I researched a lot about respiratory infection in turtles and decided to put all my knowledge on it in a single article. So, after reading this article, you’ll know everything there is to know about respiratory infection in turtles including how to treat it, symptoms, diagnosis, pathology, and prevention.
So, let’s get started.
What is Respiratory Infection?
Respiratory infections are very common in pet turtle species especially if they are exposed to cold environment. Like us, turtles also have lungs for breathing. So, if exposed to cold weather, they can catch cold and respiratory infection (RI).
The respiratory infection is commonly caused by fungi, bacteria or virus. The diagnosis and treatment will differ according to the germ that is causing this infection. That’s why it is important to ask the help of a herp vet (A vet who is specialized on reptiles) when your turtle is suffering from a respiratory infection.
Respiratory infections can be very dangerous and if left untreated for a long time, your turtle can die. If you see symptoms of respiratory infection in your turtle, immediately go to the vet or an animal hospital. Try to look for a vet or hospital that has specialized vets on reptiles.
If there is no hospital or vet near to you, then call one and ask for help. Chances are that they will give you some advice for immediate care.
The symptoms of respiratory infection in turtles are very distinctive. So, it is easy to diagnose them. It is not possible to treat it by an average Joe turtle keeper. You need to go to a herp vet. He will prescribe a systematic antibiotic. The prevention is easy and just requires a few cautionary steps.
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Symptoms of turtle respiratory infection:
Here are the symptoms of turtle respiratory infections. If you observe any of these symptoms on your turtle, take it immediately to the vet.
- The turtle will be tired. It won’t move much.
- The turtle will face difficulty to breathe. It will be reluctant to swim in the water.
- There will be a runny nose. Mucus will secret from the nose excessively.
- There can by puffy or swollen eyes
- Keeping the mouth open often
- You’ll often see the turtle is sneezing, gasping, coughing, wheezing, or sneezing
- The turtle will lose interest in eating and lose weight
- It will start to ignore your presence in the room. Generally, it can also mean that the turtle is not scared of you. But if this symptom occurs with a combination of other symptoms, then it is bad.
- Adult turtles will start sleeping on the basking area. Normally, adult turtles never sleep in the basking area, so if they do, something is wrong with their health.
- In worse cases, the turtle won’t be able to swim properly. It will swim lopsidedly.
This last symptom is very dangerous, especially if it occurs in conjunction with other symptoms. If you observe this symptom in your turtle, chances are that it is suffering from Pneumonia and one of the lungs is already filled with fluid.
The one filled lung will throw off the balance of the turtle. If your turtle has got pneumonia, then chances are high that it will die without immediate treatment by a vet.
How to treat respiratory infection in turtles at home?
You can’t properly treat respiratory infection in turtles at home, simply because you don’t have the expertise of a vet. That’s why it is always recommended to ask the help of a vet or see a vet if your turtle is showing symptoms of respiratory infections.
However, there are some steps that you can take that will act as a “First Aid Treatment”. These steps will only slow down the progress of the disease, but they won’t cure it completely. There is no alternative to visiting the vet for curing the respiratory infection in turtles.
Let’s have a close look at these “First Aid” treatments:
- Respiratory infections are very contagious. So, if there is more than one turtle in the tank, you’ll need to immediately separate the sick one from the healthy ones. Put the sick one in a different hospital turtle tank. Observe the healthy ones closely for a few days to check if they are also suffering from this.
- Keep the water temperature warm preferably 83 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, ensure that all of the water parameters are okay. You can check the water parameters with API freshwater master test kit. if any of the parameters are off balance, take necessary steps to balance it out. Regular water changes help a lot to balance out the water parameters.
- It is better to increase the temperature of the basking area. For most common aquatic turtle species, 93 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit temperature will do fine.
- Also, increase the tank water temperature up to 83 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This range works safely for most common water turtle species. Increasing the temperature helps a lot by strengthening the immune system of the turtle. it also makes the mucus within the respiratory system more flexible. It helps to reduce the congestion and helps to make breathing easier.
- It is important to keep the mouth and nose of the turtle clean. If there is saliva or mucus secreting from the nose and mouth, wipe it away with a clean damp cloth.
- Ensure that your turtle is having a proper diet with lots of vitamin-rich foods. Sometimes vets recommend giving additional vitamin supplements to the turtle. Also, make sure that the turtle tank water is crystal clear.
