2 Conditions That Affect a Turtle's Beak

2 Conditions That Affect a Turtle's Beak

Health & Safety

Mouth Rot

If you are thinking about getting a turtle for the kids, it's really important to read up on how to look after them before setting up the right environment they need to live in to ensure they stay healthy and happy. A reptile's immune system is dramatically affected when they are stressed out which means they aren't able to fight off infections. The other problem when their immune systems are compromised is that turtles can't fight any naturally occurring bacteria that may be present in their bodies and in particular in their mouths. This will eventually lead to them suffering a condition known as mouth rot.

Signs to Watch Out For That Your Turtle May Have Mouth Rot

When a turtle suffers from mouth rot, there are some obvious signs of a problem but there are some more subtle ones which may not be so apparent too which is particularly true at the onset of the problem. The things you need to watch out for include the following:

  • A loss of appetite
  • Redness inside their mouths
  • Dead tissue or puss coming from their mouths
  • Discharge from both nose and mouth

You need to bear in mind that if left untreated, mouth rot can spread very quickly to other areas of a turtle's digestive tract and even into their lungs which may well lead to pneumonia which more often than not proves fatal.

What Causes Mouth Rot?

As previously mentioned, setting up the proper environment for a pet turtle is essential for their well-being. Temperature and humidity levels have to be set correctly otherwise it could compromise a turtle's immune system which can lead to all sorts of health issues including mouth rot and shedding difficulties.

If fed an incorrect diet, turtles can also suffer from mouth rot and if they experience any injuries to their beaks, this too can increase the risk of them developing the condition.

Their environment has to be kept clean because if dirty, this too can play a part in them developing mouth rot. Regularly cleaning out a tank is a must as this keeps keep their immune system nice and strong so they can fight off bacterial and other infections more readily.

Diagnosing the Condition

The condition is typically diagnosed by simply observing a turtle with the clinical symptoms being quite obvious. A vet would nonetheless carry out a thorough examination and then recommend a treatment and to establish why the condition raised its ugly head in the first place. This could also mean reassessing your pet's environment and making the necessary changes to prevent mouth rot from re-infecting them. The vet may also recommend taking a close look at your pet's diet.

Treating Mouth Rot in Turtles

The normal treatment for mouth rot is to administer antibiotics and to clean the turtle's mouth with antiseptic. If the condition is very severe, a turtle may need to have damaged oral tissues surgically removed which means for a while, they might not be able to eat or drink properly. As such they would to be given fluid therapy and to be hand fed until they can eat on their own again.

How to Prevent Mouth Rot in Turtles

As with most health issues, prevention is far better and easier than cure where mouth rot is concerned. Turtles need to be fed a healthy, well balanced diet to suit their species and they need to be kept in optimum conditions with the correct level of humidity and temperature. Their environment has to be kept clean too which all helps reduce the risk of them developing mouth rot in the first place.

Abnormal/Overgrown Beaks

Turtles grab their food with their beaks as do tortoises. The edges of their beaks are sharp which allows them to tear their food when they need to before chewing and swallowing it. However, if a turtle's beak is overgrown or you notice that it is not wearing down correctly – your pet may well find it had to eat. They will soon lose condition and their immune systems may be compromised which means they have real trouble fighting off infections and illnesses.

Signs There May be a Problem

There are some pretty obvious signs your turtle may be experiencing trouble eating due to an overgrown beak which includes the following:

  • A noticeable overgrown upper beak
  • Both the upper and lower beak do not meet evenly
  • Your pet has trouble grabbing, tearing, chewing and swallowing their food

What Causes Beak Overgrowth?

More often than not when turtles are fed an incorrect diet when young it can lead to them developing poor beak alignment. If their diet was high in protein yet low in calcium, this can lead to poor and abnormal bone development resulting in the malformation of a turtle's skull. Should a turtle suffer a broken jaw and this fails to heal correctly, it may also lead to the beak not growing properly.

Other causes include being fed too many soft foods which means turtles don't get to chew and therefore wear down their beaks properly. You need to bear in mind that a turtle's beak grows continuously throughout their lives which means if they are not worn down correctly, it can lead to all sorts of health issues. If not addressed, the condition will just continue to get worse.

Diagnosing the Problem

If the beak is very overgrown, it is pretty apparent there is a problem. However, if the problem is just developing, the only way to diagnose this is to watch your turtle when they are eating. If they are having trouble tearing and grabbing their food, then a quick trip to the vet could be order so they can give them a thorough examination. If trauma is thought to be the problem, the vet may recommend taking an X-ray to establish this is indeed the case.

Treatments for Overgrown Beaks

If a turtle's beak is overgrown or uneven, it can be carefully reshaped but this needs to be done by a qualified vet. It is not a painful procedure and a turtle would not have to be sedated but it does need to be done extremely carefully which is why owners should never attempt to do this themselves but rather leave it up to the professionals.


If you own a turtle with an overgrown beak, you may find that you would need to have their beaks regularly trimmed and this is especially true if the underlying cause of the condition is not addressed. When turtles can chew crunchy foods, they will automatically wear down their beaks as long as they are well aligned in the first place. If they are unable to chew harder foods, then you may have to feed them soft food to make sure they indeed eating enough but to address the problem by taking your pet to the vet. A well balanced and varied diet is essential to a turtle's health and general well being and this is especially true when they are young because this is the time when their skull bones are still forming.



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