|Tortoises can get
infections and disease in their lungs, throat or head. caused by
viruses, fungi, or even poor husbandry- things like poor diet or low
Commonly called ‘Respiratory Infections’ or RI’s, there are actually two
different diseases depending on where they are centered. An infection
in the lungs would be Pneumonia,
or Lower Respiratory Tract Disease
centered in the head and neck is Upper
Respiratory Tract Disease (URTD), sometimes called Runny Nose
Syndrome (RNS). While
all reptiles can get LRTD, only tortoises seem to get URTD, and URTD is
what most tortoise keepers mean when they mention RI.
Sadly, both URTD
and LRTD can be fatal since the disease is often well-advanced before
show, and in the case of URTD, the bacteria is resistant to drugs. Both
very contagious and all reptiles in an enclosure should be tested. The
treatment usually tries to use medicine to reduce the pathogen load and
secondary issues, cleaning the habitat and practicing good hygiene to
reduce the pathogen load and prevent reinfection, and doing what we can
boost the tortoise’s immune system.
Tortoise.Org has a great article on URTD as well!
Pneumonia or LRTD
Bacteria, such as E. coli species and other
gram-negative bacteria; retroviruses and
the Herpesvirus; fungi like Aspergillis
and Candida; insufficient
vitamin A and
protein in the diet; low habitat temperatures; mites and so on.
are not necessarily obvious or distinctive, and generally include:
breathing or troubled breathing.
- Loss of
appetite, weight loss, poor general health.
- Nasal discharge
(more likely for URTD).
tests (x-rays, samples) can confirm that it is a LRTD and what the root
- The vet will
recommend a course of action based on the causes. It is important to
recommendations carefully to have the best chance at fighting this
medications, such as antibiotics, the vet recommends should be used
described for the best results.
- Have other
- Disinfect and
clean the habitat.
- Boost habitat
temperatures and provide other nursing support.
“Runny Nose Syndrome” or URTD
most common forms of ‘Respiratory Infection’ in tortoises and should be
considered much more
serious than the ‘head cold’ or ‘flu’ it is often compared to. It is
the bacteria exists naturally in many species of tortoise, and that the
bacterial colony will ‘bloom’ under certain conditions. While no one
sure what triggers the disease, things like stress, increased pathogen
in the habitat (due to poor hygiene or introducing an infected
temperature control, poor diet, and so forth are possible causes.
It is usually a
bacteria called Mycoplasma that
few antibiotics affect. Other bacteria,
viruses, or fungi, as well as poor diet, temperature control, and
make things worse or cause secondary infections.
- Discharges from
the nares (nostrils) and/or eyes.
around the eyes. May have difficulty opening the eyes.
- Eroded nares,
often with grooves developing around the openings.
- Loss of
appetite, weight loss.
- General poor
about the same as LRTD above. There is no known specific treatment for
because the primary bacteria cannot be managed with antibiotics. Most of
treatment focuses on treating secondary infections and boosting the
about 20% of tortoises seem to get completely over this and completely
get rid of the infection. The other survivors carry the germs for
years. Sadly, quite a few tortoises will not survive.
Edited 4-17-2012 (C) Mark Adkins