Bacteria Infections in Turtles

Common Bacteria in Turtles

Slow moving and hard shelled, turtles make fun pets but have a bit of a down side. Tortoises and turtles often suffer bacterial infections that cause disease. The good thing is that with the proper housing, nutrition, and sanitation these infections can be avoided for the most part. Being familiar with the different types of bacterial infections that your turtle or tortoise could succumb to is an important part of keeping your slow moving friend feeling good.

Eye infections and conjunctivitis

Eye infections typically occur on the surface of the cornea, but can also develop in the eyelids creating irritation and swelling. It begins as a small white spot and as the infection progresses it can spread over the entire surface and create an ulcer on the eye. Eye infections are cause either by contaminated water (if in aquatic or semi-aquatic turtles) or low humidity (in tortoises). Treatment usually consists of topical antibiotic eye drops.


This is a bacterial infection of the cloaca that results in an inflamed cloacal opening and a foul smelling discharge. These are often associated with parasitic infections, or sone-like cloacal calculus. The stone must be removed and parasitic infection treated (if any) before irrigating the cloacal area. The irritant is a dilute Betadine or chlorhexidine solution. The last part of treatment is applying a topical antibiotic ointment to the cloacal opening.

Necrotic Stomatitis

Commonly known as mouth rot, necrotic stomatits is often caused by the bacteria Pseudomonas or Aeromonas. Mild cases can be treated by swabbing the infected area with diluted Betadine. However, a more advanced case needs to be treated with antibiotics. Turtle ailments like a poor jaw alignment or mouth injury predispose them to mouth rot.


Turtles and tortoises suffer pneumonia in one of two forms, acute and chronic. Acute pneumonia can appear suddenly and cause death in just a matter of hours if not treated quickly. Symptoms include respiratory distress, coughing, and disorientation. Chronic pneumonia causes turtle’s to have respiratory distress and chronic nasal discharge. Treatment for both acute and chronic pneumonia includes injecting antibiotics.

Ear abscesses

Ear abscesses are a very common problem that most turtles face. Symptoms include swelling of the tympanic membrane and discharge of pus into the back of the throat. It is sometime hard to identify that ear abscesses have formed, so treatment usually happens when they are in an advanced stage. In most cases the abscess must be surgically opened and drained.

For more information on common bacterial infections in turtles, visit your local Cincinnati vet clinics at