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What is Bacteria in the Blood?

There are many conditions that are infectious to reptiles. Different types of bacteria can be responsible for septicemia, such as pseudomonas and aeromonas, and parasites can be responsible as well. Typically, bacterial infections are created by bacteria that are gram-negative and commensal. Septicemia has an effect on the entire body of the turtle, and when any turtle gets this condition, isolation is necessary.

Once the bacteria spread throughout the turtle’s body, it can overcome his organs and blood and cause severe organ damage and possibly be fatal. It is important that if turtle owners observe any symptoms to immediately call the veterinarian so the turtle can be diagnosed and placed on antibiotics.

Septicemia can be fatal in turtles and other reptiles if not immediately treated with antibiotics. Turtles should be immediately isolated in a clean environment and given the appropriate therapy in order to survive. 

Bacteria in the blood in turtles, otherwise known as septicemia, cause infections in turtles throughout their body. Bacteria enter the turtle by way of open wounds or infections and travel through the bloodstream. 

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Symptoms of Bacteria in the Blood in Turtles

There are several common symptoms of blood poisoning in turtles. Symptoms of this disorder include:

  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness
  • Seizures
  • Loss of control of muscles
  • Discolored shell, typically red or purple patches


There are several types of infections that turtles can suffer from. Blood infections, or septicemia, is common, but so are the other following types:

  • Pneumonia
  • Necrotic stomatitis
  • Ear abscesses
  • Ulcerative shell disease
  • Eye infections and conjunctivitis
  • Septic arthritis 

Causes of Bacteria in the Blood in Turtles

Bacteria can enter a turtle’s bloodstream in several different ways. Blood poisoning in turtles is caused by:

  • Bacteria entering the bloodstream of the turtle 
  • Parasites entering the bloodstream of the turtle
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Localized infections
  • Unclean habitats

Diagnosis of Bacteria in the Blood in Turtles

If your turtle is exhibiting any unusual symptoms, make an appointment with your veterinarian. The veterinarian will look at the outward symptoms and ask you questions pertaining to your turtle’s behavior and severity of symptoms, as well as the length of time he has been ill. Your veterinarian will then perform laboratory testing in the forms of complete blood count, and a serum profile with uric acid to check the turtle’s hydration. If your turtle is dehydrated he will receive fluid therapy. 

A definitive diagnosis of septicemia will come from specific blood microbiological cultures. Blood work will determine the type of bacteria present in your turtle’s blood. Your veterinarian will determine the type and amount of antibiotics to be given based on the type and severity of the blood infection in your turtle. He will also want to keep the turtle for observation and will explain the reptile’s prognosis in detail so you will understand more about the infection.

Treatment of Bacteria in the Blood in Turtles

Treatment of septicemia is only performed if the veterinarian feels the condition is caught early enough. Severe septicemia can be fatal, and many turtles are euthanized due to the severity of the blood poisoning. Treatment may include:

Topical Antibiotic Therapy

If your turtle has an open wound that has caused the bacteria to enter, antibiotic therapy will be conducted on the wound by the medical professional. The specific type of topical antibiotic therapy will be determined by your veterinarian.


Due to possible dehydration, your turtle may require fluid therapy. This will restore hydration, and if the turtle is placed on antibiotic therapy, will help your turtle in his healing.

Oral Antibiotic Therapy

Oral antibiotics may be given, depending on the type of bacterial infection affecting your turtle. Oral antibiotics may be administered by being mixed with food and fed to your turtle. Oral antibiotics can also be given via stomach tube; this is known as gavaging.

Recovery of Bacteria in the Blood in Turtles

Although very serious, your turtle will have a chance of survival if it is caught early and if it responds to aggressive treatment. Unfortunately, turtles can succumb to septicemia if it is caught too late. Your veterinarian will communicate with you your turtle’s chances for survival.

Once you take your turtle home, it will be very important to continue the antibiotics according to your veterinarian’s instructions. It will also be very important to clean and sanitize his tank according to the advice of your medical professional. Once on the antibiotics, your reptile should show signs of improvement within a few days. If he develops any new symptoms, contact your veterinarian with your concerns.

Bacteria in the Blood Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Mud turtle
Not sure
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

The belly part of my turtles shell and parts of its body, mainly it’s on its head and around it’s eyes, are turning a bright pink. It is almost a hot pink color.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2123 Recommendations
Certainly sounds like an infection or septicemia, you should take Boxy to your Veterinarian for antibiotic therapy and hydration (if required). I cannot prescribe anything for you as I haven’t examined him, but the pink colour on the head and plastrons would be indicative of a systemic infection. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

my turtle is having seizures, blacking out for up to 24 hours and his limbs keep freezing. I have him on a heat mat and am keeping him moist but don't know what's wrong. This started Sunday night.

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