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Joan, Veterinary Technician
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 18661
Experience:  35+ years experience as veterinary tech and 40+ years experience doing reptile rescues.
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My box turtle is subdued & has not eaten in 5 weeks since he

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My box turtle is subdued & has not eaten in 5 weeks since he fell from our open deck, possibly as high as 12-14 feet onto mulch. He must have gotten over the barrier I erroneously thought was high enough to contain him & onto the stairs. I do not know from which step he fell as we found him on the ground. He had no obvious fracture, tenderness or deformity but he seems to be dragging his hind legs before he steps with them. Since then if I place him in an open space, he will walk to a comfortable corner & sits still. He can climb out of his water dish, where I put him to drink twice daily, like usual but is no longer lively. He completely ignores food although I have offered him his favorites, ground meat, peas and a variety of fruits. He is eliminating urine & stool normally. He does not seem to sleep more than before. We live in North Carolina and he spends his days outside on an inclosed porch where the temperature is in the 90's. At night I bring him into our air conditioned house. I don't know what to do.
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Reptile
Expert:  Joan replied 6 years ago.


Do you have a UVB avaialble in the enclosed porch or does it have an open roof?

What is the normal diet?

After the fall did you have him examined by a Herp Vet?

Do you feed any other supplements?


Customer: replied 6 years ago.
The UVB is in an inclosure in my laundry room where he stays at night and on cold days. I only turn it on for about 6-8 hrs in the winter when he stays indoors, October to April. In the summer he spends most of the day in a screened porch with a closed roof and natural sunlight coming through the screens. He spends a little time outside in the garden but not often. He has not been exposed to the UVB lately. He seems to try to get away from it when it is on.

He was not seen by a vet after the fall. I am a retired MD, family practice. He had no visible injury, his shell was intact, his extremities and head were not tender, swollen or deformed. He moved all his extremities equally. His eyes & pupils looked OK and he was not sleepy, just stayed in one place & appeared "shaken" if I can use that term with a turtle. I know there is something wrong mainly because he has no interest in food or exploring. Before this he walked around a good deal and ate every 3 days or so depending on the time of the year & who knows what.

His diet was ground turkey breast, frozen peas, grated carrots, berries or other fruit. He has eaten cottage cheese, hard boiled egg, tomato & banana but is very picky & waits until I find the "right" food accepting no substitutions. He really enjoyed a worm or caterpillar that I found for him. He did not seem to find them himself. He liked meat the most and peas next.

Supplements are calcium citrate in his food so only when he ate. I estimate he got about 10 mg every 3 days and Poly-Vi-Sol(a pediatric multivitamin) 1 drop into his water every day which he is still getting. It is hard to estimate how much he gets. I try to give the drop near his mouth when he starts to drink. My previous information is not correct, he is getting Poly-vi-Sol. Our water is fluoridated.
Expert:  Joan replied 6 years ago.


The UVB is filtered by the screen on the porch it also does not penetrate glass, so you really need to set up a UVB light reptisun 10.0 tube type or a Mercury Vapor bulb on the porch. This is very important. They need the UVB all year round for 12-14 hours a day in spring and summer and during the winter 6-8 hours a day. The UVB lights needs to be replaced every 6 months as they do loose potency. I suggest cuttle bones scattered for calcium as they love to chew on them. With it almost being summer the heat may be slowing him down as they do like to burrow when it gets warmer. This care sheet goes over the lighting and the diet especially for finicky eaters. It suggests stinky foods or getting some earth worms or mollusks from the pet supply to see if he will accept them for food: The fact it has been five weeks since he last ate, I do suggest a Herp Vet visit to rule out an internal issue or parasites. I would be happy to locate a Herp Vet for you with a city and state. I would not wait much longer with him not eating. You can try to add the proper lighting and see if it perks him up, but a Herp Vet visit I believe hands on will give him what he needs to get going again. Joan

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you for the information on nutrition and UVB. What I don't understand is that the turtle was acting perfectly normal until his accident. So it isn't all that likely that a nutritional deficiency caused his sudden change. I suppose the fall have pushed him over the edge if he were borderline deficient. What I am seeking is what to do about the fall? Is there any internal injury that is treatable in a turtle?

As to his nutritional status, he had been spending many days on a deck without a roof. Now, to insure his safety, I have him on a screened porch. The wire screening is 1/8 inch. How does that impede rays when there seems to be plenty of sunlight coming in? How much potency does the bulb loose? Could you have the same cumulative effect just using it for longer period?

Please let me know if these questions are too technical for this kind of service to handle.
Thank you,
Expert:  Joan replied 6 years ago.


I will try to answer your questions to the best of my ability. Stress can be a triggering point for various problems that include parasites as well as nutrional issues. The fall may have created some medical issues, but without some blood work and X rays it is just speculation of what may have happened. As far as the UVB, I have a link where studies have been done on UVB as well as Mercury Vapor Bulbs and if you view the link this give the percentage of loss over periods of time on various bulbs. The people that preformed these tests and recorded the research used a UVB meter and documented all findings here : or this study:

As far as sunlight, it needs to be direct rays where it metabolizes the calcium in the body. The more direct rays from above increases the potency of the UVB, the better chance that the calcium is metabolized in the body.

I believe that the answers will come from a Herp Vet after some tests are done to deterimine what is actually going on. I cannot diagnose since I cannot see the turtle or handle the turtle. I can speculate on what the problem may be, bu a hands on exam is what will give the definitive answers. Joan

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