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  • Sick Turtle Summary

    [B]Sick Turtle Summary[/B]

    Here is an [B]emergency first aid [/B]link:

    Recognizing Emergencies which require IMMEDIATE VETERINARY CARE: [URL=""]http://www.tortoiset...s/Emergency.htm[/URL]

    If you can locate one, get a qualified reptile vet. Ordinary vets are no better prepared to treat your turtle than your family physician. Here is [URL=""]our vet link[/URL]. If you have found a wild turtle who is sick or injured, this website will help you locate a wild animal rehabber in your area: [URL=""][/URL]

    The following generalizations are based on the care of cooters, sliders, and painted turtles. It has to be adjusted for other species, and especially for land species, e.g. they still need their environment made warmer, but that would be their AIR not their WATER.:

    [B]A. A sick turtle needs (General Sick Turtle Protocol consists of: )[/B]

    1) [B]Water around 82-85 degrees F. (28-29 degrees C) and basking temperature around 90 degrees F. (32-34 degrees C). [/B]If you have a land turtle, or a species other than a slider, painted turtle, or cooter, these temperatures may vary slightly.

    2) Lots of [B]UV light[/B]. SEE:[URL=""]UVB light[/URL] for the specific experience of many boardies on this subject.
    [URL=""]Will UVA/UVB Light go through a thick glass window[/URL]

    UV lighting sources are 1) Natural, direct sunlight and a good artificial source, such as a Reptisun 10.0, 8.0, 5.0 under 6 months old for a sick turtle, or a reptile mercury vapor lamp. Reptile Mercury Vapor lamps include: Capture The Sun Mercury Vapor Bulbs, Powersun UV Mercury Vapor Lamps, and others. I have had the best experience with Capture the Sun Mercury Vapor Bulbs which both outlasted and outproformed (in terms of UV output) other UV mercury vapor bulbs I have tried, but others have had different results.

    3) [B]Liquid vitamins [/B]dissolved in his water for turtles that are not eating. Ideally, a calcium block is good, too. I use human baby vitamins, Poly-Vi-Sol. Another good source of calcium is bony tiny fish, like bait fish, minnows, and smelts. If the turtle is still eating, however, and you can still get it to eat herp vitamins, those are better.

    4) If you are unsure what is wrong with the turtle, [B]isolate him [/B]or her until you can be sure it won’t make your other turtles sick. Give the exposed turtles palliative care to prevent illness. Turtle diseases which are known to be catching are marked below with two *s, **. ** means: Infectious disease. Isolate the turtle. Take preventive measure to protect any exposed animal.

    5) Every diseased turtle should be brought to [B]a qualified turtle (technical name:herp) vet[/B] to ensure you have diagnosed the turtle correctly, and to get any medications which can help your turtle get well.

    6) A [B]review of basic husbandry techniques [/B]to be sure you are giving the turtle all the things he needs to survive. For [URL=""]Care For Sliders, Cooters, and Painted Turtles[/URL], for other turtles, and more care tips on cooters, sliders, and painted turtles, try looking up your species in Care Sheets Alphabetical by Common Name, for common names starting with [URL=""]A to I[/URL]. [URL=""]J to R[/URL]. or [URL=""]S to Z[/URL]. . The care sheets are listed by common name, but include scientific names. In some cases, the turtles are grouped by species, in other by genus, but the common name will direct you to the listing. There are over 90 species of turtle listed.

    [B]NOTE WELL: DO NOT DRYDOCK WATER TURTLES AS A GENERAL SICK TURTLE RESPONSE[/B]. Drydocking (forcing the turtle to stay on dry land) puts water turtles themselves under a lot of stress. This should only be used for specific illnesses which have been shown to respond to drydocking. Any action which strains the turtle but not the illness (drydocking for respiratory infection, for example) makes it harder for the turtle to recover and easier for the illness to get stronger.

    [B]B. Specific illnesses[/B]

    1) [B]Turtle caught underwater and appears to have drowned[/B]. Put him on dry land and pump his legs, to try to get him to breathe again. Some here have reported success if the turtle was caught quickly enough. Here is a heartwrenching account: [URL=""]of an owner who saved their turtle[/URL]

    here are detailed instructions of turtle CPR:
    Copyright by Valerie Haecky. This document may be freely distributed for non-profit use, provided this notice is included.

    The following information is compiled from a variety of articles in various newsletters. I have tried this myself, too.

    Both water turtles and box turtles can drown. Even a drowned turtle that looks quite dead might just be waiting for you to help it get its breath back. Remember that turtles can be without oxygen for a long time, especially in cool water, before the damage is irreversible.

    Turning it on his back might remove the little airspace still left in the lungs.

    1. Grasp the turtle's head behind the ears (base of skull) and extend the neck completely.

    2. Turn it head-down/tail up and open its mouth. Usually, some water will flow of drip out at this point. Wait until the dripping stops.

    3. Place the turtle (belly down) on a flat surface with it's neck extended. Stand in front of the turtle.

    4. Straighten his front legs and pull them straight toward you as far as they will go.

    5. Keeping the legs straight, push them in as far as they will go. Do not let the legs bend at the elbows.

    6. Continue pulling and pushing until water stops coming out.

    Now it's time to take your turtle to the veterinarian. The veterinarian will insert a tube and start providing the turtle with pure oxygen. He may give a respiratory stimulant and a drug to a drug that will help the turtle excrete the water accumulate in its tissue. After this, the turtle will probably regain consciousness and start moving.

    Since some turtles develop pneumonia after drowning, the veterinarian will most likely recommend a course of antibiotics.

    A note on mouth-to-mouth (or straw to mouth) breathing. I've seen it described in one place. I don't know whether it works, and I don't know whether the risk of blowing in too hard and damaging the lungs is worth it. The above instructions are proven to work in many cases.

    A note on baby turtles: The smaller the turtle, the harder it is to help the animal, simply because of its small size.

    2) If **[B]Turtle is vocalizing, either by loud breathing or clicking sounds, appears to be gasping for breath, swimming lopsided, or is has mucus or foam at the mouth or nose, or just has a "runny nose" or swims or can't submerge.[/B], the turtle is probably suffering from a respiratory infection. This is very deadly in turtles. In addition to the above measures, it is IMPERATIVE the turtle be brought to a reptile vet (see Good links to Find a Herp Vet, just above this topic) to get antibiotics. Most untreated turtles who have respiratory infections will die. For more information read:
    [URL=""]http://www.tortoise....ves/brown1.html[/URL] [URL=""]http://www.tortoise....neral/urds.html[/URL] [URL=""]http://www.tortoise....eral/urds2.html[/URL]
    These infections may become chronic and require ongoing care. Read: [URL=""]http://www.turtletim...showtopic=36919[/URL]

    3) If **[B]Turtle appears reddish[/B], including either skin or on the shell. Turtle MAY have an infection which has worked its way into the blood. This will usually kill your turtle. It requires the general sick turtle protocol steps above PLUS a visit to the vet for antibiotics.

  • #2
    4) [B]Turtle’s shell appears to have air pockets [/B]under the scutes, and some are falling off. For a picture, see [URL=""]http://www.geocities...pagespiral.html[/URL] .

    If there are scutes underneath, and the scutes come off as whole pieces or at least large ones, your turtle is shedding and growing. This is a sign of health, not sickness. DO NOT pull the scutes off. As the new scute becomes fully formed, the old scute is released. If you pull the scute off before the new scute is fully formed, your turtle may have exposed bone, and this is difficult and complex to treat, and leaves the turtle subject to disease and death. If the scutes are not falling off, your turtle is not getting enough UV lighting. Add more UV lighting, do not remove scutes that are not falling off on their own.

    If on the other hand your turtles scutes are flaking off, there could be a problem. One poster found that this was happening when her turtle had an infection which required vet treatment. Here's the thread: [URL=""]http://www.turtletim...showtopic=44112[/URL]

    If a turtle fails to shed scutes that are somewhat loose, the turtle is not getting enough UV lighting. Also see [URL=""]http://www.redrobe.c...nian-vetp1.html[/URL]

    5) [B]Turtle's skin is visibly shedding[/B] See [URL=""]http://www.turtlepud...ealth/skin.html[/URL] and [URL=""][/URL].

    6)Turtle has **[B]fungus, or shell rot.[/B] There are several methods for treating this, and I have them listed here in order of toxicity, that is, the first is the least toxic, and the last should be used only if the other methods have already been tried and have failed.

    -- a. salt soaks for a few minutes each day, and drydocking, with lots of direct sunlight, but not to the point where the turtle gets severely dehydrated. If fungus gets advanced, it will kill your turtle. [URL=""]Here is a pretty good thread about fungus.[/URL].

    -- b. For water turtles, add a small amount of salt to the tank water. Aquarium salt, sea salt, or even non-iodized table salt. For fresh water turtles, 1 level tsp. per gallon won't hurt them, but will give fungus and rot some trouble. For Diamond Back Terripans and other brackish water turtles, read the directions on the Aquarium Salt, and use about 1/2 of what they recommend for the level of salt in the sea.

    -- c. Poster babs wrote: In years past, antiseptics such as hydrogen peroxide or Betadine(providone-iodine) or anitobiotic ointbents have been used. These will generally kill the pathogens successfully, however recent research indicates that theses things actually slow the healing process by preventing the regrowth of the epithelial cells over the effected area. The antiseptic of choice is often Nolvasan (clorahexidine) which is available from veterinary clinics (non-prescription), some pet stores and herp supply stores on the internet. Healing is noticably quicker with Nolvasan, so it is worth the effort to find some and use it. Nolvasan liquid solution is generally made with one part Nolvasan, 100 parts water."

    I went to my local vet and they had some Clorahexidine by the name brand of Clorhexiderm. It is blue in color and must be diluted to one ounce per 1 gallon of water. This seems to be working really well with the turtle that had the severe shell rot, but I don't have anything for comparison. I actually put it in a spray bottle and spray the shell whenever they get out of the water

    -- d. In addition, some people report excellent results using betadine and drydocking. However, any form of iodine has the potential to destroy your turtles's liver. In mild cases, try the salt soaks first. Related subject:[URL=""]Ick from fish[/URL].

    -- e. [URL=""]Treating Extreme Shell Rot in Chelonia[/URL] is an article from the World Chelonia Trust which also discusses possible treatments. Tortoise Trust's discussion is at [URL=""]http://www.tortoiset...s/shellrot.html[/URL]
    Other discussions about home treatment for mild shell rot: [URL=""]http://www.turtlepud...h/shellrot.html[/URL]

    Treatment for severe shell rot MUST include a veterinarian. More information:


    • #3
      7) Turtle’s [B]shell is soft[/B]. Either it is a hatchling, and he needs lots of calcium, or he is a softshell turtle (make sure you know what variety this is before deciding this) vitamins and UV for it to harden normally, OR the turtle has metabolic bone disease (MBD) and needs lots of calcium, vitamins and UV or he will die. In advanced cases of MBD, vets can give the turtle shots of calcium directly into the blood streem. Another discussion: [URL=""][/URL]

      8) If [B]turtle won’t eat[/B] This is normal for a few days in a new environment. If this is not a new turtle in a new environment, try: Favorite foods. If unknown, try sardines, strawberries, live bugs, reptimin. For more good nutritional foods read:
      [URL=""]http://www.chelonia....entanalysis.htm[/URL] and for poisons to avoid read [URL=""]http://www.chelonia....sthatpoison.htm[/URL] . Regular day and night cycles, with a day period of not less than 14 hours. To make sure he can get unintterupted sleep, if you keep him in an area heaviy traveled at night, cover his tank with a dry but dark cloth.
      Raise temperatures to sick turtle levels. Get vitamins into him, by leaving them in his water, if necessary.

      If a turtle cannot eat due to serious illness or injury, a vet can tube feed the turtle. Here is a post which shows, graphically, how it is done. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! Leave it to a vet, vet's trained assistant, or a qualified wildlife rehabber. If the tube goes into the lung, the turtle will be killed when you force food into his lung! I repeat: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! [URL=""]Tube feeding a turtle.[/URL]

      What you [B]can[/B] try at home is putting the turtle into [URL=""]Pedialyte[/URL], or putting Pedialyte into a tortoise or land turtle's water dish. This is available at the supermarket in many countries; it's like a sports drink for babies. If your country doesn't have this product, here is a recipie from one poster's vet:

      1 quart of water
      1/4 cup orange juice
      1 teaspoon of salt

      Boil water, add orange juice and salt, then stir. Let it cool down.

      [the posters's]... current vet says its ok for turtles and tortoises but that regular pedialyte is better. You can only keep this mixture 48 hours then make a new batch.

      9) [URL=""]turtle might have **[B]worms[/B], [/URL][B]Turtle has sqiggly things in its poo[/B] or in its tank, even after you completely clean the tank, or is listless or doesn't gain weight or grow even though it's eating. All of these things can be indications of worms or other parisitic infesation. Most wild turtles have these. However, they are less exposed to the ones their bodies throw off in the wild than incaptivity. These are VERY CATCHING and if ANY turtle in a tank has it, you have to assume all have caught it. This is generally treated BY A VET ONLY with a number of possible treatments, including Panacur. HOWEVER, you have to isolate each affected turtle, and clean out their tanks DAILY until the infestation has been eliminated. Some people feel this can be overtreated.

      This thread gives a good overview on this subject:

      VSTM recommended these books:
      Reptile & Amphibian Parasites by Eric M. Rundquist
      Understanding Reptile Parasites : A Basic Manual for Herpetoculturists & Veterinarians by Roger Klingenberg

      Also, feeder fish can have parasites. VSTM also provided these links about fish parisites:
      Fluke links:

      A discussion of Panacur, which is often prescribed for worms: [URL=""]http://www.chameleon...ur/panacur.html[/URL]



      • #4
        10) If [B]turtle’s rear end is swollen[/B], this is one of many possible indications of kidney failure (although it can also mean any of a number of other serious conditions.) If it is kidney failure, only palliative care is possible. Some other conditions can be treated. If you have several turtles, and one has kidney failure, it may be a sign that the animal has been feed too much protein. Change the diet of your other turtles. If your turtle is female, and you gently feel the area around her rear, and you feel lump, she may be graven and need to lay eggs. SEE 12) below. Discussion of kidney failure: [URL=""]http://www.redrobe.c...nian-vetp1.html[/URL]

        11) [B]Tortoise's scutes each are raised in the center[/B] this is called Pyramiding and is caused by a combination of several factors, but the largest one being too much protien in the diet, either due to foods that are too high in protien, too much food, not enough sunlight or exercise, or several other factors. Tortoise will get kidney failure at a young age unless immediate correction in the diet is undertaken. For a full discussion see [URL=""]http://africantortoi...n_tortoises.htm[/URL].

        12) [B]Turtle’s eyes are swollen shut, or infected[/B]. This is usually caused by a vitamin A deficiency, and, if caught early, can be treated with adding vitamins to food. If they turtle has stopped eating, you will have to soak him in a small container with a substanial amount of Poly-Vi-Sol in it, or get a vitamin shot from a vet, or both. Once infection has set in, only a vet can help your turtle. If your turtle has stopped eating, see the subject on that, above. This can also be caused by a lack of sufficent UV light. Get your turtle direct sunlight, or a brand new Reptisun 8.0 or a Mercury Vapor Bulb to bask in. In box turtles, this may be caused by low humidity. Box turtle discussion: [URL=""]http://www.chelonia....ene_eye_inf.htm[/URL]
        General discussions of this condition: [URL=""]http://www.turtlepud...ealth/eyes.html[/URL]

        13) [B]Female Turtle is Restless or lays eggs in the water [/B]she doesn’t need to have been with a boy to need to lay eggs. If she hasn’t been, the eggs will not be fertile. However, she still needs a warm, root-free, deep( the depth needs to be about equal to the length of her shell, or slightly more) moist, sandy soil to lay the eggs in. If she does not lay her eggs, she can become egg-bound and die. Waterland Tubs produces an enclosure that can safely house female turtles. This link is specifically devoted to Waterland Tubs and will give you links to a lot of information on them, including where to buy them: [URL=""]Waterland tub information[/URL]. There are other solutions, most notabley outdoor ponds, but this is a quick fix until you can find the ideal set-up.

        If you fail to give your female turtle a suitable place to lay her eggs, she is likely to become eggbound, which will lead to her death if she is not treated by a herp vet. Most will give Oxytocin to stimulate the passing of eggs. The Oxyocin should be preceded by heavy doses of calcium for a few days and extra water. THE VET SHOULD NOT BE REACHING IN TO THE TURTLE FOR THE EGGS. If the egg has become heavily calcified and has to be removed by the vet, this will require surgury, and the turtle should be sedated. THIS IS SERIOUS AND DANGEROUS SURGURY. Here are some photos and discussion of a case: [URL=""]http://www.chelonia....g_implosion.htm[/URL]

        More information: [URL=""][/URL]

        14) [B]Turtle appears slightly swollen in front and back[/B] Your turtle may simply be getting fat. How much have you been feeding him? It’s O.K. for them to be somewhat plump in the fall if you are going to hibernate them, it helps them get through the winter. for a more detailed discussion See: [URL=""]Is my turtle fat?[/URL]


        • #5

          15) [B]Turtle has dark mass which sticks out of it's tail from time to time:[/B] If it goes back in, Congratuations!!! It's a BOY! See [URL=""]http://www.turtletim...showtopic=44149[/URL] for a very modest male part. Timmy's is as big as his head when it comes out. In a female turtle, you can have intenstinal prolapse, which will not go back in. If it doesn't go back in, you have a prolapse problem, whether it's of the male part or of the intenstines. This requires the immediate attention of a vet, or will result in death. Here are some photographs of a surgury on a prolapse problem. The turtle needs to be anestheized for this, and you need a real herp vet surgeon. Attempting this yourself is both stupid and cruel, and will result in the death of the animal: [URL=""]http://www.chelonia....al_prolapse.htm[/URL].

          16) [B]Turtle doesn't poop after eating small stones or gravel, or can't walk with his hind legs:[/B] Turtle's digestive tract may have become blocked. This requires vet care. However, you may not know immediately that impaction has or has not occurred.

          [B]Turtle has eaten small stones or gravel[/B] Although these usually will pass on their own, if they do not they can cause impaction and other life-threatening conditions. Surgury may be needed, but you can first try these steps:

          A vet's approach: [URL=""]http://www.petsdoc.c...astortoise.html[/URL]

