If you notice your turtle acting weird, you might start to wonder if they are sick. In today’s article, I will explain how to tell if your turtle is sick. I will cover all of the common symptoms, and also discuss some ways you can prevent your turtle from getting sick in the future.
How can I tell if my turtle is sick?
The main signs that a turtle is sick are changes in behavior, respiratory problems, and physical deformities.
The earlier you detect that your turtle is sick, the easier it will be for you to treat and heal them.
Changes in behavior
The main way you can tell if you turtle is sick is if you notice a change in their behavior. While a turtle’s normal behavior can be a bit erratic, there are certain trends you should look out for that could signal an illness.
Change in appetite: One of the first things a sick turtle will do is change their eating patterns. Most of the time this will mean they stop eating less. If your turtle usually goes crazy over food the second you put it in, and suddenly stops eating as much, it could be a sign that they are suffering from an illness. If your turtle stops eating, you should ready my article about how to get my turtle to start eating.
Irregular basking: Basking is very important for a turtle’s health. It helps regulate their body temperature, and also gives them access to vital UVA and UVB light. When a turtle is sick, they might start basking more often. This usually happens if they are suffering from a respiratory illness. On the flip side, a sick turtle might also stop basking as much. While the amount of time your turtle should bask will vary depending on the age and species, they should ideally bask for a couple hours per day if they are healthy.
Odd swimming movements: If you have an aquatic turtle, you may also be able to know if they are sick if they change their swimming patterns. For example, if you notice your turtle is swimming in strange patterns (like swimming sideways or not moving a certain arm or leg), they could be suffering from an illness. If your turtle is very sick, they might stop swimming all together.
Strange noises: Turtles are not the most vocal animals. While it isn’t abnormal for them to chirp every now and then, excessive noise coming from your turtle could be a sign that they are sick or in pain. However, if you have a male and female turtle in the same tank, it may just be a sign that they want to mate. You can learn more in my guide on what sounds does a turtle make.
If your turtle is displaying respiratory issues, it is almost always a sign that your turtle is suffering from a respiratory illness. Respiratory symptoms can come in many forms, including:
Irregular breathing: When a turtle has a respiratory illness, it can obstruct their airways and make it hard for them to breathe. When this happens, your turtle’s breathing will likely because much more strained and even audible. In severe cases, they might start wheezing out loud. You might also notice their throat moving up and down when they try to breathe.
Discharge: A sick turtle may also start to develop discharge on either their mouth, eyes, or nose. This is typically a white or yellow substance. If it stays on your turtle for a while, it can become hard and crusty and difficult to remove. Sometimes, the discharge might even cause bubbles to emerge from your turtle’s mouth or nose.
Swollen eyes: Another tell tale sign that your turtle is sick is if their eyes are swollen. This could be a respiratory illness, or possibly an eye infection. In extreme cases, their eyes can become so swollen that they can’t even open them. If this is the case, you should take your turtle to the vet as soon as possible.
Physical deformities or symptoms
Finally, you might be able to spot physical deformities on your turtle when they are sick or suffering from an infection. One of the main things you should check is their shell.
If you notice that part of your turtle’s shell has become extremely soft or discolored, your turtle could be suffering from a shell infection or metabolic bone disease. In extreme cases, your turtle’s shell might start to deteriorate or even start to smell bad. This could be a sign of shell rot. It’s important that you don’t get confused with normal turtle shedding.
What to do if your turtle is sick
Treating a sick turtle will depend on the type of illness or disease they have. That being said, there are a couple things you can do that can help cure a wide range of illnesses and diseases.
Step 1: Water change
If your turtle’s illness is caused by bacteria or fungi in the water, it is important that you do a full water change to clean up their environment. If your water consistently gets dirty quickly, you might need to upgrade your turtle filter.
Step 2: Ensure proper temperatures
One of the main causes of illness in turtles is improper water or basking platform temperatures. Just about all aquatic turtles will require a water temperature between75-85 degrees fahrenheight. You will most likely need a heater to achieve this temperature range. For their basking platform, you should make sure that the platform is around 10 degrees warmer than the water.
Step 3: UVA and UVB light
You should make sure that your turtle’s basking platform has access to direct UVA and UVB light.
Step 4: Diet
It’s important that you not only feed your turtle a variety of different foods, but also make sure not to overfeed them.
Step 5: Quarantine
Depending on your turtle’s illness, you might need to quarantine or “dry dock” them. This is common to treat respiratory illnesses. Basically, this will consist of you putting them in a large container or bucket where they can stay dry for an extended period of time.
Step 6: Administer medication/take to the vet
If you turtle still doesn’t get better, you might need to give them a specific medication. Most of the time, this will require you to take them to the vet. However, there are some things you can administer by yourself at home. For example, if your turtle has swollen eyes, they might just need you to give them vitamin a supplements.
It’s important to understand that just because your turtle got sick doesn’t mean you did something wrong. The key is to just catch it quickly, and then take the proper steps to ensure their environment is clean and healthy. That being said, it is important to recognize when your turtle’s condition requires a trip to the vet.