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Ask Joan Your Own Question
Joan, Veterinary Technician
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 18374
Experience:  35+ years experience as veterinary tech and 40+ years experience doing reptile rescues.
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I did a very dumb thing! I have housed & cared three legged

Customer Question

Hello - I did a very dumb thing! I have housed & cared for a three legged eastern box turtle for 14 years - no problems. I was given a rescue male who looked very active and healthy. Like a dummy I put them in together. In three days the new turtle had swollen eyes and stopped eating. Now, only two days later, my original turtle has swollen shut eyes and has stopped eating. What can I do now?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Reptile
Expert:  Joan replied 2 years ago.


My name is ***** ***** I have been a Vet tech for 30+ years with special interest in Reptiles and Reptile Rescue.

Can you tell me if you have a UVB light, age of bulb, linear tube or compact coil, strength and brand?


Where housed?

Basking bulb?

Temps in the closure in Basking are and on cool side?


Any supplements?

Any runny nose, swollen eyes or problems breathing?


Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi - There are NO breathing problems. My bulbs are new - 100 watt uva listed. This came on VERY quick - in less than a week. I am sure it is something contagious - not related to food or substrate. First sign I notice is laying longer under the lamps with all limbs stretched out, and then the eyes seem swollen and the tortoise doesn't want to open them. They both ate strawberries and meal worms, and an earth worm day before yesterday.
Expert:  Joan replied 2 years ago.

Do you have a UVB light, is it a linear tube or compact coil, strength and age of bulb?

Do you feed any supplements?

Where are they housed?


Customer: replied 2 years ago.
They are in a 40 gallon tank in the house. The substrate is soil, with plants rocks and mosses. What I need to know is what to use to cure what I assume is bacteriological. The set up was perfect for 14 years, the first turtle healthy and active until I added the second turtle. Is there anything I can use? Maybe as a rinse or in their drinking water? Both drink water from a plastic reptile bowl.
Expert:  Joan replied 2 years ago.

I still need to know about the UVB bulb. If they have one and the information about the bulb itself. I also need to know about supplements. There are many problems that can come from husbandry that can mimic the problems you are seeing. I do need to let you know we cannot prescribe medication on this site if they need it I will refer out to a Herp Vet. It is illegal and against the TOS to recommend or prescribe medications without having a Vet patient hands on relationship.

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I have a Repti Basking Spot lamp 100 watt daylight UVA tight beam SL2-100. The second turtle I've had for a week - I don't know what it was fed. I soaked it for a few hours because it felt light for the size. This came on very quickly from the new turtle to the original one. It must be a disease, not metabolic. Remember, I have cared for the first tortoise for 14 years with no problems. Can you give me an idea of what can pass in days from one turtle to the next?
Expert:  Joan replied 2 years ago.

This could be a viral issue, a bacterial issue or it may be parasitic. The selling of the eyes usually coes along for two reasons one is a Vitamin A issue and the other reason is a respiratory issue. With a respiratory issue you would notice bubbes fro the nose or mouth, gaping, wheezing or sneezing.

You do need to get a UVB light on these turtles. Without a UVB light and a calcium supplement they are predisposed to Metabolic Bone Disease. The UVB and calcium also helps with the immune system. With out the UVB the immune system is compromised. This is soe information on UVB and Metabolic Bone Disease:

The swelling in the eyes can be from lack of circulation and accurate humidity. Vitamin A deficiency can cause this problem and can also lead to secondary eye infections:

I never suggest a fish tank for turtles or tortoises. There is not enough air circulation and can lead to respiratory issues as well as other problems. I suggest a tortoise table for them. you can see that here: This is just an idea about some turtle enclosures. I am also going to give you a care sheet to help with the husbandry: I recommend a Reptisun 10.0 linear tube to go over the enclosure. It should not be any more than 12 inches from the turtles.

To help them lest start with some Sterile Saline eye drops 2 times a day in each eye. I would also like to see you give each turtle a soak in a 50/50 Pedialyte soak for 20 mins. This is a theraputic soak to help hydrate them with electrolytes. I would like to see you using some plain calcium powder on their food and keep cuttle bones available for chewing as a calcium supplement. I think if you get the UVB bulb over them it will help with the lethargy. Until you can build some type of tortoise table you may want to switch them into a large Rubber made tub which some people use.

I do suggest a Herp Vet visit and if you supply a Location I can try and find some Herp Vets for you. I also suggest some Natural sunlight for 15 mins several times a day until a UVB light is in place. Natural UVB from the sun will help with the immune system.