Soft Tissue Injuries

Cleaning wounds

  1. Remove
    as much dirt as possible by spraying it with
    warm water. Use Betadine®, Betadine Scrub ®,  baby
    shampoo or similar cleaners onto the wet tortoise and scrub gently, but
    keep away from the eyes (one benefit of baby shampoo is that it is
    safer near the eyes.) Use an old, soft-bristled toothbrush on soft
    tissues and a stiffer brush (like a fingernail brush) on the
  2. Rinse with warm, clean water. Re-scrub as needed.
  3. If
    the limbs are tightly retracted, scrub what you
    can, then soak the tortoise in a pool of Betadine and water at a ratio
    of 1:10 to 1:20 (or a ‘tea color’) for a few minutes.
  4. Dry the tortoise.
  5. Use
    a swab or sponge, apply Betadine to the affected
    area and all around it. Use full strength for possible fungal
    infections or ‘dirty wounds’, and diluted 1:10 with water for general
    purpose. Scrub for about a minute, then let dry. 
  6. Do not use
    Betadine-like products more than a few

Wrapping injuries

minimizes skin/shell damage and still offers protection.

  1. Start by cleaning the injured area the best you can.
    (See the ‘Cleaning Wounds’ section)
  2. Place clean gauze over the
    wound or apply splints,
  3. Use ‘paper first-aid tape’ first to protect the
    tortoise’s skin.
  4. If needed, use a stronger tape (like waterproof
    first-aid tape, or electrical tape) on top of the paper tape for
    strength and protection.
  5. Always make sure that the tape is not
    too tight,
    especially if it goes around a limb.

Alternatively, you can use gauze wrap or self-cohesive wrap instead of
tape. Self-cohesive wrap is a little stretchy but does not stick to
skin- just to itself. An inexpensive version is called
VetWrap 2
( or farm supply stores.)


if the burn interferes with breathing, affects the face, covers an
entire limb or more than one limb, affects the cloaca, goes through the
skin, or if the tortoise is very young.

  1. Cool the burn
    area with cool, not cold water.
  2. Treat the injury as a ‘Minor
    Wound’, but do not bandage unless the skin is damaged.
  3. Treat
    for shock, then
    use ‘Nursing Care’.

Eye injuries

  1. Most eye injuries that
    need treatment should be seen by a vet.
  2. Small injuries can
    usually be treated with a rinse of sterile water/eye wash and a drop of
    ophthalmological antibiotic ointment.
  3. Sunken-looking or dull
    eyes may be a sign of dehydration. 

Prolapse (Organ protruding from the cloaca) 

  1. If
    the organ retracts on its own, everything is probably OK. Monitor the
  2. If it does not self-retract soon, clean it with sterile
    water, treat as a wound, treat for shock, and transport

hard, raised wound-like lump. Can cover bacterial infections, tumors,
etc. most often following an injury. Should be removed surgically by a
who will also determine and treat the underlying cause.

Dysecdysis (unshed

Appears as a thickened or rough patch of
skin, often on the head of the
tortoise. Often due to dehydration
Tortoise should be treated to
correct dehydration, and soaked. The dry patch should be moistened and
lotion or ointment applied until it loosens and sloughs off. If it does
not, or if the skin under it is damaged, see a vet.


Edited 8-15-2012 (C) Mark Adkins