Turtle Swollen Eyes | 5 Effective Remedies For Your Turtle’s Swollen Eyes

Apr 28, 2021

Turtle swollen eyes

Turtles have pretty good eyesight – allowing them to quickly adapt their vision from water to land. But unfortunately, they’re also prone to a good number of eye ailments. 

I’m sure that all of you have dealt with turtle swollen eyes at some point. The reasons behind this condition can range from vitamin A deficiency to nasty infections. Sometimes, dehydration or an injury can also give your turtle puffy, swollen, or even shut eyes. 

Although swollen eyes in turtles are common, they can cause permanent vision loss if not treated on time. That being said, there are a few ways you can try at home to help your pet if it’s not too severe. 

But first, let’s start with symptoms. 

How Do Turtle Swollen Eyes Look?

Box turtle eyes

During the first stages, it can be hard to figure out if your turtle has swollen eyes or not. Carefully inspect for symptoms like cloudiness, puffiness and runny eyes. Turtles frequently rubbing their eyes or continuously producing discharge from their eyes are other apparent signs of turtle swollen eyes, too.

This can also be followed by excessive weeping and a blocked nose.

In mild cases, the eyes will only appear a bit puffier than usual. You may also notice reddening of the conjunctiva and orbital glands. 

However, in more severe cases, the eyes can get practically shut. 

Now let’s move on to the causes.

5 Reasons Your Turtle Has Swollen Eyes 

In most cases, swollen eyes are a result of Vitamin A deficiency. Always make sure to fortify your pet’s diet with this essential vitamin. Poor tank environment, chlorinated water, bacterial infections, and respiratory complications are other potential reasons behind turtle’s swollen eyes.

Dirty turtle tank

Vitamin A Deficiency

A turtle requires Vitamin A to develop healthy skin, mucous membranes, and ducts. Its deficiency can lead to many complications, including eye infections. It can cause the epithelial tissues to break down gradually – making the eyes more vulnerable to swelling and infection. 

This condition is known as Hypovitaminosis A. 

If this is the reason, the edges of the eyes will appear reddish, in addition to the swelling. It’s also often accompanied by a lack of appetite. And if not treated in time, the swelling turns into an abscess. 

Poor Environment

A poorly kept habitat is an unusual suspect behind turtle’s swollen eyes. For starters, contaminated water can easily cause an infection. And on the other hand, turtles resist drinking dirty water – causing dehydration and subsequently dry, swollen eyes. 

Box turtles especially require ample humidity and moisture in their habitats to prevent eye diseases. 

And let’s not forget – decorations, rocks and heat lamps kept too close to the turtle can cause eye injuries. I learnt that the hard way. Make sure the tank’s decorations don’t have jagged or sharp edges. 

High Chlorine Content 

Another common yet disguised reason behind swollen eyes is high chlorine concentration in water. In this case, turtles usually try to keep the eyes closed, while some rub their eyes and twitch their heads. However, when brought out of chlorinated water, the swelling usually goes away in a few hours. 

If you think your turtle is having a reaction to chlorinated water, make sure to de-chlorinate it thoroughly before placing your pet in the water. Alternatively, you can also let the water sit for about 24-48 hours beforehand. 

Bacterial Infection 

A bacterial infection is more common than you might think. Now the infection can either be in the eye itself or a bodily infection manifesting in the eye. The symptoms are usually the same as for other cases of turtle swollen eyes. But if it doesn’t seem to get better, consult a vet.

The vet will most likely prescribe antibodies or even an ointment in some cases. However, make sure that the turtle stays in the quarantine tank with clean, de-chlorinated water for the duration. 

As for ointments, you should avoid ones with steroids. 

Respiratory Infections 

A little-known fact for most people, the symptoms of respiratory illnesses in turtles often present themselves through the eyes – causing the appearance of swollen eyes. Besides puffed up eyes, some other signs are excess mucus in the mouth, nasal discharge, and appetite loss. 

And while the cold environment is the number one cause behind respiratory complications, poor water quality and improperly low terrarium are also to blame. So, make sure the terrarium is well-kept at all times.

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5 Remedies For Your Turtle’s Swollen Eyes    

Turtle swollen eyes

Swollen eyes in turtles can lead to permanent vision loss if not treated in time. First and foremost, you should always contact your vet and seek expert advice. Other than that, you can help alleviate the turtle swollen eyes and prevent it in the future by feeding a vitamin A-rich diet and keeping the tank clean.

Consult A Veterinarian 

Sorry – this one seems like a no-brainer, I know. But self-diagnosing is not a wise thing to do when it involves sensitive organs like the eyes. An experienced reptile veterinarian will determine the cause and suggest a suitable treatment. 

If you’re a first-time turtle owner, it’s even more crucial to heed professional advice. The vet will most likely recommend antibiotic injections and ointments. He/she also may advise keeping the turtle dry docked during delivery.        

Vitamin A Supplement 

If the vitamin A deficiency hasn’t reached a terminal stage, a full recovery can be expected. Usually, the vet will give the turtle an injection of vitamin A and subsequently prescribe drops to be administered orally.

Here’s one I use by Nature Zone. 

I bought it due to promising reviews on Amazon, and I must say, I’m pleasantly surprised.

