Post your turtle first aid questions here.
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Level 3
Posts: 171
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2003 10:00 pm


Whether the cost of your Red Ear Slider was small or large, you should try to provide the best care you can give your Slider. When providing it with a suitable aquarium, cleanliness, healthy diet, and a warm stress free environment you can minimize a huge potential of health problems that they can develop. As you would with any other pet, find a veterinarian who is qualified to offer care and treatment of a Red Ear Slider. From reading books, here are some of the common illnesses and medications, which you can use if your Slider becomes ill. Always remember that the first thing you should do is take your sick turtles to the veterinarian before doing anything on your own.

General rules you should follow when sickness is suspected

Raise temperature to 80 or 85 degrees Fahrenheit
Keep the water neatly clean
Keep offering different food items to the turtle
Watch out for unusual stools
When there are no results in a few days see a

Let me say this first: A cold is a serious condition for a turtle.

Turtles get colds, just like people and most other animals. They may sneeze, but sneezing is not always a sign of a cold; dust or just \"stuff in the nose\" can make a turtle sneeze occasionally. The turtle may have a bit of a runny nose, too. Again, this can be causes by allergies, or by a cold. If you are not sure, whether your turtle has a cold, have a veterinarian evaluate the animal.

These symptoms could also be a harmless little cold, or they could be the only sign of the beginning of a more serious respiratory infection, which must be treated with medication.

While a turtle doesn\'t get a cold from being cold, keeping a turtle too cold, or under less than ideal conditions, will weaken its immune system, and it is more likely to catch the disease.

Colds, respiratory infections, and pneumonia can be caused by bacteria or viruses. Just like in people, if a bacterium is the agent, antibiotics are used for treatment, and there is a good chance the animal will recover. If a virus is the cause, which is hard to determine, since it won\'t show in a culture, nothing much can be done, except to keep the turtle warm and wait and hope.

The first measure for any cold-like symptoms is to raise the temperature in the turtle enclosure. Raising the temperature helps the turtle\'s immune system become more active. Also, make sure the turtle has the cleanest possible environment. How much to raise the temperature? Maybe a few degrees for water, to around 28 - 30C (82 - 85F). Better even, is to take the turtle, if it is a water turtle, out of the water. Put the turtle into a heated box, use a thermometer! make sure it doesn\'t get too hot!!! You can use a heating pad or a lamp to heat the box. Leave the turtle in the box except for two soakings of 1/2 hour each mornings and evenings, for eating and drinking.

If your turtle gets worse, or if it does not improve within a couple of days, you should see a veterinarian as soon as possible.

If any of the symptoms are more than minor, or if the turtle also gasps, has a rasping breath, or swollen eyes, is sluggish or doesn\'t eat, see a veterinarian immediately.

If you are not sure, see a veterinarian. Colds, respiratory infections, and pneumonia are probably one of the most common causes of death for turtles.

Treatments for colds, respiratory infections, and pneumonia include warmth, antibiotics (oral or injected), steaming (with or without medication), breathing oxygen (if the turtle has water in its lungs and cannot get enough oxygen), and X-rays, to check for water in the lungs.

Vitamin K Deficiency

Vitamin K deficiency is almost always a result of long-term antibiotic therapy, which causes the destruction of the intestinal bacteria that synthesize Vitamin K. Occasionally, it can occur without known cause. However, lack of vegetables might be the cause. The usual symptom is bleeding of the gums. The treatment consists of giving the animal Vitamin K and changing the diet to include more vegetable matter.

Turtles Carrying Disease?

Like other animals and people, turtles carry all sorts of bacteria on them. The same way that you should not let your dog lick your face, you should not kiss your turtle. Small children should not be allowed to put the turtle in their mouth. Always wash your hands after handling turtles. In rare cases a turtle may carry salmonella. Often, the disease is acquired, if the turtle is fed raw chicken. If you are worried about salmonella, you can have your vet test the turtle and treat it. There are several excellent articles on turtles an salmonella in some of the herp magazines and books mentioned below.

