Constipation and Diarrhea; Dragging Backlegs; Paralysis


Most constipation and diarrhea in turtles is diet-related. The condition is easily noticed in box turtles and tortoises, harder to recognize in water turtles. The sooner the problem is addressed, the easier it is to remedy, and the less likely there are going to be complications. Constipation ------------ Feeding a diet that is inappropriate for the species can cause constipation, as for example feeding a diet that is too high in protein, low in fiber and other roughage, and foods that are too refined. If the constipation is recent (measured in days), you can try and remedy it by changing the diet. Review the diet of your turtle and make sure it is the recommended diet for the species you have. Adjust the diet and see whether there is improvement. Dehydration can cause constipation in box turtles. Soak your box turtle daily for 1/2 hour in lukewarm water in a shallow container (about 1/3 shell height). Once the problem resolves, soak weekly. Review housing for the box turtle and make sure there is access to soaking water at all times in a setting where the turtle uses it, and adjust the humidity of the substrate and environment if nesseary (see box turtle care information). You can also try to dip some piecs of food into mineral oil and feed it to the turtle. It is also OK to give small amounts of milk of magnesia. This can be given by soaking the turtle in water to which a good swig of milk of magnesia has been added. Do not feed anything else if you do this. Do not repeat if unsuccessful. If you are not comfortable or don't know what I am talking about, don't do this. Constipation can also be caused by ingested rocks, intestinal obstructions of several kinds, intestinal torsion (the intestines in turtles are not attached like human intestines, so rolling the around can twist around the intestines), egg binding, bladder stones, and tumors. If changing the diet does not resolve the constipation within a day or two, the animal must be examined by a veterinarian. Exams can include X-Rays and fecal exams. Diarrhea -------- Feeding a diet that is inappropriate for the species can cause diarrhea as for example feeding a diet that contains too much fruit. Feeding fish to box turtles causes diarrhea. (Feeding fish to American Box Turtles is not recommended.) Parasite infection also can cause diarrhea. If your turtle has diarrhea, it is recommended that you also have a fecal exam done by a veterinarian. Diarrhea dehydrates, so if you have a box turtle with diarrhea, I recommend daily soaks for 1/2 hour in a small container with a bit of warm water until the condition resolves. For recent diarrhea (measured in days), you can try and remedy it by changing the diet. Review the diet of your turtle and make sure it is the recommended diet for the species you have. Adjust the diet and see whether there is impdrovement. Make sure the turtle is well hydrated. If changing the diet does not resolve the constipation within a day or two, the animal must be examined by a veterinarian. Exams can fecal exams. Leg Dragging and Other Symptoms =============================== Sometimes a turtle with severe constipation or an intestinal obstruction will start dragging its hindlegs. Often, a constipated turtle will stop eating and become listless and sluggish. In box turtles it can take weeks before the condition becomes apparent. It is a good idea to check for stools. Turtles should defecate at least every other day (if fed every other day), or daily (if fed every day). Paralysis of Hindlegs ===================== I am not a veterinarian, but here is what I know. Usually, paralysis of the hindlegs is caused by intestinal impaction, which can be diagnosed by taking an X-ray of the turtle. Treatment ranges from laxatives to possibly surgery. It is possible that a small amount of stool can still be passed. Impaction can be caused by rocks, accumulated and hardened fecal matter, or other objects. Tumors and bladder stones can also prevent the passing of feces once they get large. Another cause can be that, if the turtle is a female, she is egg-bound. Again, X-rays are used for a diagnosis. Sometimes it is possible to crush or aspire the eggs inside the body, and this will allow them to be passed. I have never observed this procedure, so don't exactly know how it is done.

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