Studies to assess wildlife health commonly evaluate clinical pathology changes, immune responses, pathogen presence, and contaminant exposure, but novel modalities are needed to characterize the unique physiologic responses of reptiles. Lactate is an indicator of hypoperfusion and/or anaerobic respiration and can be quickly and easily measured using a point-of-care analyzer. This study evaluated baseline blood lactate concentrations in free-living eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina, n = 116) using a point of care analyzer and then determined the effect of handling time, physical examination (PE) abnormalities, and quantitative polymerase chain reaction pathogen detection (Terrapene herpesvirus 1, Mycoplasma sp., Terrapene adenovirus) on lactate concentrations. Blood lactate concentrations were higher in turtles with Terrapene herpesvirus 1 (n = 11), quiet mentation, and increased packed cell volume (P < 0.05). Lactate concentrations increased between initial capture and PE, with peak values reaching 129 min after capture. Lactate at PE was positively associated with baseline lactate concentrations. Turtles with Terrapene herpesvirus 1 may have alterations in blood flow, oxygen delivery, or activity patterns, driving increases in baseline lactate. Increased handling time likely leads to more escape behaviors and/or breath holding, causing turtles to undergo anaerobic metabolism and raising lactate concentrations. Overall, lactate measured by a point of care analyzer shows variability caused by capture and health factors in eastern box turtles and may be a useful adjunctive diagnostic test in this species after full methodologic validation.
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