The following preventive measure, which applies equally to all turtle species, must be observed without fail: never keep your turtle on the floor or window sill of your house. The drafts always present there, even though you may not notice them, have fatal consequences for turtles. The balconies of high-rise dwellings, too, are almost always drafty. The following rule applies to all young turtles: provide a constant supply of calcium, vitamins, and ultraviolet light.
Preventive measures for land turtles: The swimming basin and the damp areas of sand that surround it are breeding grounds for abdominal and intestinal parasites and their eggs and larvae, as well as for amoebas and bacteria of all kinds. In the wild, turtles wander long distances and never again encounter the parasites they eliminate. In a terrarium, however, the situation is necessarily different. Where the animals eat and drink, the germs they have eliminated are taken in once again. The germs renew their at-tack on the organism, and their num-ber multiplies. The turtle, unable to cope, falls ill. The most essential preventive measure, therefore, is this: scrub the water basin daily and keep the sur-rounding ground dry. Change the sand around the basin frequently (about every four to eight weeks, depending on how dirty it gets). Turtles like to deposit their feces in water. If this happens, change the water immediately.
Preventive measures for marsh turtles. In respect to cleaning the water, take the same hygienic measures as those described for land turtles. Watch out for drafty air that may make its way through the opening of the terrarium. If the list of characteristics for a turtle specifies a water temperature of about 25-27░C, even indoor air with a temperature of about 21-23░C can be relatively cold. Take precautions by reducing the size of the terrarium opening with panes of glass that partially cover it.
Hypovitarninosis A. Vitamin A deficiency is commonly seen in box turtles that are fed improper diets. The all-meat diet, the "cricket and fruit cocktail" diet, and the "lettuce and carrots diet" are all deficient in Vitamin A (and several other nutrients as well). Vitamin A is needed to main-tain epithelial integrity; deficiency produces signs associated with changes in the epidermis. Turtles may show anorexia, lethargy, swelling of the eyes and eyelids (often with a purulent discharge), middle ear abscessation, and respiratory infections.Chronic deficiency, which shows squamous metaplasia and hyperkeratinization, is more difficult to treat successfully. Diagnosis is easily made by the clinical signs and the nutritional history. Treatment includes diet correction and administration of vitamin A. Hospitalization is needed for turtles that are anorectic or lethargic, have respiratory infections, and are presumed septic.
Respiratory diseases may occur in conjunction with other conditions, including improper diet, vitamin A deficiency, respiratory parasites, or infectious stomatitis. Respiratory disease can be anything as mild as rhinitis or as severe as pneumonia; causative organisms include bacteria (most commonly), fungi, viruses, or parasites. Some tortoises and turtles reportedly have a seasonal clear, serous nasal discharge. This discharge often corresponds to the "allergy" (pollen) season in humans in the area, or may result from excessive dust in the pet's environment. Lack of a diaphragm prevents active coughing from the air-sac-like lungs of reptiles. The mainstem bronchi and trachea enter the lungs more cranially in reptiles than in mammals. These factors favor the retention of respiratory secretions in the lower airways; simple respiratory infections are, therefore, more prone to developing into pneumonia in reptiles than in mammals. Conversely, muscular anaerobiasis (glycolic respiration) is remarkable in reptiles; they can often survive respiratory infections that would prove fatal to animals lacking anaerobic respiratory capabilities. Many "simple" respiratory infections in reptiles are actually symptoms of serious lower respiratory disease and may require aggressive treatment. While the prognosis for such infections is always guarded, many turtles will survive if appropriate aggressive treatment is instituted. Any turtle that isn't eating, is lethargic, and has severe respiratory signs (e.g., sneezing, wheezing, mucopurulent nasal discharge, dyspnea, open-mouth breathing) should be assumed to have pneumonia until proved otherwise and treated aggressively. Many of these pets are gravely ill and hospitalization is essential.
Shell Diseases. Aquatic turtles are afflicted with infectious shell diseases more often than land turtles; terrestrial turtles do encounter shell problems (fracures) due to trauma, however. Infections, when present, can be bacterial, fungal, or viral (rarely) in origin. Traumatic shell injuries can be the result of dog bites, human injury, or automobile trauma (crushing-type injuries). Shell repair with epoxy may be indicated, as well as parenteral antibiotics for all but superficial traumatic lesions. Shell lesions should be treated as open wounds and only repaired after all evidence of contamination and infection has resolved.
Abscesses. Diagnosis and treatment of an abscess involves lancing the abscess (often under anesthesia), flushing the cavity, and giving antibiotics.Unlike mammalian abscesses, reptilian abscesses contain firm caseated material rather than liquid pus (reptile heterophils lack the lysozymes to degrade and liquefy infectious materials). Abscesses in turtles are often secondary to hypovitaminosis A.
(Books: Turtles and terrapins by Jo Cobb; Turtles by Hartmut Wilke, Reptile diseases by Shawn P. Messonnier) Back