Most turtle ailments are the results of improper diet, lack of natural sunlight, poor hygiene, or being kept at too low a temperature. Sick turtles should be isolated from other turtles, as should all newly acquired turtles, for at least 6 weeks (6 months is preferred by some hobbyists) and watched for disease symptoms before being placed back with your others.
Fungus appears as white or grey specks, furry spots or lumps on the fleshy parts. Adding 1/4 cup table salt to each five gallons of water is a good preventative. Fungus remedies sold for tropical fish can be added to the water. Shell and skin fungus can be painted with 2% gentian violet and allowed to dry for 6 hours before putting the turtle back into clean water. Natural sunlight is beneficial, but be careful not to let the turtle overheat. Shell rot is a serious problem. Symptoms include a discoloration under the shell surface, soft or spongy areas on the shell surface, and discharge of a rotten smelling liquid when the area is squeezed. The rotted areas must be scraped clean, and covered with Gentocin or Polysporin ointment for 3 days. The treated area is then painted with gentian violet every 2 days until it dries out. During treatment the turtle is kept out of water except for a daily soaking and during feeding.
Swollen eyes and a soft shell may be due to a poor diet and a lack of natural sunlight. Add vitamins and a calcium source to the diet, and give the turtle access to unfiltered sunlight or a Vitalite. Ophthalmic ointments applied under the eyelids may be beneficial. Turtles are highly susceptible to respiratory tract infections. Symptoms include listing to one side when floating, gasping, a runny or bubbly nose, and swollen eyes. The turtle should be kept warmer than usual (85-90Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â° F). If these conditions do not improve in a few days consult a veterinarian.
Flesh injuries resulting from bites, scratches, or cuts can be treated with antibiotic ointments such as Polysporin or Terramycin. Apply twice daily and keep the turtle dry for 8-10 hours after each application. Injured turtles must be brought inside immediately to prevent flies from laying eggs in the wound and producing a maggot infestation. If physical injuries occur try to eliminate the cause. Basking rocks should be checked for sharpness and replaced if too sharp or abrasive. Make sure that nothing can trap the turtles underwater since they can drown. In the remote chance that this should happen, it may be possible to revive the turtle by pushing or pulling the limbs in and out of the shell to force air into the lungs. When it is breathing on its own, put the turtle on dry land to rest and recover. Before putting it back in its home, correct whatever condition caused the near-drowning.
Certain odd occurrences and behaviors may cause alarm but are quite normal. Turtles shed their skins periodically, and some turtles shed the transparent covering of the scutes on the outside of their shells. In the fall turtles may refuse to feed and behave sluggishly, but this is a normal prelude to hibernation. During the breeding season females may become very restless, refuse to eat, and pace around the enclosure as they look for a suitable place to lay their eggs.
Remember, turtles, like all other pets, can carry disease. Owners should wash their hands after handling their pets, and young children should not be allowed to handle them without adult supervision.
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