Friday, February 27, 2009

The red-eared slider

What's Wrong with this Picture?

Dear Labby,
I recently was pet sitting a water turtle, and his shell is peeling. Is that normal? 
Signed,
Reptile lover

Dear Reptile Lover,
This water turtle is a red-eared slider. Many of you will remember getting a little tiny one from the pet store when you were kids. So many were neglected that pet stores quit carrying them many years ago. I have seen them living in lakes in Minnesota, and ponds in California (where they are NOT a native species). 

I asked Liz Palika, a friend and reptile expert, what could be going on with this turtle. Here is her reply:

1. There could be decaying plants in the water, releasing fats into the water which cause the scutes to peel.
2. The new growing scutes underneath could be causing the old ones to peel.
3. There may be too much fat in the diet, thereby releasing fats in the water - see #1.
4. There could be an infection in the shell - such as shell rot.

If the turtle is otherwise okay and there are signs of new scutes underneath the shedding ones I wouldn't worry. However, if bone is showing under the scutes, then vet care is needed. 

Thanks Liz! I hope this helps you all.

Care
The red-eared slider I care for eats worms, and canned dog food. In other words, protein. He has his own man-made pond with circulating water, and lives with some goldfish that help keep it clean. He is able to get out of the water up on the bank, and has rocks so he can bask in the sun. He sometimes has managed to get out of the one foot fence surrounding his little world, but I have never seen him escape-- I can't believe he can do it! 

He is protected from dogs, but one time, a predator tried to get him, and when I arrived in the morning, his entire rubber pond was dumped. He was hiding underneath, which probably saved him. Common predators include racoons, hawks, and coyotes. 

Thanks for asking!
Labby

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