turtle shell rot

Turtle Shell Rot | Symptoms, Causes & How to Treat Shell Rot in Turtles

Last Updated on June 5, 2021 by John B. Nelson

Turtle shell rot means infection on the turtle shell, and it can be painful for the turtle. Hence, many turtle owners are concerned about the turtle shell rot and want to know its details.

Unfortunately, most turtle care guides ignore the rotten shell diseases in turtles, and so, many owners face difficulty dealing with the infection. That’s why we have exclusively prepared a detailed guideline on the causes, symptoms, and treatment procedure of shell rot disease in turtles.

So, let’s get-go with further discussion.

What Is Turtle Shell Rot?

Before we head deep into the discussion, let’s have a clear idea of the turtle’s actual meaning of shell rot disease. It is a serious type of infection that starts ruining the turtle carapace and plastron. When the external bacteria damage the blood vessels of turtles, this disease spreads viciously.

Usually, you will see the shell rot symptoms in the top and bottom half of the carapace. It can be effectively and dominantly caused by many reasons, including unwanted damage to the shell, lack of proper drinking water, etc. Also, when a turtle gets caught with shell rot, the healing process can be time-consuming.

But with our guideline, it should HEAL quickly and comfortably for the turtle.

Causes of Shell Rot in Turtle

Several reasons can lead to an infectious shell rot in your pet turtle, with the leading cause being shell damage. The three common causes of shell rot are:

1. Shell Damage

The primary cause of shell rot is a damaged shell. If the shell is damaged or broken, it allows external bacteria to come across the exposed blood vessels causing the harmful infection. The common reasons for shell damage include the following incidents:

  • Fighting: Territorial turtles will fight for their space in the enclosure. It will often injure the turtles and crack their carapace. It happens when the turtle pond or aquarium becomes overcrowded.
  • Inappropriate weather: The turtle shell is sensitive to subtle changes in temperature and humidity. If the humidity and temperature inside the turtle enclosure are problematic for a longer period, it will damage the shell.
  • Piercing: If you accidentally put sharp metal or galls inside the turtle cage, it might hurt the carapace. Also, the sharp edges around the cage and basking spot can damage the shell badly.

2. Inappropriate Habitat

If the tank or pond water is dirty and produces mold, a damaged shell can quickly get infected with the bacteria. A wet and molded enclosure is a perfect breeding place for harmful bacteria, affecting the exposed blood vessels.

The situation is worsened as turtles are messy animals, and they will quickly transform their habitat into a dirty place with lots of food wastage.

3. Lack of Dry Place

Many turtles need a dry place near their aquarium or pond to go out of the water and rest. Although turtles spend most of their time swimming in the water, these dry places help them dry whenever necessary.

When the turtle shell remains to wait all day long, it boosts the mold and bacterial growth for the shell rot disease. Hence, ensure a proper basking spot for the. You might consider installing a floating reptile dock in the aquarium.

Symptoms of Turtle Shell Rot

You may observe several symptoms in your pet turtle when it becomes sick due to shell infection due to a bacterial attack. Some common symptoms include the following ones.

  1. Usually, while inspecting the turtle shell, you might find cracks on it. As the day passes by, the cracks will have a white appearance with moth-eaten signs.
  2. The shell won’t look even as it was earlier. The carapace plates (not all) might come out of the edge and give a mazy look to the pet turtle.
  3. At the worst, blood and other discharges will come through these cracks. The discharge will have a bad smell that will quickly grab your nostrils’ attention.
  4. Lastly, parts of the shell might start coming out and expose the bones underneath. It is a DEATH SIGN.

Treatment of Shell Rot Disease

You should make a turtle health checklist and examine the turtle weekly. Whenever you see any damage or cracks on the shell, you must start the healing process ASAP.

Identifying The Reason For Shell Rot

When you see shell rot symptoms in the turtle, start by identifying the actual cause of it. Has it occurred due to a fight in an overcrowded tank? Or did it happen due to unclean water and inappropriate turtle habitat?

When you identify the reason, take measures to eliminate it. For instance, you will have to arrange separate turtle tanks for the fighting turtles.

Isolating The Turtles

Next, you will have to isolate the turtle with a bacterial infection in its shell. You must keep the turtle in a dry place until the cracked shell heals. It is crucial because a wet shell will develop the bacterial colony faster than the dry carapace.

Continuous Cleaning of The Shell

You will have to find a way to remove the bacteria from the carapace ASAP. Hence, cleaning the damaged shell will help immensely. At first, find a toothbrush with soft bristles. Ideally, you should use a baby toothbrush.

Use it to remove the dirt and debris from the shell. Then, bath the turtle with a gentle scrubbing and dry it with a clean towel. You will have to continue the cleaning regularly until the shell damage starts healing.

Killing The Bacteria

Only bathing and cleaning won’t kill the bacteria. So, you will have to apply for an antibacterial medicine on the turtle shell for it. We recommend you using Chlorohexidine solution for this purpose. Alternatively, you might opt for hydrogen peroxide, but it works slowly.

Apply the antibacterial solution on the cracked shell of the tortoise once a day until it heals.

Use of Healing Cream

Although there’re multiple healing creams available in the market, you would want the best for the pet turtle. We recommend applying the silver sulfadiazine antibiotic cream on the cracks for the fastest treatment of the shell rot.

Also, you might use Neosporin for it.

Conclusion

Turtle shell rot can be lethal if not treated timely. It starts with the crack or damaged shell of the turtle and intensifies with the bacterial attack. Luckily, you can treat the disease mostly at home. It would take around five to seven days for the entire treatment and healing process to be completed for the shell rot diseases.

During this entire period, isolate the turtle and ensure it remains dry. When you transfer the treated turtle into the tank, ensure it is clean and features appropriate water parameters.

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