Veterinarians remove swallowed fishhook from turtle

By Charlie Powell, College of Veterinary Medicine

turtle-with-hookPULLMAN, Wash. – A recent patient was delivered via overnight carrier to the Washington State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital with a fishhook lodged in his throat.

Sheldon, a Western painted turtle, arrived from Montana thanks to a referral by veterinarian Olivia Seddon at Vet-To-Go, Inc., in Billings. Transportation and payment for medical services are being covered by the Humane Society of the United States.

On arrival at WSU’s Exotics and Wildlife section in the hospital, Sheldon underwent a series of radiographs to locate the hook. Digital images revealed that it was perforating the mid-throat beyond the base of the tongue.

It is most likely that the turtle encountered the barbed, inch-long, baited hook because it was either lost or unattended in a local fishery. It is also possible someone teased the turtle with the fishing gear and hooked it intentionally.

After anesthetizing Sheldon earlier this week, intubating him and placing him on an anesthetic ventilator, veterinarian Nickol Finch could easily see fishing line protruding into his mouth from the hook’s eye. Finch spent significant time trying to manipulate the hook out without further damaging the esophagus.

“Eventually, I had to make an incision in Sheldon’s neck to remove the hook intact,” she said. “After removal, we placed a temporary, external feeding tube in the incision to ensure Sheldon gets complete nutrition. It will be removed in a few days and the wound will be closed.”

The entire procedure took almost two hours.

The prognosis for Sheldon is good and he will likely be returned to the wild.

Find video and photos by Henry Moore Jr., WSU biomedical communications unit, at


Charlie Powell, WSU College of Veterinary Medicine public information officer, cell/text 509-595-2017,