- If your turtle stops eating, then you may need to force feed it. Force feeding a turtle is not easy. You need to ask the vet for tips on how to do this.
- Normally, we use two types of lights on a basking area: UVB light and heat lamp. But when your turtle is suffering from respiratory infection, it is better to use an infrared light The infrared light will help by increasing the internal temperature of the turtle. It will help to fight off the bacteria.
- However, make sure that the hottest part of the basking area doesn’t exceed the 93 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit temperature range. Also, there should be cooler spots on the basking area for the turtle to move in case it gets too hot. It is better to use a reptile thermometer for properly reading the temperature of the basking area and the tank water.
- Normally we don’t keep the lights on at night. But when your turtle is sick, it is better to keep the infrared light on. Sick turtles often sleep on the basking area as it is difficult for them to breathe in the water.
- Sometimes, turtles do not tend to bask in the basking area you gave them. They chose a different spot, such as on top of a floating pant. If such is the case with your turtle, then place the infrared light on the spot that your turtle chose for basking. Try to achieve the 93 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit temperature range on that spot.
- When a turtle is suffering from the respiratory infection, it will have trouble breathing. To ease the breathing, sometimes API Turtle Fix helps a lot. It doesn’t have any antibacterial property, it is only a type of tea tree oil. Think about rubbing petroleum jelly on a child’s chest when he is suffering from cold. The API turtle fix is like the jelly.
- In the worst condition, your turtle won’t be able to swim in the water properly. In such cases, it is sometimes better to “dry dock” the turtle. Dry Dock simply means putting your turtle in a separate tank without any water. Put a heat lamp and UVB lamp on the tank. Put the turtle in the water for half an hour only two times a day.
If your turtle is at the early stage of respiratory infection, then chances are that by following these steps the condition of your turtle will improve a lot. However, will these steps cure the respiratory infection? No. You need to go to a vet for that. There is no way to bypass that.
Please keep in mind that, the above tips will only work as “First Aid” and slow down the progress of the disease. They won’t cure the respiratory infection. You must need to go to a HERP vet or an animal hospital (that specializes in reptiles) for proper treatment of your turtle.
Diagnosis and Pathology of Turtle Respiratory Infection:
Only a professional vet can successfully diagnose the respiratory infection of a turtle. If your turtle shows any symptom of respiratory infection, take it to the vet immediately. The vet will collect a sample of mucus using a swab and diagnose it. This way, the vet will also find out what germ is causing the infection.
Bacteria are the most common cause for respiratory infection in turtles. Normally the bacteria are found in the trachea, lungs as well as inside the nose. The most common bacteria species that cause this infection are Aeromonas and Pseudomonas. Also, in rare cases fungi seems to be the culprit.
The vet will successfully identify the pathogen (or a group of pathogen) with the “sample swab” and take necessary steps for treatment.
Why Turtle Respiratory Infection Occurs?
Here are some of the common reasons for turtle respiratory infection:
- Cold air
- Chilling environment
- Unhealthy living environment
- Dirty tank water
- Lack of vitamin A in diet
- Malnutrition etc.
How a vet treats turtle respiratory infection?
The vet will follow a systematic approach to treat the respiratory infection. The first thing the vet will do is check if it is really the respiratory infection that is making your turtle sick. He will perform various observations such as watching the turtle swim, observing it on the basking area, taking weight of the turtle, using a stethoscope to check the lungs etc.
Lastly, the vet will take a sample of the mucus from the turtle’s nose or mouth using a swab and use it to identify the pathogen that is causing the infection. Some vets may also perform X-ray to check if your turtle is suffering from pneumonia or any other illness.
The treatment procedure will vary from vet to vet, what is making the turtle sick, which pathogen is responsible etc. Most vets will go through a systematic antibiotic procedure to treat the respiratory infection.
The vet may also prescribe some medications such as drops, medicines or injections. Of course, a responsible vet will show you how to apply the medicine or injection. If the situation is too bad, the vet may admit your turtle in his office for a few days for close observation.
How to prevent turtle respiratory infection?
Here are some tips to prevent turtle respiratory infection:
- Make sure the turtle habitat is not exposed to cooler air or weather for a long time. Cold temperature makes your turtle lethargic and prone to diseases like the respiratory infection. Check a reliable care sheet of your turtle species and make sure the temperature is within the safe range.
- You should always wash your hand before and after handling turtles or any turtle related items. It will keep both you and your turtle safe from each other.
