Infectious Cloacitis in Turtles

Infectious Cloacitis in Turtles - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost
Infectious Cloacitis in Turtles - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What are Infectious Cloacitis?

Infectious cloacitis in turtles is an irritation or infection in the cloaca of the turtle. This is marked by swelling and inflammation of the cloaca.

The cloaca is a cavity, or opening, located at the bottom of the digestive tract. It is used for releasing genital, urinary, and intestinal solids and fluids from the body.  A cloaca is only found in common vertebrates, minus mammals, such as fish, amphibians, birds, monotremes, and reptiles. It is also called a vent, and, unfortunately, it can become inflamed or filled with infection. This is known as cloacitis. Cloacitis causes swollen tissue and bloody discharge.

In addition to the negative effects on the digestive opening, cloacitis can spread to other parts of the turtle’s body. The infection can spread quite rapidly to the turtle’s internal organs and under the skin. This can happen if the infection is not effectively treated early enough.

Some animals, within their cloaca, have the penis. This is used to insert the sperm into the female turtles (or other animals) cloaca. Other animals like birds and ducks, join the cloaca together and contract in order to transfer sperm from male to female.

Symptoms of Infectious Cloacitis in Turtles

If your turtle has symptoms of cloacitis, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Symptoms of this infection or inflammation include:

  • Bloody discharge from cloaca
  • Swollen tissue around the cloaca
  • Lethargy
  • Buoyancy
  • Regurgitation
  • Obstipation
  • Dilated bowel
  • Anemia


Cloacitis is one of several bacterial infections that turtles can suffer from. Other types of bacterial infections in turtles include:

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


Causes of Infectious Cloacitis in Turtles

Infectious cloacitis in turtles is caused by a variety of living conditions and bacteria. Specific causes can include:

  • Mineral or calcium deposits
  • Obstruction of the cloaca
  • Parasites 
  • Inflammation or infection from bacteria
  • An open wound from trauma


Diagnosis of Infectious Cloacitis in Turtles

If you suspect your turtle has cloacitis, make an appointment with your veterinarian so he can make a definite diagnosis. Your veterinarian will look over your turtle’s vital signs and ask about his symptoms. He may ask you several questions about how long his symptoms have lasted and any other questions pertaining to what you have been noticing. He may then perform several laboratory tests, such as a complete blood count, a biochemistry panel, swab cytology, and plasma testing.

The veterinarian may perform an endoscopy to better see what is happening in the affected area. An endoscope, or cystoscope, will be placed into the cloaca once the turtle is anaesthetized. Once gently placed, a solution of NaCl that is warmed to the body temperature of the animal will be infused into the turtle’s cloaca as well.

The endoscope will reveal many things that can be causing the inflammation of the cloaca. It will also give the veterinarian great information about any obstruction. This method is ideal for diagnosing cloacitis. 

In addition to endoscopy, the veterinarian may choose to use other methods to diagnose the condition. He may choose to perform an MRI, or computed tomography (CT) and radiography to check for gastrointestinal disease or any obstruction. A colonoscopy may also be performed if necessary. 

Typically, a veterinarian is able to diagnose cloacitis through observation and examination.  This condition is characterized by an inflamed, swollen cloacal opening and a discharge that has a distinct, foul smell. Your veterinarian may test the discharge to identify if the cloacitis is a result of a bacterial infection, a parasitic infection, or a mineral deposit.



Treatment of Infectious Cloacitis in Turtles

If your turtle has cloacitis, your veterinarian will explain the treatment options. Treatment options may include:

Removal of Stone

If you are turtle’s cloacitis is due to a mineral deposit, your veterinarian will remove the stone, followed with an irrigation of the cloacal area with a sterile solution such as Betadine.

Dietary Correction

Your veterinarian may suggest changing your turtle’s diet in cases of calcium or mineral deposits. He will suggest the appropriate diet for your reptile in this case.

Reducing the Swelling

A dextrose solution may be used to help reduce the swelling in addition to any other supportive therapy, such as antibiotic therapy for your turtle. This may also be administered when treating any parasites that have caused the infection.

Treating the Parasites

If your turtle has cloacitis due to parasites, your medical professional will appropriately treat the parasitical infection and also perform any supportive therapy while doing so. Medication will need to be continued per your veterinarian’s instructions.



Worried about the cost of Infectious Cloacitis In Turtles treatment?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

Recovery of Infectious Cloacitis in Turtles

In order to properly treat your turtle for cloacitis, your reptile will be put on medication to effectively do so. In addition to the therapy, it will be important to follow your medical professional’s instructions on thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing his habitat. Often, cloacitis is caused by bacterial or parasite growth in unsanitary tanks. 

It will be very important to listen to your veterinarian and follow his advice on continuing treatment at home. He will also alert you to any symptoms to watch for which can warrant another visit to his office. If you have any questions or see any new behavioral changes are symptoms, contact your veterinarian and he will advise you on what you need to do to help your reptile.



Infectious Cloacitis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals




Red Ear Slider


2 Months


1 found helpful


1 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea Lack Of Apetite

Hi I have a 2 month old (2 inch red ear slider) - not sure if he is male or female. He has not been eating for a week to 10 days now. And he has some white mucousy discharge (not sure if it is from his stomach). Has not been pooping otherwise. I live in India with limited access to veterinarians. I give him 2 pellets and i also give him few drops of calcium and cod liver oil (2-3 drops each). He lives in a tank (lareg enough) and has access to dry basking platform and gets direct sunlight for 3-4 hours each day. The water temp in the tank is between 22-24 *c (since its winter). and the basking area is between 24-28*C. Need urgent advice since there are no vets near my area

Dec. 22, 2017

Jishnu's Owner


Dr. Michele K. DVM


1 Recommendations

Thank you for contacting us about Jishnu. I wish that I could be of more help to you, and him, but it does sound like you are doing all of the proper husbandry things that you should be, and his environment sounds ideal for a slider. Turtles are commonly infected with Salmonella and that may be overwhelming his GI tract. If you don't have a veterinarian in your area, perhaps you have a pet store? They often supply OTC medications for exotic species, especially if no veterinarian is in the area.

Dec. 22, 2017

Was this experience helpful?

Need pet insurance?
Need pet insurance?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews


© 2022 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.