You also need to ensure a nutritious diet of food rich in Vitamin A, such as red and orange vegetables and maintain clean water quality. 

Surgery

Abscesses need to be treated surgically in most cases, depending on the severity. Once the abscess is cut open, the pus is drained, and the affected tissue is flushed with a medicated cleansing solution. 

Your vet will also probably take a culture of the abscess to determine the cause of infection and swelling. Post-operation, topical medication and injectable antibiotics can be prescribed.  

A Vitamin A-fortified diet and a healthy tank environment are crucial to avoid infections and potential abscesses.

A Well Rounded Diet 

With my first turtle, I made a big mistake of only feeding commercial pellets. The dubious claims on the labels got better of me. However, now I aim to give a fully fortified diet, and you should do. Make sure your turtle’s diet includes leafy veggies, calcium supplements, and vitamins. 

Also, note that younger turtles need more protein content in the diet to aid their growth.

Speaking from my own experience, many health complications stay at bay when the diet is nutritious and wholesome. 

I usually add these vegetables to the diet:

  • Green lettuce 
  • Red leaf lettuce 
  • Dandelion leaves
  • Squash
  • Zucchini 

Clean Water And Terrarium 

Prevention is better than cure. This couldn’t be any truer in clean water and terrarium’s case. Ensuring that the water quality and parameters are to the tee is of utmost importance to prevent swollen eyes in turtles.

First of all, make sure the tank size is ideal for your turtle. The rule of thumb is 10 gallons of water for every 1-inch shell size. But for a turtle, the bigger, the better.

I’d recommend you to go with a 75 to 100-gallon tank for painted turtles and red-eared sliders. One might think smaller tanks are low-maintenance, but they’re way more temperamental. 

And since turtles produce a good amount of waste, it’s essential to invest in a bigger and stronger filter. 

This one here by Fluval has thousands of raving reviews on Amazon. 

What I liked the best about this is its Multi-Directional Output nozzles that can be fully adjusted to create customized water flows.

Definitely an excellent value for money. 

While a good filter will make your life a lot easier, you still need to address a few other things. For instance, water changes should be performed frequently. 

I recommend conducting a 50% water change every week to ensure water is not contaminated. 

And take notice of the chlorine content in the water. Too much of this chemical will backfire and cause swollen eyes. 

Adequate Heating 

As ectotherms, turtles’ bodily temperature sways with a change in external temperature. Unlike us, they can’t produce their own heat. That’s why a proper heating system is vital. If you’re wondering what it has to do with swollen eyes, moisture and cold environment are among the top causes for eye and respiratory infections. 

A basking spot that uses a low-quality heat source or doesn’t have enough UVB is a breeding ground for eye complications. 

This is the one I am currently using for my turtles. It was recommended to me by a turtle expert.

What I love the best about this UVA & UVB combo light is that it does a decent job at mimicking the natural sunlight – offering valuable vitamin D3 essential for growth and health. 

Now that you know the top remedies for turtle swollen eyes, let’s address a reasonably common confusion below.

How To Tell Eye Infections from Swollen Eyelids In Turtles?

By now, you already know that swollen eyes can be an independent health issue or a symptom of something more serious. 

The biggest giveaway is that you can see small, white dots near the turtle’s cornea in case of infections. If not treated on time, these can manifest into an ulcer and cause permanent vision loss. 

Another noticeable sign of infection is a runny nose and mouth. You’ll notice an unusual discharge from these areas. 

We’ve already discussed the reasons behind turtle swollen eyes, but who do you think is the culprit behind eye infections?

Yes, you guessed it right – it’s an unhygienic environment. It could be dirty water, unsterilized decorations or insufficient filtration. 

I usually give my turtles’ Fluker’s Antibacterial Eye Rinse to treat the infection. 

If it doesn’t seem to get  better in about 3 days, I’d recommend  booking a consultation with the vet. 

Usually, the vet will give your pet topical eye antibiotics. If the case is a bit too bad, he/she might recommend an antibiotic injection. 

Remember, untreated infections can turn into abscesses and ulcers in no time. So, don’t take these things lightly. If there’s a single shadow of a doubt, don’t conduct self-diagnosis and treatment – ring the vet ASAP. 

Conclusion On Turtle Swollen Eyes 

So, I’ve tried to cover everything you should know about swollen eyes in turtles. On the way, I’ve also made some product recommendations that I personally love.

Swollen eyes can be caused due to a multitude of reasons – spanning from lack of Vitamin A to respiratory illnesses. Other notable causes are infections, abscesses, highly chlorinated water and a poor tank environment. 

The symptoms of swollen eyes differ with severity, but some common signs include puffiness, redness around the eye, and cloudy eyes. 

While there are several things you can do to prevent this painful condition for your turtle, once it’s inflicted, I highly recommend you consult a vet before starting any treatment. 

That being said, the number one step you can take to prevent this condition in the first place is to maintain the tank’s cleanliness and water parameters. Infections thrive in dirty environments, and swollen eyes are no different. 

Another thing you must do is fortify your pet’s diet with essential nutrients through a balanced diet. Make sure to include fruits and veggies rich in vitamin A. Don’t get carried away with pellets. 

That’s all for this article. Do you have any suggestions? Or Questions? Let us know!

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rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.