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FAQs About Turtle Disease: Growths, Tumors

Related Articles: Treating Common Illnesses of the Red Ear Slider (& other Emydid Turtles) by Darrel Barton, Turtle eye diseases; Recognising and treating eye diseases in pet turtles by Neale Monks, So your turtle has the Flu? Recognizing and treating respiratory infections in pet turtles by Neale Monks, The Care and Keeping of the Red Eared Slider, Trachemys scripta elegans by Darrel Barton, Shell Rot in Turtles, Turtles, Amphibians, Red Eared Slider Care,

FAQs on: Turtle Disease 1, Turtle Disease 2, Turtle Disease 3,
FAQs on Turtle Health by Type: Diagnosis, Environmental, Traumas, Social, Nutritional, Infectious, Parasitic, References,
FAQs on:
Shell Rot, RES Disease, Turtle Respiratory Disease, Turtle Eye Disease,

Advice about abscess     7/24/18
Hi! Recently one of my turtles developed an abscess on his legs a friend of mine who’s dealt with abscesses advices me to use a magnesium sulphate solution on the abscess daily so I did in a week or more his skin started to break and today while checking it I pressed on it and a hard round thing came out , now there’s a big gaping hole and one tiny hole but fortunately no blood, the flesh seems to be healed on the inside I washed it out with regular liquid soap(cuz I don’t have any antiseptic soap on me ) and after he dried up I put a mixture of iodine and water in a syringe and flushed the wound , I’m not sure whether I should put undiluted iodine on it or iodine powder (which my friend suggested) or Neosporin ointment or Neosporin powder or should I wash it out with hydrogen peroxide or is there something that you would recommend ......
It unable to take him to a vet an I’ve been ill treated by them many times they even told me that I shouldn’t be bringing my turtle to them as they don’t know anything about turtles and reptiles ... I’ve tried 5 vets with no luck so I eventually stopped going to them for turtle issues(it’s unfortunate really ) Anyway thanks in advance P.s. he’s an Indian flap shell turtle I will try and send pictures of the abscess and wound :-).
<Hello there. I can't really see what's going on in your photos, so have to speculate a bit here! Abscesses aren't likely to heal while damp, and I probably wouldn't use soap! But iodine was a good call. While using iodine, "docking" the turtle on land for a week or two will help the skin dry out and heal. If you have a read of the article below, and in particular the section called "ISOLATION and DRY-DOCK", you'll find out more:
UV-B light, plus warmth, will help the turtle recover. Iodine should sterilise the wound, but I suspect antibiotics will be needed as well if the infection is serious. You might also want to investigate the cause of the injury -- for example, was another turtle biting this one? I've cc'ed our two turtle experts in case I've missed something. Good luck! Neale.>

Painted Turtle with growth on front foot       10/17/16
<Hiya Darrel here>
I have recently acquired an adult (I believe female) painted turtle who has a huge growth on one of her front feet. It is the size of a golf ball on the under side of the foot and a small marble sized second growth coming off the top of the foot.
<That’s huge for a turtle that size>
These seem to be under the skin, as the skin is still stretched around the top one, and most of the underside growth, but that one seems to have split and what is inside looks like a porous yellow sponge.
<A cyst of some sort>
The poor turtle has zero use of this foot, and it interferes with it being able to climb in and out of water without difficulty...she also seems to have sat sedentary for some time with minimal movement in her environment as she had a serious growth of algae (the long stringy bad kind) all over her shell almost appearing like a weeping willow when lifted out of the water.
<At this point, water can be her enemy. Time to treat the growths and dry-dock her>
I have scrubbed most of the algae off using online recommended methods (from this site actually), and now am wondering what I might be able to do in terms of treating this growth. Might it need surgical removal?
<It would seem no other option at this point>
If so, where does one go for such things?
<Typically this is performed by a veterinarian. While most vets don’t specialize in reptiles, most have had basic exposure and training and would be capable of examining and excising these growths. After care involves keeping her warm and dry with a course of IM Baytril (or preferably Danofloxacin)>
Can I clean it with peroxide and treat it with topical antibiotic ointment? And if so, HOW does one clean and treat (and keep clean) such a sore when the turtle obviously needs to be in water so they don’t get shell rot and such???
<It’s the other way around. When a turtle spends TOO much time in the water or doesn’t get enough exposure to sunlight (UVA & B) is when you’ll see shell rot and other fungus. At this point, she needs to be warm and DRY and get a 5 – 10 minute bath each day.>
Any insight you could give would be greatly appreciated. Also, what is the likelihood that I would be able to cut away this growth myself, as it is not bleeding, oozing nor displays as an “open” wound...just where the split is there is a “hole” of sorts, but again, it displays as a sponge-like interior?
<I wouldn’t try it yourself – but if you find a Turtle & Tortoise Club in your area you may run into an experienced ‘old hand’ at such things that could do it for you.>
Thanks again!- Briana

