Tuesday, 1 March 2011

How to choose a healthy turtle

We all who have gone to a fish store or a pet shop and have seen small cute turtles swimming in an aquarium or if its a tortoise then kept in a cage, many of us have longed for them and bought them after listening to the pet store owners explaining  how it is easy to care for them- just toss some food twice a day and your turtle or tortoise will grow happy and big. One day we find that our lovely friend is either sick or it dies due to sickness or neglect, leaving us regretting about it. Rest assured we can be sure of success in keeping a Chelonian species(scientific name of turtle and tortoise family) by keeping few points in mind while buying a turtle:

1. don't buy a turtle on your first impulse of buying , they may look cute and small but if they are given adequate care they can outlive their owner also they can grow pretty big very fast so you will have to be ready for a big commitment which means arranging an enclosure with sufficient space for them, maintaining hygiene of their enclosure, feeding them and taking care of their needs  . Don't let the store guy trick you, they are not that easy to keep and they do need care and attention. Especially in India, they keep a group of them together, cramped in a small aquarium and will say anything to ensure the sale like they don't need much space or cleanliness to keep or they won't harm your fish so you can keep them together with your fishes etc. Don't believe them, they can eat your fish if they get a chance and even the most common variety sold in India- Red eared sliders can become quite big (size of your dinner plate). So keep these points in mind and see whether you are ready for the commitment or not. If yo are not ready for the commitment or you have other obligations like you have to relocate from the city after some time or you don't have enough space or you can't afford food for them or time for them then I would suggest you to not buy them so that at least you are not accountable for death of an animal who could have been saved if proper care would have been provided to it.
2. Now, even after considering all this you want to buy a turtle then check that its shell is smooth and glossy not dull, when you hold the turtle in your hand it should completely hide inside its shell (with an occasional peek), bring it  near your ear and hear for sounds of any wheezing, coughing,or clicking; check that it should not have a running nose, it should be active and if you leave it on a floor or dry surface(try that the surface should be smooth or at least without big dust particles or stones or any other thing which can damage its shell)  it should try to escape which is a good sign; check that they don't have any limp while running; the shell should be perfectly smooth and hard without softness, sponginess, any broken or damaged parts etc. if it is damaged then look for other one or else wait for some days and get a healthy one because the one with soft shells are more likely to have various deficiencies and less chance of surviving  than the one without any deformity . It should not make bubbles while breathing and should fit to its shell completely- an undersized shell means under nutrition. The eyes should open completely without any puffiness or swollen eyelids( check especially for this since this is one of the most common symptom of illness and is a very dangerous one)
                                         Keeping in mind these points you can assure that you choose a healthy turtle 95% of times. Take your time in pet shop and observe the turtle you are going to buy for some time to be sure for it so that it may remain with you as your life long friend for many years.
a healthy Red eared slider baby

a healthy turtle

[P.S.- To clear above point i would like to cite an example from real life. Once i went to a local fish store and saw some red eared sliders being kept in a small aquarium with fishes, there were 4-5 of them, when I was observing them a man came to the store and asked the store guy for a turtle, he selected  a turtle which was bigger in size but which appeared unhealthy since it had what appeared like a soft area on his shell , i offered him my free advice (which i shouldn't have done but couldn't stop myself) and pointed to him a smaller one which was more healthy but he didn't opt for it because he wanted a bigger one and the store keeper said that since the turtle was continuously in water, its shell has absorbed water and has become soft (What the hell? as if there shell is sponge which can absorb water and become soft and then lose water to become hard again), after about 3 months, I visited the same store for buying some fishes and coincidentally i found that same person who bought that sick turtle against my unsolicited advice, I talked to him and inquired about his turtle, he said that the turtle survived for about 30 days  at his home then it stopped eating food and died in 5-6 days and he has come to buy a new one again. So, we can see what can happen if we don't plan ahead and keep these general things in mind]

                                                           In next post we will discuss common turtle species found in India as pets .

                                                                                By: Dr. Siddharth Mishra

 Disclaimer: The medicines/ treatment and methods of taking care of the turtle/tortoise described here are in no way perfect on their own and patented by the author, they are the result of collective experiences of the author and his readings and by his associations to other keepers and should not be used as an alternative to Professional Vetrinarian advice, Readers should use their discretion when using the medicines and/or care sheet described here, the authors can't be held responsible for any damage, loss, side effect or death of any animal / pet due to negligence of the keeper or the caretaker using any of the above methodologies and treatments.
The images displayed from other sources are the property of their owners and the author no way claims ownership over images from other sources, Original images are the work of author and should be treated as author's property when using for reference or any other miscellaneous use