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What is Abnormal Beak and Skull Growth?

Beak and skull abnormalities in turtles can be a congenital condition, a result of trauma, or more commonly, the consequence of a poor diet.  In most of these cases, the beak of the turtle does not align properly and therefore interferes with his ability to eat.  This is something that will only get worse over time if not corrected in a timely manner.  Treatment may consist of alterations such as beak trimming or grinding in order to get it to align properly again.  You may have to repeat treatments as the turtle grows and ages, but most do very well for the remainder of their days.

If your turtle is suffering from a beak or skull abnormality, it may be treatable with the help of a veterinarian.  If it is affecting how your turtle eats and his quality of life, take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

 

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Symptoms of Abnormal Beak and Skull Growth in Turtles

Symptoms can typically be seen by examination alone but some may be vague.  Symptoms may include:

  • Loss of appetite

  • Seems interested in food but does not actually eat it

  • Lethargy

  • Change in behavior 

  • Misaligned beak

  • Misshapen face/skull


Types

Abnormal skull and beak grown in turtles can be congenital, traumatic, or acquired.  Some are born with defects of their skull or beak from genetic issues or possibly because his egg got damaged as he was developing.  In other cases, the abnormality can be from some form of trauma that occurred in his life.  If the deformity develops over time, it can be caused by health issues, environmental factors, diet, and lifestyle.

Causes of Abnormal Beak and Skull Growth in Turtles

One of the many causes of beak and skull deformities in turtles is caused by calcium deficiency.  Another cause may include anything that interferes with the normal positioning of the mouth/beak.  Also, diet may alter how your turtle chews leading to poor alignment.  If you are feeding excessive amounts of monkey chow or dog food, it can lead to the abnormal wearing of the beak.

Diagnosis of Abnormal Beak and Skull Growth in Turtles

Diagnosis can be done in most cases by examination alone.  The veterinarian will check out your turtle in its entirety to look for anything abnormal.  Some cases when the beak is not aligned properly or the skull is deformed, it is very obvious.  In other cases, the condition may not be so apparent and may need further diagnostics for a definitive diagnosis.  

Radiographs are always helpful when it comes to evaluating the skeletal system.  It will show the bone structure very clearly so the veterinarian can get a proper look at his bone structure.  Focusing on the head will also allow her to check jaw alignment to see where the abnormality starts.  

Another test she may try but that is not as reliable, is she will have your turtle bite into something that will show his mark, such as a raw vegetable.  You can let him bite it safely and evaluate it for how he took his bite.  It should be obvious if his bite is crooked or does not penetrate all the way through.

She will also want to run routine lab work to check for nutrient and vitamin deficiencies as well as possible underlying diseases that could be causing the condition.  This will help her give a more definitive cause to the issue.

Treatment of Abnormal Beak and Skull Growth in Turtles

When it comes to treatment of this condition, there are multiple options.  For example, you can trim or grind the mouth parts into a more natural shape to allow for a more natural alignment.  It is recommended you have a professional do it the first time and show you how to properly take care of it.  You can also offer "chewable" food which provides the trimming/grinding feature as your turtle eats it, such as crunchy insects or raw vegetables.

If the blood work indicates a deficiency of something, the veterinarian will take steps to correct it, whether it is giving your turtle a vitamin injection or a supplement to be added to his food.  If there is a possible underlying disease affecting your turtle, she will do more tests in order to come to a conclusion as to what that disease is and then treat that as well.  If she does not cure the underlying cause, the abnormalities will return.

If your turtle is experiencing any other symptoms or issues, she will treat those as well.

Recovery of Abnormal Beak and Skull Growth in Turtles

Your turtle’s recovery will depend on the severity of the situation.  If it is acute, your veterinarian may be able to correct it quickly before it becomes any worse.  If it is a chronic, ongoing condition, it will take a longer time to correct as treatment and therapies will need time to work.  If the deformity is mild, your turtle’s prognosis of recovery is good as long as treatment is sought out.  If the condition affects his ability to eat, move, or function, his prognosis declines greatly.