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Eating Problems, Giving Medicine, Force-feeding

If Your Turtle Will Not Eat

* Is the turtle kept warm enough? If turtles get too cool, they
  will stop eating.

* Does the turtle like the food you offer? Try out different foods.
  Some turtles can be very finicky eaters, especially in the
  beginning. And they have definite likes and dislikes.
  Most turtles will eventually take small earthworms
  that are wiggling in front of their nose. Start feeding favorite
  foods, then slowly introduce other items.

* Is your turtle exposed to too much stress? This is often a cause
  in new animals.Stress can be caused by handling, travelling, tank
  mates. New turtles will often not eat properly for several weeks.
  Be patient and keep trying.

* Is your turtle healthy? Not eating can be a symptom of other
  problems. If your turtle has been eating well and suddenly stops,
  a health problem is a likely reason. Take a fecal sample to your
  veterinarian. (Fecal samples need to be no older than 4 hours, and
  you need to store them in water in the refrigerator.)

* Don't panic! A turtle can go without food for weeks, even months,
  and when it feels well again, it will eat again.
  See a veterinarian, if you thing you are doing everything right, and the
  animal does not eat for more than 2 weeks.

* Offer him different foods--> refer to turtle feeding article

* It's still winter, and your turtle may just be taking a break. If he 
  has no other symptoms, this is a possibility

* Is your turtle still producing poop? If not, he may be severely
  constipated. He'll need a laxative, and only a vet can calculate
  the right dosage. If you want to try something on your own, dip a
  few of his food pellets into mineral oil and feed it to him.
  (Don't overdo it, that can be bad, too.)

* If you are ONLY feeding foodsticks (what brand?), your turtle may
  not be getting all he needs from food. Offer some wiggly worms and
  change his diet as suggested on the web site.

* Your turtle may be too cold. Check the web site on heating. Also, it
  is always a good idea to keep a turtle that is not eating very warm.
  Heat the water to 85F, and make sure the basking site is at 90F. 
  This will often help. Being warm also helps the immune system.

* If the turtle has a distinct nasal discharge or is swimming lopsided or
  gaping, it is likely he has a respiratory infection. Refer to the
  web page on this. In summary: Keep him warm if it is mild, if it does
  not get better within a few days, you must see a vet, because he'll need

Giving Medicine

The most gentle way of giving medicine is to mix it in with food. However, turtles
have a keen sense of taste and often won't eat medicated food. Or, the turtle
is not eating in the first place.

The most important thing is to be gentle and calm with your turtle. He is 
already sick and making him take the medicine adds stress to his life. 
Get the help of a second person, if you are nervous or haven't done this

If the turtle cannot be tricked into taking the medicine, here is a way of
getting it into him. This works for luqid medicines and for powdered
medicines/pills that have been dissolved in some water.

0. I prepare the medicine ahead of time and fill a syringe or dripper with
   the amounts to be fed. 

1. I take a towel and wrap the turtle losely into the towel.

2. I sit down, usually in the kitchen or bathroom, and put the turtles between
   my knees, face up. Be careful not to squeeze too hard. This allows me to have
   two hands free to administer the medicine.

3. Tease the turtle until he opens his mouth. This can take a long time. 
   Sliders get mad easily, other turtles take their time. Be very, very
   patient. I have waited half an hour for a turtle to open its mouth 
   just to find that he spit out most of the medicine, so I started over.
   If the head doesn't come out, the best is to just wait. In addition, you
   can push the backlegs into the shell. This will force the turtle to stick
   his head out to breathe; also, most captive turtles are too fat to fit
   into their shells; pushing in the hindlegs simply pops out the head.

4. The moment the turtle opens his mouth, stick the dripper/tip of syringe
   (no needle!!!) into the mouth. Don't go further than right behind where
   the jaw hinges. You can hurt the turtle if you squeeze food down his 
   throat and don't do it right.

5. The turtle will close his mouth and probably swallow some of the medicine.

6. The biggest thing is to be very, very patient. It takes practice to do this,
   and your turtle will get smarter, too. Always be as gentle as you can with 
   the animal.
   It is unlikely that your turtle will cooperate, and it is likely you'll get
   bit a few times. Think of this as a good sign. As long as your turtle is
   struggling, he has an excellent chance of getting well. Enjoy the bites,
   because they show that your turtle still cares about what is happening to
   And, last and again: BE PATIENT and GENTLE.

Force Feeding

Do not force feed your turtle, unless your turtle has seen a veterinarian and
you have been instructed to do so and shown how to. Never, ever stick anything
down a turtles throat. 

However, you can encourage your turtle to eat by teasing his mouth open using
a chopstick, finger, or piece of food, and then quickly placing the food in his
mouth. Often a turtle will swallow food offered in this manner.

You can also make some liquid paste from dog/cat food or pellets and water and
put them into a dripper. Tease the turtle's mouth open and gently put a few
drops of the food into his mouth. Repeat this many times. Chances are that
in his attempt to spit the food out, he will swallow tiny amounts.