Are you worried that your lifestyle habits may be negatively impacting the overall health of your turtle? I am happy to share some advice on how turtles are able to consume oxygen, some tips for being proactive, and taking precautions for the health of your pet.
Turtles are a really intriguing species with many unique characteristics. As ectotherms, their body temperature adapts to their environment. In colder climates and during brumation (the equivalent to hibernation in mammals), turtles can absorb their needed oxygen through cloacal respiration. This form of respiration consists of turtles moving the water across their body surface that possesses many blood vessels. This usually occurs when turtles live in non-regulated temperatures, such as a frozen pond during the winter.
As an animal that breathes primary through their lungs, the quality of the air in their environment is very important. Now you might be wondering if cigarette smoke can impact the health of a turtle.
Is it harmful to smoke around turtles?
It is generally recommended to not smoke around any domestic pet, including turtles. This is because secondhand smoke can still deliver carcinogens and cause lasting effects, such as cancer.
Reptiles, especially turtles, have a low threshold for stress. Therefore, when a turtle’s environment is exposed to cigarette smoke, it is bound to provoke stressful reactions. This can easily result in a compromised immune system. It is very important that turtles are provided with a proper environment and diet to maintain their health and wellbeing.
While turtles do breathe similar to humans, their lungs are much more sensitive because of their small size. It should be a priority to provide turtles with a well-equipped tank that not only filters their water, but also generates a good balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide and other particles in the air.
How to smoke around a turtle?
Here are a few tips on how to protect the health of a turtle when pertaining to the use of cigarettes:
1) Always smoke outside so that your turtle is never exposed to secondhand smoke.
2) If you must smoke indoors, at the very least try to smoke in a separate room to protect your turtle from lasting effects of the cigarette smoke.
3) If you have to smoke in the same room as the turtle, do it far away from the tank. I recommend smoking out of a window to prevent the smoke from reaching your turtle’s tank.
After you smoke, it is recommended that you always wash your hands before touching your turtle. Chemicals from cigarettes linger on people’s fingers and the residue can get caught onto their shell/body. This can result in the chemicals coming into direct contact with the mucus membranes which are far more delicate than human skin. This sort of contamination can result in skin, eye or respiratory infections.
Can you vape around a turtle?
Recently, vapes and e-cigarettes have exponentially become popular amongst teenagers and young adults. Although these variations of smoking devices are marketed as safer and more convenient alternatives to cigarettes, they still possess the same deadly carcinogens that result in lung diseases. It is important for owners to treat their use of a vape or e-cigarette as they would a regular cigarette and adhere to warnings given to smokers in relation to their pets and habits.
How to ensure your turtle has a safe environment
It is important to remember that turtles naturally live and survive in ways that could protect them from exposure to smoke. As mentioned above, turtles are capable of holding their breath for extended periods of time and so it is important to always provide their habitat with plenty of clean water. Some turtles, such as box turtles, love to dig and burrow in dirt. Therefore, I recommend providing some dirt or a pile of decaying leaves for your turtle. This can provide another haven for your turtle to submerge themselves in.
A great way to promote the health of a turtle is to ensure they are not vitamin A deficient. This sort of deficiency can impact the outer layer of their skin and mucus-membranes, including their lungs. This can result in them exhibiting respiratory disease symptoms. Your turtle should be getting the balanced diet that it needs to maintain its nutritional intake.
Animals are very smart creatures, and reptiles are no exception. Obviously, a turtle isn’t going to sit in a situation and inhale toxic air if the turtle can feel its lungs and respiratory system being negatively affected. As the owner it is important to try to provide them with the best possible environment. That being said, they are able to protect themselves if you are in a situation that you absolutely need to smoke in the same room as they reside.
Respiratory Illness in Turtles
Turtles, like humans, need oxygen in order to survive. As mentioned above, do have more than one method to ensure they consume oxygen as their body needs. They are also capable of holding their breath for a long period of time if they need to. Turtles are reptiles and they are vulnerable to respiratory diseases, and such illnesses can occur more frequently at lower temperatures.
It is important that if you suspect your turtle is sick and is showing symptoms related to respiratory issues, contact a vet. Symptoms related to respiratory distress can include lethargy, nasal discharge, a loss of appetite and a number of other symptoms that a vet can confirm.
If you provide your turtle with a safe environment and balanced diet, your turtle will live a long healthy life. You should know that the quality of care they receive as anything less can impact their natural lifespan. While they are easier to care for than dogs or cats, turtles still require upkeep and attention. Even though turtles are protected by a hard shell, there are still certain dangers that threaten their safety.