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Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 732
Experience:  dasdasd
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I have a yellow bellied slider, he's 15 Yr old, had He Is

Customer Question

Hi I have a yellow bellied slider, he's 15 Yr old, had He Is making noises when breathing He has recently had changes in his tank. After some research I think he could have a respiratory infection.
JA: Hi there. I'll do all I can to help. Have you spoken to a vet about the respiratory infection yet? How long has this been going on with the Yellow Bellied Slider?
Customer: No this is my first port of call. The noisy breathing I noticed today, other possible symptoms, a few sneezes and neck extending.
JA: What's the Yellow Bellied Slider's name?
Customer: Terry
JA: Is there anything else the Vet should know about Terry?
Customer: He's 15, in a tank size 3ft by 3ft, has uvb and uva lights, his water temp was checked and gets checked every couple of days. I did a water change last Sunday and tend to do this once per week. He has a large filter running all the time. His basking ramp has been biggest change I created an above tank basking area...he hasn't been basking though for about 2 weeks....been up on the ramp and in area but straight back in tank
Submitted: 14 days ago.
Category: Vet
Customer: replied 14 days ago.
After doing some Internet research.....I've increased his water temp to 29c and put his old basking ramp back up.
Customer: replied 14 days ago.
I've not received an answer for this can someone get back to me please?
Expert:  CarynP625 replied 14 days ago.

I am sincerely ***** ***** there was a delay in someone responding to your question. (Experts are independent contractors and as such are online based on their own schedules.) However, I am available and can assist you if you still need veterinary advice.

Hello and thanks for posting your question on My name is***** and I have been a licensed and accredited veterinarian in the US for over 22 years, specializing in aquatics, reptiles, amphibians, avian and other exotic species. JustAnswer is a question-and-answer service, not a veterinary telemedicine or emergency service. On this platform veterinarians can provide insight and advice based on the information you provide, but as this is not considered a legal client-patient relationship and we cannot examine your pet, we are unable to provide definitive diagnoses, prescribe medications, provide medical records or sign documents for your specific pet. For any of those you would need to make an in person visit with a local veterinarian. If your pet has a serious illness or life-threatening emergency, I strongly recommend you obtain hands-on veterinary care with a local veterinarian or veterinary emergency service as soon as possible. I am happy to chat with you via the JustAnswer app via text. For US based clients, if you are interested in a phone call instead that is an option you can choose for an additional charge. In the meantime, I am putting together some questions and/or suggestions to help with your pet’s concern.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 14 days ago.

Thanks again for posting your question, I’m sorry that your yellow bellied slider turtle Terry is under the weather. The signs you describe (increased respiratory noise, sneezing, head/neck stretching) are indeed highly suggestive of a respiratory infection.

I have some questions that will help me get a better idea of your pet’s environment and what may be going on with them:

-When did you first notice this current problem?

-What is the current enclosure set-up, e.g.,

What is the air and basking spot temperatures?

What is the water temperature?

You mentioned some changes to the basking area with the creation of an above tank basking area. Did he not have an out of water basking site previously?

What are the most recent water quality parameters (specifically ammonia and nitrite, though pH is also helpful as well) and what type of filtration do you have on your tank?

-Good that he's getting both UVA and UVB light. When was the UVB bulb last changed?

-What do you normally feed them?

-Do they receive any calcium or vitamin supplements? If so which ones and how often?

-Any other signs such as swollen eyes, discharge from nose/mouth/eyes, weakness/lethargy or loss of appetite, etc.?

Thanks very much for providing additional information, it is very helpful for me to try and figure out what is going on with your turtle and the history information will help me to do that.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 14 days ago.

