Sick Turtle - Any Turtle Experts Here?

Hi everyone! So I’ve been trying to help this turtle for many months now, to little or no avail. I really hope someone here will have some good advice!

We have three red-eared sliders - two were rescued from my mom’s cats and brought to us b/c we have a big aquarium. One had invaded my friend’s garden pond, and was threatening the fish and lily population, so I brought her here also.

So the one that came from my friend’s pond has been keeping her eyes closed and not doing much. Initially I did some research and thought she might have a vitamin A deficiency, as she really only ate dried mealworms and hadn’t been interested in the earthworms or super worms we had offered. I bought cod liver oil and for many days I put some on her skin and some in her mouth. When she didn’t improve, we took her to a veterinarian to see if she had a respiratory infection. He didn’t think she did, but as he didn’t see turtles very often and she wasn’t improving, he prescribed antibiotics. We went through three rounds and she still did not improve. He suggested trying a vitamin A drop instead of the cod liver oil, and we have been using it, but she still mostly keeps her eyes closed and is inactive.

She wasn’t eating on her own when we took her to the vet and she still isn’t. I’ve learned to syringe feed her but it is very difficult and is awfully stressful for her.

Her water is dechlorinated and very clean. She has a good filter and a nice basking area. Does anyone know what might be going on with her, and what else I can try to help her? She has been doing poorly for many months now and I feel really bad for her. I just want to help her feel good again.

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I’m not sure how much I can help but I’ll try. Can you provide a picture of the eyes? What size is the aquarium?

I don’t know a whole lot about turtles but a picture of the enclosure would be helpful. Do they have uvb? And since it sounds like they’re all wild caught have you had them checked/treated for parasites?

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She was in a 40 or 50 gallon (I can’t remember which it is :woman_facepalming:) but I moved her to a 20 gallon quarantine tank when someone suggested she might recover better alone (less stress I think?). She has a UVB and a heat bulb in the basking area, and the water is heated so it doesn’t get too cold.

I will get a photo for you - though there’s nothing much to see. Her eyes are just closed. She usually opens them for a bit right after getting vitamin A drops on them, but then closes them again a little while later.

I had not considered parasites - I’m surprised the vet didn’t say anything about that. Is it common for turtles to have parasite problems? I’ve kept several turtles but never had a sickly one before so this is all very new to me. I’ll look into the parasites for sure.

This is the quarantine tank I set up. She has no trouble swimming and getting into the basking area so far - if she starts having trouble I’ll set up something shallower. That’s one of those calcium supplement things on the bottom of the tank. Idk why it’s not floating like the other one. :woman_shrugging:

And here’s the patient. She was basking right before I took this.

Forgot to say she’s about four inches across. Maybe five.

I don’t know if it’s common per se but any animal that’s wild caught is most likely going to have parasites.


Every wild reptile will have parasites. If you plan on keeping them long-term they will need a vet appointment and parasite treatments.

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I did take her to a vet, multiple times, but he didn’t say anything about parasite treatments. He isn’t exactly a reptile expert - just a local vet who mostly sees dogs and cats but is willing to look at exotics and help where he can.

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I would find a reptile vet if you can, if you can’t see if he’ll do a fecal for all of your turtles. Fecals aren’t typically to expensive, and parasites may not be your one turtles main problem but it could be a contributing factor. Also it is important to get them all checked. Espically if they were previously housed together, parasites spread pretty easily when the animals have access to one another’s waste.


You should contact a specialized herp vet, if you don’t have one you can find one here.

Looks like there are a couple not too far from me. Thank you.


Well. I checked out some of the local herp vets from the list. One can’t schedule me until July (and when I asked specifically if they had a turtle expert there, the lady on the phone just said yes, we have an exotics vet… so I’m not entirely sure they’d have been able to help anyway - I know and use an exotics vet who is absolutely NOT a reptile specialist whatsoever). Another is exclusively a zoo vet, and the other is at a clinic I actively avoid because the staff there once tried to tell me my rabbit was sick because hay and grass are different plants.

Why is it so hard to find a good veterinarian?! Ugh.

