People who keep turtles and tortoises often face the issue
of respiratory infections; they are probably the most common
reptile disorder. Symptoms such as runny or bubbly nose and
swollen eyes are not always caused by a respiratory
infection, they may be the result of wrong diet or habitat
conditions, but even in those cases, if left untreated they
will usually develop into respiratory infections.
A major cause of vulnerability to respiratory infections in
turtles is low humidity. Even tortoises that come from arid
climates spend much of their lives in burrows with a
humidity level of at least seventy percent, so even they
need a higher level of humidity than you might think.
When the temperature or humidity is too low in a turtle or
tortoise's habitat, dry or dusty conditions may irritate its
eyes and throat, causing eye swelling, gaping (open-mouthed
breathing), frequent sneezing, mucus coming from the mouth,
loss of appetite or listlessness.
Aquatic pet turtles may swim lopsided from fluid in the lungs,
bask nearly constantly or make raspy, squeeky or other
sounds when breathing. If the humidity is not corrected, or
if the turtle is stressed or overcrowded with other turtles
or its immune system is weakened from some other cause, the
symptoms will worsen, and infection may set in.
If you see these symptoms in your turtle, first raise the
temperature and humidity of its environment. A good
treatment temperature for most turtles is around eighty-five
degrees Fahrenheit (twenty-six to twenty-seven degrees
If the symptoms don't clear up completely within a week, a
fast visit to your reptile veterinarian is in order. Most
respiratory infections in turtles and tortoises will respond
to a round of antibiotics, and your vet may be able to
advise you as to changes you may make to prevent further
infections. He can also determine if the problem is simply
environmental, bacterial, viral, parasitic, or a mycoplasmal
agent, and treat accordingly
Good turtle husbandry that will help your turtles avoid
disease includes avoiding overcrowding, keep the vivarium
substrate slightly damp to avoid dust, provide essential
basking areas at the proper temperatures, and keep the
turtle from serious drafts.