With any sick turtle, it is always a good idea to start by checking that their environment and husbandry are proper for their species. Taking a physical measurement of the temperature gradient within the enclosure (air temperature in the main enclosure and warmer basking spot temperature) and measuring water temperature for semi-aquatic turtles is also recommended. Double check that the basking area is at the appropriate temperature and is large enough for the the turtle to fully haul out, dry off and warm up. Making sure the UVB bulb is appropriate for the size of the space and has been changed regularly. Even if they are still producing visible light, UVB bulbs have a limited lifespan and need to be changed every 6-12 months, depending upon bulb type. Making sure diet is varied and nutritious and appropriately supplemented with calcium and multivitamins is quite important. Therefore, I am attaching a care sheet about your pet’s species for you to review at your convenience, in case any of their husbandry parameters need to be amended. Please let me know if you have any troubles opening the attached PDF.

For example, if the environmental temperatures are too low, since turtles are cold-blooded, this will negatively affect their metabolism, appetite, digestion and immune function. So start by checking the air, basking and water temperatures in the enclosure and, if it's too low, adjust your basking light or submersible aquarium heater to achieve the proper environmental temperatures.

Yellow bellied slider recommend temperatures:

Air temperature 75-80F (24-26.7C) with warmer basking area on rock or log out of the water at 90-100F (32.2-37.8C) where they can fully haul out. Water 75-80F (24-26.7C). Water requires a heater.

In the meantime, I will give you some information about what may be causing these signs, a care sheet with recommendations about environment and diet as some common medical conditions are unintentionally caused by improper husbandry (such as too low temperatures, humidity, UVB lighting or calcium and vitamin supplementation) and some suggestions for home care and support of your ill turtle or while you are awaiting a visit to the veterinarian.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 14 days ago.

Respiratory infections or pneumonia in turtles can be secondary to environmental conditions such as sub-optimal temperature, or environmental irritants though there are infectious agents that can cause respiratory infections, such as bacteria, parasites, fungi, and viruses.

Clinical signs might include oral or nasal discharge, bubble blowing, sneezing, open mouthed breathing, abnormal body posture, increased respiratory sounds like gurgling or wheezing, crusted nares (nostrils), open mouthed breathing or neck stretching. In turtles, you might also see exaggerated movement of the limbs, neck and head associated with each breath, which in a normal turtle is very subtle. If the lungs are consolidated or filled you may see listing in an aquatic turtle, e.g,. floating with one side up and one down. Turtles with a respiratory infection may also show systemic signs of illness such as lethargy (depressed activity or energy level), inappetence (depressed appetite), shallow or open-mouthed breathing.

Difficulty breathing or abnormal respiratory sounds could be caused by other conditions such as mechanical obstruction of the airways, nares or choanae with material, like pus, mucous or cage substrate or by abscesses in the mouth or tongue, hyperthermia, or exposure to toxins. So appropriate treatment depends a lot upon the examination by a trained veterinarian to find the cause of the problem.

Because respiratory infections and other disorders that present with similar clinical signs in turtles are potentially serious and life threatening, it is recommended that you make an appointment with a local reptile veterinarian. They will perform an examination and will probably recommend imaging, such as an x-ray, to evaluate the turtle’s lungs to look for signs of pneumonia and may prescribe oral or injectable antibiotics. With turtles with pneumonia, sometimes nebulization treatment is recommended (medication is administered in a cool mist via a device called a nebulizer).

To help find a local veterinarian with reptile experience, here is a useful website you can use to search for a local reptile veterinarian. These veterinarians are active members of the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians, which means they have interest and experience in treating reptile patients:

(please note this site may not work on older browsers like Safari)

Please note that since you are outside the US, you will need to choose Advanced Search.

Advanced Search: Step 1 of 2, Member status

Select/toggle honorary member, life member, new grad, active veterinarian, and associate.

Press Continue.

Advanced Search: Step 2 of 2

Use the drop down menu in Country to select your country. Press Search.

In the meantime, while you are waiting for your turtle’s vet appointment, there are things you can do to help support your pet. It is extremely important to make sure that the environment is pristine, cleaned of waste, and appropriate temperature for your species of turtle. Having an easy to ascend basking area is important. In a semi-aquatic set-up, having sufficient humidity is not typically the problem, but having air that is too humid can be. So, making sure there is adequate airflow in the enclosures (and the room) is a good idea.

