It seems like turtles are always hungry. Just the mere mention of food gets their heads bobbing, and don’t even get us started about their behavior once the food hits the water.
It’s feeding time at this aquarium, and the staff start by feeding the turtles lettuce and then follow up with protein in the form of fish, shellfish, and mollusks. At first, the turtles appear to have no trouble at all eating their food, with some even competing with one another over who gets the first bite from the lettuce leaf. But one turtle in particular, which the aquarium staff call ‘Maggie,’ has a bit of trouble eating.
Maggie’s bite plates are overgrown, and this makes it very challenging for her to grab and crush any of her food. As you might come to expect, her inability to grab and chew her food causes a lot of trouble for her when she’s surrounded by a plethora of able-bodied turtles, and that’s why she’s being fed separately – at least until she undergoes a minor dental procedure.
A turtle’s bite plate is comprised of keratin, the same stuff that makes up hair, nails, and even horns. It won’t wear down over time, which is why these veterinarians are prepared to grind down some of the overgrowth. Obviously, the goal is to make it to where Maggie can grab and chew her food just like any other turtle. If the procedure isn’t performed, then there may come a day when Maggie won’t be able to eat at all.
Once the day for Maggie’s procedure arrives, she’s transported to a medical room where she’s injected with an anesthetic. In about 15 minutes, everyone’s ready to rock. Using a standard Dremel and grinding tools, the veterinarians remove the plate overgrowth. Maggie doesn’t feel one bit of it since there aren’t any nerve endings where the grinding takes place.
Following the procedure, Maggie finds opening and closing her mouth to be a much easier task. Aquarium staff notice immediately that she appears to be eating with less effort and putting on more weight. In time, she’s returned to the exhibit with the rest of the animals to live a normal life.