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Eye Problems in Turtles

Eye problems are a common ailment among pet turtles. Aquatic and terrestrial turtles are known for their eyes swelling if the conditions in which they are kept aren’t quite right. Box turtles and aquatic turtles are susceptible to ear abscesses, which can cause eye swelling. Eye problems are usually curable, but they can lead to serious health problems if left untreated.


A runny eye, or an eye the turtle keeps rubbing, could be a sign of irritation or injury, especially if only one eye appears infected. Cloudiness in one or both of your turtle’s eyes, excessive discharge or swollen eyelids are all signs of possible illness and/or vitamin deficiency. A turtle whose eyes are swollen shut might have an infection or ear abscess that needs to be addressed right away. They may not be able to eat until the problem is cleared up. Aquatic turtles especially are sight feeders and face a danger of starvation if their eyes are swollen shut too long. If you notice any of these symptoms in your turtle, you should work with your vet to determine the underlying cause.

Environmental Causes

An improperly kept habitat is the biggest culprit in a lot of eye infection cases. Dirty, contaminated water can cause eyes to get infected, and turtles who aren’t adequately hydrated can develop dry eyes that become irritated and infected. Box turtles especially need to have plenty of humidity and moisture in their habitats to prevent eye woes. Rocks, tank decorations, and heat lamps that are kept too close to the turtle can result in eye injuries. Sand can also get in the turtle’s eye and cause severe irritation.

Dietary and Medical Causes

Vitamin A deficiency can cause a lot of health problems for a turtle, including eye infections. A lack of enough levels of this vitamin can cause a gradual breakdown of epithelial tissues that can make eyes more prone to infection and swelling. In addition, eyes become more vulnerable to secondary bacterial infections that will require veterinary intervention. Respiratory infections and ear abscesses may also lead to eye swelling and discharge.


The best treatment is avoiding the problem in the first place. It’s essential to make sure your turtle has plenty of clean water and bedding, is thoroughly hydrated, and receives a diet high in vitamin A. If you notice any clinical signs, make you’re your chelonian is seen immediately by your reptile vet, who can administer antibiotics and determine whether your turtle needs vitamin A supplementation. Ear abscesses might require surgery.

Vitamin A deficiency is treated with either oral (powder) or injectable vitamin A (given orally). Treatment should only be done under veterinary supervision as hypervitaminosis A can occur. Hypervitaminosis A is a condition resulting from the incorrect usage and over-dosage of vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency indicates that your turtle’s diet must be corrected or improved.

Abscesses are treated surgically. The abscess is opened, the pus is drained, and the affected tissue is flushed with a medicated cleansing solution. A culture of the abscess may be needed to determine the type of bacteria that caused the abscess. Topical medication and injectable antibiotics may also be required.