why is my tortoise wheezing

While tortoises are relatively low maintenance pets, it is important to keep an eye on their health and general well-being. In today’s article, I will discuss some of the main reasons why your tortoise might be wheezing. I will also review some of the ways you can help your tortoise if they are wheezing.

Why is my tortoise wheezing?

The main reason a tortoise is wheezing is because of a respiratory problem. This can be caused by a range of environmental and health issues.

There is also a chance that your tortoise is suffering from allergies.


One of the main reasons your tortoise will start wheezing is because you don’t have the right humidity in their enclosure. Tortoises need adequate humidity to help prevent dehydration, and to also help thin out their mucus.

When a tortoise is in a low humidity environment for an extended period of time, it can lead to a build up of mucus, which can ultimately cause them to start wheezing or breathing heavily. For this reason, you should make sure that your enclosure has a humidifier.

Dusty substrate

Another reason your tortoise is wheezing could be because of the substrate in the enclosure. If the substrate becomes dusty, small particles can get stuck in their throat or lungs. Moldy substrate can also cause your tortoise to start wheezing. For this reason, it is important to regularly change their substrate to prevent this from happening.

You tortoise also might start wheezing if they get a piece of substrate or food stuck in their mouth or throat. Luckily, this should only be temporarily and should pass after a couple minutes. Make sure they have access to water to help them wash it down.


overcrowding tortoises

Your tortoise might also start wheezing if they are living in a small or overcrowded environment. Tortoises need ample room to crawl and dig. If they don’t have enough space, it can stress them out and cause a range of health issues, including respiratory issues.


Dehydration can also be the cause of your tortoises wheezing or labored breathing. While dehydration can be caused by inadequate access to water, it can also be caused by low humidity.

For this reason, you should make sure that your tortoise always has access to a clean water bowl and a humidifier.

Respiratory infection

A respiratory infection can also be the reason why your tortoise is wheezing. If you suspect that your tortoise has a respiratory infection, you should check for other symptoms. These include:

  • Discharge or “bubbles” coming from your tortoise mouth, nose, or eyes
  • Reduced appetite
  • Swollen eyes
  • Reduced movement

If your tortoise has any of the accompanying symptoms, you should take the to the vet, as a respiratory infection is very hard to treat at home.

At the vet, they will likely run a few tests to confirm that it is indeed a respiratory infection. They will treat your tortoise differently depending on whether the infection was caused by a bacteria, virus, or fungi.

They will administer medicine to fight against the infection, and then give you a recovery plan.


While it isn’t as common in tortoises, there is also a chance that your tortoise is suffering from allergies. This could be the case if you recently moved your tortoise into a new enclosure or switched their bedding. It could also be onset by a change in weather.

If your tortoise lives in an outside enclosure, it could be caused by pollen.


There are certain species of parasites that can also cause your tortoise to start wheezing. One of the most common parasites that can cause labored breathing in tortoises are lungworms. These are internal parasites that can irritate your tortoise’s lungs and respiratory system.

While parasites must be treated at the vet, there are things you can do to prevent them in the future. You should regularly clean their enclosure and replace their substrate. You should also be very cautious when putting any foreign object into their enclosure, as it could be a host for parasites.

Old age

Unfortunately, a tortoise might start wheezing when they are neat the end of their life. Usually when tortoises at the end of their life, they will start eating less and not move around as much.

You should look up your tortoise species’ life expectancy to see how long they are expected to live. While some tortoises such as Sulcatas can live up to 150 years, others such as the red-footed tortoise usually only live 20 to 40 years.

If they are near the end, you should keep an eye to see if your tortoise is displaying any other symptoms of old age. If you suspect your tortoise is suffering, you might want to consider euthanizing.

What to do if your tortoise is wheezing?

If you can’t identify what is causing your tortoise to wheeze, there are a couple things you should do. For starters, you should replace their bedding with a fresh, new substrate. If you have multiple tortoises, it is best to separate the wheezing tortoise from the other in case they have an infectious disease.

Next, you should make sure that your tortoise’s enclosure has the right humidity.

Then, you should slightly increase the temperature of their enclosure, as tortoises are usually better at fighting respiratory illnesses in warmer temperatures.

If the wheezing continues, then you should take your tortoise to the vet.