One of the most common first symptoms that something is
wrong with your box turtle health-wise is that your turtle's
eyes look swollen and/or infected. Swollen eyes can be
caused by quite a few conditions. If the turtle's eyes are
swollen shut, if the problem lasts for more than a week
despite your efforts or if it keeps reoccurring, please
consult your reptile veterinarian immediately. If a turtle
can't see, it may not eat either, which of course will
eventually end in the turtle's death.
Here are some common causes and possible treatments you can
try yourself if you can't get to the vet immediately.
1. Vitamin A deficiency from an improper diet
This is often the first or only assumption when a turtle has
swollen eyes, but in fact if you are a concerned turtle
keeper at all this is unlikely to be the cause, since fresh
vegetables and most commercial turtle foods contain adequate
Vitamin A. Overdoses of Vitamin A can kill your turtle, so
don't make this diagnosis based on your own or someone
else's opinion, have the turtle checked by a veterinarian
who is experienced in treating turtles, and try
supplements rather than injections if Vitamin A deficiency
is determined to be the cause of the problem.
2. Respiratory infection
If your turtle has a respiratory infection it may manifest
first with swollen eyes. In this case the eye problem is not
the worst of it. The turtle will probably be gaping,
stretching out its neck, and or making gasping noises. You
will need to treat the respiratory infection also and the
eyes should clear up along with the rest of the infection.
The first thing to do is to increase the heat and humidity
in the turtle's habitat. If it is an outdoor turtle, you
will need to bring it inside to a hospital tank. Keep the
temperature in the tank at a high-warm temperature (around
ninety degrees F. or thirty-three C.) and mist the tank
several times a day to keep the humidity high. You can also
soak the turtle twice a day in lukewarm water to help with
the swollen eyes. If things don't clear up within two weeks,
take the turtle to the veterinarian for antibiotic
3. Eyes swollen from bacterial infection
Stress, too little humidity, dirty water, damage from rough
substrate or dirty substrate getting into the eyes, or the
eye scratched by other turtle's claws or plants can all
cause swollen eyes. Initial first aid is to soak the turtle
in lukewarm water twice a day to soften any hardened pus in
the eyes. The turtle will usually rub its eyes underwater
and clean them out.
Between soakings apply antibiotic cream to the eyes, or if
the infection is severe your vet may give the turtle an
injection of antibiotics. If the turtle is very ill and not
eating, your vet may give you a special formula to hand or
force-feed the turtle.
Whatever you find to the cause of your turtle's eye problem,
once the turtle is healthy again you will need to make
changes to its environment to prevent a recurrence of the
problem. You can find a wealth of good information about box
turtle care on the internet and even some great forums where
you can ask questions and learn from other experienced
turtle keepers; and possibly some good books at your local
library or pet store.
Happy turtle wrangling!