Good Management Prevents Infections

Question:
I have southwest box turtles. I don’t even know how many anymore, since I find them mating and occasionally find a baby turtle. At one time I had them named but now have lost track. They live in an enclosed yard. I have found a couple of them with a white spot on their shell. I no longer have a large pond for them to swim in, but I do have a couple of submerged bowls with water.

Dr. Nichol:
Finding babies really shouldn’t be surprising; your turtles are breeding like, well, like rabbits. Don’t feel bad that you’ve lost track. They don’t remember your name either.

Those shell spots could be significant. If they’re hard and flake off with your fingernail they may be scars from fights. Soft white spots suggest bacterial or fungal infections that can result from malnutrition or poor environmental hygiene.  A veterinarian can evaluate a sample microscopically and do a gram stain to select the right antibiotic. If treated early most shell disorders resolve.

Dr. Shirley Russman of the VCA Veterinary Care Animal Hospital is trained and experienced in reptile medicine. She explained that “box turtles are omnivores, meaning that they eat 50 % protein and 50 % vegetables. They require 12-14 hours of UVB rays, whether from an artificial bulb or from the sun. They do best at 75-80 degrees with daily opportunities to bask at 85-90 degrees.  Room temperature is fine at night. They like to have places to hide such as logs outside or boxes inside.” I’m that way. With all the recent political mudslinging I’ve been hiding from my TV. Now we can bask in relative peace.

Good management is essential. Indoor bedding like bark must be kept clean and dry to prevent mold from urine and fecal contamination. Turtles do better outside. Divide your yard into thirds and rotate the locations so sunshine and rain can reduce the accumulation of unhealthy organisms. And be sure your turtles are protected from predators like raccoons and dogs.

Just like the rest of us, routine exams help turtles live longer, healthier lives. Have them checked twice yearly – before and after hibernation. Excellent information on husbandry can be found on chelonia.org.