Common Sulcata Tortoise Eye Problems

Sulcata tortoises (African spurred tortoise) are relatively susceptible to eye problems. The good news is that in most cases they are easy to treat.

Eye problems can be problematic for your reptilian pet, making it hard to identify food and eat.

Speedy treatment can get your Sulcata tortoise back to full health efficiently.

Knowing the signs and the various eye problems these tortoises can get can help you identify what could be wrong and how to treat it.

Eye Infection

Eye infections can occur due to numerous factors including something getting stuck in the eye, poor habitat conditions, and more. In some cases, eye infections are also associated with respiratory infections.

Symptoms of eye infections include reddening, puffiness, and rubbing or scratching of the eye.

If you suspect your sulcata tortoise may have an eye infection, it’s best to have it checked at the vet soonest to diagnose and treat the eye problem.

The vet examines the glands for swelling, which can be a sign of a vitamin A deficiency, which is a result of poor diet. Your pet will have a Vitamin A injection to stabilize the condition.

Most eye infections in these tortoises are due to physical trauma, sand or dirt under the eyelid, or a respiratory infection.

The vet will take a sample of the eye mucus to provide a precise diagnosis to ensure suitable antibiotics are prescribed. Antibiotics are usually given via injection.

Puffy Eyes

Puffy eyes are very common for sulcata tortoises and can be dangerous if not treated effectively.

There are numerous factors that could cause puffy eyes from dehydration to eye obstructions and eye infections to harsh lighting irritation and malnutrition.

Eye Watering

Watery eyes in tortoises are often associated with a respiratory infection.

The start is usually a running nose that has clear discharge coming from the nose. You may notice some bubbles forming at the nostrils, combined with noisy breathing.

The discharge will become thicker and more yellow in coloration.

It is very common for the eyes to become watery as a result of the swelling in the area. Other signs to look for are lethargy and lack of appetite.

Eye Closed

If your sulcata tortoise refuses to open its eyes during daylight hours, there could be a problem.

One of the main issues that causes closed eyes in these tortoises is dehydration, a lack of humidity in the habitat. The tortoise will close its eyes in order to keep the eyes moist.

You can help them open their eyes by providing regular baths and giving the humidity in the habitat a bit of a boost.

If you improve humidity and your pet still won’t open its eyes, then it could be due to the lack of airflow in the habitat. Sulcata tortoises should not be kept in a glass vivarium or aquarium, as they do not provide enough airflow.

If improving airflow and humidity levels don’t help and your pet still keeps its eyes closed, then you will want to make an appointment with your reptilian vet.

Swollen Eyes

The most common reason your sulcata tortoise may have swollen eyes is a Vitamin A deficiency, referred to as hypovitaminosis A.

This is due to an incorrect diet and can be a serious problem for your sulcata tortoise. If your tortoise enjoys a diet of iceberg lettuce, which is low quality on the diet list, then your pet could be struggling with a deficiency.

The good news is that this can be fixed quickly with the right diet.

Vitamin A deficiency doesn’t only cause swollen eyes, so other signs to look for include pus-like discharge from the eyes, changes to the skin, loss of appetite, wheezing, and lethargy.

You will need to visit your reptile vet for diagnosis and treatment, which often includes a Vitamin A injection and then oral supplements.

You must consult the vet before administering Vitamin A to your pet. While they need the vitamin, too much can also be a serious problem, resulting in serious health issues.

Don’t take it upon yourself to treat. Change the diet and visit the vet for the best results.

How To Prevent Sulcata Tortoise Eye Problems


Keeping your tortoise’s habitat clean is essential to its health.

Clean the habitat daily to remove any poop and debris. Any uneaten food should be removed within three hours of feeding. Change the water to provide fresh, clean water.

Once a month you will want to do a thorough clean. This can be done using a good quality reptile disinfectant. Remove everything from the enclosure. Disinfect the enclosure and any decorations, replace the bedding, and provide fresh, clean water.

Temperatures and Humidity

It is imperative that you constantly monitor your temperature and humidity levels inside the habitat to ensure your sulcata tortoise remains comfortable and happy.

The easiest way to achieve this is to use a digital hygrometer and thermometer, which offers a digital display and remote probe to secure accurate levels as and when you need them.

Your sulcata tortoise’s habitat should have humidity levels of between 60% and 80%. You can achieve this through misting.

Daytime temperatures should be in the 80ºF range with nighttime temperatures of 72ºF or more.


It is essential to provide your tortoise with a well-balanced diet, keeping the immune system boosted to reduce the risk of eye problems.

This means feeding hay and grasses all the time. This should be the bulk of their diet.

Leafy greens can be added on a semi-regular basis, say sixty percent of the time. This should include kale, collard greens, dandelion greens, and turnip. Stay away from parsley, spinach, beet greens, and rhubarb.

You can add vegetables to the diet, about 20% of the time. Include raw squash, sweet potato, pumpkin, corn on the cob, kale, raw carrots, and broccoli. Never make kale or broccoli the bulk of the vegetable greens.

Your sulcata tortoise probably loves fruits, but they should make up only 20% of the diet.

Fruits should be given as a treat, as they are high in sugar and water, which is not normal for these tortoises in the wild. Treats can include strawberries, bananas with skin, berries, apricots, apples, and pears.

Your sulcata tortoise should be fed daily for the first year and then three times a week once it reaches twelve months of age. Remember they come from a semi-desert area where there isn’t plenty of food.


You should be providing your sulcata tortoise with a calcium supplement a few times a week. This is simply sprinkled over the food.

You can also choose a multivitamin, which will ensure your pet receives all the vitamins and minerals it needs to stay fit, healthy, and happy.


Eye problems can be scary when you notice them for the first time. Knowing your tortoise can help you quickly identify any eye problems and seek the care your pet needs.

Even with the best prevention methods in place, eye problems can occur. Provide a well-balanced diet, clean habitat, and the right humidity and temperature ranges to reduce the risk of eye problems in the future.

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