Turtle respiratory infections can be very serious, and extreme cases can lead to death. Therefore, it is important that you identify the illness quickly to increase the chances of survival. In today’s article, I will review the common symptoms of a turtle respiratory infection and how you may be able to treat it at home.
How to tell if your turtle has a respiratory infection
The main signs of a respiratory infection in turtles are:
- Labored breathing
- Moving their neck out when they try to breathe
- Loss of appetite
- Discharge on nose, eye, or mouth
- Swollen eyes
- Swimming lopsided
- Making strange noises
If your turtle is displaying one or more of these symptoms, there is a good chance they have a respiratory infection.
If you suspect your turtle has a respiratory infection, you should take it to the vet immediately. Your vet will likely need to administer some antibiotics to treat your turtle. If you are unable to take your turtle to the vet, you can try to treat your turtle at home. However, just keep in mind that most turtles with a respiratory infection will die if they don’t see a vet.
If you have a red-eared slider and don’t think they have a respiratory infection, you should check out my guide on how to tell if my red-eared slider is sick.
Turtle Respiratory Infection Home Treatment
To help treat a turtle respiratory infection at home, you should clean your tank, increase the temperature and humidity, and adjust their diet.
If your turtle’s condition continues to worsen, you can try to give them medication to fight the illness.
Clean your tank
The first thing you should do is clean your tank. You should do at least a 50% water change and remove any sitting debris. If your water is very dirty, you may even want to do a 75% or a 100% water change. You should also do a thorough cleaning of your filter.
Not only can this help reduce the spread of bacteria, but it can also help prevent your turtle from becoming stressed and prevent other turtle diseases.
If your turtle has any residue on their face, you should try cleaning it off with a soft brush or toothbrush.
A turtle’s body is more likely to fight off an infection in warm temperatures. It increases the strength of their immune system and can also help reduce congestion.
Therefore, you should raise your water temperature to around 84 degrees fahrenheight. You should also make sure their basking platform is around 94-96 degrees fahrenheight and has UVA and UVB light directly hitting it.
While warm temperatures are good, you shouldn’t exceed these temperature ranges as it can stress your turtle out and lead to a weakened immune system.
While this mostly goes for tortoises and land turtles, increasing the humidity of your turtle’s environment can also help your turtle fight off a respiratory infection. Some people have had luck misting their turtle’s tank, or even putting a humidifier in the room of the tank. If you go with a humidifier, make sure that it only runs for a couple hours per day.
An increased humidity can help break down any mucus stuck in your turtle’s mouth/throat and make it easier for them to breathe.
Adjust their diet
If your turtle is still eating, then you should be fine to keep their diet as is. However, if your turtle is refusing to eat, you should try to mix it up to help entice them to eat again. You should try other types of pellets, as well as free dried insects such as crickets. If that doesn’t work, you should look into buying an appetite stimulator.
If your turtle has swollen eyes, it could be an indication that they are suffering from a vitamin A deficiency. If this is the case, you should give your turtle a vitamin A supplement. You can learn more here about what vitamins do turtles need.
Medicine for a turtle with a respiratory infection
If your turtle’s condition is worsening and you still can’t see a doctor, your last resort could be to administer medicine for your turtle.
In order to fight of the respiratory infection, your turtle will most likely need an antibiotic. Unfortunately, most antibiotics require a subscription.
Some people have used this herbal medication to successfully treat their turtle with a respiratory infection. It helps support immune functions and can specifically help strengthen your turtle’s respiratory function and can improve eye and mouth help. It can also help increase your turtle’s appetite.
This is a strong antibiotic that is used to treat bacterial infections. Many vets will administer Baytril (Enrofloxacin) to fight your turtle’s respiratory infection.
Unfortunately, Baytril requires subscription, so unless you have some left over from your dog or another pet, you will have to go to the vet to get a prescription for your turtle.
Other medications for respiratory infections in turtles
I have read on online forums that people have successfully treated their turtle’s respiratory infection with other medications such as Tetracycline and Amoxicillin. These are also prescription antibiotics so they would also require a visit to the vet if you don’t already have any. Regardless of which medication you give your turtle, make sure you give them the proper dosage for their size/weight.
You can also give them eye drops if they have swollen eyes.
Should you isolate a turtle with respiratory infection?
If you have multiple turtles, you should definitely isolate and quarantine the turtle that you suspect has a respiratory infection. This is because respiratory infections are extremely contagious and can easily spread to other turtles in the tank.
Should you dry dock a turtle with a respiratory infection?
Dry docking is a bit controversial when it comes to treating a turtle’s respiratory infection. On the positive side, it can help remove the turtle from bacteria infested conditions and prevent the turtle from drowning if they’re body becomes really weak.
On the other side, many people discourage dry docking because it can easily lead to dehydration for your turtle. It can also stress out your turtle, which can lead to a weakened immune system which will make it harder to fight off the infection.
How to prevent respiratory infections in turtles
The two main ways to prevent respiratory infections in turtles are to maintain a clean environment, have proper temperatures, and have a proper basking platform.
A clean environment will help prevent the buildup of dangerous bacteria that can lead to a respiratory infection. You should do water changes at least every one to two weeks and remove any large pieces of waste.
It is also important that you have a strong filter that you regularly clean.
Finally, one of the keys to maintaining a clean environment is to thoroughly wash and clean any item that you put in your tank. This includes decorations, plants, substrate, or live insects.
Turtles are more susceptible to respiratory infections in cold temperatures. Therefore, you should maintain a water temperature between 77 and 85 degrees fahrenheight, and a basking platform temperature of around 87 to 95 degrees fahrenheight.
On the topic of basking platforms, it’s important that you have a basking platform that your turtle can easily climb on to. You should also make sure that your basking lights emit both UVA and UVB light.