For aquatic turtles, it’s important to make sure their water is clean as elevated levels of waste can also predispose a turtle to a respiratory or skin infections. The best way to check if water quality is good is by testing the water for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels with an aquarium testing kit. Some pet shops will do free water testing but that isn't convenient especially if you need to do repeated testing. Home options for water quality testing in the UK include Interpet's Easy Test Complete Aquarium Dip Test Kit or King British's 6 in 1 Water Test Strips for around £12-15 per bottle. The strips test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH and water hardness (KH and GH), so these would be your best value.

If ammonia and nitrite are measurable (normal values should be 0 ppm) or nitrates are above 20-40ppm, then you need to increase your frequency of partial (30%) water changes, tank cleaning/maintenance or improve filtration or a combination of all of these.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 14 days ago.

Once water quality has returned to normal, continuing with routine maintenance, such as at least weekly partial water changes and monthly filter maintenance and bottom siphoning, is recommended.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 14 days ago.

It’s especially important if your pet is under the weather to make sure that their tank and water are clean, food is fresh and prepared hygienically and that the temperature is appropriate and that your UV-B bulb is in proper working condition. Here are some additional recommendations of how you can support your turtle while you are awaiting their veterinary appointment:

-Healing and normal metabolism are linked to proper environmental temperature. For an ill animal I recommend keeping air and water temperatures closer to the upper end of their optimal range:

Yellow bellied slider recommended temperatures:

Air temperature 75-80F (24-26.7C) with warmer basking area on rock or log out of the water at 90-100F (32.2-37.8C) where they can fully haul out. Water 75-80F (24-26.7C). Water requires a heater.

-Keep them warm. If they’re not moving around much on their own, place them in an area of the tank that near the upper end of their warm zone, but not on top of a hot rock or under the hottest basking area as they can overheat or get burned. If they are too weak to get in and out of the water on their own, then keep them in a warm, dry area of the tank or in a dry box within the enclosure where it is warm, around 80F/26.7C.

-Offer food, even if not eating. If your turtle is having difficulty reaching or getting to their food, put the food dish next to them or you can also hand or tong feed them. Place a favorite food item gently against their lips and if they are hungry, they will bite at it. If not, don’t force it.

It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to force feed an uncooperative turtle. They are likely not eating because they are not feeling well. So finding and resolving the underlying cause (environmental or medical) will help restore their appetite.

-If they are too weak to swim or to get out of the water on their own, then keep them dry docked (out of water) but to prevent or treat dehydration, you should give your turtle a soak in a shallow dish of clean warm water for 15-30 minutes twice a day. Shoulder depth and monitored during the soak so their head does not submerge. If they are weak or lethargic, you can tip the container up at one end to help prevent the head from submerging. Water temperature for the bath should be at the upper end of their normal water temperature, so around 26-27C. Dry them off after the bath so they don't cool off too much.

-It is also a good idea to re-evaluate your current husbandry practices as some common disorders are inadvertently caused or predisposed by deficiencies or imbalances in diet, UVB lighting, calcium/vitamin supplementation, temperature or humidity.

-For aquatic turtles, it’s important to make sure their water is clean. The best way to check if water quality is good is by testing the water for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels with an aquarium testing kit such as Interpet's Easy Test Complete Aquarium Dip Test Kit or King British's 6 in 1 Water Test Strips or some pet shops will do this testing for free. If ammonia and nitrite are measurable (normal values should be 0 ppm) or nitrates are above 20-40ppm, then you need to increase your frequency of partial (30%) water changes, tank cleaning/maintenance or improve filtration or a combination of all of these.