Fungal Infections

Red Eared Sliders and other turtles can develop fuzzy gray and white patches that are fungal growths. One of the major causes of this is poor water quality and an improper basking area. Make sure you have a good full spectrum or UVB Light that gives off some good heat. Sliders need this for the prevention of fungal infections.


Acriflavan is available at most pet stores and will often stop fungal infections when it\'s added to the water. I also recommend Hagen Sulfa bath. If this isn\'t working to well, Please consult your veterinarian.

Algae on your turtle

If algae grow in your rocks and tank decorations, unless they disturb your sense of beauty, you can let them grow. An exception is the long, hairy kind which also makes the water slimy. Those, you should remove. Algae grow in healthy water with enough light. They are a sign, that you are doing something right. Do not use chemicals to kill algae!!! If you don\'t like the algae, brush them off every time you change the water, change the water more often, use a stronger filter, and add a little salt to the water (see further up). In the wild, it is normal for turtle to grow algae on their shells. It helps them camouflage! In captivity, the algae should be removed every once in a while, since they can encourage growth of fungus in a confined environment. To remove the algae, hold your turtle under warm tap water and gently brush it with a soft vegetable brush.


This is very dangerous to turtle and should be monitored very carefully. Obesity in turtles can cause the functions of liver and other organs to become impaired.


Correct the Sliders diet in both quality and quantity.

Swollen eyelids and Skin peeling

Vitamin A deficiency causes swollen eyelids, which can result in vision problems and bloody skin patches. Swollen and shut eyes used to be a common symptom in baby Red Eared Sliders fed an inadequate diet. Swollen and shut eyes can also be symptoms of a respiratory infection and may require antibiotic therapy.


Better Vitamin supplementation and antibiotics from your vet is mandatory for this dilemma.

Gaping and Yawning:

Gaping can be either totally harmless--turtles do yawn, or a sign of a serious respiratory problem, including pneumonia. You have to watch the turtle carefully and put all the different signs together. If the animal gapes and yawns frequently, and if there are any other symptoms, like swollen eyes, a runny nose, rasping while breathing, or loss of appetite, have a veterinarian evaluate the turtle immediately.

Often a veterinarian will do an X-Ray to determine whether a gaping turtle has pneumonia and water in its lungs. If a water turtle swims lop-sided, mention it to your veterinarian. This is a pretty sure sign, that the turtle does have water in its lungs.

Respiratory Diseases

Here are some symptoms I have run into: Clogged and runny nostrils, gasping with the mouth open and wheezing, excessive mucus in the nose and mouth and bubbling at the nose and mouth. These problems indicate serious respiratory issues. Antibiotic treatment is mandatory but may differ on which problem it has. Sick turtles will also show signs of decreased appetite and inactivity. In water turtles, a frequent symptom is the inability to maintain normal equilibrium when swimming. The turtles appear to swim lopsided. Because lungs play a key role in maintaining buoyancy, when one side is congested or infected, the normal balance is lost. When both sides are affected, a turtle will be seen to constantly struggle to remain at the surface of the water or to dive.

Go to the vet and get medication. Make sure your water temperature in the tank is between 88 and 94 degrees F. Also check for drafts in the tank. The most effective course of treatment is to administer injectable aminoglycosides such as Gentamicin or Amikacin. Except in the earliest stages when the heat treatment may be effective, a veterinarian should be consulted for safe and effective administering of antibiotics. If caught early, the prognosis is generally good.

Shell Rot

It\'s usually of bacterial origin and has haunted keepers for years. It usually starts off by an injury, Bruised shell, burn or a crack in the shell surface. If your tank isn\'t clean and well maintained this disease will spread very rapidly. Clean water will also prevent this infection from happening.


A complete sterilization of the aquarium and appropriate medication from your veterinarian is needed. This is one problem like I said that could spread very rapidly. Make sure to take the Slider to the vet. Also try a Betadine solution until the infection has healed.

