By Margaret A. Wissman, DVM, DABVP
Q. I have a baby red eared slider and I think he has shell rot. What is the best way to treat it at home?
A. Shell problems can be quite serious, especially in baby turtles. Shell problems now can impact the turtle for the rest of its life, so it’s not something to take lightly. Since you’re not sure what is wrong with your slider, I would recommend that you take it in to see a herp veterinarian for appropriate diagnostics. That way you can ascertain what is really wrong with the shell, and then correct treatment can be instituted. What makes me nervous is that if the shell lesions are not correctly diagnosed and treated, the shell can become deformed which can adversely affect your slider for life!
Some shell lesions can also progress to a bone infection called osteomyelitis, and some infections also can lead to a blood infection called septicemia. So, while “shell rot” sounds rather innocuous, it can be dangerous. Shell rot is usually caused by bacteria, however, in some cases, fungal agents can be responsible. If left untreated, or if treated improperly, this can lead to systemic infection, liver damage, paralysis and death.
Hopefully, you can see why I am urging you to find a herp vet who can diagnose the problem and treat it appropriately. If your vet is unsure of how to proceed, you can suggest that he or she request a consultation with an experienced herp vet who will be available through the diagnostic lab that they use for their lab testing. This is offered as a gratis service to vets who utilize the diagnostic lab and this can be a great assistance to inexperienced herp vets or even very experienced vets who just want another opinion on a case.
Also, your herp vet should be able to go over husbandry with you and attempt to uncover why your baby turtle has developed an abnormal condition of the shell. Often the temperature of the habitat is not warm enough, and the water is not kept clean enough, and this will lead to shell and possibly skin problems.
While I could offer you some suggestions for treating the shell of your baby turtle at home, I really hope that you will take my advice and seek a herp vet to help you with your slider. This is too serious for a quick fix at home. I hope this helps.
Margaret A. Wissman, DVM, DABVP has been an avian/exotic/herp animal veterinarian since 1981. She is a regular contributor to REPTILES magazine.
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