I should be notified if/when you respond with additional information so we can connect about your yellow bellied slider Terry but, in the meantime, I hope this information is helpful and I wish you both the best. Thanks again for posting your question to Sincerely, ***** *****

Customer: replied 14 days ago.
Hi thank you for getting back to me. Water is set at 25c and checked daily with a temp gun. Now increased to 29c based on info from Internet. Tank is large enough 3ft by 3ft by 3ft and is filled 3/4 to the top. His basking area is back to his suction ramp (reason for changing to above tank setup was to give him greater space to get warmed and sit in slightly cooler area out of water) he has a double dome lamp setup which has uvb reptisun lamp bought about 6 weeks ago and uva heat also only 2 months old. The basking area on ramp is 34cI do 50% water change weekly and use test strips in between, his water is fine based on the nitrate/nitrite, etc. Only bit that's high is hard water.I have a filter set up which is more than powerful and big enough 5o keep tank clean. I remove any unwanted food straight after feeding and any feceas from the tank.
He is eating zoomed pellets which are correct for age and size everyother day and has a treat of dried shrimp once a week. He has cuttlefish for extra calcium and chomps on this. I add fresh greens of lettuce daily (not that he eats much) but I try.His symptoms were noticed yesterday during the day.He has just had his weekly treat of shrimp and ate this with ease. He's swimming quite well but the only symptoms are the sneezing, and loud breathing. No mucus in eyes or bubbles at nose. (As was found in Internet research).
Customer: replied 14 days ago.
Air temp 24c
Customer: replied 14 days ago.
I cleaned the filter fully about 3 weeks ago and added fresh carbon to remove chloride.
Customer: replied 14 days ago.
The only two things that have changed are his basking spot...which has now been put back to old...not great but does the job above water suction one. As he was not basking in the new one.
Customer: replied 14 days ago.
Temps are correct in both...around 34c
Expert:  CarynP625 replied 14 days ago.

Thanks very much for the additional information about Terry and his care.

I do agree that raising water temperature is a good idea with a turtle with a suspected respiratory infection. Around 27C is fine for a YB slider, but up to 29C is okay.

I would also recommend bumping up the air temperature as well up to 26.5-27C for the general air temperature and 37C for the basking spot.

And it was a good plan to increase available out of water basking space, they do need to be fully out of the water to get dry and warm on their basking spot.

If water quality remains good, you might be able to do 30% weekly changes, but checking with the strips as you have been doing is the best way to know if the water quality is good.

Turtles can do okay in hard water if acclimated (how high is the GH and KH) though they can have issues with precipitation of calcium on their shells.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 14 days ago.

Sounds like you are doing your due diligence with Terry's care. At 15 years old he should be eating primarily vegetables, so be careful about the protein fed, though ZooMed aquatic turtle maintenance pellets are an excellent option, they have only 25% protein, fair fiber (8%) and a good selection of minerals and vitamins.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 14 days ago.

How large is the tank - e.g. liters of the entire tank but also liters of water in the tank?

Customer: replied 14 days ago.
500 ltrs water
Expert:  CarynP625 replied 14 days ago.

Okay great, that is a very nice size.

Customer: replied 14 days ago.
Yeah, I feel like I'm doing everything right...why is he poorly. I'm using the maintenance feed..
Customer: replied 14 days ago.
From zoo med
Expert:  CarynP625 replied 14 days ago.

Yes, sounds like you are taking good care of Terry and doing your homework.

But if he has been not using the basking platform for the past 2 weeks because of the changes, this could have predisposed him to the respiratory infection, so changing the platform back to how it was is a good idea. However now that he has clinical signs, I do strongly recommend taking him to a local reptile veterianarian for evaluation and care, as respiratory infections will often need treatment with antibiotics.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 14 days ago.

Making sure the ramp is gentle enough for them to climb out of is important. Also making sure there is not a lot of disturbances around the tank while he's adjusting to the new set up. Encouraging him to bask by placing favorite food items on the ramp or platform (I know they are more likely to eat in water). These are ways to help him feel comfortable with a new set up. But if he still refuses to bask, then modifying the set up or location in the tank is a good idea, perhaps altering the surface of the ramp to allow him to get better purchase or trying a different basking option like stacked rocks, logs/driftwood, etc.

