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Anna, Reptile Expert, Biologist
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 11463
Experience:  Have owned turtles, snakes, amphibians, and lizards. Study and provide habitat for wild herps.
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I have a 10 yr old Russian tortoise, she had a overgrown

Customer Question

Hi, I have a 10 yr old Russian tortoise, she had a overgrown beak which we had trimmed by our vet. He only trimmed back partially because he was afraid it might crack. This was a few months ago, today I noticed the whole beak missing, looks like she is still eating, any thoughts.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Reptile
Expert:  Anna replied 1 year ago.

Hello and welcome. My name is ***** ***** I'm a biologist with a special interest in reptiles. I'm sorry to hear of this problem.

When a tortoise has beak problems, we need to look at potential causes as well as treatment. You may already have the information I'm going to provide, and if so, you can just ignore it. I like to provide it just in case. The most common cause of this problem is a deficiency of calcium or a lack of UVB light. The best way to provide calcium to a tortoise is to keep a cuttlebone available at all times. Cuttlebones are sold in the bird departments of pet stores. A tortoise will eat as much as they need. You probably have a UVB light for Shelley, but it's easy to wait too long to change the bulb. The lights give off visible light and UVB light - which humans cannot see. After 6 months, very little UVB is emitted, but visible light can be given off for years. The result is that a tortoise will not be able to metabolize calcium. Symptoms of the problem include overgrown beaks, torn beaks, soft shells, and as time passes, difficulty moving around. Shelley may simply have met with an accident, but a lot of tortoise keepers aren't aware of these issues, so I like to be thorough. If it doesn't apply to your situation, just ignore it.

Now for first aid. Clean the area with Betadine (sold in first aid departments of discount stores and pharmacies). Follow that with a light application of triple antibiotic cream, such as plain Neosporin. If you want to treat this at home, that will be all you can do. I do recommend that Shelley be seen by a reptile vet. Depending on the extent of the injury, the vet may prescribe antibiotics or pain medication. These links will take you to directories of vets who treat tortoises:

If you have more questions, let me know in a REPLY. I hope Shelley will heal uneventfully.


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