Male turtle with something that looks like a tumor on his penis.     7/25/16
Dear who ever I am speaking too,
<That would be the person reading this (me)>
I have 4 red ear sliders, two grown ones and two baby ones in separate tanks.
<Wise choice to separate them by size>
I noticed a month ago my turtle’s penis was out often I had though maybe they're mating it had the color black which is normal. I don't wash the tank occasionally:/ and I noticed my male turtle had the whole penis out and it has a really big red thing above the penis still apart of it just above the head of the penis. And I don't know what it is or why it's like that... any help?
<Not without a specific examination. There can be many different sizes and shapes and some very odd formations along the way. As long as they are able to extend it and retract it I wouldn’t worry too much about it. If you get a chance to take a photo of it then we could be of more help>

Turtle growth      12/29/15
Hi –
<Hiya – Darrel here>
Attached are pics of a growth on my red eared slider. I've been treating him with warm soaks, rinsing the area with peroxide and anti fungal cream twice daily.
<Won’t help>
The lump is firm in the center and fleshy around it. There is also a small area like this coming out of the other rear leg hole in his shell. Any advice is much appreciated. Sam is about 9 years old.
Thank you,
<That is a growth of some sort, not an infection, so soaking it won’t help. It is very likely a fatty tumor. The treatment is to have a veterinarian excise it or at least stick a needle in and see what they can draw out. If a veterinarian is not available, look online in your area for a turtle and tortoise club. You will likely find an experienced ‘old hand’ that has excised many fatty tumors>

Re: Turtle growth      1/6/15
How would you numb or anesthetize them? For removal of the tumor? Or could he just live with it?
<They are remarkably tolerant and resilient. If it was me I'd immobilize the area and excise the tumor, cover the area with Betadine twice daily and keep her warm and dry for two weeks. Most numbing agents that are effective on turtles have more side effects than benefits.>
Re: Turtle growth      1/6/15

Dear Crew
Is there any reason not to just let it be? I looked for someone here in NJ but can't find anyone. I can't spend the 80$ on the vet consult that the reptile specials wants.
<yes, and the $80 would be for the consult - then $125 more for surgery, etc. so I understand>
<The think about tumors is this: It may be benign or it may be cancerous. It may have spread, but it may not have. So there is so much more we don't know that we DO know - there isn't a right answer. If it doesn't impact the turtle's movement or digestion then there's not driving reason to remove it.>
Thank you for your help!

Painted turtle; hlth.      6/22/15
<Hiya - Darrel here>
My husband was recently coming home from work in eastern Idaho, he nearly ran over a turtle so he picked it up and brought it home knowing our 3 yr old son would love it. We believe it's a western painted turtle. Well it's got a piece of skin coming off, not shedding like, but like a scab coming off but its skin.
<If so that's easy to treat>

I just went and bought a 99 liter tote and we have one side with white garden type rock then water halfway up. Once I get paid I plan on getting the UV light and everything else he may need. We are trying to get him to eat ReptoMin floating food sticks but he just claws at the sides to get out.
<His life has changed radically all of a sudden. Don't worry too much about that for now. First take care of his wounds (here's everything you need to know:
) >
Should we just put him back or what kind of supplies should we get for him?
<If he was completely healthy then maybe, but if you have an injured turtle I'd keep him>
<Next order of business, as you suggested, is proper housing and care.
One thing to keep in mind is that this does NOT have to be complex or expensive. The tote is a good start! Now read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/RESCareBarton.htm >
<As far as feeding is concerned he (or she) probably won't feed much until after the treatment for the wound and gets into his new home and settles in. When that happens often times a single earthworm will grab their attention and jump-start their appetite>

