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Tortoises are brilliant at hiding that they are ill. By the time any out ward symptoms present themselves, it is safe to say that the tortoise has been ill for some time.

Prevention is most definitely better than cure.. However, with the best will in the world and even with spot on husbandry, a tortoise can still become off colour and even Ill. Every effort should be made to safe guard your tortoise from potential hazards. Common sense should always prevail in safeguarding your Tortoise.

When handling your tortoise be calm and steady, making sure that you have a firm hold and cannot drop them. Even a tiny tortoise is incredibly strong and wriggle its way out of your hands.

Never, leave a tortoise alone with your dog or cat.. so many tortoises have been disfigured or killed particularly by dogs.

Never mix different species together. Different species carry different pathogens as well as having different climate needs.

Never introduce a new tortoise of the same species to your existing tort without having quarantined the new comer first for at least 6 months. The only time it is acceptable to do so is if you introduce a tortoise from the same breeder as your first.


All good tortoise keepers keep regular weight records. The reason for this is so that you can track your torts growth and also if you have dramatic weight changes you can be aware of this and seek help if necessary. when making your records it is a good idea to always weigh under the same conditions. For example, Always weigh before a bath at approximately the same time of the week or the month. 

It is a very good idea to weigh baby tortoises weekly. Adults I would weigh monthly as weighing them too frequently can give misleading results as their weight can fluctuate daily.

Parasites are an issue that must be kept on top of.. However, you must NEVER worm routinely as you would a dog or a cat. It is extremely harmful to the gut flora and can result in a sterile gut , commonly described as a gut crash. It takes a very long time to recover a tort from gut crash and in some cases can prove fatal. 

It is advisable to get your torts poo tested twice a year. This can be done at your reptile vets or there is an on line service where you can order a kit and send a sample from your tortoise to be tested. They then return your analysis and if there is a recommendation that you treat a vet can prescribe the right medication based on the report that worm count produce.


The most common parasite a tortoise will carry are Oxyurids aka pin worms. A certain level of these is not harmful to the tortoise and there is a certain train of thought that a low level of them actually aid the gut flora.. A heavy burden of parasites will affect the health a tort adversely . They may exhibit lethargy and a general lack of get up and go.. in the worst case scenario a heavily burdened tortoise could even develop a runny nose as a stress response. Whenever I have wormed my tortoises I always sprinkle acidophilus (a probiotic) to lessen the effects of the medication on their food.

A Runny nose in a tortoise is something  that fills me with dread..A Tort can display a runny nose for numerous reasons.. If your tortoise ever shows a runny nose you must seek a reptile vets opinion immediately. It is not something an inexperienced keeper should ever attempt to deal with or delay in getting help for. A Runny nose is usually a secondary symptom of a condition that is lurking within and should never be dismissed as just a sniffle.

Further good practice is to give your tortoise a good visual check over on a monthly basis. Check your torts eyes, their claws and beak and more importantly look for unusual redness on the skin or plastron. There is a certain amount of pinking in areas of the plastron which are common with periods of growth.. These are nothing to worry about .. Deep red patches are to be looked at by your vet. Inspecting inside your tortoises mouth is always advisable. Look to see the colour of the tongue.. is it nice an healthy pink.. does it look pale or discoloured?

Any concerns about your tortoises health should be investigated by your reptile vet.

If you are interested in learning more about tortoise health and veterinary care there are two great books that you may like to read 

Tortoise Care
Tortoise care

Im quite often asked about insuring tortoises against veterinary bills. There is only one company who provides Insurance policies for Tortoises. Insurance is a good idea as exotics vet care can be very expensive. Although any condition related to reproduction will not be covered, it is certainly worth while to investigate.



I cannot stress enough just how important it is to find an appropriately qualified Vet BEFORE you need one in an emergency. To treat Tortoises effectively the vet must have the proper training. Taking a tortoise to a vet ill equipped to understand these complex creatures, can have disastrous consequences . Below is a button to link you to a list of recommended UK based Vets..

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