Sickness, Illness, Injury, and Problems

There are a variety of illnesses that effect turtles…I have addressed the most common ones encountered with my turtles over the past few years. But first, a few preventive steps to monitor the health of your turtle:

1.Find a vet in your area thet works on herps…specifically on turtles is a plus.Turtles require occaisional trips to the vet just like a dog or a cat.

2.Weigh your turtle regularly…weight loss is a good indicator that somethings going on. I weigh mine once a month.

3.Regular, thourough examination of your turtle…look at the shell for signs of fungus or rot, check the eyes to ensure they are clear, check the body for signs of injury, check the nostrils to ensure there is no discharge.Check the tongue…reddish-pink is good,pale whitish tongues indicate anemia and probably parasitic infection.

On to common ailments…

Internal parasites: Simply put, worms…You should take a fecal sample to your vet at least annually and treat accordingly. The most common treatment and the one I use is called panacur. You can administer it directly or sprinkle it on food (dosage is based on weight, it’s important to provide the correct dose). Parasites contribute to weight loss, anemia and listlessness. Unless treated, they can shorten and end your turtles life.Parasites are a fact of life, but if you keep the pen clean you can minimize the occurance.

Eye infection: The eyes can be a window to a variety of problems…swollen runny eyes are usually an indication of injury or an introduction of a foreign object (dust,etc.) but they can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying internal infection like a respiratory infection. Vitamin A deficiency can cause eye problems as well…there are drops available for this but watch the dosage…you can poison your turtle with too much vitamin A. There are a variety of ointments you can use available from the vet or even over the counter.I use Neo-poly-bac ointment.Just be sure it’s opthamalic grade ointment. If you encounter eye problems, review your husbandry… make sure the humidity, temperature and substrate are correct.Often an adjustment in husbandry will correct the problem.

Ear abcesses: Ear abcesses present as a lump on the side of the head where the ear is. They are no doubt painful and , if left untreated will grow to enormous size and cause more problems for the turtle. There are two ways to treat an abcess…long daily warm soaks and massage of the abcess until it pops ( this has only worked once for me ), and surgery. You can perform this surgery or have your vet do it. I opted to have my vet do it because he could use anesthesia. Below are pictures of this surgery. More times than not abcesses are caused by the introduction of dust or some other foreign object (like eye infections) and adjusting your husbandry will prevent a reoccurance.

More Medical Topics:

Giving injections: To treat a variety of infections and severe dehydration it is necessary to give your turtle a shot. You can have your vet do this or your vet can teach you to do it if they are so inclined. (NEVER attempt to give a shot unless you have been properly trained!). Turtles can be described anatomically as a bag of floating organs…push the needle in too far and puncture a vital organ, bye bye turtle. Miscalculate the dose of antibiotic and blow out the kidneys. You have to be exact, and unless you have a medical background I strongly recommend letting the vet do it. A picture is worth a 1000 words and here’s one that illustrates a typical injection.

Manmade injuries …Turtles are frequently injured by us, hit by cars, run over with lawn mowers, hooked by fishermen just to name a few. I took in a turtle today that had been run over by a lawn mower and lost half a front foot, some marginal scutes and gouging to the carapace.Additionally, there is some shell rot on the plastron. Since he is an aquatic species it is necessary to put him in “dry dock” until the rot clears up. Fortunately for him, the wound to the foot healed on it’s own. This is dry dock: 2 half hour to one hour soaks per day in a medicated solution of topical medication and luke warm water.

I use novalsan, but you can also use betadine, there are some commercial products available like Terra’s sulpha bath. The turtle is housed in a dry terrarium lined with a white sheet, pillow case or paper towel. This helps to see any discharge that may be occuring and prevent the introduction of other pathogens to the wound site. Change or clean the lining daily. Raise the temperature ( I generally go 90f ) to increase the metabolism which helps speed healing.Be sure to consult your vet and cover all your bases.

(This great info was brought to you from

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *