Septicemia in Pet Tortoises
Sick Pet Tortoise
I've always been current with reptile care and health, but tortoises are a new reptile to me. I received my first tortoises this year, two 4 year old Russian tortoises. Shortly after, I purchased my Cherry Head Red Footed Tortoises; one of which was never the healthiest tortoise.
He was first treated for an ear abscess with antibiotics and an vitamin A deficiency with injections. Shortly after, he started sloughing off his skin around his legs and neck, was experiencing muscle weakness, and breathing problems, and it was time for another vet trip. His symptoms virtually came overnight.
It started with the legs, where he was getting his antibiotic and Vitamin injections, and slowly moved to his upper body and neck. The vet prescribed medicated soaks and antibiotics, but his case progressed rapidly, and the tortoise did not make it.
Depending on how soon you catch septicemia, the tortoise's prognosis will vary. It's best to try to prevent septicemia than it is to have to treat it.
Septicemia is a bacterial infection of the blood that is more common in reptiles, than most reptile hobbyist know or think. The bacteria can rapidly spread throughout the reptile's body and organs, causing damage and death if not treated quickly.
The bacteria is introduced to the body via cuts and abrasions, and enters the bloodstream.
Tortoises are generally pretty hardy, but it can be hard to prevent a tortoise from getting any sort of scratch. You just want to make sure that you can keep the wound clean while healing, and depending on the type of wound, you may want to go ahead and have your vet prescribe an antibiotic to prevent septicemia before it causes any long term damage to your tortoise.
You'll find that when you house multiple tortoises in an enclosure, they may fight, and bite wounds are a big risk of infection, which can turn into septicemia quickly. If you're housing more than one tortoise in an enclosure, make sure that the enclosure is large enough to allow each tortoise room to get away.
Also be leery of having sharp objects in the enclosure, as the tortoise may scratch a leg, foot, or its neck on a sharp stone or twig, that may get infected. Parasites can be another cause of how septicemia enters the bloodstream.
Just remember that if your tortoise lives in a dirty enclosure, has improper temperatures and/or humidity levels, has an enclosure that is too small,or doesn't have a proper diet, he is at risk of developing septicemia, as his immune system will be compromised do to stress on the body.
If you can prevent a lowered immune system and infections, you can potentially prevent septicemia. By keeping a clean environment with proper diet and care, you can reduce the risk that your tortoise will develop septicemia.
Signs of Septicemia in Tortoises
It is important that you keep a close eye on your tortoise, especially if you are aware of any cuts or abrasions. You want to make sure that you watch for the following symptoms of septicemia so that you can immediately have your tortoise treated.
- Convulsions or seizures
- Difficulty breathing (may develop into wheezing, breathing out of the mouth)
- Loss of muscle control and strength
- Patches of red or purple discoloration on the skin or shell
- Weakness or an inability to move
Treating septicemia cannot be done at home. A vet must diagnose the tortoise and prescribe proper treatment. In most cases, antibiotics are going to be prescribed. Some vets will prescribe a fluid therapy, nutritional support (such as vitamin injections or supplements on the food), nebulization for breathing problems, and an increased temperature at the basking site.
Some veterinarians will prescribe an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory for the wound, itself. You'll want to keep it clean and apply an antiseptic ointment, such as Betadine. If the wound is large, you will want to apply a clean dressing daily to keep it covered. Some will suggest covering the wound with jelonet or micropore.
If you are able to catch the septicemia quickly and get it treated as soon as possible, your tortoise can and will make a full recovery. The problem is noticing the signs early because tortoises, like most reptiles, are great at hiding illnesses until it's far advanced.
Jungle Lab Reptile Xtra Tortoise Pellets
Some reptile hobbyist claim that Jungle Lab Reptile Xtra is a good supplement to help prevent parasites and bacteria, whereas others believe that if you medicate a reptile that isn't necessarily sick, you are increasing the chances that the bacteria and parasites will grow an immunity to that medicine, making it worthless (for lack of better words)
But, the product is an anti-parasite and anti-bacterial food that is manufactured to promote good nutrition and health, while controlling internal ailments. It comes in a convenient pellet form for tortoises that is easy to feed to them.
The anti-parasite formula contains Metronidazole and Fenbendazole to help control roundworms, pinworms, hookworms, and other intestinal worms; the anti-bacterial formula contains Trimethoprim and Sodium Sulfadiazine to help control bacterial infections such as enteritis, septicemia, respiratory distress, external cuts, sores, and more.
Caring for Turtles and Tortoises
- Best Beginner Pet Turtle and Tortoise
- Before You Get a Pet Turtle or Tortoise
- Edible Plants for Tortoises
- Pyramiding in Tortoises- Causes and Prevention
- Caring and Feeding a Red Foot Tortoise
- Common Health Problems with Red Foot Tortoises
- Caring for and Feeding a Russian Tortoise
- Common Health Problems with Russian Tortoises
- Sulcata Tortoise Diet
- Cause and Treatment Respiratory Infection in Turtles and Tortoises
Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed veterinarian. Consult a reptile veterinarian if you notice any abnormal behaviors in your tortoise that may lead you to believe that he has septicemia.
More by this Author
You see those teeny tiny turtles at all of the gift shops at the beach, buy one with a small kritter keeper and a pinch of food, take the turtle home, and follow all of the directions from the sales associate. But, do...
Red Foot Tortoises are usually pretty healthy as long as they're diet and habitat is kept proper. As long as the humidity, temperature, lighting, and diet is kept according to proper requirements, you'll find that a pet...
Learn some of the signs of infected belly-button piercings and what to do about them.