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Box Turtle Health

Most box turtles sold as pets in the United States have been captured by turtle hunters in their wild habitats. Captured turtles are then congregated in boxes and later sold to pet stores. Those caring for the newly captive turtles attempt to feed them but have little knowledge of individual needs. The turtles are often confused and intent on escape and may not eat or drink for weeks or even months. The stress of capture, combined with the circumstances of crowding and malnourishment, often result in disease and swift disease transmission. A recently captured turtle purchased in the spring is much more likely to be healthy than one sold much later in the year or during the winter. The latter specimens are much more likely to be seriously ill.

Typical Signs of Illness: A sick box turtle may not eat and may lose weight Swollen and/or runny eyes, nasal discharge, swollen ears, lumps or swellings, wounds to the shell, increased water consumption, diarrhea, extreme lethargy, weakness and coma are other signs of illness. Subtle changes in behavior and the turtle's routine often signal the onset of illness. It is at this stage in the course of an illness that a box turtle should be presented to a veterinarian. A thorough physical exam and a laboratory work-up (blood and/or bacteriology tests) can be performed to diagnose and properly treat the problem.