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Water Turtle Diseases/Nutrition

Swollen Eyes: This condition often results from vitamin A deficiency and complications from bacterial disease. The immune defenses of the eye membranes often become weakened by vitamin A deficiency, making the eyes very susceptible to bacterial invasion. Treatment of this condition involves injections of vitamin A and an appropriate antibiotic. Prevention involves feeding a balanced diet.

Soft Shell: Water turtles must receive essential minerals (especially calcium), vitamin D3 and unfiltered sunlight An abnormally soft shell results if any of these 3 items is insufficient or absent. An adequately balanced diet (such as Purina Trout Chow) and sufficient periods of exposure to unfiltered sunlight or a substitute (Vita-Lite) should be provided to prevent and treat this condition. Treatment also involves dietary supplementation and periodic injections of calcium and vitamin D3. Many hobbyists immerse "turtle blocks" (solid blocks of chalk or plaster of Paris) in their turtle's water in the hope of preventing soft shell problems. Unfortunately, water turtles cannot benefit from the calcium carbonate provided by these products unless it is eaten.

Egg-Binding: Another disorder resulting, in part, from mineral imbalance or outright mineral depletion is egg-binding. This condition results when a female water turtle cannot pass one or more eggs without assistance. Signs include straining and restlessness, or profound lethargy. Calcium is necessary for the proper contraction of muscles, including those of the uterus. Egg-binding is likely if calcium is deficient in a pregnant female. Malnutrition, lack of exposure to unfiltered sunlight, and pre-existing disease can contribute to this serious, often life-threatening condition. When egg-binding is suspected, the affected female should be taken to a veterinarian at once. Calcium and hormone injections, as well as manipulation of the egg, are usually employed to relieve this condition. Sometimes, a needle can be inserted into the egg to aspirate its contents and collapse it, making it easier to pass from the female.

“One problem that is an even greater cause of egg-binding in water turtles than calcium deficiency. Since it is not natural for water turtles to lay their eggs in water, they must have access to dirt/ground for digging a hole. If mature female water turtles are kept in a tanks with no access to land, most will become stressed and many will not lay in the water, therefore retaining their eggs and causing egg-binding, infection and death if not treated and the habitat changed. Turtle keepers need to be aware of the serious problems that could arise from keeping mature female turtles in a habitat with no dirt and digging access.”

Thank you to Anita Peddicord for providing this information
Gulf Coast Turtle & Tortoise Society

Shell Deformity: General malnutrition, especially protein deficiency and mineral imbalances or deficiencies, in young, growing water turtles results in a number of problems. These may include deformity, mounding of the carapace (top shell), incomplete shell growth, and scoliosis (curvature of the spine). Captive water turtles rarely have normal-appearing shells because nearly all suffer from some form of malnutrition.