Shell shedding

Turtles shed occasionally the outermost layer of their scutes. They are thin, translucent scutes. If the whole scute is shed and the bone becomes visible, or if shedding is continuous, you may have a fungus problem and should have your turtle inspected by a veterinarian. As an immediate measure, remove the turtle from the water except for a 30 minute bath twice a day; keep it warm and dry; soak twice a day for 15 minutes in iodine solution or sponge off with Nolvosan.

Skin shedding

A little peeling occasionally is fine. Turtles shed their skin like other reptiles, but more continuously. Mine usually shed more for a while, then less or not at all. As long as the shed skin is thin and translucent, and you don\'t see anything unusual on the skin, and the shedding is not excessive, don\'t worry. If the shedding is continuous, or the skin looks sore or red, or the shedding is very heavy, you may have to deal with a skin fungus. Have your turtle checked by a veterinarian. You may also soak the turtle in an iodine solution twice a day for 15 minutes and keep it warm and dry outside the water overnight for a while.

Silvery spots under the top layer of shell

The silver spot is most likely air trapped under a scute that might shed soon. (Not the whole scute to the bone, just one layer, which turtles shed periodically.) Just keep an eye on it. Sometimes, the spot turns green from algae that grow on it. You may try, gently, to see whether to scutej (just a transparent layer) is loose and comes off.


It\'s basically the Slider\'s intestine coming out of its anus. It usually goes back right in but you have to be very careful that it does not bite it or other turtles do not bite it. If they do it can cause serious damage. If the prolapse does not go back in, take it to the vet and they can stitch it up so it doesn\'t happen again. A lot of turtles will at some point in time prolapse, (i.e. turn inside out and outside of their body) their cloaca or for males their penises. Occasional prolapses are common and more annoying than dangerous if dealt with properly. There is little pain involved for the turtle. It is not known for sure, what causes prolapses. Diet, stress, parasites and intestinal infections, general disease, obstructed intestinal tract, and weak cloacal muscles have all been suggested, but there are no final conclusions. And, too much sex...(no joke). So, there are no known preventive measures, either. If your turtle seems otherwise healthy, an occasional prolapse is nothing to worry about. If the prolapses happen frequently and cause too much distress to you and your turtle, you might consider asking a herp vet to apply a purse string suture. If you catch your turtle in the act, watch and keep dirt away form the exposed parts. If they don\'t go back in immediately, make sure, they stay moist (you may even want to put the animal in a pan with a little luke warm water) and massage the surrounding area gently and make the turtle move. For water turtles, keeping the parts moist is less of an issue than for land turtles, but putting the turtle into clean water is still recommended. With water turtles, other turtles might try to bite the prolapsed body part which can lead to heavy bleeding and ugly consequences. Land turtles may step on their intestine, or tear it with their hind feet when trying to remove the \'thing\' extending from their body. The turtle is not aware, that this is a body part. Observe the turtle, until the prolapse has gone back inside. Purse String Suture: The suture basically keeps the cloaca from opening too wide, and so the intestine should stay in. The turtle can still pass feces, of course. If the intestine does dry off, usually, the vet will put a suture around it and eventually remove the dead part completely. This is done under anesthesia and can be more or less complicated, depending on the size of the dead parts. This operation has a guarded prognosis.


Some Sliders are very aggressive and territorial.


If you see a good cut on the Slider, I\'d recommend putting some Polysporn on it. Polysporn is completely harmless to Sliders and very safe. Try not to get it in there eyes or mouth though. This could hurt the Slider. Always clean the cut daily with Hagen Sulfa bath or Herpcare skin and shell treatment. I noticed the healing speeds up too if they are out of he water. This gives the cut a chance to scab and harden quickly.

Shell Wounds

You must take the proper steps to prevent shell-rot, shell fungus and other bacteria from taking advantage of this wound. I recommend Herpcare skin and shell treatment and clean water. You will notice with a wound, your Red Ear Slider will also bask a lot. This helps the healing of the shell. DO NOT pick at the shell or brush it with anything, this will cause slower healing.

