Turtle Health Problems
While you might be viewing this section of our site because your turtle is already showing signs of a problem, we fee it’s worth mentioning that the best way to avoid health issues is to provide excellent husbandry (turtle care).
First Signs of a Problem
Even if you do provide great care, your pets still might get sick or injured so knowing the initial symptoms of an unhealthy turtle is an important part of being a good owner. Once you observe these common signs, you can then take action and treat them yourself or seek treatment from your veterinarian. We will explain the roll and necessity of having a vet below but first, here are the most common signs of a health problem:
- Abnormal behaviors that are not typical of your pet
- Excessive pacing or soaking
- Anorexia, weight loss or loss of appetite
- Diarrhea and or green feces or urates
- Discharge from nares or mouth
- Puffy or partially close eyes
Find Your Problem
First Aid Kit
Not all injuries require a trip the vet. Superficial cuts and scrapes happen often to turtles that live outdoors or that live in groups. As a good owner, you should have a first aid kit on standby for treating any minor injuries. With this kit you can clean and dress any wounds to help avoid infection. Here is a list of tems that you might want to include:
- Adhesive tape
- water proof bandages
- adhesive-coated polyurethane film dressing
- antiseptic solution
- clean towels and paper towels
- gauze pads and cotton balls
- magnifying glass
- nail clippers
- latex gloves
- sharp scissors
- spray bottle with distilled water to flush wounds
- styptic powder or corn starch to stop bleeding
- antibiotic ointment
No matter if you have a sick turtle or not, you need a vet. Furthermore, why wait until you need one, find one when you first bring home your turtle. In fact, we strongly recommend that take a new turtle into the vets office right away. They will be able to tell you if there are any problems affecting your new pet by inspecting it and running a few blood or feces tests. These tests can help spot parasite infestations or other types of infections.
Even if your turtle gets a clean bill of health, you should probably quarantine it for a few weeks or more in order to make sure it is healthy. Some Asian species should be quarantined for for up to a year; especially the ones that we captured in the wild and transported long distances. We don’t recommend buying these types for that reason.
You should take your turtles in for a checkup at least once a year. The best time to do this is in late summer to early fall right before you might chose to hibernate them over the winter. Only healthy turtles should be put into hibernation and having a vet give your pets a clean bill of health is good sign they can handle it. Sick, young or under weight turtles should be housed inside over the winters.
In addition to finding out if they are healthy, these checkups will give your veterinarian a chance to compile a history for future visits. The vet will likely ask you about your husbandry and want to know what type of living conditions you are providing them.
Finding a Vet
The best vet to go to belongs to the Association of Reptiles and Amphibians (ARAV) and has experience with treating chelonians. Not all vets work on turtles or tortoises so it might take some research to find one. You can try to call your local zoo or animal shelters to find where they might seek treatment for a ill turtle. Or, try contacting your state wildlife department for a recommendation. Other alternatives include joining a club or herp society.
Learn More About Your Turtle
Reviewed By: Tim Winter
Tim Winter has a strong affection for pets and wildlife. His years of experience caring for various types of pets has led him to share his knowledge with others on the best practices in pet care. Tim holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications.