Blood Parasites that Endanger Turtles
One reason that you, as a responsible turtle keeper, must
find a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about reptiles is
the problem of parasites and other related diseases. Nearly
all wild turtles carry both internal and external parasites
and bacteria that can endanger their health. And, since most
turtles sold in the pet trade were wild-caught, the odds are
high that your pet also has parasites that only a vet can
find and treat.
Along with the common turtle parasites and diseases
addressed in other articles, there are many types of
parasites and bacterial infections that may live in a
turtle's blood, infecting both the red blood cells and
plasma and sometimes causing anemia and other disorders.
These blood parasites are similar to the ones that cause
malaria in humans, but they are not contagious to humans.
Blood parasites are very common in wild turtles, and many
turtles that have an infection of blood parasites will never
exhibit signs of disease. But a turtle, especially a water
turtle, that is already ill from some other disorder, has
the wrong diet for its species, is low on vitamin D3 due to
lack of sunlight, was recently stressed by being wild-caught
and/or transported or is stressed for some other reason is
much more vulnerable to being harmed by blood parasites and
bacteria. (Besides its other negative effects on the body,
stress depresses the immune system and gives any parasites
and infections a better foothold.)
Your veterinarian will need to do blood tests to check for
blood parasites. If they are found, treatment is not always
possible, but your veterinarian may be able to help you
strengthen your turtle's immune system and help it become
strong enough to withstand the parasites. And if parasites
are found and treatment is possible and successful, you
should discuss with your vet how to strengthen your turtle's
health in the future to help prevent re-infection.
Blood poisoning is one common bacterial blood disease of
turtles. There are many bacteria that can, in an immune-
weakened turtle, cause system-wide infections and eventually
kill the turtle. If the bacteria enter the turtle's body by
way of a wound, they are quickly carried throughout the body
by the blood, and may infect any or all of the vital organs.
A sick turtle will seldom eat, so malnourishment further
weakens its body and allows the bacteria to multiply even
faster. In water turtles, the skin may become red from the
breakdown of blood vessels, and the turtle will be listless
and disinterested in its food.
A turtle with blood poisoning needs immediate antibiotic
medication and supportive care from a good reptile vet.
Don't delay, your pet's life depends on it.