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How to determine

signs of illness in

Turtles & Tortoises

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Unfortunately sick turtles don't always show symptoms of
illness until they are very ill or they simply die for no
apparent reason. But there are some warning signs that you
can watch out for in your turtles, I'll discuss them below.

The most obvious sign of a problem is if you notice that
your turtle is limping or not using some part of its body in
a normal fashion. Check the limbs for obvious injury and
stop any bleeding, wash the affected area, apply antibiotic,
and bandage if needed. Keep the wound as clean and dry as
possible, and if you don't see healing within a week or so,
take the turtle to the veterinarian. If you check it over
but don't see any obvious injury, the turtle may have a
sprain or something that will heal itself. In that case,
watch the turtle carefully for a week and if there is no
improvement, a visit to the vet is called for.

If your turtle has signs of a respiratory infection, such as
listlessness, bubbles forming from its nose or mouth, a
wheezing sound when it breathes, or if your pet aquatic turtle
is not swimming normally but seems lopsided or confused, you
will need to take immediate action: remove the turtle from
any other pets and keep it in a clean hospital tank,
providing only food, water, and a warm hiding spot for
tortoises and the same plus a few inches of clean, warm
water for aquatic turtles. Raise the temperature of both the
air and water five to ten degrees F. If the turtle doesn't
eat or does not show improved health within a few days, take
it to the vet as soon as possible, it may need antibiotics
in order to survive.

Turtles are also subject to eye, mouth and shell infections.
Check your turtles over weekly, if possible, watching for
any changes in appearance or activity. If you see swelling
or white patches in any part of the turtle's body, it will
need treatment. Keep the turtle in a hospital tank,
providing scrupulously clean water and changing the water
daily, clean the affected parts and apply antibiotic, or
take it to your reptile vet for treatment. If the shell is
deeply cracked and infected, your turtle may need surgery
and possibly shell patching before it can heal.

Another area to watch is the turtle's digestive system. If
there is blood in the feces, or feces are consistently
liquid, that is evidence of a problem. White in the
droppings is not a concern, that is simply uric acid and is
normal, although if it happens more often than a couple of
times per week, and your turtle is herbivorous or omnivorous
it may be a sign of too much protein in the diet, which can
lead to kidney or liver problems.

If the urates are hard or gritty, it is a sign of
dehydration. Immediately put the tortoise into a soak of
lukewarm water that is deep enough to cover the outside row
of scutes on the shell. Soak it for ten to twenty minutes
per day until its feces are normal again. Soak dry land
tortoises a few times per week and box turtles daily to
prevent further dehydration, as dehydration can damage vital
body systems and result in death. Soaking is also a good
preventative and cure for constipation in turtles.

Once your turtle is recovering, you'll need to try to figure
out what needs to be changed in its diet or habitat to
prevent reinfection. Bacteria are always with us, but what
gives them a foothold to cause disease is immune system
stress. You may need to provide a diet change, additional
vitamins or minerals for turtles, sunlight, warmer air or water, more
humidity, or a warmer basking area. Discuss this with your
vet or a person who is experienced in keeping your turtle

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