Like all pets, turtles and tortoises should be examined at least annually. If you have just purchased a new pet turtle or tortoise it is important that they are examined by a qualified reptile veterinarian. The visit includes determining the animal’s weight, as well as thorough physical examination, including an inspection of the shell. The animal is examined for signs of dehydration, malnutrition, or other abnormalities. Many veterinarians consider all turtles (even those bred in captivity) to have internal parasites, so your turtle may be routinely dewormed for parasites. The oral cavity is examined for signs of infectious stomatitis (mouth rot). Your veterinarian may recommend cultures, or radiographs (X-rays) to check for other diseases. No vaccines are required for turtles.
What are the parts of the reptile checkup?
While veterinarians follow their own protocols when performing a routine annual or semi-annual examination, most recommend a series of tests to help maintain your pet reptile’s health. Depending upon the species of reptile involved, the testing performed, and the temperament of your pet, some or all of these tests may be performed under short-acting gas anesthesia. Most reptiles can be safely anesthetized, using an anesthetic gas like isoflurane or sevoflurane for the short period of time needed to perform the diagnostic testing. If your pet is easily stressed, it may be easier and safer to perform any procedures under anesthesia, as they will be less stressed when anesthetized; stress is a major cause of reptiles dying when handled.
Physical Examination - Every visit starts with a thorough physical examination. During the physical, the veterinarian will record your pet’s weight, general appearance, and mobility. An updated history will be taken and your reptile’s diet will be evaluated. The veterinarian will palpate (feel) various parts of the pet’s body. Any abnormalities that are noted or changes that have occurred since the previous visit may indicate the need for specialized testing.
“Any abnormalities that are noted or changes that have occurred since the previous visit may indicate the need for specialized testing.”
Blood Testing - Just as your own regular medical visit includes blood testing, so does a checkup for pets. Blood testing can include acomplete blood count (examining the red blood cells, white blood cells, and thrombocytes) and serum biochemical profile (which looks at various organ enzymes.)
Fecal Analysis - Microscopic examination of the feces allows detection of internal parasites (coccidia, flagellates or other protozoa and intestinal worms.)
Microbiological Testing - Special stains called Gram’s stains may be used on fecal swabs, skin scrapings or other samples to detect the presence of abnormal bacteria or yeast. Depending upon the findings from the Gram’s stains, additional tests such as aculture and sensitivity may be needed to determine the species of bacteria or yeast and the appropriate treatment.
Radiological Testing - Using X-rays, your veterinarian can examine your pet’s body for abnormalities in the size, shape, and position of body organs; screen for masses such as tumors or granulomas; look for abnormal fluid accumulation; and check the bones and joints.
Signs of disease in turtles may be specific for a certain disease, such as nasal discharge in the case of a respiratory infection. Common conditions of pet turtles include Vitamin A deficiency, respiratory diseases, abscesses, shell infections and fractures, and parasites.
More commonly, signs of illness are non-specific, such as a turtle with anorexia (lack of appetite) and lethargy, which can be seen with many diseases. ANY deviation from normal is a cause for concern, and your pet turtle requires immediate evaluation by your veterinarian. For more information about turtles and tortoises on our website, please visit: www.acadiavetclinic.com/pet-health-resources/pet-health-articles/articles/?pk=turtle&ps=5