New experimental therapy for suffering sea turtle

Will undergo hyperbaric oxygen therapy

LOXAHATCHEE, Fla. - After a brutal shark attack left a sea turtle suffering, South Florida veterinarians have been coming up with ways to treat the turtle for nearly a year.

Kahuna was found near Hutchinson Island in August 2010, with nearly 60% of her front left flipper missing, and several deep lacerations on her right front flipper. After nine months of rehabilitation treatment, antibiotics, vitamins, and surgery, the sea turtle's future is still uncertain.

Now the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach is partnering with Equine Hyperbaric Center of South Florida at Reid and Associates in Loxahatchee, to perform an experimental procedure involving hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

"Kahuna, our large adult female loggerhead, has a bone infection from a shark attack that had caused an infection in the flippers," says hospital coordinator Melissa Ranly.

"I think it's a great idea. We've been talking about trying it for six months," says Meg Miller, a veterinarian. "It took this long to get it in the works, but there are a lot of turtles out there that can't be released."

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been used to treat bone infection in humans and other animals. Now doctors are optimistic it will also help heal Kahuna.

"She seems to be responding really well, and her comfort level has gotten a lot better, and we're really hoping that this will achieve the results we're looking for," says Ranly.

During the therapy sessions, Kahuna will breathe 100% oxygen while inside a treatment chamber.

"To our knowledge, it's not been done on sea turtles, but we know it's been a practice that's worked really well on horses, and dogs, and cats and other animals," says Ranly.

The Equine Hyperbaric Center of South Florida will perform the 45-minute treatments for more than two weeks.

"The aim is to get her healed enough that they can release her back into the wild," says Miller.

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