- Make sure that the turtle is living in a healthy environment. Ensure it has everything it needs to lead a happy life i.e. good filter, clean swimming water, basking area, UVB light, heat lamp, proper diet etc.
- It is better to not use any kind of draft in your turtle habitat. Generally, these drafts carry a lot of germs that can cause various health issues in turtles. if you must, then make sure to boil the draft for a good amount of time before placing it in the tank.
- If you use vacuum cleaner to clean the room where you placed the turtle tank, then make sure the vacuum cleaner has HEPA filter. The filter will help to keep tiny dust specks out of the air. Also, refrain yourself from using any carpet cleaning powder as some of them can be quite toxic to animals.
- Make sure you are providing a well-balanced diet to your turtles. Only store bought commercial pellets won’t cut it. You’ll also need to provide vegetables, leafy greens, protein, minerals and most importantly vitamins. Vitamin A is particularly very important for turtles. Lack of vitamin A can cause many issues such as respiratory infection, turtle swollen eyes
- Here on my Recommendations Page, I’ve talked about all the turtle products that I love and stand by! So, if you are looking for the best products for your turtle, have a look at my Recommendations page.
Medicine & Antibiotics for Turtle Respiratory Infection:
Some of the most used antibiotics for treating respiratory infection as well as pneumonia in turtles are Ciprofloxacin, Enrofloxacin, Ampicillin, Oxytetracycline etc. But don’t go on your own and apply these medicines to your turtle without the approval of a vet. Only an authorized vet should prescribe these antibiotics.
Is a turtle respiratory infection contagious?
Yes, it is! If you find one of your turtles is showing symptoms of respiratory infection, you should immediately separate it from the rest of the turtles. Put the sick one in a separate hospital tank and ask the vet for help immediately.
So, this is my detailed guide on how to treat respiratory infection in turtles at home. Respiratory infections can be quiet dangerous and there is nothing you can do on your own to treat it, except getting the help of a HERP vet. Also, do not forget to take necessary preventive steps as prevention is always better than cure.
How Long Can A Turtle Live With A Respiratory Infection?
Respiratory infections diagnosed at an early age can be cured. In fact, your turtles with severe conditions may bounce back with intensive care, fluid therapy, and medications. But yes, delayed treatment does affect the lifespan of the turtles.
For example, respiratory infection can spread to the lungs from the respiratory tract. It will lead to lung damage or pneumonia. Hence, the pet has to adjust to the frequent breathing difficulty and other side effects like lethargy or runny nose syndrome.
However, you can not say for sure how long the sick turtle will live. It depends on the individual and the care the owner provides.
Natural Antibiotics For Turtles: Do They Exist?
Antibiotics used for healing turtles often lead to severe side effects. No wonder why owners look for natural alternatives to antibiotics.
Of course, there are not many alternatives available. Yet, I am attaching the only few I have found so far.
1. Herbal Blend:
A research facility in Malaysia has recently found success in healing its sick turtles with herbs. The researchers used aloe vera and turmeric in the treatment process. Besides, they fed the turtles a blended meal with banana, papaya, and brown sugar.
Moreover, I met owners who apply coconut oils on infectious spots or swollen areas. Coconut oil has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and healing properties. Yet, I recommend running it through your vet beforehand.
2. Phage Therapy:
It is one of the oldest and most effective curing methods for turtles. In fact, scientists nowadays also utilize phage therapy when antibiotics fail to serve.
The steps of phage therapy might sound complicated and boring. Also, you can not conduct the process at home and must take the pet to a phage library. The researchers there will do lab tests to determine the pathogenic bacteria or virus causing health issues in turtles first. Later they will develop a bacteria-specific virus to eliminate the problematic microorganism.
In sea turtles, phage therapy is used to heal infectious diseases.
3. Turtle Fix:
Different solutions or so-called “Turtle Fixes” are available in the market to treat pets. As per the label, the solution is all-natural, safe, and effective for turtles.
Natural antibiotics or curing processes are not always available for pet turtles. Therefore, prevention and influencing the healing days by controlling the environment are always preferable. Make sure the enclosure receives adequate heat and UV days, as well as maintain pen hygiene.
N.B. Natural remedies for humans may not work on turtles. Do not apply quirky natural herbs to your pets without consulting the vet.
Get a chart for all antibiotics for turtles from this link.
Turtle Wheezing: What Is Wrong With My Turtle?
It is hard to say why your turtle is wheezing. Well, it can be a usual silly thing or something severe.
