Symptoms Guide

Emergency action plan
In an
emergency, use the
Emergency
Action Plan
to help sort out what is going on.

Shell (overall)
– Cannot
fully retract into shell:
Obesity

Mites or ticks:
Parasites
– Red tinge or streaks: Septocemia. See a
vet ASAP!

– Scutes falling off or loosening: Shell rot
– Shell injuries- cracks, punctures, etc.:
Minor injuries
can be handled at home, but larger injuries should be seen by a vet
ASAP!

– Shell is soft, overly flexible: Metabolic Bone Disease
(MBD)
. Very soft shells may need a vet’s help.

Carapace
– Pale growth lines:
New growth lines are sometimes pale for a couple days. Also, some
Red-foots develop ‘mottling’ or pale growth as they grow. See the ‘
Cherry-heads
page for examples.

– Scutes forming
into hills or pyramids:
Pyramiding

Thick growth lines:
May
be an early sign of

pyramiding or other MBD
.
– Thin,
translucent, often sharp edges on the marginals:
Often indicates
too much

calcium or vitamin D
. Check diet
and  carefully file sharp edges if needed.

– Wide growth lines:
Diet
may be too ‘rich’ and encouraging too rapid growth.


Plastron
– Hatchling’s plastron is ‘springy’:

This is normal and should harden over time. If it does not, look into
Metabolic Bone Disease.
– Pitting or liquids under the scute: Shell rot
– Soft scutes, wearing or rubbing off,
erosion:
Shell
rot

Mouth
– Bleeding from
mouth: Septicemiasee a vet ASAP.
– Cannot open or close, does not close right,
or injured:
See a vet.

Clicking noise when
opening or
closing mouth:
Possible
injury
, although some Red-foots ‘click’ sometimes normally.
– Coughing, gasping, wheezing: RI,
partial choking

Clear, foamy vomit:
Often seen after antibiotics are used. May be a form of RI
– Drooling,
discharge:
Heat
stroke

– Hard lumps:
Abscess

– Open mouth
breathing:
 RI

Overgrown beak: Often diet
(not enough fiber, wrong
balance
of vit. D and calcium
) or general cares. Needs to be worn
down or trimmed
.
– Pale
tissues:
Low blood count usually due to an infection or disease,
or severe stress. See a vet.


Struggling for breath:
May be choking! Look for and
try to remove obstructions- see a vet ASAP!

Thick mucus: Dehydration
– Vomiting: Internal parasites,
septicemia,
digestion problems. See a vet.

– White or
‘cheese-like’ matter:
Stomatitis, Herpesvirus


– Yawning: Normal behavior, and kind of cute! If it
happens all the time, check air quality or see a vet.


Nose/nares
– Cracking around nares: Respiratory
Infection (RI)

– Eroding or ‘eaten away’ around nares:
RI,
Herpesvirus
– Fluid, mucus, or bubbling: RI,
Herpesvirus
– Wet
wheezing:
RI

Whistling, noisy breathing:
RI,
partial obstruction.
Mild noises may go away after a soak or washing.
Some tortoises whistle normally and most whistle when they withdraw
their heads quickly.


Eyes
– Does not open eyes, but
not swollen:
UVB overexposure, injury.
– Eyes appear sunken:
Dehydration

– Fluid
discharge, tears:
Herpesvirus,
RI,
dehydration

– Red, inflamed:
RI,
UVB overexposure

– Swollen, puffy:
infection,
vitamin A deficient,
injury, RI,
UVB overexposure

– Swollen
eyelids:
Bacterial
infection
. See a vet.



Ears/Tympanae
– Swelling behind the eyes:
Abscess, injury

Head and neck
(See
also ‘Soft Tissues’ section)


Colors are fading:
Common as animal ages. If happening rapidly,
see a vet.

– Dry, flaky skin:
Dehydrationstress.
May be an early sign of other problems, like

Improper Diet Cascade (IDC)
as well.
– Hard lump(s): Abscess
– Loose scales or skin: Stress,
IDC,
dehydration
– Mites, ticks: Parasites

Thick ‘cap’ of scales: Dysecdysis
– Throat is pumping/puffing up: This
is how a tortoise moves air past it scent organs to smell things.

Limbs
– Difficulty
using one limb:
Fracture or injury


– General
weakness or paralysis:
MBD, egg retention,
peritonitis, spinal/
shell
injury
,
gout, arthritis,
septicemia,
heat
stroke
, Herpesvirus, RI See a vet.
– Hind limb paralysis or weakness:
Kidney problems, nerve problems,
MBD, lack
of good protein

– Muscle loss:
Herpesvirus


– Poor
retraction:
Pneumonia,
Herpesvirus, obesity


– Swollen joints: Arthritis,
gout
.
– Swollen lumps:
Abscess

Soft tissues (See also ‘Head/Neck’ in ‘Eyes, Ears, Head’ section)
– Dry skin: Dehydration, dysecdysis.

Red tinge,
streaks, or bleeding:
Septicemia

– Skin raw, peeling, like sunburn:
Vitamin A overdose,
stress,
infection
– Swollen, puffy: Obesity,
renal failure,
pulmonary
disease


– Ticks or mites:
Tick or mite
infestation



Tail, cloaca, feces
– Blood in stool:
Protozoan
infestation
, parasites
– Blood in urine:
Protozoan
infestation
, renal or liver dysfunctions


– Concentrated
urine, smell of ammonia:
Protozoan infestation

– Constipation: Dietary
issues
, dehydration

– Diarrhea, loose
or watery:
Low fiber or
other dietary issue
, side-effect of antibiotics,
protozoa infestation

– Dry stools: Dehydration

Fleshy protrusion from cloaca:
Prolapse. Penile
prolapses will self-correct. Organ prolapses need a vet’s care.


Inability to
urinate:
Dehydration,
renal dysfunction- see a vet.

– Passing
undigested food:
Protozoan infestation

– Smelly stools: Dietary
issue
(fish, etc. in diet), parasites

– Tail wagging: Usually
indicates preparing for bowel movement

– Worms in stool: Internal parasites


Behaviors
Head
low, tail end high, and/or tail wagging:
Preparing for bowel
movement.

– Head out and up, hind
limbs straight out, under a heat or light source:
The ‘sun
worship’ pose- normal for basking. If basking more than usual, check
temps.

– Not eating:
May be many things- 
double check
basic
cares
, especially temps.Common in stress,
infections,
when taking antibiotics, seasonal slow downs, etc. May also
just indicate that it is still full from a recent meal.

– Panting, drooling, listless, limp: Heat
stroke

– Spasms, seizures, paralysis, foaming at the
mouth, etc.:
Poisoning- see a vet ASAP.
– Tail wagging: Usually
indicates preparing for bowel movement


Throat is pumping/puffing up:
This is how a tortoise moves air
past it scent organs to smell things.


Other
– Dog attack:
Unless injuries are very minor,
take to a vet.

– Lethargy: Seasonal slowing, egg binding, diabetes, diet
or care issues
, boredom, stress

– Slow growing
and/or soft-shelled hatchlings:
Diet,
cares,
parasites,
genetic defect, illness



Spasms, seizures, paralysis, foaming at the mouth, etc.:

Poisoning- see a vet ASAP.

– Weight
increase, swelling:
Renal dysfunction

– Weight loss: Dehydration, stress,
poor cares
or diet,
disease or infection,
protozoa
infestation, parasites




Resources


Edited 4-17-2012 (C) Mark Adkins

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