If you read the article about the turtle with heart then you may be prepared for this article of success with a reptile that was due for euthanization for her injuries.

A word of warning, the photos below are graphic!

Do not continue reading this if you are squeamish!

I received a call from animal control about an iguana that had been turned in by it's owner because they could not afford Veterinary care. Jim told me that the Iguana was in bad shape and had thick hard tissue on it's back but seemed alert and active, he asked if he should just put the animal down or if I wanted to come take a look. Since I was in the area and I have a very soft spot in my heart for Iguanas, I told him I would stop by and to expect me there within about 30 minutes.

When I arrived I found an alert female iguana with a very sweet temperament looking at me in the cage. She was quite friendly and even gave me a couple of friendly licks on my hand. She had been burned by a heat lamp and burned very badly!!! I was not sure that I could do much of anything for her, but since she was so sweet, I had to give her a chance.

phoenix burn before debridement

Phoenix out of the ashes!

The above picture was taken when I brought Phoenix home. You can see the dead skin and the raw tissue underneath where the dead tissue is beginning to pull away from the underlying tissue!

She was a real bad case, almost the worst thermal burn from a heat lamp that I have ever seen while doing rescue. The only one worse that came into rescue, did not survive because the lungs were also burned!

My Veterinarian and I gave her a Betadine soak, to help slough off the dead skin. We worked hard so that we would not have to do a surgical debridement because, we did not feel that she could tolerate the Anesthesia and did not want to compromise her further. What we found underneath the burn was awful! She had apparently gone underneath the heat lamp in her attempt to get warm enough and seriously burned her back. Reptiles can not feel when they are being burned and will remain under a heat lamp until their body temperature is comfortable for them. This is why it is so important to heat the air in the entire enclosure and keep heat lamps far enough away from where your reptile can perch to prevent such injury!

Once all the dead tissue had been removed we were able to visualize the extent of the injury. She had burned her back from just behind her shoulders to the base of her tail, over her back onto both sides but more so, on the right side. The burn went right down to the last layer of meat over the ribcage. Had it gone any deeper there would have been little hope because her lungs would have been exposed to the air causing them to not only collapse but expose them to all sorts of pathogens that would create a sepsis condition. Sepsis is when the blood becomes infected which in turn spreads the infection thruought the body. The resultant systemic infection will kill the animal.

She was lucky!
We started her on antibiotics and used Silvadine burn ointment to treat the surface of the wound twice a day, which meant that the area had to be cleaned twice a day, till she healed. She healed much quicker than my Veterianian and I thought she would. Here is a picture of her just two months later.

phoenix post debridement
Eventually, with determined supportive care she healed, although she will carry the scars from her ordeal for the rest of her life.

Phoenix eventually went to her new home with a family who loved her

Her Veterinarian bill was only $200 because we were able to avoid the surgical debridement and because my Veterinarian worked with me on her bill because he wanted to document her progress in treatment. Her adoption fee was $25 as it was for all Iguanas when I was able to accept them. The costs for her care??? She was with me for 6 months in our intensive care for 2 of those months.

Stories like Phoenix are the reasons that we do rescue!

If this compels you to donate to your local rescue, I commend you and send you warm feelings.
If this compels you to donate to our rescue you can visit the website at http://www.reptilerescueca.org

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Ramblings of a reptile rescuer
A Turtle with a lot of heart