Adopting a pet turtle or tortoise

Have you been considering adoption of a pet turtle or tortoise?

Various species of turtles and tortoises in North America are available. The right pet depends on how you intend to care for it, where it will live (in water or out of water). Freshwater turtles and land tortoises require specific care and the proper environment in order to remain healthy.  In fact, each species has slightly different requirements, but proper care is easy if you follow these tips.

Turtles and Tortoises live for many years

Keeping a turtle or tortoise as a pet is a long-term commitment. A healthy turtle might outlive you, so make arrangements for your pet’s care before the time comes when you may no longer able to care for him.

Feeding Turtles and Tortoises

There is one vital difference between freshwater turtles and their land-loving relatives the tortoises, when it comes to feeding:  The freshwater turtles need to be able to submerge themselves in water, in order to eat.  A variety of foods should be offered, and you ought to have at least six or seven kinds of food on hand for your turtle at any given time. A high-quality turtle pellet may form the base of the diet, to which you may add low-salt cat kibble, strawberries, leafy vegetables, several pondweeds, valisneria, fish, crickets, swatted flies, shrimp, and mosquito larvae.

The general requirement of Mediterranean tortoises is for a high fibre, low protein, low fat, low carbohydrate, low sugar and calcium rich diet.  You really need to be extremely careful when designing a diet for captive tortoises. They are very sensitive animals and are highly susceptible to developing growth abnormalities as a result of incorrect nutrition. Juvenile tortoises are exceptionally likely to suffer serious consequences from dietary mismanagement. when feeding hatchlings and juveniles. Just a few weeks on an incorrect diet can result in irreparable harm. Sadly, deformed tortoises with ‘lumpy’ or soft shells are often encountered. This is entirely preventable with good dietary management. A fully grown adult may survive for longer, even on a terrible diet, but will slowly suffer serious liver and kidney complications over time. Herbivorous tortoises are simply not equipped to deal with large amounts of saturated fat, or with high protein intakes. Feed them what they would normally encounter in the wild.  A wide range of non-toxic ‘weeds’ and flowers is advised. Supplement this with additional calcium and other trace elements to ensure that all essential requirements are met.

Turtle and Tortoise Habitats

Always make sure your freshwater turtle has access to water, and a way to climb out of the water to avoid drowning. Be sure your turtle has enough room to swim and climb in his tank or pond, or provide a wading pool a few times a week.  Tortoises require far more space than turtles, and don’t do well if kept in vivarium-style enclosures for extended periods. Inappropriate housing can contribute to serious health problems over time.  Tortoises kept on heavy, wet soils or on damp grass are likely to develop respiratory and shell infections over time.

Baby turtles are normally kept indoors in glass tanks or enclosures that include ponds. The smallest tank for the tiniest turtles should be at least 4’long x 18”wide x 18” tall.  Older turtles may be kept in large tanks (5’ long x 2’ wide x 2’ tall minimum) indoors or outside for some or all of the year. Here in Colorado, outdoor tortoises will need to hibernate in the winter or be brought inside the house until warm weather returns.  As long as the tortoise is cool, but dry at night, it will remain in perfect health as long as it is able to raise its temperature to normal levels required for activity and feeding during the day.

Dirty water can result in any number of diseases, some of which are very difficult to treat., so keep your turtle habitat clean. Also, remember to wash your hands before picking up your friend so he doesn’t risk infections from whatever you’ve had in your hands before handling him.

If you are going to allow your turtle to roam through the house, always supervise this activity. Prevent your friend from crawling under rocking chairs, wheelchairs and away from walking areas to avoid the risk of being stepped on.

If you have questions about caring for your new turtle or tortoise or it is time for your pet’s periodic checkup, please call me at (303) 394.3180 to schedule a convenient appointment in your home. That way, I can see how your pet lives from day to day and make any recommendations to help him remain healthy and thriving for many years.