnosis. If diagnostics are not going to happen, this is an excellent case to utilize TCVM to see if you can make a difference for this patient.





Here are some ways to help:

Acupuncture: needle, Vitamin B12 aqua pressure or moxa on ST 36, SP 6, LI 10, KID 1, KID 3, BL 60. Four gates LI 4/LIV 3. You can also use EAP or laser if you have access to those. If he/she seems really slow and is seeking heat (this indicates patient has reduced metabolism due to disease or husbandry) Make sure the ambient temp is around 85 F or he/she can begin to brumate/shut down metabolism.

Food therapy: If the patient is not eating well, just get them eating. Diet varies among species - find a reliable source and follow the husbandry. You can consult a veterinary textbook. Also feed based your TCVM diagnosis.

Herbs: Once you have your TCVM diagnosis - herbs can be very effective.


Vitamin A deficiency: Very common in tortoises. You could consider a dose of Vitamin A 2000 injectable. If patient is eating well, feed dark leafy greens known to be higher in vitamin A.

Hydration: Soak this friend daily 10 - 15 minutes in warm bath water temp or administer SQ fluids or both.


This should get you started! I hope you can help this friend. They are such amazing beings. — Dr. Nell #integrativevet


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