Healthy Terrapins

When people mention pets, they usually think of cats and dogs. And yet, almost one million households in the UK have turtles and tortoises for pets.

Terrapins can live up to 30 and even 40 years in captivity so they are a long-term commitment. While their maintenance doesn’t require walks and play, they still need care and attention to remain healthy.

Remember that you are responsible for the well-being of your terrapin. Terrapins are animals that used to live in ponds and brackish waters. The area you introduce them should mimic their natural environment in terms of temperature, water presence, and overall care.

Luckily, keeping terrapins healthy and happy doesn’t require too much work. You should make sure to give them nutritious food with plenty of protein and plant matter.

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Also, filter the water in their tank and clean it on a regular basis to remove any traces of faeces.

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The most common terrapin species is the diamondback terrapin but many pet owners also have red-eared sliders and yellow belied-sliders. The routine to keep your terrapin healthy is the same for all members of this Chelonian family.

Signs of a healthy terrapin

Check the health of your terrapin regularly to detect any external signs of ailment. Our advice is to have annual health checks for your terrapin with a veterinarian to make sure your pet doesn’t have an underlying condition that is causing it distress.

Because terrapins are less communicative than dogs or cats, it can be sometimes difficult for terrapin owners to notice a health issue that might be hiding in plain sight.

Healthy eyes

Eyes, it is often said, are the windows to the soul. They can also tell us a lot about a terrapin’s health. A pair of bright and clean eyes that open and close easily and don’t produce any sticky secretion is one of the signs of good health.

Shell health

A healthy terrapin’s skin is clean, shiny, and without any cracks. The colour and the shell should be bright. The terrapin should have smooth skin without any lesions, cuts, or obvious signs of infection.

Active terrapin

Your terrapin should be looking lively with freely moving limbs and head. It should be able to push its extended feet against one’s hand when pressed.

Upon touching, terrapins may naturally withdraw their feet or try to hide themselves within the shell.

Jaw and teeth

A healthy terrapin should have a clean oral cavity without any lesions. The jaws should open and close perfectly. Any occurrences of a soft shell or other deformities generally indicate a deficiency of Calcium or other nutrients.

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Terrapins need calcium and vitamin D to maintain their shell and their teeth. Your terrapinarium should have UV lights that mimic the sun’s light and deliver vitamin D. As for their diet, they should have plenty of calcium.

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Be careful when you handle a terrapin. Despite their small size, they have powerful jaws and their bite is quite painful.

Energy levels

Being a cold-blooded reptile, a terrapin’s energy level can alter according to the temperature around it. Terrapins like warm environments where they feel the happiest. They originate from the Gulf of Mexico, which is humid and warm, so any environment should simulate their natural habitat.

If your tank is positioned close to a draughty door, the air current and the wintry ambience can cause respiratory diseases with liquid or foamy oral and nasal discharges.

If your terrapin wants to hibernate, you should slowly lower the tank temperature to mimic what happens in nature in autumn. Terrapins that display healthy issues should not be allowed to hibernate because it could be fatal. During hibernation, terrapins eat and drink very little. They should start their hibernation with good body weight, which will decrease during hibernation.

Terrapin weight

Weight is another good indicator of a healthy terrapin, so you should check it regularly. It is often said that a heavier terrapin means a healthier terrapin, but for one in captivity, overfeeding can make them overweight—and obesity can be dangerous. There is a fine balance to maintain for your terrapin well-being.

To keep your terrapin healthy and active, you can introduce to the tank various plants, both natural and fake, as well as rocks, shells, and even small balls to keep their curious nature alive. As they explore their environment, hide, and climb, they keep active, which is always good for weight control.

Signs of health issues on a terrapin

External signs of health issues

A healthy terrapin should be free of various infections caused by algae, bacteria, or fungi. Various ailments commonly caused by these microorganisms are skin blisters or growth of slimy and brownish membranes, shell rot or shedding shell plates, raw ulcers, loss of digits or claws, haemorrhage, and paralytic limbs. All of these are visible externally. Also, any sign of loose and saggy skin should also worry a terrapin owner as it could be a sign of dehydration.

Internal signs of health issues

Loss of appetite, puffy eyes, swollen and stiff joints, difficulty in swimming, and internal haemorrhage are symptoms that denote an internal disease of a pet terrapin and need immediate treatment by an experienced veterinarian.

Once detected, a sick or injured terrapin should be isolated from the rest to avoid the fast spreading of the infection, which can get worse with delay.

Terrapins can carry salmonella. While this doesn’t cause them a health problem, it can cause a serious infection to humans. Make sure you handle a sick terrapin with gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after removing the gloves. If you have taken your terrapin for observation and handled it outside its tank, make sure to disinfect the area where you placed it.

Terrapins deserve a happy life

A healthy terrapin is lively and hardy. With timely detection of any problem and proper care, it can survive for a long time.

For more hints and tips about keeping terrapins healthy please check out the complete terrapin care guide and subscribe below to DOWNLOAD The Complete Turtle & Terrapin Guide Book:

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