Customer: replied 14 days ago.
I understand and this is the next step. I was hoping to see if there was anyway I could treat him at home due to vet costs. But of course if that's what he needs I will find the money.. you've been very thorough and helpful. Thank you so much for taking the time to check everything with me and ensure that Terry gets the right care. I will arrange a vets appointment at the earliest opportunity.
Customer: replied 14 days ago.
the thing is he could get up there, just wouldn't stay up there. Once he's better I'll make sure there is lots up there for him to want to stay up for. Can I feed him from a water bowl with his food in it?
Expert:  CarynP625 replied 14 days ago.

What type of UVB light are you using above the basking platform and how far is it (measured distance) from bulb to basking site? I'm asking because if the UVB levels are too high, he might be avoiding the new platform (e.g. if it's closer than the old one). Typically 5% (5.0 fluorescent UVB) is fine for a yellow bellied slider but it depends upon the distance from the bulb to the basking platform. UVB amount received is dependent not only upon the UVB % of the source bulb but also the distance from source to basking spot.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 14 days ago.

I completely understand. Raising water and air temperatures and modifying the basking platform may help but really if he's showing clinical signs I do strongly recommend hands on care and therapy.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 14 days ago.

Yes, you can certainly try to feed him from a water bowl, though he may or may not take it. Turtles can become very set in their ways and typically feel most comfortable eating in water.

Customer: replied 14 days ago.
That's a very good point, I think with the new set up it may have been further away. I will need to measure but not at home at the the office.
Customer: replied 14 days ago.
To be fair...before I rescued him he'd been living in a tiny tank, could barely turn around and in summer months left to fend in a garden pond with no filtration for 6 months.
Customer: replied 14 days ago.
I've had him since Christmas
Customer: replied 14 days ago.
In his tiny tank no uvb just a normal bulb for heat and a tiny above basking area that he could barely fit through the hole.
Expert:  CarynP625 replied 14 days ago.

So it does sound like you have given him a much improved home and care. Thank you for that. :-)

If you do get a chance to let me know more specifics about your UVB set up (bulb type and %, distance) later when you get home from work later, no rush, I would be happy to assess that information.

Customer: replied 14 days ago.
Thank you I certainly will it may not be until much later if that's okay.
Expert:  CarynP625 replied 14 days ago.

Yellow bellied sliders are mostly full sun to occasional partial sun baskers. This behavior helps dictate the distance and bulb type that is best, 5% or 10%, compact vs linear, T5 vs T8. UVB can be quite confusing, but I'll be happy to help.

No problem. JustAnswer will alert me when/if you respond further to our conversation and I will respond as soon as I am able to do so.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 14 days ago.

I do wish you and Terry my sincere best and look forward to "speaking" to you again later. I hope this information has been helpful and I do sincerely ***** ***** feels better soon.

Thanks for using

Sincerely, ***** *****

Customer: replied 14 days ago.
Zoo Med Reptisun 10.0 mini. Received 5th May...bought from amazon. Zoo Med BP mini deep dome. Exotic terra 50 w basking spot lamp. 3rd Jan 2022..
Customer: replied 14 days ago.
Just checked amazon history. I know you still need the distances .
Customer: replied 14 days ago.
Very helpful indeed.
Expert:  CarynP625 replied 14 days ago.

I'm assuming that's a 10.0 Mini CFL (compact fluorescent). For that type of bulb, assuming there's nothing impeding the light (no metal screening), then the best basking distance from bulb to turtle would be 5-7 inches or 12.5-18 cm

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 14 days ago.

If the distance is greater than that, then the 10.0 CFL (non-mini) would be 6-8 in or 15-20.5 cm.

And if less, then the 5.0 CFL would be 4-6 in or 10-15 cm.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 14 days ago.

Note that if the lamp is on top of metal screen this can block up to 40% of the UVB light, so using a slightly stronger bulb or a reflector housing can improve UVB penetration to the basking site.

Again, I'll be alerted if/when you have any additional questions or provide supplemental UVB information and I will reply as soon as I am able to do so.

Sincerely, ***** *****