Of course, going to a vet will end all the speculations. But for the primary inspection, here is what to look for.
- Observe the heat lamp and UV bulb settings.
- Consider the water composition and habitat hygiene.
- Recheck the filtration system.
- Notice the appetite and weight fluctuation of the pets.
- Look for any other weird behavioral changes in the turtles.
Now, the turtle is fit and healthy if it has a good appetite and the pen settings are okay. Sometimes turtles make a wheezing noise from the nose seeing their owners. It is just an expression of excitement.
Again, obese turtles also wheeze after a hard run. Remember, obesity is not a blessing in any situation. Start putting the pets on a strict diet and make them work out to shed some pounds. You can take turtle-safe weight loss ideas from this article.
Well, if the wheezing sound is not coming from the nose, something is definitely wrong with the turtle. The chances are that the pets have a respiratory illness. You will notice significant changes in the turtles’ appetite, weight, and daily activities.
Why Is My Turtle Gasping For Air?
It might strike as a surprise, but turtles can drown. Turtles, when strangled underwater, do their best to release themselves from the trap. In the meantime, the creatures survive on stored oxygen. If the pets can get out, they rush to the surface and grasp the air.
Hence, look hard inside the enclosure to find out any factor causing such an issue for the turtles.
Another possibility is a respiratory infection. Usually, open-mouth breathing, labored breathing, wheezing, air grasping, bubbles coming out of the nose, mouth, or eyes, etc., are signs of this disease.
Thus, go through all the changes noticed in the turtles and match them with the respiratory illness symptoms. Take immediate action if the pet has signs of this infectious disease.
Amoxicillin For Turtles: The Use & Effectiveness
You will find a wide range of antibacterial medicines for turtles. Amoxicillin is also an antibiotic used to treat infectious diseases in these pets. This medicine and cephalosporins are popular options for healing stomatitis in turtles.
Amoxicillin is more effective in combating anaerobic organisms. This med may also treat a few infectious diseases caused by gram-positive organisms. Vets often recommend clavulanic acid with amoxicillin to increase the effectiveness of the antibiotic.
Generally, the professionals suggest the following amoxicillin dosage frequency for the turtle,
- 5 mg/kg IM and then 2.5 mg/kg IM every 72 hours
The dosage can vary depending on your turtle’s health condition.
You can buy amoxicillin from the nearest pet store. If you buy an oral suspension, store it in an airtight container in a chill place.
How To Give Turtle Antibiotics?
Turtle vial antibiotics are the most difficult to administrate. Your turtle may resist the syringe and get hurt. But here is the trick to giving your turtle antibiotics the safest way,
- First, rub alcohol on the meaty spot with a prominent vine for cleaning.
- Next, hold the turtle in such a position that the pet can not move so much. Ask for help if needed.
- You can choose the butt or any of the limbs to shoot the antibiotics. But do not inject on the same spot every day.
- Finally, stretch out the turtle’s arm and quickly administer the antibiotics.
N.B. Never use the same syringe twice. Also, keep the heating lamp on for longer hours, even at night.
Now, what if you need to give the turtle an oral dose? Well, it can be struggling, too, if you are managing the turtle alone. The steps are given below,
- Hold the turtle behind its head gently but firmly.
- Use your two fingers to open the bottom jaw of the pet. Do not apply any force.
- Now slowly depress the syringe.
N.B. Do not empty the syringe in front of the tongue. It will block the pet’s air hole.
My Top 3 Turtle Products To Make Your Life Easier (And Your Turtles Happier)
1. Fluval FX6 Canister Filter
Turtles are quite messy creatures. And you need a powerful weapon to cope up with the mess. Fluval FX6 is a giant beast equipped with multi-stage filtration system. Fluval FX6 is my #1 recommendation to keep your turtle tank cleaner & healthier.
2. Penn Plax Turtle Topper
If you are keeping a turtle, you’ll need a basking place. The good thing about Penn Plax Turtle Topper is, it won’t use any space inside the tank, so your turtle can enjoy the full swimming space. The design and functionality make this basking dock my top recommendation!
3. Zoo Med UVB & Heat Lighting Kit
This one kit will solve all your lighting needs for the turtle. You’ll get everything you’ll need including Polished aluminum dome, dual ceramic sockets and two lights: ReptiSun UVB Light (for UVB) & Repti Tuff Halogen Lamp (for Heat). Zoo Med UVB & Heat Lighting Kit will slash half of your burden!
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