All turtles must receive immediate veterinary attention when they are sick or injured. In most cases unnecessary pain and injury can be prevented through regular visits to a veterinarian, proper nutrition, and good water quality.
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act outlines how people must take care of and act towards animals in New Zealand. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Police and SPCA work together to make sure people in New Zealand follow these laws.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, all animal guardians (owners) are responsible for making sure the welfare needs of animals in their care are met. Learning about the Five Domains helps us to understand these welfare needs and how we can make sure we provide these. One of the Five Domains is Health. In this section you will learn about this domain and how you can make sure your turtle has the right veterinary care to be healthy.
If you have a turtle as a companion animal, or are thinking about getting one, you should know about Salmonella. Salmonella is a type of bacteria that reptiles can carry. It causes an infection in your intestines and will make you very sick.
To avoid Salmonella being transferred from your turtle to you or vice versa, you must wash your hands before and after every interaction. It is also important to wash your hands after handling any equipment that has come in contact with them/their enclosure. It is always best to keep handling to a minimum to keep your turtle’s stress levels low.
Shedding is a natural process that turtles go through and one that should happen without human assistance. Shedding is when reptiles lose their old skin (and shell plates in a turtle’s case!) so that they can continue to grow. Turtles require a dry place outside of the water in order to shed, otherwise they can get fungal infections. You should consult a reptile veterinarian if your turtle is constantly shedding.
As mentioned in the Environment section, turtles need a special UVA/UVB reptile light. This light keeps them healthy. Without this important light, turtles are likely to develop bone disease and shell rot. These lights need to be replaced approximately every 6-12 months and should not be blocked by anything in your turtle’s enclosure.
The signs of a healthy turtle are clear, bright eyes, and smooth skin/shell. If you notice blisters or sores on your turtle, take them to a reptile veterinarian immediately.
There are also signs you should look out for that show that your turtle may be feeling sick. These signs include:
Turtles can also develop illnesses if they do not have a well-planned balanced diet, are over-fed, if their water is not kept clean, and if their heating/lighting is inadequate. Additionally, turtles are vulnerable to eye problems, and ulcers caused by scratches from sharp, rough surfaces. Responsible turtle guardians must monitor their companion animal daily and if they suspect something isn’t quite right, take them to a reptile veterinarian.
Choosing the right veterinarian for your turtle is of the utmost importance. Some vets do not have any experience with reptiles so to guarantee the best possible care for your turtle, it’s best to research qualified veterinarians before seeing one. Turtles don’t just need to go to the veterinarian when they’re sick, they should have check-ups 1-2 times a year as sometimes signs of illness can be missed.
When taking your turtle to their reptile veterinarian, you need to place him/her in a ventilated container. If the journey is short, it’s okay to place them in the container with a dry towel. If it’s going to be a longer journey, a damp, moist towel is the best choice, along with a heat pack. Be sure that your turtle does not get too hot or too cold and keep transport as short as possible to avoid stress.
Proper handling is important for your turtles health as it can help reduce the risk of accident/injury.
The best way to pick up at turtle is using both hands, one on each side of their shell in the middle of their body. As a general rule, turtles should not be handled more than is necessary. They are the kind of pet that enjoy being looked at, but not being touched.
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