Tortoise Can’t Open Its Mouth? Here’s What To Do

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

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As a tortoise owner, it could be distressing when your pet is ill. While difficulties are unusual for tortoises, it doesn’t imply they don’t happen. Lack of mouth mobility is a typical issue among tortoises. It’s terrible to watch, but what are we supposed to do when it occurs? And how bad of an issue is this for tortoises?

There are a few potential causes for a tortoise’s inability to open its mouth. Overgrown beaks are the most prevalent cause of a tortoise’s inability to open its mouth. If your tortoise’s mouth is always closed, it may have respiratory disease or develop mouth rot.

Well, these are among the most typical explanations for why your tortoise is unable to open its jaws. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the causes, the solutions, and some preventative measures you may take.

Why Is Your Tortoise  Not Opening Its Mouth?

It is expected that tortoises would have no trouble opening and shutting their mouths. Older tortoises don’t experience any problem eating, opening their mouths to taste things, or extending their jaws. There are three potential explanations if your tortoise has trouble opening its jaws or its beak seems locked:

  • An enlarged or overgrown beak
  • respiratory disease
  • Mouth rot

What Happens If Your Tortoise Has An Overgrown Beak?

Tortoises have a very distinct eating style that differs much from our own. Our teeth are used for more than just biting and chewing.

Since tortoises lack teeth, they must instead utilize their mouth to catch food and the rough corners to give the impression that they are crunching prior to consuming.

To no one’s surprise, the beak may suffer some serious wear and tear throughout this procedure. Rather than wearing down from use, a tortoise’s mouth actually becomes longer as the animal ages.

Your tortoise’s beak will continue to develop without being worn down as long as it is not exposed to any hard things in its diet.

The tortoise’s beak will develop so long that it will eventually block the animal’s mouth and prevent it from eating.

You may greatly improve your tortoise’s chances of living a long and healthy life by carefully planning its nutrition from the time it is a baby.

Skeletal deformities may occur from a lack of calcium or an excess of protein in the meals.  Just one more possible issue and this one is not good news: your tortoise may have a shattered jaw.

If this occurs, the beak will not degrade over time normally and will get overgrown, which may lead to problems with the jaw’s alignment.

How To Detect Your Tortoise Has Overgrown Beak?

First, it’s important to mention that you should see a veterinarian if you’re unsure whether or not the tortoise seems to possess an oversized beak. In order to examine your tortoise’s mouth, your vet might have to conduct an X-ray.

In contrast, the normal tip of your tortoise’s mouth must be small, and the “chin” should be easily noticeable.

It is common for a juvenile tortoise to develop small spikes on its beak. An enlarged mouth will seem lengthy and it will extend the lower chin.

If your tortoise’s upper beak is simply too long in the front, trimming it should be a breeze. When your tortoise’s beak is too long in every direction, trimming it might be more of a chore.

How Do You Treat A Tortoise With Overgrown Beak?

Most of the issues folks experience with their captive-bred tortoise involve the tortoise’s oversized mouth.

Real therapy consists of avoiding the problem in the first place, but you’re probably here because you need assistance. Right? As for therapy, it’s as simple as cutting down the oversized beak.

Your veterinarian should have little trouble shortening the tortoise’s beak, and you can expect to do so on a routine basis until you alter its diet.

How To Trim A Tortoise’s Beak By Yourself?

The beak of your tortoise may be trimmed with relative ease and, more significantly, in a completely risk-free environment at your own home.

To do the task properly, you will want a few tools, including cotton, nail clippers, a white pencil, and a manicure file.

The procedure will be painless and quick and harmless for your tortoise, but that won’t make it any more appealing to the animal.

For easy removal of your tortoise’s overgrown beak, you can follow the steps below:

  • If you want to prevent them from escaping, wrapping them in the fabric is the technique to go. Because if your tortoise probably poops, this will protect you from getting splattered with excrement.
  • Mark the desired length of the beak to trim on your tortoise using the white pencil. Never trim the beak shorter than it has to be.
  • It’s probable that your tortoise will retreat within its shell. If you want to prevent your tortoise from biting, hold its head over its mouth. It’s safe for your tortoise, but you shouldn’t be too rough with it.
  • When you carry your tortoise close to your heart, it will feel protected and comfortable. Keep the nail clippers in your free hand. Keep your tortoise’s head out of its shell with a little aid from your friends.
  • To begin cutting the beak, hold the fingernail clippers at a right angle in front of the mouthparts, where it is thickest and most difficult to clip. Your tortoise’s beak’s edges will become considerably more pliable and less difficult to remove.
  • The tortoise’s beak must be trimmed further until it reaches the white border you drew previously. Too much cutting might injure your tortoise and lead to a host of additional issues.
  • If the beak is rough, just file it down just like you would your fingertips.
  • Give your tortoise a wash after you’re done, and if it’s been very courageous, it could even get a little snack. They may learn to accept the procedure by pairing it with a tasty reward.
  • By adjusting the height of the beak, you may make it simpler for your tortoise to feed and expand its jaws.

Overgrown beaks are frequent in captive-bred tortoises, but understanding how to trim them can help you save a lot of money on veterinary care.

How To Avoid Beaks From Overgrowing?

Overgrown beaks are a common issue for pet tortoises, but that doesn’t imply we can’t take steps to reduce the likelihood of their development.

In order to reduce the length of the beak, it is important to feed your tortoise a meal that is particularly hard.

Some tortoise owners may feed their pets flat rocks, a practice that is endorsed due to the potential dangers it poses to the tortoise.

The most effective and least risky method is to provide cuttlefish bones for your tortoise to gnaw on as part of their habitat.

A cuttlefish bone may not be appealing to all tortoises, so we’ll have to be clever. By placing the tortoise’s meal on the cuttlefish bone, you’ll be giving it the natural experience of trimming its beak while it eats.

What Happens If Your Tortoise Has A Mouth Rot?

Your tortoise may be unable to open its mouth because it has mouth rot, however, this is a rare condition.

Respiratory illness causes mouth rot, which is quite prevalent in all reptiles. Low temperatures, inadequate humidity regulation, nutritional deficiencies, and oral trauma are just some of the many potential triggers.

Mouth rot is a common problem for tortoises with compromised immune systems. Your tortoise’s immunity will begin to fail if it gets too chilly.

Your tortoise’s inability to eat may be due to mouth rot, which manifests as a stuffy nose and puss seeping from the mouth. Only a veterinarian can provide medications and, in severe cases, surgical intervention.

How To Avoid Mouth Rots In Your Tortoise?

Your tortoise should be taken to the vet if you see any of the aforementioned signs. In extreme circumstances, the veterinarian may decide to operate on the tortoise rather than use antibiotics.

Injury to the area surrounding your tortoise’s mouth, and possibly bloodstream infections, might result from ignoring this problem.

Without the ability to utilize its mouth, your tortoise may quickly die of starvation. It is possible to forestall the onset of mouth rot by taking these measures:

1. Verify The Enclosure’s Current Temperature

Swings in temperature are a major contributor to mouth rot. The tortoise cage may quickly become infested with pathogenic germs and other microorganisms if the temperature outside suddenly rises or drops.

Your tortoise’s susceptibility to disease will rise as a result of this. In general, a tank for tortoises should be kept between 76 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Provide A Balanced Diet For Your Tortoise

Poor eating habits may lead to tooth decay and bad breath. Your tortoise’s immunity might be weakened if it is not getting the proper nutrition. To keep your tortoise healthy, you should supplement its diet with calcium and vitamins.

3. Adjust The Moisture Level

Tortoises, like other reptiles, need a lot of moisture in the air. Inadequate tank humidity has also been linked to impaired immunity.

Because of this, your tortoise may be more likely to contract bacteria or fungi. Humidity levels in your tortoise’s habitat should range from 50 to 80%, based on the species you have.

4. Maintaining A Clean Tortoise Habitat

As an opportunistic bacterial illness, mouth rot may be prevented by maintaining a sanitary environment for your tortoise.

It’s important to keep your tortoise’s habitat clean and free of food scraps and feces to discourage the growth of bacteria that might spread sickness.

What Happens If Your Tortoise Has A Respiratory Illness?

The tortoise’s jaw can get locked shut if it has a respiratory ailment. That’s because the tortoise won’t have the stamina to stretch particular muscles and might cause harm to the tissues in its neck.

 Tortoise respiratory issues may be attributed to a number of different things:

  • a great deal of dust
  • insufficient moisture in the air
  • Suddenly fluctuating temperatures

When the tortoise can no longer open its jaws, the situation is dire. The usual indications that accompany such an action are as follows:

  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Inability to eat
  • Having trouble breathing
  • Nose bleed

Tortoises could recover from respiratory diseases by themselves. Tortoises seldom need medical attention unless the problem is so bad that the tortoise can’t open its jaws.

Antibiotics are the most often used treatment. Your tortoise may be healed and restored to regular life if it has difficulty opening its beak.


Sometimes when your tortoise is unable to open its mouth, it is likely because its beak has gotten enlarged. Cutting it back like you’d cut your nails is an easy solution.

A veterinarian must be capable to do it if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself. It might be a normal event if you don’t alter the tortoise’s food or relocate it so that it can wear down its beak on its own.

Other, less frequent causes of a closed tortoise mouth include mouth rot and respiratory infections. Visit the vet if you think your pet has respiratory illness or mouth rot.

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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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