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Shell Rot in Turtles/Tortoises: Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment


Are you concerned about the healthiness of your pet turtle’s shell? Shell rot is a common concern for many turtle parents, but there are ways to identify, prevent, and treat shell rot in your turtle. 

Having any pet comes with questions and concerns about their health; turtles are no different, if not worse. 

Read on to learn how to learn the clinical signs of shell rot, how to prevent it, and how to determine if your little friend may need to speak to or see a licensed veterinarian.

What is Shell Rot?

Shell rot is an infection on a turtle or tortoise’s shell. It can occur on both the top of the shell and/or the bottom. The medical term for this is ulcerative shell disease. Some symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Smelly discharge from the area
  • Fluid build-up under plates of the shell (often reddish-brown in color)
  • Soft or shell plates falling off (not to be mistaken for shedding as when they shed, it comes off as a whole)

If you see these signs, it is a good possibility that your aquatic friend may be suffering from shell rot instead of their natural shedding process.


Prevention and Causes of Shell Rot in Turtles

Sometimes the simplest thing can cause your aquatic friend to have shell rot, like a dirty environment. 

Damage to their shell could cause the bacteria to grow. If you have other tortoises, turtles, or even other housemates that like to rough house, this can cause damage to the shell. Do a once-over in their environment, and make sure they can’t bump into anything that would cause damage to their shell. 

If they do cause harm to themselves, if the environment does not have the proper humidity, it can cause problems with shell rot.

Some turtles desire more dry spaces, so ensure they have a place to keep dry.

Treatment for Shell Rot in Turtles

If you have seen symptoms of mild shell rot, you can do some things at home.

  • Find causes of damage or environment and remove them from an enclosure
  • Keep them away from the water in their enclosure (keep that shell dry)
  • Get a soft brush (like a toothbrush) and clean that shell up
  • You can try using a chlorhexidine solution to kill the bacteria
  •  Apply healing cream; any triple antibiotic will do the trick. It will take multiple days to get the area back to normal

As always, these are some signs and ways to prevent the matter, but it’s always best to seek medical attention if you’re worried about your turtle. 


When Should You Seek Veterinary Help for Your Turtle’s Shell Rot?

If it has already occurred and you are worried, please seek medical attention. Not all clinics see exotics or have the knowledge, so do your research. You can find great resources online where to visit to seek professional help for your aquatic baby. 

We also have vets online 24/7 to help answer your immediate questions and concerns about your turtle’s health. Make an appointment to speak with one of our licensed veterinarians today, and don’t move too slow in locating treatment for that four-legged dinosaur.

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