The following information is compiled from a variety of
articles in various newsletters. I have tried this myself, too.
Both water turtles and box turtles can drown. Even a drowned
turtle that looks quite dead might just be waiting for you to
help it get its breath back. Remember that turtles can be without
oxygen for a long time, especially in cool water, before the
damage is irreversible.
First and foremost: NEVER TURN THE TURTLE/TORTOISE ON ITS BACK.
Turning it on his back might remove the little airspace still left in
1. Grasp the turtle's head behind the ears (base of skull) and
extend the neck completely.
2. Turn it head-down/tail up and open its mouth. Usually, some water
will flow of drip out at this point. Wait until the dripping stops.
3. Place the turtle (belly down) on a flat surface with it's neck
extended. Stand in front of the turtle.
4. Straighten his front legs and pull them straight toward you as far as
they will go.
5. Keeping the legs straight, push them in as far as they will go. Do not
let the legs bend at the elbows.
6. Continue pulling and pushing until water stops coming out.
Now it's time to take your turtle to the veterinarian. The veterinarian
will insert a tube and start providing the turtle with pure oxygen. He may
give a respiratory stimulant and a drug to a drug that will help the
turtle excrete the water accumulate in its tissue. After this, the turtle
will probably regain consciousness and start moving.
Since some turtles develop pneumonia after drowning, the veterinarian will
most likely recommend a course of antibiotics.
A note on mouth-to-mouth (or straw to mouth) breathing. I've seen it
described in one place. I don't know whether it works, and I don't know
whether the risk of blowing in too hard and damaging the lungs
is worth it. The above instructions are proven to work in many cases.
A note on baby turtles: The smaller the turtle, the harder it is to
help the animal, simply because of its small size.