This will show you how you can check your tortoise and try and spot if something is wrong with it and what to do.

If you think that there is something wrong then you must get in touch with a specialist vet and get your tortoise to them without delay. There is a vets list on it's own page.



How your Tortoise should behave

During the warmer days of the year and if you provide them with all the correct husbandry, your tortoise should feel warm to the touch at all times and not cold.

They should be alert and curious.

They should walk on the tips of their claws and lift their plastron off the floor.

They should hold their head up and smell the air around them.

They should have a healthy appetite and eat a good diet of mixed weeds and flowers.

They should not be frightened and hide in their shells all of the time.

They should urinate on a daily basis to remove any toxins.

The faeces should be similar consistency to ours but it should be very fibrous.


How you can check your Tortoise


Walking - Your tortoise should walk high on it's legs so that the plastron is off the floor. If you notice that your tortoise normally walks like this and it suddenly changes then you need to get your tortoise to a specialist tortoise vet and get it checked out.

Breathing - Notice how your tortoise breathes and whether it makes any noice at all. Most tortoises do not make a noice but I have seen some that have a slight whistle. If you know how your tortoise breathes then you will notice if anything changes. If it becomes noisy or heavy get your tortoise to a specialist vet immediately as it may be very serious.

Nose - The tortoises nose should be clean and dry but if you have just bathed your tortoise is may blow bubbles, so you need to check when the tortoise is doing normal things. If you notice any discharge or bubbles coming from the nose you will need to take it to a specialist vet as your tortoise may have RNS (runny nose syndrone)

Eyes - Your tortoises eyes should be dark in colour, shiny and look alive. If you notice any cloudiness or marks in your tortoises eyes if may be an infection, so you must take your tortoise to a specialist vet to get it checked out. It may only need eye drops but you need to be sure.

Mouth - The best way to check the mouth is when the tortoise is eating. Get down to your tortoises level and when it opens it to eat you can get a look. The mouth should be clean and pink in colour, The tongue should not be swollen. If the tongue is swollen or there is mucus in the mouth or the inside of the mouth is yellow or brown you need to get it to a specailist vet as it could have mouth rot. 

Skin - You can check this when you have given them a soak. Tortoises do shed their skin so this is natural. You should check the areas of the face, tail and legs. The scales should be intact and none missing. Check that all of the toes are present and that they are not too long. The tail should be clean and no signs of diarrhoea or damage. There should be no swelling of the skin and no lumps or bumps.

Shell - There are two shells to a tortoise, the plastron is the bottom shell and the carapace is the top shell. This should be firm to touch, be smooth and clean. There should be no loose shell or any cracks, reddness or bleeding of the shell. If any of these occue then you need to get to a specialist vet immediately.

Faeces - This should be well formed, digested and fibrous. If it isn't then you need to relook at what you are feeding your tortoise to get more fibre into the foods. Pre Alpin is a good way of supplying this.

Eating - Your tortoise should have a healthy diet and a very varied diet that consists of at least 75% fibrous material. For mediterraneans this diet should have no protein added to it. Some tropicals can take and need a small amount of protein, see individual care sheets.


The best way to keep an eye on things

The best way that you can keep an eye on whether your tortoise seems to be okay and will also be very helpfull if you do have to go and visit a specialist vet is to keep records. All you need is a notepad and they do prove to be invaluable.

Weights - Keep records of the weight of your tortoise. I usually do these monthly as this does give time to notice any growth or problems. Your tortoise should be a little heavier than the same time last year for an adult. A juvenile should show that it is putting on a steady amount of weight as it is growing. 

Measures - Keep a record of your tortoise size. The best one to keep is the length of the plastron. I actually record the length, width and depth of my tortoises.

Notes - I also like to record anything like, didn't eat much this week, or spent most of the time basking and eating this week. Anything that could be interesting to yourselves or to a vet.


 Why keep records

I keep records, and advise others to keep records because it helps you to notice any patterns in behaviour, any changes or any problems that may occur.

If you have to go to a specialist vets then take them with you as they may prove useful to them also. It is good to see a history for a tortoise when it needs help or advice.