As for the sick turtle, I’ve kept up with the vitamin A drops and I force feed her every week or so. But the poor thing seems to be getting a little less active now, so I’m going to try calling another place that the not-scheduling-until-July vet suggested. It’s farther away than I’d like to go but she’s looking bad and I’m getting desperate.

Any other suggestions in the meantime?

I might try feeding her more often but I’m a little afraid to, as force feeding seems to be kind of hard on her.

Do you have any local wildlife rehabilitation centers? I’d say try contacting them for more resources, since they deal exclusively with wildlife and their related illnesses.


Well! An update at last. I found a wildlife rehab center that works with reptiles, and they recommended a good reptile vet to me. Not exactly local - it took an hour and a half to get there. But I dropped Shu off with the vet today, along with a $200 deposit. :flushed:

I don’t mind paying for good work, but money is tight this month due to some Covid-related struggles we’ve had this winter, so I reeeally hope they can help her without having to bump my bill up too high.

While I was waiting in the room, I overheard someone in the back saying “they found her in the wild? Why didn’t they just leave her be?” So that was kind of uncomfortable, but I’m doing my best to give this clinic a fair chance so for now I’m trying to ignore that comment while I wait and see if they can help her.

I mean, I get it, sort of. In most cases, it’s best to leave wild animals wild. But this is an invasive species. I figured if I could take her in and care for her, that would be better than releasing her into some wild pond to damage the ecosystem.

Ugh, sorry, I’m venting a tiny bit. I’ve had a heck of a day today.

Anyway, just letting you all know that she’s at the vet’s right now (and this is supposed to be one of the best reptile vets around here) and I’m waiting for news. Thank you again for suggesting I try contacting a rehab center!! I hadn’t thought of that, and you were right - the guy said there were only two vets in the metroplex that he recommends for reptiles, and a whole list of ones that he doesn’t. So I feel like she has a good chance here.


I’m glad the suggestion worked out, hopefully the vet can get her on the right track with relatively little intervention.

As for the comment, ignore it. While we would really love to leave every animal in the “wild”, there is also the responsibility to keep local ecosystems intact, and you didn’t do anything wrong by taking her in, as I’m guessing there’s no law against the removal of invasives, unlike native herps. You’re doing the best to give her a fulfilling life in captivity with her best interests in mind and that’s what matters. Let us know how she does, and best of luck to you both!


Thanks - that makes me feel a bit better!


Sounds to me like those that made the comment cared for animals alot and simply was unfamiliar with their local ecology. They likely dont know the famage invasives can cause and only viewed it as a normal wild-caught situation. I would take it as them caring about wildlife, rather than an attack on your character :slight_smile:


Well, Shu is home again and the vet thinks she will recover. She goes back for an injection in a couple of weeks - in the meantime I have an ointment for her eyes and a special Critical Care type food.

The vet told me sliders aren’t actually invasive in this area, so I guess wherever I read/heard that they were was actually incorrect. Hmm. I’ll have to do some more research on that. If he’s correct, I’m gonna feel kind of bad for keeping her here. It was my understanding that they were extremely invasive, and pretty devastating to other local species. So I thought I was helping the environment by not releasing the sliders that fell into my lap. If that’s not actually true… I’m not sure I’m helping anything keeping them here.

Although in towns and cities a lot of sliders get run over crossing the streets, so maybe it will still be safer for her in the long run… idk. I might consider finding a nice pond far away from traffic to take her once she’s recovered. I have a friend who lives way out in the country and has a big natural pond on the property.

Idk. I hope she recovers, either way! She does seem a bit feistier than before, so that’s a good sign. Eyes are still closed so far, but I’m hoping that’s just temporary.

I’ll keep updating!!

Oh, the vet bill came to $275. Yikes. And I expect there will be more when we go back for the second injection. Oh well. I’m learning a lot, and I feel like this gives Shu her best chance of recovering.


In the spirit of fairness, I dont know how long youve had your animals, but once they are captive for a while, releasing them isnt something that should be done. They can get diseases not normal in the wild, and then spread them and can cause ecological disasters, even if they arent invasive.

I have held on to hatchling snapping turtles over winter to release in the spring, and made sure they were never exposed to anything from any of my personalnfish tanks so the risk is minimal. But fo the normal person, amything kept in captivity for a good while shouldnt be released.