If your turtle or tortoise begins to show symptoms of
illness, it may already be very ill. Many small animals
don't always show obvious disease symptoms, and because of
this sometimes they seem to "just die for no reason." So if
your turtle stops eating the way it normally does, has
matted or watery eyes, seems to be growing poorly or
misshapen, has a runny nose, or you just know it isn't
acting well, take it to the veterinarian immediately. And of
course, if it is obviously injured, you will want expert
care for it.
It is very hard to diagnose the illnesses of reptiles, and
there are a limited number of home remedies for them. Of
course you can get a lot of good information and first aid
advice from books, the Internet, email groups and the like.
But get that information in advance, while you are preparing
for your new turtle pet or while you are enjoying life with
it. If your tortoise is ill, call the vet immediately, don't
It is best to look for a veterinarian who is experienced at
treating reptiles well before you need one, as not all vets
are experienced or knowledgeable about reptile diseases or
treatments. In an emergency, any veterinarian should be able
to treat injuries and prescribe antibiotics, but a vet who
is experienced with reptiles will know more about what to
look for or what medicines and special treatments will work
best for your pet.
The first place to look for the best vet for you and your
pets might be your local herp group. Most localities have
local clubs for people who keep or just love certain types
of animals. You might check with your local pet store, they
probably know about such groups in your area. Ask the group
members what vets they use or recommend, they have no doubt
already tested the area veterinarians' knowledge and
experience with reptiles.
If you can't find advice from other turtle owners in your
town, try consulting the yellow pages of your telephone
book, or an online business listing for your area. If you
are lucky you may find a vet who mentions in his ad that he
works with reptiles. If so, be sure to put his name and
phone number in a place handy to you if you suddenly have an
emergency situation with your pets.
Another thing to try if you don't have an advertised reptile
veterinarian in your area is to call any local vet and ask
if he can recommend someone who is experienced with
reptiles, or at least with "exotics."
If you can't find a vet that way, try the website of the
Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians, at
http://www.arav.org/ . You can access
the Members area,
choose your region of the world, then your state or country,
and drill down to find information about veterinarians in
your locality. Unfortunately telephone numbers are not
provided on this site, but you should be able to find them
in the telephone book for the city in which their office is
When you are checking out a veterinarian to see whether he
or she is the right vet to work closely with you to keep
your turtle friends healthy, don't be afraid to ask
questions. Ask him directly about his experience with your
species of tortoise. Ask him if he owns reptiles himself, if
he keeps up with the latest information in reptile care,
etc. Your pet's life may depend on his knowledge.
Once you have found a vet who sounds like what you need,
schedule a checkup for your pet, so that you and the vet
have checked each other out and you will be comfortable when
and if your tortoise needs immediate care.
Try to find a vet who is knowledgeable but who isn't afraid
to consult with other vets, and who admits that he doesn't
"know it all". If you find a vet who is truly expert with
reptiles, and who is comfortable and helpful with you and
your pet, count yourself lucky and stick with him, he can
save you both money and misery.