Shell Fungus

Shell fungus is white patchy fungus that can grow on the shell. Shell Fungus is usually caused by bacteria getting under the Sliders shell. To get rid of your Sliders fungus, bath him daily in Hagen Sulfa bath, or a salt water bath for about a half an hour each day. You want to use a toothbrush to scrub the infected area. Clean water will also prevent this infection.

Metabolic Bone Disease

In hatchling turtles, this used to be known as soft-shell disease. It was one of the more common causes of deaths during the days of the large scale sale of baby Red Eared Sliders in the 1960\'s. The causes of metabolic Bone disease are inadequate calcium and/or inadequate calcium/phosphorus ratio and/or a vitamin D3 deficiency. This disease used to be common at a time when worthless turtle diets such as dried flies were commercially marketed in pet stores. The earliest symptoms are the softening of the plastron, underside of the shell, and the rear marginals, back edge of the shell. When examining for metabolic bone disease, apply slight, gentle pressure to these areas. Applying too much force and pressure can injure the turtles. Be gentle! By feeding your turtles an adequate diet your turtles will not have metabolic bone disease. Symptoms in larger animals include soft shells, deformed shell growth, and the inability to support themselves on their hind legs. As long as your turtles still appear active and are feeding, this disease can easily be handled. If caught in the earliest stages and treated early on, no long term effects will be present. In severe cases, a veterinarian should be consulted to administer injectable calcium gluconate. In more severe cases, the effects of the disease will not reverse and skeletal deformities and abnormal shell growth will remain for the rest of the turtle\'s life.


Providing an adequate diet and treatment by supplementing the diet with a calcium/phosphorus/vitamin D3 supplement such as Osteoforme will stop or end the progress of the disease.

Internal Parasites

Red Eared Sliders can harbor many parasites including roundworms, flukes, and protozoans. If your turtle is stoolless, not feeding well, has poor weight, runny and/or bloody stools, stools with large amounts of mucus, stools with worms present, then you should consult a veterinarian to perform a stool check for parasites. A qualified reptile veterinarian will be able to prescribe and perform the best course of treatment.


See a Veterinarian!!

Ear or Cheek Infections

The most obvious symptom of an ear or cheek infection is the asymmetrical appearance of the head whereby one side will appear more swollen than the other. The causes of these infections can include unsanitary or inadequate husbandry, inadequate maintenance temperatures, superficial lacerations and inadequate diets.


Treatment involves draining the infected area through a small incision, both the site of infection and the tool should be disinfected with Betadine and alcohol. The area should then be flushed with hydrogen peroxide and then with Betadine. This is a procedure that is readily preformed by more experienced herpetoculturists and inexperienced hobbyists should consult a veterinarian. The turtle should then be kept relatively dry during healing by allowing only limited periods of activity in water once a day. Upon removel from the water, the surface of the infected area should be disinfected with Betadine. If these infections persist, a veterinarian should definently be consulted for administration of injectable antibiotics.


In water turtles, loss of appetite, listlessness, and runny stools are often a sign of gastroenteritis. A veterinarian should be consulted to perform stool checks or cloacal smears to determine the causal organism(s). Untreated, the prognosis for this disease is poor, but early treatment is often successful. Various bacteria and protozoa are common causes.


Salmonella organisms can make up a significant portion of the normal intestinal flora of turtles when an animal is sufficiently stressed, these can become pathogenic for the hosts. In turtles symptoms include enteritis, pneumonia, mucus-covered, blood-tinged and discolored stools, runny stools and loss of appetite. If the above symptoms are present, the turtles should be taken to a veterinarian for a check-up and testing. Salmonellosis can easily be treated with injectable antibiotics. Salmonellosis can also easily be spread to the rest of one\'s collection or infect people. Take all neccessary precautions to prevent the spread of the disease by quarantining sick animals, and routinely disinfecting hands and any tools or utensils following handling or treatment of sick animals.

