Several months ago I was presented with a tragic case. A hatchling Gopherus agassizii (6 months old) had died suddenly and several others in a group of eight were lethargic and not eating.

As is standard procedure in a case like this, the dead hatchling was immediately autopsied to determine cause of death. The hatchling appeared basically normal but was solidly impacted from stomach to rectum with coarse aquarium gravel! Needless to say, the little animal had not been able to pass this material and had died from inanition and shock.

The other hatchlings were immediately arranged on an X-ray plate with tape markings placed on each to help differentiate them. The resulting radiograph showed that all were loaded with gravel, although none as bad as the one that had died.

Each hatchling was given a mineral oil enema with an eyedropper and an oral dose of several drops of mineral oil. The owner was instructed to take them off gravel, put them on dirt and to give mineral oil daily.

Over the next few days they began to pass a large amount of gravel. Several radiographs over the next few weeks showed that all were passing the gravel and all the remaining hatchlings eventually improved in condition and recovered. The final radiograph taken one month later showed them free of gravel and in good condition.