          A poster's suggestions:
          Aides for releasing stones:
          1. Use a basking spot lamp for day and a nightglow one that shines red at night! You need to keep them warm
          2. Soak the turt in warm water (but NEVER more than 90degree water) in a separate small tub (rubbermaid) for 15minutes a day 4 to five times a day. If you soak your turtle in water hotter than 90degrees she/he will experience heat shock. Turts are used to cooler temperate climates
          3. sing songs or provide other soothing music to your turtles
          4. Give lots of love, and hold your turtle with care
          5. Go to and ask questions!
          6. pray
          7. monitor your turtle closely to remove rocks as they fall out
          8. give your turtle any presciption the vet recommends to help move the stones, including a laxative. If the turtle is not eating, get detailed instructions from the vet on how to feed the turtle, and don't leave the vet's office unless you are sure you can do it.
          9. Keep feeding your turtle to help it push the rocks out. One poster recommended Emerald Entree by San Francisco Bay Brand. Sold at Petco. These frozen cubes are full of moisture, veggies, fishy meats, and a little needed oil.
          10. keep seeing your vet, who will give x-rays and perform that feeding tube, relaxation drug, and laxative combo that works wonders.

          Here is a sheet for more information: [URL=""]http://www.tortoise....ral/impact.html[/URL]

          17) [B]Turtle has a bump on the side of his head, or one on each side of his head:[/B] Your turtle has an ear infection, sometimes called an ear abcess. This is very, very painful to the turtle and requires a vet or experienced turtle rehabber with the proper training and equipment to treat. The ears must be lanced, the infection cleaned out, and then the ears must be treated to permit healing without reinfection. DO NOT DO THIS YOURSELF WITHOUT TRAINING.
          If the vet wants to sedate the turtle to reduce it's pain, there is nothing wrong with that. Here's another discussion: [URL=""]http://www.austinstu...are/medeyes.htm[/URL]
          Another link for box turtles: [URL=""]http://www.chelonia....r_Infection.htm[/URL]
          Generally, the appearance of ear abcesses means you have not been keeping the turtle's enclosure clean enough. Review your husbandry and improve you filter or other means of cleaning your turtle's home.

          If abcesses are not treated quickly, more severe conditions can result. SEE [URL=""][/URL]

          18) [B]Turtle has cuts and bruises.[/B] For immediate treatment, the best choices are Nolvasan cream and Neosporin. For a discussion, see [URL=""]http://www.turtletim...showtopic=23078[/URL]. Keep the turtle's water and home very clean while the cut heals to avoid infection. If the cuts are the result of fights, separate the turtles. If the tank has sharp objects, try to file them down or remove them if possible. If you can't remove them (e.g. they are part of the basking platform or filter) try arranging things so the turtle can't approach the sharp area and cut itself or see if you can file the sharp area down so it's not sharp. Don't give up if the turtles is seriously hurt: [URL=""]http://www.chelonia....ural_repair.htm[/URL]
          [URL=""][/URL] [URL=""]http://www.austinstu...medinjuries.htm[/URL]

          19) [B]Turtle has bumps on its joints[/B]. This can be either arthritis or gout. Gout is the formation of urea crystals inside the turtle, usually due to insufficient moisture. These conditions both require you consult a veterinarian.

          20) [B]Turtle's shell is pitted.[/B]
          For North American Box turtles, see [URL=""]http://www.chelonia....ene_pitting.htm[/URL]

          21) [B]Turtle has exposed bone where the scute should be[/B] Whether this happened because of the turtle's actions or your error, here's a sticky that deals with the topic: [URL=""]http://www.turtletim...showtopic=10537[/URL]
          and my own experience when my 2" high turtle decided to cram his determined self into a 1/2" high space and the edges were sharp enough to scratch off his scute:
          This can also be a sign of renal failure. [URL=""]http://www.redrobe.c...nian-vetp1.html[/URL]

          22) [B]Turtle's shell is fractured[/B] This is an emergency veterinary situation, and you must bring the animal to a vet immediately. For discussion of treatment see:

          23) [B]Turtle has swollowed a fish hook[/B] See [URL=""][/URL] and a vet.

          24) [B]Turtle does not walk with it's back legs[/B] This has been traced to eating stones or other heavy objects, to birth defects, and to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

          25) [B]Turtle's leg is broken or cut off[/B]

          Threads with Treatment Discussions: )

          For a discussions of antibiotics: )
          bayitral: [URL=""]http://www.turtletim...showtopic=25079[/URL]​