Spiny Softshell Shell Lump, HELP!    1/27/14
Dear Crew,
<Hiya - Darrel here>
My step son "rescued" a spiny soft shell turtle about 7 years ago from a sandy river in southern Louisiana. Ever since, I have been taking care of her. I have done a lot of research and believe she is a female Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle.  I keep her in a tank with about 4 inches of fine, smooth gravel with about 8-10 inches of water. I use spring water to fill the tank and use a water filter. Any deeper and she doesn't seem happy.
<yes, they like to be able to bury themselves and stick their necks out like a snorkel>
We try to keep her water temp between 70 and 75 degrees F at all times. In the dead of summer (and it can get to 100 degrees around here) her tank MAY get to 77 - 78. But that isn't the norm.
<That's OK for short times>
She eats aquatic turtle pellets and, every few months, when it's time for a full tank cleaning, she gets her fill of feeder fish. These are the only two things she will eat. She has grown steadily and hasn't had any health problems, cuts, bumps or anything up until now.
<If by turtle pellets you mean Repto-Min or a high quality Koi pellet - that's what I feed all my turtles, including the soft shells.   As for fish … I'd MUCH rather see her get an earthworm or two as a treat.  Feeder fish are notoriously poor food and prone to carrying parasites>
I have been searching all day and can not find anything on her new problem.
<Well - let's see what we can do>
Her pump went out a few weeks ago. I've been adding fresh water but I could not physically bring the tank outside to clean it until my husband was home. When we went to clean the tank, I place her in the sink filled with fresh water.  When I placed her in the sink, I noticed that she has a lump on her body. I was not around for her last tank cleaning and my husband would not have noticed anything abnormal. The lump isn't obvious unless you're looking at certain angles. It covers about 1/4 of her shell. She's about 7 inches across. There doesn't seem to be any cuts or infection. She's acting normal. The lump is about as raised in the highest spot as her spine is.
<OK - a lump THAT size is unlikely to be a tumor.   That sounds more like what I'd call, for lack of a better word, a malformation.  In a perfect world I'd like to see an X-ray from the top and from the side, but the next best thing would be a physical examination and a really detailed description.>
I'm hoping you can shed some insight on what this may be and how to treat this if it is something that isn't a normal occurrence.
<It's not>
Please help.
<Sure -- let's start with this.  Take Turdi out of her tank and let her dry off.  Next what I want you to do is pick her up and feel the entire shell.   This is not the easiest thing in the world because Soft Shell turtles have short tempers, long flexible necks and painful bites.   An assistant would be a really good idea here.   The assistant has something like a rubber kitchen spatula in his hand and his ENTIRE JOB is to use the spatula to continue to block Turdi's head from moving in you direction - pressing the neck down, pushing it to one side, etc. whatever it takes to keep the mouth away and occupied.>
<Start with the rear flap.  Flexible and leathery?  Then move around the edge toward the lump area how flexibly is it?  Does it feel hard under the leather?  Or mushy?   Use as many words and as many ways to describe the entire shell.   This will narrow down the possibilities and we'll try to decide what it is and then what to do about it.>
Turdi's Mom 

Yellow Belly Turtles - how do they taste? Hlth. 8/31/10
<Dear Crew>
I have 2 yellow bellied turtles.
<Nice turtles>
At this time we have them in a 10 gal. tank. In process of getting a larger tank. My question is. The larger of the two has developed a lump on its neck. It has been a week since we noticed this. Eating, swimming, basking, etc. good. Can not find any info on this.
<It could be a swelling from a cyst or a pocket of pus from an infection. Anything of this nature should be given veterinary care, or at least seeking a Turtle & Tortoise club in your area that may have an "old hand" at dealing with such things>
Would you be able to guide us what to do.
<It's not easy without seeing it, which is why this needs hands-on experience. Someone has to "go in there" with a scalpel and see what we're dealing with.>
And if this turtle is in danger, or putting 2nd turtle in danger.
<I wouldn't think so. Most of the contagious diseases don't present as a lump, so it's not likely contagious but if it WAS the other turtle would already be exposed.>
We can't help but worry about them.
<I appreciate that you do, Susan. Good keepers always worry about our pets>
Thank you,

