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Box Turtle Diseases/Parasitic

Blood Parasites: Various blood parasites have been found in box turtles. Blood parasites can overwhelm an already weakened and/or sick turtle and should be treated with the appropriate medication. A blood test is necessary to detect these parasites.

Intestinal Parasites: A variety of roundworm and strongyle-type worms can parasitize captive box turtles. Reinfection results when pet turtles are permitted to feed in an environment in which feces are allowed to accumulate and contaminate food. Numerous deaths of box turtles occur every year from intestinal rupture and peritonitis resulting from heavy intestinal parasitism. Few box turtles are parasite-free; therefore, yearly fecal exams and/or routine dewormings are recommended. Strict attention to hygiene, frequent soil changes and periodic rotation of habitats to reduce exposure to these parasites are also recommended.

Intestinal Protozoa: These one-celled parasites can cause disease and are occasionally found in captive box turtles. Diagnosis of Giardia and Trichomonas infections requires direct microscopic examination of the feces by an experienced laboratory technician or veterinarian. The feces must first be placed in a preservative solution and then a special staining procedure is used to prepare them for examination.

Bot Fly Infestation: Box turtles are commonly subject to the ravage of migrating "bot fly" larvae. These large parasites are different from the much smaller maggots (larvae of other flies). The adult flies deposit their eggs on the skin and/or mucous membranes and the newly hatched larvae, penetrate into the body and form large, visible lumps where they come to rest, resembling abscesses. These grubs may cause substantial tissue damage and mechanical interference for the turtle. Some turtles die as a result of this infestation.

Maggot Infestation: "Fly strike" and maggot infestations are extremely common, especially among wounded or sick box turtles. These turtles are virtually defenseless and flies can easily take advantage of their weakened condition. Traumatized or diseased box turtles should be kept indoors or within a screened enclosure during their convalescence.