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What are Internal Abscesses?

Abscesses are one of the most common ailments of turtles. They are hardened lumps under the skin that can swell to a large size. They resemble tumors and contain very hard pus with a dry consistency. They are commonly found around the ears, nasal passageways, legs, jaw, and internally in the liver. The only way to treat an abscess is by surgical removal.

There are many types of bacteria that can make their way into the body of a reptile. Bacteria are common causes of abscesses, and the veterinarian must test the contents in order to diagnose the type of bacteria that caused the infection. Vitamin A deficiency can also cause abscesses.

In captive turtles and other reptiles, bacteria are hard to avoid. A clean habitat is crucial to any turtle’s health and well-being. Proper nutrition and housing is also important in the overall health. Each of these elements can help prevent abscesses from occurring. Pet owners should spend a great deal of time with their turtle, not only for bonding purposes, but to be able to observe any bodily changes. This can play an important role in the diagnosis of any abscess early enough so it can be successfully treated. 

Internal abscesses in turtles are the result of infections that form under the turtle’s skin. Commonly found in the ear area, internal abscesses must be treated by a veterinarian to avoid further infection.

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Symptoms of Internal Abscesses in Turtles

If your turtle has an internal abscess, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Symptoms of internal abscesses include:

  • A hardened lump on the turtle’s body
  • A swollen facial area
  • Lethargy
  • Behavioral changes, such as when ill
  • Swollen ears or jaw

Types

There are several common ailments that require a veterinary visit in order for the turtle to have a solid chance at recovery. Types of conditions, in addition to internal abscesses, include:

  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Infections of the shell
  • Parasites
  • Cloacitis
  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Fractures
  • Trauma and open wounds
  • Bacteria in the blood

Causes of Internal Abscesses in Turtles

There are various causes of internal abscesses in turtles. Various types of bacteria can penetrate the turtle and cause infection. Causes of these abscesses include:

  • Unsanitary habitat where bacteria can grow
  • Parasites
  • Microorganisms, such as the following, traveling up the eustachian tube or penetrating the body from other sites (Aeromonas, Citrobacter, Enterobacter, Escherichia coli, Morganella morganii. Proteus vulgaris)
  • Vitamin A deficiency

Diagnosis of Internal Abscesses in Turtles

If you suspect your turtle has an abscess, contact your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will carefully observe and examine the affected area and ask you a few questions about your turtle’s living conditions and if there have been any dietary changes or other changes in his lifestyle. 

The vet may perform laboratory testing, such as blood testing, depending on the condition of the turtle, and whether any other symptoms are present. Typically, a veterinarian can diagnose an abscess by simply assessing the affected area. In order to make a diagnosis of what specifically caused the abscess, he will need to open it and test the contents for a specific type of bacteria or infectious agent. Abscesses in reptiles are different then abscesses in mammals; they do not drain liquid pus. Abscesses in turtles, as well as other reptiles, are hardened substances once opened. They look very similar to a tumor or growth and are hard to the touch.

Abscesses are commonly found in the ears in turtles, but can also be found on other parts of the body, such as the hind areas. Once your veterinarian diagnoses the abscess, he will continue on to treatment.

Treatment of Internal Abscesses in Turtles

Your veterinarian will discuss with you the type of abscess your turtle has. Treatment methods are generally similar for all types of abscesses. They include:

Anesthesia and Pain Management

An abscess can cause pain to your turtle, so your veterinarian will administer anesthesia or a pain management option for him before proceeding to the next step. Often, pain management can be in the form of an injected medication or a topical medication.

Opening the Abscess

Once your turtle is sedated or under a local anesthetic, your veterinarian will use a small, sharp instrument to open the lump. He will use his fingers or a type of tool to remove the contents and then he will flush out the opened abscess with a sterile solution. Once the contents of the abscess is removed, this sterile solution will help further clean out and get rid of the infection. There may be a discharge for a few days after opening the hardened lump, and this discharge may be blood-tinged. Once opened and drained, it will be left opened to heal and for future administration of antibiotics.

Antibiotic Therapy

Once the abscess is removed, your veterinarian will test the contents to see what type of bacterial infection he may have. Once the results come in, your veterinarian will prescribe the appropriate antibiotic therapy for your turtle to prevent any further infection. Your turtle should respond to the antibiotics within a few dosages and begin feeling better within a few days. 

Recovery of Internal Abscesses in Turtles

Your veterinarian will give you instructions on how to take care of your turtle at home. He will show you how to give treatments to your turtle, such as antiseptic cleaning methods, applying medications topically, giving your turtle antibiotics (possibly by injection), and pain management. Your turtle will begin to show signs of improvement after a few days.

If you see any other signs of discomfort or any behavioral changes within your pet, call your medical professional and explain to him your observations. He may have you bring him in once again to be evaluated if he feels the need to take another look at the site of infection.

In order to prevent abscesses from occurring, ask your veterinarian how you can make the turtle habitat as clean as possible. Also, regular veterinary visit for routine checkups are crucial with any pet. Many abscesses or other illnesses can be caught very early if you take your pet to the veterinarian for well- visits.