Box Turtle Respiratory Infection

Respiratory infections can be very dangerous, turning into pneumonia in your box turtle.

As a turtle owner, you want to provide the best for your pet, which is why you need to have a good understanding of respiratory infections.

Knowing your pet is the best way to quickly identify if something is wrong. Continue reading for information on upper and lower respiratory infection in a box turtle.


Symptoms vary depending on whether your box turtle has an upper or lower respiratory infection. The symptoms are as follows:

Upper Respiratory Infection

  • Sneezing
  • Watering eyes
  • Clear nose discharge
  • Chirping

Lower Respiratory Infection

  • Swollen eyes
  • Mucus in the eyes and nose
  • Breathing problems
  • Chirping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy


There are a number of things that can cause a respiratory infection in box turtles. These include:

Upper Respiratory Infection

Dusty Substrate

Substrate that is too dusty can be a trigger for an upper respiratory infection. Dusty substrate, such as hay, can be brimming with dangerous fungal spores, which can get into your pet’s lungs and cause a respiratory infection.

Poor Living Conditions

A dirty habitat is a leading cause of respiratory infection. Poor water quality to unclean living areas can breed dangerous bacteria, which can result in respiratory infection.

Substrate with Oil

Certain wood shavings contain oils which can cause problems for your box turtle respiratory infection.

While you may enjoy the scent of cedar or pine, they have volatile oils that can cause respiratory infections and skin problems for your turtle.

The shavings release aromatic hydrocarbons and acids which are harmful to your pet. When in an enclosed habitat, your pet cannot get away from the fumes, destroying the cells in its lungs.

Low Temperatures

Respiratory infections can occur when your pet has been exposed to low temperatures for extended periods. It is essential that you keep the temperatures at optimum, monitoring them regularly to reduce the risk of infection.

Incorrect Humidity Levels

When humidity levels get too high, there is too much moisture in the air, which can also cause a respiratory infection in your pet. Monitor your humidity levels to ensure that they don’t rise too much.

Lower Respiratory Infection

Low Temperatures

Temperatures dropping below optimum for extended periods can be harmful to your pet. You want to ensure you continue to monitor and maintain the temperature in their enclosure, keeping them comfortable and healthy.

High Humidity

High humidity plays a role in lower respiratory infections. Exposing your box turtle to high humidity for extended periods is very damaging to their respiratory health.

Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency is caused by an incorrect diet. Box turtles that are fed an all meat, poor quality commercial food, or iceberg lettuce diet are at higher risk of Vitamin A deficiency, which can result in respiratory infection.

Lack of Vitamin A results in changes to the outer layer of the skin, along with the mucus-producing glands that line the eyes, kidneys, mouth, and respiratory tract.

If your pet has a Vitamin A deficiency, it may be lethargic, have a lack of appetite, its eyelids may be swollen, the ear may be swollen, they can experience kidney failure and respiratory infections.


Bacteria is a result of poor living conditions. If your box turtle has been exposed to a dirty and unhygienic enclosure for some time, bacteria have probably moved in and are taking over, which can result in respiratory infection.


Respiratory infections in box turtles can quickly turn into pneumonia, which can be fatal if not treated quickly.

If you notice that your pet is not interested in food or is showing signs of respiratory infection, you want to ensure you have a treatment plan in place as quickly as possible to get your pet back on the road to recovery.

Start by identifying if your temperatures are accurate. Remember your box turtle cannot regulate its own body temperature.

In the wild, it relies on the sun to warm its body and the shade to cool down. Therefore, you need to provide a gradient inside the enclosure: a warm side and a cool side.

The warm side should between 75°F to 80°F (24°C to 27°C), while temperatures can drop to 70°F (21°C) on the cool side. Box turtles appreciate a basking area, which you can have at 85°F (29 °C).

Go through the enclosure with a fine-tooth comb, correcting any problems as you find them.

Look for broken light bulbs that may not be providing the warmth your pet needs. Sometimes simply increasing the enclosure temperatures to optimum will get your pet perked up and feeling better.

It is always important to seek veterinary treatment for respiratory infections, so increasing temperatures can be a temporary measure while you wait for your veterinary appointment.

The vet will perform a number of tests on your box turtle to identify respiratory infection. They may do an X-Ray to look for visible damage to the lungs while taking a discharge sample for testing.

Depending on the severity of the respiratory infection, antibiotics may be administered.


When it comes to box turtle care, prevention is always better than cure. Ensure you have the right substrate, temperatures, humidity and provide a clean enclosure with a well-balanced and healthy diet.


Substrate best recommended for box turtles is eco earth, or sphagnum peat moss, which helps with humidity levels and isn’t dry to have a dust that can irritate your pet’s respiratory tract.

Monitor Temperatures

Using a digital thermometer, you are able to monitor the warm and cool side of the enclosure at a glance.

Regular monitoring will ensure the enclosure never drops below the desired temperatures that keep your pet happy and healthy.

Remember your pet requires the following temperatures:

  • Warm Side – 75°F to 80°F (24°C to 27°C)
  • Cool Side – 70°F (21°C)
  • Basking Area – 85°F (29 °C).

Monitor Humidity

Humidity plays a vital role in your pet’s respiratory health. Humidity levels that drop too low can dry out your pet’s respiratory tract, while humidity levels too high can expose your pet to too much moisture.

Ensure the enclosure remains between sixty to eighty percent. You can monitor this with a digital hygrometer, which will provide you with the ability to monitor your humidity levels every time you walk past the enclosure.


A dirty habitat is a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria. You want to provide a clean habitat for your box turtle to help prevent the risk of respiratory infection.

Daily Cleaning

You will want to remove any uneaten food and poop from the enclosure on a daily basis. Ensure the water filter is working properly for the swimming water.

Every Second Day

Every second day you will want to check the PH levels of the swimming water in your box turtle’s enclosure, which should be between seven or eight on the scale of one to fourteen.

PH test kits can be purchased online or at pet stores. Correct PH in the water helps your pet remain strong and healthy.


Once a week, remove some of the water from the swimming water and replace with clean water. Even water that looks clean may be high in nitrites and ammonia.

Every Second Week

Every second week you will want to do a thorough tank clean. This means removing your turtle from its habitat, removing everything, and cleaning it. Wash and disinfect the tank, swimming areas, water bowls, and filter.

Return your pet once the tank is set up again and all temperatures and humidity are at optimum.


It is imperative that your box turtle has a healthy diet with plenty of Vitamin A. The foods to provide include dark, leafy greens, yellow or orange vegetables. Some commercial pellets and Vitamin A in them to help meet your turtle’s needs.


Due to the severity of respiratory infections in box turtles, it’s best to have your preventative measures in place.

Keeping the enclosure clean, ensuring your temperature and humidity remain at optimum, along with a healthy and well-balanced diet can all be useful in helping reduce the risk of your box turtle developing a respiratory infection.

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