Nursing Care and Shock

are used to help minimize the effects of shock and to strengthen or rebuild an ill or stressed tortoise’s
system. The goals are cleanliness, low stress, and warmth.


Basic nursing care

It is usually
best to set up a nursing tub or a separate habitat for the ill tortoise.
if it is your only tortoise, it allows you time to
completely clean the main habitat.

Some guidelines for good
nursing care include…

  • Simple
    plastic tubs
    are cheap and easy to
    disinfect. Opaque-walled tubs also help minimize stress. 
  • Use
    a clean substrate-
    newspaper or paper towels are often recommended. Change them as they become soiled.
    some of the towels for humidity-loving species and baby tortoises.

  • Make sure there
    are several hiding places, with at least one being some form of warm,
    humid hide. Broad leaf plants can help freshen the air
    and boost humidity as well as shade and hiding places.
  • Use
    lighting, and try hard to offer adequate UVB light for at least a few
    hours a
    day. Make sure there are plenty of hiding places from the light. 
  • Heat
    habitat to about 5-10 degrees F warmer than usual. A warming pad under
    about half the tub will help. For babies or humidity-loving species,
    mist the
    shell with warm water a few times a day. Partially cover the habitat if
    to maintain the right conditions.

  • Position the
    nursing habitat somewhere away from noise, activity, etc. and leave the
    tortoise as alone as

  • Consider offering warm
    water soaks to help relax and partially hydrate the tortoise.
  • Be
    sure you are using a good, varied diet, even if their appetite is off.
Shock is a common side-effect of traumatic situations, and can be life-threatening. The signs of shock can include:
  • Pale mucous membranes (inner mouth, around the eye), 
  • Limp or unresponsive or over-active,
  • Slow or rapid breathing, and/or 
  • Glazed eyes.


  1. Treat injuries that cannot wait, let minor injuries wait until after treating for shock.
  2. If practical, let the tortoise soak in warm water for a while to rest and rehydrate.
  3. ‘Pack’ the tortoise in a tub or box as if shipping it. Pad it with towels, crumpled paper, etc. making sure to leave air space by the head. Keep in a quiet, warm, humid place.
  4. If it is necessary to take the tortoise to the vet, leave it in the box and keep it warm.
  5. Let the tortoise rest for as long as possible before continuing cares- at least an hour, check on it periodically.
  6. When it has rested, continue necessary treatment.


Edited 8-15-2012 (C) Mark Adkins