The 3 most common health problems in domestic turtles

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Since it is one of the most common pets today, it is essential to know the health problems of domestic turtles.

Turtles are one of the most common exotic pets. They are small, you can easily take care of them and, therefore, they are chosen as a pet before dogs and cats. There is more and more knowledge about their care, but what are the most common health problems in domestic turtles?

The 3 most common health problems in domestic turtles

Hypovitaminosis A

Initially,  vitamin A is necessary for the good condition of the mucous membranes and the skin of animals. It is a vitamin that does not synthesize in the body and must therefore be ingested through food, in the form of beta-carotenes or retinol.


Turtles suffering from hypovitaminosis have swollen eyes, blepharitis , edema, hyperkeratosis of the skin surrounding the eye and, sometimes, scabs. Normally, the cornea loses its shine and becomes opaque. In addition, the general condition worsens and we see signs of apathy, a lack of appetite and weight loss.

Symptoms are similar to those of other diseases such as purulent conjunctivitis or corneal ulcers. To differentiate them, additional examinations must be performed at the veterinary clinic.

Diagnosis and treatment

To confirm the diagnosis, a positive response to treatment with intramuscular vitamin A injections will be sought every 15 days. Eye symptoms will also be treated by cleaning the eye and applying an eye ointment.

Finally,  the most important will be the change of diet. It is necessary to feed the turtle with specific foods enriched with vitamin A, or follow a strict natural diet – even if this is always more complicated because we do not necessarily have adequate food at home.

If it is a carnivorous species, it is recommended to add a few pieces of raw liver to the weekly menu. On the other hand, if it is a herbivorous turtle, orange, red and yellow fruits and vegetables should be added.

Domestic turtles and food to bring them

One of the most common health problems in domestic turtles: otitis

The causes of otitis in chelonians are varied:

  • Inadequate hibernation that causes immunosuppression
  • Oral or pharynx infections
  • Hits in the ear area
  • Hypovitaminosis A

In general, food is not suitable either , especially in carnivorous species, where it is poor in vitamins.


Domestic turtles frequently suffer from ear infections

At first, the eardrum area appears to have increased in size, forming a lump on one side of the head – or both if both ears are affected. During palpation, this region is hard and we feel that the temperature has increased.

By making the turtle open its oral cavity and pressing the ball, we see that the mouth is filled with a dense, whitish secretion, generally purulent . This last fact, in principle, should allow us to differentiate the diagnosis of a possible tumor.

Secondly, the animal is generally apathetic and seems to have lost its appetite.

Diagnosis and treatment

To confirm the diagnosis, it is suggested to perform an x-ray to assess 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 therapy will be prescribed for 10 days.

The cloaca prolapse

The cloaca prolapse is a relatively frequent pathology in reptiles. The causes that cause them are very diverse:

  • Hypocalcemia
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Hyperphosphatemia
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Presence of a foreign body

Since in order to diagnose several of these causes, certain additional examinations are necessary – such as faecal analyzes – and cannot be carried out in the event of prolapse, it will be enough to observe the symptoms and treat them.


First of all,  the cesspool is outside its opening, it is inflamed and has the shape of an edema. This discomfort causes the turtle to lose its appetite, become dehydrated, do not defecate and end up in a bad state.


Treatment will begin by trying to reduce the inflammation of the cesspool, by applying gauze with ice to the tissue affected by the prolapse. Once this step is completed, with the anesthetized animal, the prolapse is reintroduced into the anus, lubricating the cesspool well, and a few points are asked to prevent this from happening again.


There are several diseases that can frequently affect the health of house turtles. It is therefore important to know them and be attentive to the first symptoms. Of course,  the ideal is to always apply good prevention strategies to guarantee the well-being of the animal.