subject centers on Herbie, a 10-year-old box turtle who
lives in Modesto with his caretaker Paul.
has been taking care of Herbie for the past nine years,
Paul himself is 17.
lives outdoors in what has been described as a very nice
enclosure, which allows Herbie lots of free roaming
space both in and out of the sun with lots of vegetation
to graze as well as provide shelter. Herbie also has an
underground den, which he uses at night and also as a
hibernation spot over the winter.
this winter’s hibernation stint, Herbie emerged from
his den and began to get into his normal routine of
foraging for food, covering his territory in his normal
fashion. Paul did notice however that Herbie had not
been eating as much as in the past and he also noticed
some bubbles coming from Herbie’s nose.
recently, Herbie has developed a lump of the left side
of his head that has progressed in size. Paul is very
I am seeing this letter after Herbie already has been to
see a veterinarian with expertise dealing with reptiles.
The bubbling from Herbie’s nose likely represents a
manifestation of a respiratory infection. This is
usually a relatively straightforward disease to diagnose
requiring a swab sample of the nasal discharge for
examination under the microscope and culture for
is a very important step toward effective treatment of
Herbie’s problem as not all cases of respiratory
disease in box turtles are caused by bacteria. They can
be viral and if treated with antibiotics assuming the
condition is caused by bacteria, the results can be
devastating. This holds true for any patient with
bacteria are found, they can then be identified and
tested in the presence of several antibiotics to find
out which antibiotic will most effectively kill the
very important diagnostic step when working with
potential respiratory infections in turtles and in fact,
all reptiles, is whether or not the infection has gotten
into the lungs. This is called pneumonia and can be very
difficult to treat in reptiles owing to their lung
structure and the difficulty of delivering the
antibiotic to the infected areas in the lungs.
lump on the left side of Herbie’s neck may or may not
be related to the bubbling from his nose. A simple test
called a fine needle aspirate can be performed to help
diagnose this problem. A small needle is introduced into
the mass and some contents are sucked into the needle
with a syringe. This sample can be examined under a
microscope to determine what might be the cause.
is my educated and experienced guess that Herbie’s
lump is an abscess caused by bacteria that have gotten
into his middle ear. This can indeed be related to his
potential respiratory infection although these may be
two entirely different events.
the lump is an abscess, then Herbie will need a surgical
procedure to open the abscess and remove the contents
with a thorough flushing. The wound will only be
partially closed after surgery to allow for drainage and
with proper after care including antibiotics and daily
cleaning, it will heal very nicely.
as I stated earlier, Herbie is already on the mend but
if not, get him in to his veterinarian and resolve his
problems. The longer he goes without addressing his
disease(s), the less chance he has of being able to