wild turtle with lump on neck 8/3/10
Dear Crew
<Hiya - Darrel here>
After following the information on your site regarding ear abscesses, I would like you to view the attached pictures to verify if this might be the turtle's problem.
<Yep - what you have there is a very handsome Terrapene carolina carolina - the Eastern Box Turtle. Probably named Butch and yes, Butch has an abscess or possibly a tumor>
To give a little history--about 3 weeks ago a wild box turtle appeared and stayed under my car. We live in a remote area of eastern West Virginia. After about 4 days I contacted a local vet who advised to feed the turtle
and place water outside for it. He does not treat turtles but offered to have him given to a wild life habitat for turtles. I started feeding him tomatoes and gave him water. During the very high temperatures of 100 degrees he did not leave from under the car. However, after feeding him for several days and the temperatures cooling slightly he began to move around the property but never going very far. Every morning he reappears under the car and after eating will go over to a near by tree or bush and rest. He can pull his head inside his shell but will not stay closed and will open back up quickly. One night his neck was extended, eye closed appearing to be asleep. I thought he had died but in the morning he was back under the car waiting for his food.
Thank you in advance for can information or guidance you might be able to provide.
<Charlene - Box turtles make some of the niftiest and personable pets in the reptile world. They are easy to care for and usually are problem-free.
Treating an abscess of this nature isn't all that hard, either. I'm not suggesting that you try it yourself, but calling around to a few vet might find you one that can excise it and prescribe some antibiotic cream. Most areas now have an Emergency Vet Clinic -- one that is open or on call when all the other vets are closed (most vets in an area will help sponsor such a place or at least know of the Emergency Referral Hospital in their area).
The point is that these hospitals are often staffed by newer, younger doctors that still have at least that 6 week exposure to reptile medicine fresh in their mind>
<Failing that, even an experience hand from your local turtle and tortoise club could possibly drain the wound for you and you could treat it with daily coatings of simple triple antibiotic cream from the local drug store>
<Once past the abscess, the only problem I've ever had with Box Turtles is that they tend to fixate on certain foods, such as strawberries and melon, and then refuse any other food -- for decades at a time.>
<A sturdy fenced enclosure (part of a garden would be perfect) that he can roam and forage and have you supplement that with an occasional earthworm and pieces of fruit and Butch (or whatever his name is) will be happy for years!>

Re: wild turtle with lump on neck 8/5/10
Thank you Darrel for you information regarding the turtle "Butch". Name fits perfectly although to this point had not named him.
<Yer welcome>
I have several additional questions:
This morning Butch showed up minus his lump. It appears the abscess opened itself during the night. The question now is should I begin putting triple antibiotic cream on the area where the abscess had been. The skin there looks saggy.
<Yes, I would.>
Also, how do you keep the head extended in order to apply the cream.
<LOL - that's the million dollar question. Box Turtles can close up tight as a drum and it really, REALLY hurts to get a finger caught in there when they do. Here's what I'd do: Get a LARGE dab of the cream on a Q-Tip (excuse me Q-Tip Brand Cotton Safety Swab) then pick up Butch by the sides of his shell, while holding the swab next to where his neck would be still and steady. He may clam up for a while, but if you can hold him still long enough, he'll release and poke his head out. Now operating as swift and silent as a Ninja assassin you press the swab into the wound and hopefully get a bunch on the right area before he closes up again. Then set him down. Repeat tomorrow>
You suggested fencing in an area to keep him safe. My next concern is I believe turtles hibernate for the winter. Our ground here is mostly rock and shale. Shall I prepare a special place for him. I don't know even in my garden if Butch can dig deep enough to be safe through the winter.
I have been reading about hibernation, etc and still am uncertain as to the best action for Butch. The nearest reptile vet if either Baltimore, Md. or Parkersburg WVa. Unfortunately presently my husband is ill and I can't not make either trip with him at this time.
<No problem. Come the first cold snap of the year, pick Butch up and place him in a cardboard box that contains shredded newspaper and a few old towels and place this box in the garage. Put a small shallow bowl for water and offer food every day. After about a week or two, Butch will stop showing up for food and just bury himself in a corner. After a week, you'll know he's shut down for the winter. Close up the box, place it in a dark corner of the garage and wait for the first blooms of Spring.>
< OR-- Just bring Butch indoors and give him the free range of the house. As long as there is no balcony he can leap from or basement stairs he could fall down or Dog who might chew him, he can just hang out. They don't eat much, poop very little (and it's easy to clean) and don't stay up late at night ordering pay-per-view movies like other reptiles do>
Once again thank you for your advice and guidance.
C Pietra

