Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Pet Turtle Care : The Shell Game

Pet Turtle Care

Turtles are old friends. Literally. Remarkable reptiles, they are capable of living for more than 100 years! But that’s not to say that they are impervious to disease and other health issues; they must be given as much care and attention as any other pet if you want your turtle to live to its fullest potential.

Glass Houses

One fallacy about aquatic turtles, such as the red-eared slider, is that they can be kept in simple plastic tanks with no added heat sources, special lighting or water filtration. Not true! They require the same habitat conditions as most other reptiles. That means that their swimming water must be very well filtered (usually with a submerged aquarium filter); the water should be changed frequently; a source of ground (belly heat) must be present, and ambient temperature within the turtle enclosure must be between 75 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is too low, they will stop eating and will become susceptible to illness. If the temperature is too high, it will damage them.

Long Turtle, Long Life

Another common misconception is that salmonella, a serious bacterial infection that affects humans as well as animals, is exclusively a “turtle problem.” In fact, all reptiles can carry and transmit the salmonella bacteria, but turtles seem to be a far more prevalent source. It is because of the threat of salmonella transmission that it’s illegal to sell turtles with a body length of less than four inches; turtles larger than that size tend to harbor significantly less salmonella bacteria.

When humans contract salmonella, though, turtles are rarely to blame. Bad “people food” is more likely the culprit if salmonella creeps into a human’s system. The disease is especially dangerous for small children and adults with compromised immune systems.

Though rare, it is the possible that a person could get salmonella from turtle touching. Fortunately, that problem is easy to avoid. Do not allow small children (age five and under) to handle turtles at all; older children and adults must wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after coming into contact with a turtle. It’s that simple.

Tip Top Turtle

It’s simple to keep your turtle from becoming a shell of its former self if you follow some basic rules. Do not let them become chilled or overheated, and watch for mouth rot (common in turtles, usually indicative of unclean living conditions), appetite problems and especially shell abrasions. If deep enough to penetrate the outer shell they can lead to serious infections. Aquatic turtles should be in water as much as possible to prevent their shells from drying and cracking. Eating problems indicate either disease or inadequate belly heat within the enclosure. And like all reptiles, turtles require full-spectrum lighting in order to metabolize Vitamin D. Get the basics down, and you’ll be turtle-certified and ready to adopt in a flash.

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