Help - new box turtle lethargic, swollen eye

jenG07

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Oct 4, 2018
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Hi,

We have a adult box that we adopted from a reptile store (he was found and brought in to them.) They had him three weeks before we got him, and he seemed in great health when he came home with us. We have only had him a week, but over the last 2-3 days he isn't seeming to be doing well. He isn't eating much, seems more lethargic, and has spent the last two days either digging and burying himself or sitting in his water dish - he even soaked in his dish all night. Now one eye is swollen shut.

We are brand new turtle owners, and I'm so worried about him! He is my 10 year old's pet, and she will be devastated if anything happens! Currently he is in a 50 gal tank with Repti bark and sphagnum moss. I started with a coil UVB bulb and a heat emitter, but got rid of the coil after a few days because the tank was too cold (and now I read that the coil is bad for their eyes, so glad I did!) So now have an 80W Exo Terra MVB and a Zacro 100W ceramic heat emitter. The warm end of the tank is around 80-85 and the cool end is 75. I turn off the mvb at night and the temp has been staying in the low 70s. I am thinking that the warm/basking spot isn't hot enough - so do I need to get a higher watt mvb? And any other ideas/suggestions for a new nervous owner to help our little guy?? Should I take him to the vet?
 

Relic

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I've kept box turtles for over 50 years, but always outdoors (they're native to this area) so they can dig-in for the winter, forage for insects, etc. The only time I've seen them spend excessive time in the water (hours vs. minutes), they were having health problems. Your temps seem fine and your tossing out the UVB coil is a good idea. But a swollen eye is never good - could be from the coil bulb, but I'm not sure how close it was, how long he was under it, etc. Box turtles are tough little guys, can endure fairly extreme conditions for short durations (temps & humidity outside their favorite setting) but once they show signs of illness, they tend to get sicker without some type of intervention. (For what it's worth, the only box turtle I've had that developed a swollen eye problem was an Ornate, and the reading I did many years ago suggested they were more prone to a certain type of eye issue than other box turtle varieties.)

So, in a nutshell, it might be time for a vet visit.
 

mark1

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not sure what kind of box turtle you have , but for an eastern ,optimal temp i think is 85 degrees ........ sick box turtles seem to soak excessively , at least more than normal ..........if it were me , i'd give him a hot end in the low 90's and the cold end in the mid to upper 70's , and high humidity by keeping the substrate wet , sphagnum or peat moss is a pretty good substrate , possibly mixed with some cypress mulch............ if he doesn't look he is improving in a week , i'd take him to the vet for a round of injectable antibiotics , sooner if he actually worsens...... bacterial infections in turtles are really common ,,,,,,,
 

JoesMum

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Directly under the basking lamp, at tortoise level, the temperature needs to be 95-100F. The lamp needs to hang vertically, not be at an angle and, as you are using an MVB, it must be unobstructed as UVB doesn't pass through mesh, plexiglass, glass, perspex, etc.

You can adjust the basking temperature by raising or lowering the bulb. The closer it is to the tortoise, the hotter it will become.
 

jenG07

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Oct 4, 2018
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Seattle, WA
These are great tips - thank you! I'm going to get a higher watt MVB because this one obviously ins't keeping it warm enough. I wonder if this is because he is too cold or perhaps dehydrated? This morning I put him to soak in a warm tub and he perked right up, marching all around. He also dunked his head several times and his eye is now open and looks less swollen.

Currently, I'm using the MVB as the basking light and for UVB and then a ceramic heat emitter to keep the ambient temp up. Is this the best set up, or is there a different way I should be doing it?
 

Pastel Tortie

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Can you post pictures of the box turtle? Much of the care is the same, but if we can identify the species / subspecies of box turtle, we might be able to tailor our feedback better to your situation. For example, some subspecies are more at home in the water than others.
What do you know of the turtle's history before arriving at the pet shop? Do you know if it was previously someone's pet?

You're definitely in the right place to ask questions, and it's obvious how much you care. :)
 
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