Turtle With Lumpy Neck - 08/26/2006 Thank for you taking the time to read my question. I wrote to you previously about my red eared slider making squeaking noises and you informed me that it wasn't breathing properly. Congrats - you were right so I took it to a vet and Jelly is still here with us today after 7 months. However, Jelly has a new problem. Recently we started feeding them small guppy fish and continued with the pellet food. We noticed that Jelly has a rather large bump on the side of her neck on the right side. I don't know what it is - remnant of food or some sort of growth. I was wondering if you could give me some insight about it. She can still put her head in her shell but it seems to be getting tighter. Please help me! Thank you again! Jen Marasco < Lots of turtles showing up with this problem lately. Little turtles need a more meaty diet than adults. I think many of these problems are related to diet and house keeping. Change the diet to include more vegetable matter and less protein. Try and keep the tank cleaner and not let the waste build up. With elevated summer temps the bacteria levels are through the roof and turtle waste quickly converts to smelly ammonia and that leads to disease problems. Make the above changes and see if there are any differences in the next few weeks.-Chuck>

Yellow Bellied Slider With Mumps - 08/25/06 Hi there, I have inherited a yellow bellied slider about 7 months ago. He was in a small plastic tank and he was small. Since then, he is about 3-4 inches and has grown quite a bit. I have him in a bigger plastic tank and I make sure he gets natural sunlight daily. Since his growth spurt, he has some round lumps around his neck. It looks like if his glands are swollen. I don't know what they are and am really concerned. He is still eating, and he is still going to the bathroom. I originally thought is had to do with his growth spurt, but I don't think so. He has a two gal. tank with a log and some rocks. I clean it weakly. I don't think he can fit his head into his shell anymore. He can sink it back but the skin fold doesn't cover the cheeks any longer. Please help me. He doesn't have a filter or a fluorescent light. Please give me some advise. I want Harley to live a long life. Thank you, JR < Time to upgrade your turtle's environment. Get a bigger tank add a basking spot with a heat lamp that gets the basking site up to at least 85 F. Change the diet to include more green leafy vegetables. Add a vitamin supplement to the turtle food. Add a filter or get another tank and feed him in the smaller tank so the main tank won't get so messy and have to be cleaned more often. Your turtles condition is probably dietary. Cut back on the protein and increase the vegetable matter in his diet. if you don't see an improvement in about six weeks then you may need to take him to a vet for further diagnoses.-Chuck>
Yellow Slider With Mumps II - 08/25/06
Hi there again, I just emailed you about Harley's puffy cheeks. Well, I was reading some of the other emailers problems and I have noticed that Harley has been out sunning on his log more often and with he limbs spread out fully. Also, when he was breathing this morning on his log, I noticed he was blowing bubbles out of his right nostril. I am just trying to give you as much info as possible. Thanks again, JR < Your turtle has a respiratory infection. The basking site will really help but antibiotics may be needed if things don't improve soon.-Chuck>

Red Eared Slider One of my RES's lumps on both sides of it's head. It is not the eyes, more like the ears. What is it, and how do I cure it? <Ugh, not quite sure what that is, if possible send us a picture. I might also start looking for a local reptile vet.> Thanks. Brent Westbrook

Turtles with Tumors? Hi Crew I have two Graptemys pseudogeographicas ( one 3 years and the other two) that have developed a lump (tumor?) on their left temples almost simultaneously. On the youngest, the lump has already partially broken the skin. The turtles don't seem to be in any pain or discomfort and eat well and behave normally. Could this be virus related? I feed them their turtle chow as well as fresh meat ( fish, poultry, beef, etc..) I've had turtles as pets all my life and have never seen or heard of this condition. Even the guy a the pet store was stumped. I have a newborn baby at home. Does the turtles condition pose any sort of danger to his health? Thanks a lot! Al in Madrid , Spain <Subcutaneous lumps or tumors are sometimes caused by the presence of pockets of maggots of the Bot fly. These lumps should be opened with a scalpel and the contents removed with forceps. Captive turtles may suffer from hard swollen lumps under the skin of the limbs and neck. If they are near the surface then they should be squeezed too if possible. Larger ones may need a incision If you are unable to do this then a vet would be your best bet.-Chuck>

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