Turtle Care - What can go wrong

Looking after a turtle is a commitment and a responsiblity as well as enjoyable experience. If a turtle is not given the right enviroment to live and grow or the wrong food then they can get very sick or even die.


Donna and Turtle Rescue see the effects of this day after day. This page has been created so you can see the cause and effect on these poor turtles and to educate new turtle owners so they can make the right changes to give a their turtle a long and happy life.


CAUTION: Some of these images may be quite graphic


Ulcers -  Caused by rocks


Rough surfaces, lips on edges of basking areas and rocks can set up minute scratches. Then the bacteria filled water permeates and sets up an ulcer under the scute. Over time this becomes fatal.

You can see how 'hidden' the ulcers were. A seemingly small mark on the surface when opened up shows ulcers going right through the bone in some cases. Sadly,  these turtles required euthanasia.


2011 turtles ID Bad ulcer Photos 4 newspaper 159.jpg





Deformed Shells - Due to Small Tanks


This is 8yr old Darcey. This is extreme, but its what can happen when you cramp a turtle into a small tank :(


He is so deformed that he only has one lung as the other is crushed by his shell. So he swims completely on his side....but he's a great wee turtle!


2012 Jan Pond SPCA IDs insulation Dad 073.jpg

2012 Jan Pond SPCA IDs insulation Dad 057.jpg

2012 Jan Pond SPCA IDs insulation Dad 063.jpg

2012 Jan Pond SPCA IDs insulation Dad 075.jpg

Turtle Fights - Due to more than one in a tank

Turtles are happier alone in a tank than as a couple or group. When they reach maturity, The males want to mate and the females want to lay eggs, if one or the other cant get away they will fight and your turtles are no longer happy together.


You may come home to find turtles with missing toes or nasty bites these can cause infection which can spread and make a turtle very sick.


Once turtles start fighting you cannot stop them they will keep going back to the wound as they now see it as a food source.


Sad but true you will have to find a new home for one of your turtles.


This is for ALL Turtles not just male and female together in a tank.





Metabolic Bone Disease - inadequate diet, tank environment and lighting.

This tiny wee boy is suffering from Metabolic Bone Disease due to a completely inadequate diet, tank environment and lighting. His eyes are swollen from vitamin deficiency.


He'd been sharing his tank with a 10 yr old male who would have completely dominated and eaten what food they did get. An adult male should always have a tank on his own and has the potential to kill or severely injure a younger turtle.


If left, vit A deficiency would see the eyes swell so much that he would become completely blind. His nose is very pointed due to lack of muscle tissue and fat. Ignorance on the correct care of a turtle has seen him emaciated and very weak.


He is susceptible to illness and disease and would have died if he'd not received intervention.







Over grown Scutes - Over feeding and high water temperature

This pointy edge is not 'normal' and can be caused by a turtle growing too fast. Over feeding and high water temperature is the cause.


This can become very uncomfortable, especially around the head when the pointy bits dig into the back of the turtles neck and head After the extra scutes are shed by the turtle, the edge looks rounder. Do NOT force shedding or pull off scutes as this may lead to damage to the underlying bone, infection and shell rot.


This wee girl is otherwise healthy and has been well loved and cared for.






Septicaemia - Caused by an infection not treated

This boy arrived for rehoming, but unfortunately he was too ill to save. His cloaca (vent) was very red and swollen.


This may have been from an injury from another turtle, a blockage, or another internal illness. His limbs were very reddened and unfortunately hi plastron was also quite red.


This meant the infection was into the bone (turtle shell is bone) and his prognosis was very poor. He was a hard one to take to the vet as he had a lovely friendly personality :(








Cold Shock - Caused by sudden drop of air temp


Unresponsive and lifeless after being pulled out of the bottom of the pond where he was unable to move and therefore drowned. Occured after a water change and then a sudden drop in air temp.


All other turtles in the pond were fine, but theres no way of knowing how strong a rescue turtle is...even after months of apparently normal behaviour.


Initially held in hands, head between fingers...and then 'swung' from shoulder height downwards between legs several times. So hes lifted back up and then forcefully swung downwards to help expell water. (No photos as you cant do that with one hand!) Placed on arm of seat so I could pump his arms vigorously while his head was extended. Very awkward on your own. Much easier if someone else can hold the turtle with head extended and turtle tilted slightly head downwards to allow water to drain.


I also blew a little air towards his nostrils as he wasnt responding. This was done along with a few more 'swings' until he had a slight movement/stiffening of the neck. At this point I stopped and allowed him to breath on his own.






Dehydrated & Starving - Cause having no water and no food

10 yr old Rua was rescued from a home where she had not been living in a tank. Apparently she wandered about the house and was put in the bath to eat and toilet.


She would go missing for weeks and months at a time and has apparently not eaten for many months. She is incredibly dehydrated and we've no idea what longterm damage has been done to her internal organs. Her skin was dry, shrivelled and pieces of thick, unshed skin was hanging off her.


Tempting though it was to pull off the excess skin, it was dry and stuck. She has little strength in her limbs and doesn't really swim. I don't think she's been in water deep enough before to need to swim. She moves as though she is in slow motion.She was placed in shallow warm water overnight and had already improved due to being hydrated again.


She had a vitamin injection at the vet and has started to eat small, frequent feeds. She was terribly irritated by the dry skin, especially her eyelids and kept rubbing them so I applied chlorsig which helped.





Shell Rot - Cause dirty tank water, humidity and chemicals in the water.

What appears to be an unusual area on the plastron is in fact shell rot. Once the area is investigated and the ulcer exposed it looks quite different.






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