If Your Turtle Will Not Eat

Is the turtle kept warm enough? If turtles get too cool, they will stop eatingDoes the turtle like the food you offer? Try out different foods. Some turtles can be very finicky eaters, especially in the beginning. And they have definite likes and dislikes. Most turtles will eventually take small earthworms that are wiggling in front of their nose. Start feeding favorite foods, then slowly introduce other items..Is your turtle exposed to too much stress? This is often a cause in new animals.Stress can be caused by handling, travelling, tank mates. New turtles will often not eat properly for several weeks. Be patient and keep trying.Is your turtle healthy? Not eating can be a symptom of other problems. If your turtle has been eating well and suddenly stops, a health problem is a likely reason. Take a fecal sample to your veterinarian. (Fecal samples need to be no older than 4 hours, and you need to store them in water in the refrigerator.)Don\'t panic! A turtle can go without food for weeks, even months, and when it feels well again, it will eat again. See a veterinarian, if you thing you are doing everything right, and the animal does not eat for more than 2 weeks.

Watch your turtle for any signs of illness:

Cloudy, closed or swollen eyes; swollen cheeks; open mouth breathing; bubbly mucous around the nose or mouth; runny stools; loss of appetite; listlessness; spots appearing on plastron (bottom shell), carapace or bode; soft shell or excessive shedding. Newly acquired turtles are under a lot of stress and may be riddled with bacterial or parasitical infections that may be passed along to you or your kids. Always take a sick turtle to a reptile veterinarian. Always take a sick turtle to a reptile veterinarian, and have your children checked out by their physician if they begin to exhibit any signs (nausea, stomach aches, vomiting).

This is important: Eye problems can be a symptom of respiratory infection or, any other serious health problem. You have to watch out for other signs of respiratory problems, like noise while breathing, floating lopsided in the water, or if your turtle have bubbles around the nose or mouth. Take your turtle to a reptile veterinarian immediately.

Red/puffy/closed eyes incombination with any other signs of bad health like shell rot, diarrhea, is a cause for concern and should be seen by a reptile veterinarian. If you delay veterinary care under these conditions, it can cost the life of your turtle.
If the problem is not accompanied by any other symptoms, there may by some simple changes you can do that will clear up the minor eye infection. Puffy, irritated or closed eyes can be an indication of poor condition and supportive therapies can clear up the eye problem and prevent more serious illness to your turtle.

Here is a short list of what you can do:

1. You have to check everything about your overall husbandry. Keep the tank clean and well lighted. Make sure you are providing a varied diet with lots of calcium, a good basking area. Your turtle have to get out of the water completely, and correct temperatures for your turtle, 25 - 32 C (78-85F).

2. If you are using an undergravel filter, the water can look clear and clean but still have too much ammonia. You have to clean out the tank, gravel, filter, rock, root, everything need to be clean. I regularly clean my tank every week, and I clean out the tank every 3rd or 4th week.

3. Lack of Vitamin A can cause puffy eyes (swollen membranes). Use a supplement that has Vitamin A occasionally. Too much Vitamin A is toxic, so don\'t overdo it. You can get Vitamin A supplement at your local pet store, you can also use aquatic plants since these have Vitamin A in them. If the eye problem is caused by lack of Vitamin A, it will clear up very quickly with a dose or two of Vitamin A.

4. Injury can cause puffy, red eyes, another turtle may have scratched near the eye or the turtle may have injured itself on something in the tank. Even a tiny scratch can become inflamed. An ophthalmic ointment might be helpful in that case, ask your vet.

5. Provide supportive therapies for your turtle. While your turtle is ill, raise the water temperature to about 35C (about 90 - 95F). This will boost up the immune system. Turtles that are stressed by illness can go rapidly downhill and refuse to eat.
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Joined: Mon Jul 05, 2004 6:39 pm

My red ear was fine on Friday, Sat morning, swollen closed eyes, a little skin shedding,didn\'t eat... it lives in a tank with 3 others, they seem fine. What do you think?
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