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Reptiles/russian tortoise sick?


Ive had my male russian tortoise for about 3 years or more, i think hes about 7 yrs (not positive). A couple days ago i noticed his nose running, the snot is clear and not cloudy or colored. Hes is still acting normally, very active and eating normally. He sounds a little congested at times, no constant wheezing though and he does rub his eyes or nose sometimes. He sneezes every so often so i know he is sick. I have him in a warm, dry room with his heat lamp on him and his nose seems to clear up under constant heat. Its not getting worse so far, what should I do to get him better? Is there something i can use to help him? i doesnt seem as severe as a respiratory infection but i want to make sure. Do they get regular colds and are they able to recover? Is there something i can do? Ive heard pedialyte or some antibiotic powder but im not just going to try it without knowing its ok. Should I take him outside under the sun more often? He has a UVB lamp indoors and no shell issues. Please help me

Hi Tiffany

The symptoms you describe are not uncommon with captive tortoises and have been given the general term of "runny nose syndrome". It can have several potential causes.

Something as simple as a dry, dusty substrate can cause irritation of the mucous membranes and the resulting watery discharge. An overly dry environment with no access to humidity can have a similar effect. Russians are from arid areas but spend a lot of time in very humid burrows. You can mimic that by providing a humid hide box.

Tortoises are also prone to viral and bacterial infections with the initial viral infection often predisposing them to a secondary bacterial infection.
Increasing the basking temperature to the high end of the optimal range (around 95F) will help boost the natural immune response. You also need to make sure your tortoise remains hydrated though. Daily soaks can help ensure that. Dried out mucous membranes are more susceptible to infection.  A proper diet with fresh weeds and greens also contains the vitamins (A and C) that help keep these membranes functioning properly.

It is a very good sign that your tort is eating and behaving normally but upper respiratory infections can progress to pneumonia which is far more difficult to treat. If you don't see improvement after several days of increased heat or any worsening of symptoms then I would strongly suggest you see a vet to be safe.

These sites have some more info you may find useful.

I apologize for my delay in answering. There seems to be a problem with the site notification system at times that alerts me to questions.  


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I can answer questions on the proper husbandry and diet of Iguanas, bearded dragons, geckoes, skinks, chameleons, tortoises, box turtles, treefrogs, non-venomous snakes and tarantulas. Also the breeding of some species of feeder insects. I have no experience with venonmous snakes and only limited experience with aquatic turtles.


I have been keeping and breeding reptiles for over 30 years. In addition to my regular job in the medical field I also worked for several years in a pet store that specialized only in exotics. The job entailed both caring for and answering questions on innumerable species. It required constant, extensive research into a wide range of reptiles. I have been called to appear on televised national media (CBC, CTV and Life Channel) as well as CBC radio to discuss the proper care of reptiles and other exotics in captivity. I currently own one or more species of those listed under my expertise with the exception of chameleons. I owned chameleons for years but keep none currently. I keep over 20 snakes comprising 5 species, both Colubridae and Boidae. I bred corn snakes for several years. I have a particular interest in treefrogs and currently have 5 different species. I've raised redfoot tortoises for 10 years and have two iguanas, one for 12 years.

A small and now defunct local magazine called "Pet Vue"

Diagnostic medical microbiology with some parasitology experience.

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