Red Eared Slider Shell Rot

Owning a red-eared slider turtle can be a great experience for many people. Watching their little buddy swim around their habitat can be a great way to spend some free time. But having a turtle isn’t always a great joy. There are some worrisome and stressful situations that owners and these pets can find themselves in. One of them is a health issue called shell rot.

Red Eared Slider Shell Rot

Shell rot is one of those most common health issues in Red Eared Sliders. While it can be very damaging, it is almost always treatable if caught early.

The best way to treat shell rot in red-eared sliders is with a turtle moisturizer or bathing treatment. Below are my two recommendations.

You can help prevent shell rot by ensuring that your turtle is basking enough. If they aren’t, you should watch my video below.

What is shell rot?

Shell rot is a health condition that will harm your red-eared slider’s shell. If your red-eared slider develops shell rot and is not taken care of, your turtle’s health can start to decline pretty quickly. There are two different kinds of shell rot, and each one can cause different health concerns.

The first kind of shell rot, the most common, is wet rot. Wet rot is the more serious of the two kinds of shell rot as it can lead to some pretty nasty infections that, if not treated quickly, can lead to death. A turtle with wet shell rot may start to let out a discharge from the eyes or mouth that can range in color from white to green. It might also develop puffy eyes.

The other kind of shell rot a red-eared slider can get is called dry rot. Dry shell rot will have your red-eared slider’s shell crumbling away in bits and pieces. Because a turtle’s shell is essential to their health, treatment needs to start as soon as you notice your turtle has dry rot because once it gets too broken down there may be no way to fix it. Many people confuse dry rot with normal shell shedding. You can watch my video below to see what turtle shedding looks like.

How do red-eared sliders get shell rot?

Both kinds of shell rot are caused by the same thing- an abundance of growing bacteria that comes from the environment the turtle is living in. Dirty water and bedding are more often than not the start of the infection.

However, incorrect temperatures and a preexisting injury can also cause shell rot. Shell rot can also be caused by a red-eared slider not having a place to dry off. That is why it is very important that you have a good basking platform.

What are signs of shell rot on a red-eared slider?

Unfortunately, shell rot can sneak up on many red-eared slider turtle owners. The first sign that you need to be on the lookout for is the discoloration of your turtle’s shell. This will start small and only start to spread as the infection spreads.

If your red-eared slider has shell rot, you can expect to see the following symptoms as the infection progresses:

  • Discoloration
  • Exposed tissue and bones under the shell Cracks in the shell
  • Discharge coming out of the shell
  • An unpleasant smell coming from the shell A sudden unevenness to the shell

A red-eared slider with shell rot may not exhibit unusual behavior if the infection is mild, but as its symptoms worsen your turtle may start to lose interest in things he normally would love.

There is a chance that your red-eared sliders shell is just growing. To learn more, check out my article on do turtles shed their shells?

How do you treat a red-eared slider with shell rot?

Luckily for you, if your red-eared slider has only a minor case of shell rot it can be treated at home. Before starting any at-home treatments, you should determine what caused your red-eared slider to develop shell rot and fix that.

To treat your red-eared slider at home, you are going to need to keep it away from any water (besides drinking water, of course) until the infection has cleared up. The best way to do this is to quarantine a turtle while it heals.

You are going to want to keep your turtle’s temporary home and shell as clean as possible. To do this you need to gently scrub off any algae or dirt. Once your red-eared slider’s shell is clean, contact your vet to get a recommendation on what kind of antiseptic or antibiotic is best for you to use on your turtle. If the shell rot doesn’t get better with your treatment at home in less than two weeks, call your vet to make an appointment.

If you are unfortunate enough to not notice that your red-eared slider has developed a shell rot infection until after it has become severe, a vet appointment is necessary. Letting this infection grow can be detrimental to your red-eared slider’s health, and can even lead to death. It is also very painful for your turtle.

How can you keep your red-eared slider from getting shell rot?

While the thought of your red-eared slider developing shell rot is scary, there are ways for you to prevent it. The easiest and best way to make sure that your turtle doesn’t get this potentially deadly infection is to keep his home clean.

Set up a regular cleaning schedule for your red-eared slider’s home. Make sure that you are setting time to do deep cleanings as well as spot cleanings. It is also important to be sure that you are providing your red-eared slider with ample space to not only swim but climb onto land and dry off. Lastly, make sure that the temperature of your red-eared slider’s water and basking space is warm enough.

If you are ever concerned about your red-eared slider developing shell rot or just want to make sure that you are doing everything right by your turtle, reach out to a professional hobbyist or your veterinarian.