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The ear of the turtle is simple and is covered by a large scale that is known as the tympanic scute. There is no external ear and the middle ear is mainly a large tympanic cavity situated to the side by the tympanic membrane.
Otitis, also known as aural abscesses or ear infections in turtles, is a common medical condition that happens in the middle ear. Occurring on one or both sides of the head, the condition is relatively easy to diagnose because as it progresses there will be marked swelling where the turtle’s ears are located.
Otitis in turtles is also known as aural abscesses or ear infections; the condition is common and in many cases is thought to be the result of environmental stress.
Should your turtle be experiencing otitis, you may not notice anything until the infection is advanced. The following symptoms may be seen in your turtle:
Multiple bacteria have been isolated in turtles experiencing otitis. These include:
While it is not completely clear what causes the aural abscesses, it has been found that close to 90% of those experiencing them also experience stress due to their living conditions or care which may weaken their immune system and cause them to be more susceptible to infection. Possible issues include:
Otitis is typically not difficult to diagnose, because as the condition progresses there will be obvious swelling present on the side of the head where the ear is affected. Your veterinarian will conduct a physical examination of your turtle, including his oral cavity. A head x-ray may be conducted to check for any bony involvement, and your veterinarian may request blood work. In addition to conducting the physical examination, your veterinarian will ask you for additional information regarding the care and diet that your turtle receives. Your veterinarian will want to determine the cause of the infection in your turtle, so that measures can be taken to prevent him from experiencing the infection repeatedly.
Treatment for the abscesses of otitis will take place at the veterinarian’s office or hospital. Your turtle will likely require sedation or a local anesthetic. The abscess will have to be opened and flushed with diluted povidone-iodine or a like product so that all of the caseous material can be cleaned out. Your veterinarian may choose to take samples from the abscess to determine if there is a bacterial infection and which bacteria is present. Often the skin will remain open in order for the abscess to continue to drain and it will need to be continued to be flushed for a few days during your turtle’s healing. In some cases, a bloody discharge may be present for a minimum of a day or two after the treatment has taken place. Usually systemic antibiotics will not be necessary. Vitamin A supplements may also be helpful, as otitis can be secondary to a Vitamin A deficiency.
Upon bringing your turtle home, you have to provide additional care and treatment to facilitate his recovery. This includes:
You will want to follow the recommendations of your veterinarian to ensure the best outcome for your turtle. This may include making changes to your turtle’s environment to allow his immune system to be as strong as possible.
The best way to avoid bacterial infections is to provide proper nutrition, housing and a sanitized environment for your turtle, though infection can still occur.
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