My Turtle Is Not Responding: What To Do?

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

If your energetic turtle suddenly stops responding, something is definitely fishy. I suggest you check on the pet before it is too late. Start with the reflex tests, for example, pinching the leg, pressuring the cloaca, or taping the eyelid.

An unresponsive turtle leads to 2 possibilities:

  1. Sickness (mentally or physically) or Hibernation: Determining the cause and acting on it will heal the pet.
  2. Death: Bloating, floating in the water, and releasing a smelly odor are some signs of dead turtles. Prepare a funeral before the body starts rotting.

The following article illustrates the scenarios in more detail.

Why Is My Turtle Unresponsive?

There are 2 possibilities if you notice no movements in your pet turtles. First, the turtle is going through a physical or mental condition. Second, your pet is dead.

To decide on the unresponsive turtle, you need to take a reflex test of the pet. For example, pat the eye of the turtle or pinch its rear leg. Hold a feather in front of the pet’s nose to see a sign of breathing.

If the pet is alive if it flinches or retracts itself into the shell. However, if you get no response, the chances are that the turtle is dead.

Let’s explore both possibilities and your responsibility in such scenarios.

My Turtle Is Alive But Not Responding: What To Do?

Turtles have a slow metabolism and are not very active anyway. But if you notice the pets stopped swimming or playing altogether, you must act immediately. Potential causes and remedies of unresponsive turtles are,

1. Fatigue, Stress, Or Boredom

Mental health is equally important for turtles as their physical health. Sometimes, stress, anxiety, or panic-like mental illnesses lead to loss of appetite in the pets. As a result, you will find your turtles refusing food. Turtles can also stop eating because of boring diet plans.

No meals mean no incoming energy source. So, the turtles will spend their days resting, dozing and sleeping.

2. Physical Illness

Lethargy is one of the common symptoms of any terminal disease in turtles. Take vitamin A deficiency, shell rot, or respiratory illness as examples. In all cases, the turtles show extreme fatigue and no movements.

So, you better look for the signs of diseases in the turtles. For instance, swollen and puffy eyes often indicate hypovitaminosis. Similarly, black pits on the scutes and a slimy, soft layer on the carapace may be a sign of shell rot. Moreover, difficulty breathing, a bubbly nose, and eye discharge are symptoms of respiratory illness.

Ask for professional help if you can not determine the sickness. The turtles will go back to an active routine once cured.

3. Hibernation

I am sure you are familiar with the significance of suitable temperature inside the turtle enclosure. A drop in the temperature will slow the pet’s metabolism and force it to hibernate. During the hibernation period, the turtle will burrow and spend months sleeping.

So, check the enclosure temperature if you see no movement in the turtle. The ideal habitat temperature is 70 – 80F in the water and 90 – 100F in the dock. These ranges can vary depending on the species.

Move the turtle to a well-maintained hibernating spot if possible. Raise the temperature if the pet has just started slowing its metabolism.

I Think My Turtle Is Dead: What To Do?

Absolutely zero response from the turtle may be an indication that the pet is dead. You can look for other signs a dead turtle gives away. Such as,

  1. The turtle is stone cold with closed eyes. 
  2. There is a foul odor coming from the pet.
  3. Its bloated body is floating in the water.
  4. The turtle has sunken and hollow eyes. 
  5. Your pet’s body is shrinking. 
  6. Flies and mites are roaming around the body.

I am really sorry if you are in such a distressful situation. Before moving to the funeral arrangements, you can consult a vet for confirmation.

You can say goodbye to your turtle in several ways. For example,

  • Burying the turtle in the yard with a proper gravestone is a popular option. 
  • Some cities have graveyards for pets. Contacting them to find a spot for your turtle is also a good idea. 
  • Owners often go for cremation and keep the ash as a token of the turtle. 
  • You can also hire an expert to separate the shell from the turtle’s body and keep the shell as a memory. 

Regardless of your chosen method, do not delay the funeral process. It will start decomposing the body, making a mess. Here are a few more ways to bid farewell to your turtle.

Before You Go

Sometimes turtles give you a weak response and stop eating at all. The below link describes the 10 reasons why turtles refuse food.

10 Reasons Why Your Turtle Is Not Eating

About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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