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The 3 most common health problems in domestic turtles


Animal diseases

The 3 most common health problems in domestic turtles

Turtles are one of the most common exotic pets. Small and easy to care for, they are chosen as a companion animal ahead of dogs and cats. There is increasing knowledge about their care, but what are the most common health problems of domestic turtles?

The 3 most common health problems in domestic turtles

Hypovitaminosis A

First, Vitamin A is necessary for the good condition of mucous membranes and animal skin. It is a vitamin that is not synthesized in the body, so it has to be ingested with the diet in the form of beta-carotenes or retinol.


Turtles with hypovitaminosis show swollen eyes, blepharitis, edema, hyperkeratosis of the skin surrounding the eye and, occasionally, scabs. Normally the cornea loses its shine and is opaque. In addition, the general condition usually worsens, showing signs of apathy, lack of appetite and weight loss.

The symptoms are similar to those of other diseases such as purulent conjunctivitis or corneal ulcers. To differentiate them, complementary tests will be performed in the veterinary clinic.

Diagnosis and treatment

To ensure the diagnosis, a positive response to treatment with intramuscular injections of vitamin A will be sought every 15 days. In addition, the eye symptoms will be treated, by cleaning the eye and applying an ophthalmological ointment.

Finally, the most important thing will be the change of diet. It is necessary to feed the turtle with a specific feed enriched with vitamin A, or follow a strict natural diet – although that is always more complicated because the right ingredients are not always at home.

It is recommended, if it is a carnivorous species, add crushed liver pieces to the weekly menu. In case of being a herbivorous turtle, add fruits and vegetables of orange, red and yellow colors.

domestic turtles


The causes of otitis in quelonios are varied:

  • Inadequate hibernations that cause immunosuppression.
  • Mouth or pharyngeal infections.
  • Bumps in the ear area.
  • Hypovitaminosis A.

Normally the diet is not adequate either, especially in carnivorous species, poor in vitamins.


Otitis in turtles.

In the first place, the tympanic region appears greatly enlarged, forming a lump on one side of the head – or both if both are affected. On palpation it shows hardened and increased temperature.

When opening the oral cavity to the turtle and squeezing the lump, we appreciate that the mouth is filled with a dense, whitish secretion, usually purulent. This last data, in principle, should make us differentiate the diagnosis of a possible tumor.

Secondly, the animal is usually apathetic and has usually lost its appetite.

Diagnosis and treatment

To confirm the diagnosis, it is suggested to perform an x-ray to evaluate the middle and inner ear, and see if they are affected, as well as a blood test. Once confirmed, surgery will be performed to remove the abscess, and antibiotic treatment will be prescribed for 10 days.

Cloaca prolapse, one of the most common health problems in domestic turtles

Cloacal prolapses are relatively frequent pathologies in reptiles. The causes that cause them are very diverse:

  • Hypocalcaemia
  • Stomach flu.
  • Hyperphosphatemia
  • Intestinal parasites.
  • Presence of a foreign body.

Since, in order to diagnose several of these causes, certain complementary tests are necessary – such as stool analysis – that are not possible in case of a prolapse, it will be necessary to comply with the observation of the symptoms and their resolution.


First,the sewer is out of its hole, inflamed and edematous. This discomfort causes the animal to lose appetite, be dehydrated, do not defecate and are in poor condition.

Vet with turtle in hand.


The treatment will begin trying to reduce the inflammation of the cloaca, applying ice gauze on the prolapsed tissue. Once it is achieved, with the anesthetized animal, the prolapse is reintroduced through the anus, lubricating the sewer well, and a couple of points are placed to prevent it from occurring again soon.

Final note

There are several diseases that can frequently affect the health of domestic turtles, so it is important to know them and be aware of their first symptoms. Of course, Ideally, always apply a good prevention strategy to ensure animal welfare

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