Feeding and Nutrition :: Turtle hesitates to bite food

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Post Posted: Sun Sep 30, 2018 10:21 pm   Turtle hesitates to bite food

My 15 year old female hesitates to bite food. She opens up her mouth and acts like she is going to bite the food, and then back away. It's almost like she's scared of the food. She eventually eats if I drop the food into the tank, but normally she bite lettuce out of my hand. All other behavior seems normal. There is no wheezing or mucus, and swimming and basking seems normal. I can't think of anything that has changed to make her scared of food. Does anyone know what could be causing this?

Here is a video showing the behavior:
https://youtu.be/4jq90DRlttU
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Post Posted: Mon Oct 01, 2018 11:51 am   Re: Turtle hesitates to bite food

Need some more information... did you always feed her like this? Is that her normal tank?
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Post Posted: Mon Oct 01, 2018 12:57 pm   Re: Turtle hesitates to bite food

This is her in her feeding tank in the video. Her normal tank is a 90 gallon aquarium with sand substrate. The tank has an above tank basking area and is filled with with approximately 80 gallons of water and a piece of driftwood. Filter is a Rena Filstar XP. Heater is a Rena SmartHeater.

Her normal diet consists of red leaf lettuce and Zoo Med Natural Aquatic Maintenance Formula. She'll also get other food on occasion (dandelion greens, green leaf lettuce, endive, carrots).

She'll normally bites one piece and then slides into the water to eat. I then tear the remaining lettuce into smaller pieces and toss it in the feeding tank. However, she currently exhibits the same behavior with the pieces in the water. She eventually eats all of the food, but she hesitates during the first couple bites.

I'm holding the food in the video to better demonstrate the behavior in question, but she normally tries to bite the food out of my hand when I first put her in the feeding tank. Her biting the food from my hand is normal. The hesitation is not.

Last night I noticed her basking light was burnt out and her heater quit working. The water temperature was down to 68 degrees. I replaced the basking light, and increased the temperature in the house (I'll pick up a new heater today). The water temp is now at 72 degrees. She is not showing any signs of respiratory infection, but that's always a worry.

Let me know if you need any other info.
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Post Posted: Tue Oct 02, 2018 9:14 am   Re: Turtle hesitates to bite food

I wonder if holding it that way makes it a bit harder for her to grab but I don't think she's scared. Does she behave the same way with other foods?
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Post Posted: Tue Oct 02, 2018 9:45 am   Re: Turtle hesitates to bite food

Back when I volunteered at the nature center I fed a turtle with a vision problem and it acted this way to a point. Not scared but was unnerved and not sure of itself. Doctor Thomas had me "soak all" her food in some tuna water ( not oil type ) so she could use her since of smell along with her poor sight and it helped.

I'm not a Vet just an old timer that cares about turtles. To the best of my memory turtles do not have an tapeium lucidum they are diurnal like us. I'm looking at the type/shape of the eye reflection , the opaqueness ? Not the light from the background. To me somethings up. Turtles can get cataracts. Try bring you finger on left side then right side of her head and see how she reacts ? As turtles get older things do and can change for them. Her depth perception may be off some ? In the video she does not like approaching from one side at all (using her left eye ) but try's hard with her right eye to approach. May just be age she is 15 , not all turtles age the same. Look's like you have a good relationship with her , a little more time may be needed to feed her. Observe well even when you play with her see if it may be a sight problem ? Try things at different distances on each side of her head and observe any differences.

Any photo's / closeups of the eye's may not come out to post unless you have a macro lens. You can compare from photo's on forum or google and click on images to see yourself since you can put her in your hand to see closeup and test her vision. To me something is cloudy and blurred on / in the eye , my opinion only.


Example: photo of Piggley I could find to show eye. Turtle eyes are built similar to ours and only the center of pupils reflect not the whole eye unless something like a cataract or a type of membrane growth on it. Note very center of Piggleys eye / pupil with the white dot. Not the whole eye in any direction as in the video when it catches the light.
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Post Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2018 9:07 am   Re: Turtle hesitates to bite food

Litefoot and Steve, thanks for helping me with this. It’s much appreciated.

I tried to test her vision and she tracked my fingers from both sides. She also noticed me walking past her room and started splashing. When she’s in the tank, she often tries to bite my finger through the glass. I noticed a red/raw spot when she opened her mouth.

This is a cropped screenshot of the video I took. Can I treat this at home or does she need to see the vet?
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Post Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2018 9:29 am   Re: Turtle hesitates to bite food

Great observing , from only the video I was concerned with the way the eye looked. It look's good in this photo !

I do not see any tissue damage and most will heal on it's own in time with some help from you. A Herp Vet may give her safe antibiotic's to help prevent infection while healing. Also he/she may grind down that pointed area to help in preventing tissue damage. If you have a great relationship with your turtle and with some help (2 person job ) using a small nail file or an emery board take that pointed area off. Be very careful not to damage the mouth or tongue area ! Do not use any type dremel tool !!! Environments turtles live in are known for all kind of microorganisms that slow down the healing process. She looks healthy and will heal , so to help , keep her home extra super clean. This will help speed up the healing and follow what the vet say's if you choose to go to one.
During this time I would offer small pieces of food that she can just swallow without biting and any type stick food I would soak to soften for her. Do you have any supplements to offer ?
Last edited by litefoot on Wed Oct 03, 2018 9:56 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Post Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2018 9:46 am   Re: Turtle hesitates to bite food

No supplements other than calcium. What supplements should I give her? Is it safe to put neosporin on her mouth?
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Post Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2018 10:01 am   Re: Turtle hesitates to bite food

Not seeing any tissue damage I say no. I would be afraid too much may be swallowed. Yes tissue area is a little red , may be tender for her. I would let it heal on it's own. The beak area will grow back. Soften and small food will be easier for her . She will heal , it's harder for us in the extra time we take to feed them during this time and patience on our part but all will be good.

I was editing about filing down that pointed area when you responded , see that edit.

I use Rep-Cal calcium with vit-D3. It's a powder and works best in jello shots to get more in a turtle. That and a well varied nutritious diet will help along with keeping an extra clean environment.

When I say keep her tank super clean , that's serious , clean so to prevent any infection. "Super clean" you don't want any infection to turn into mouth rot ! Observe well ! Even with no tissue damage I see in photo a Vet may see a need or as a "prevention" for antibiotic's to help heal faster.
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Post Posted: Thu Oct 04, 2018 4:26 am   Re: Turtle hesitates to bite food

I don't think I've seen a cut/rip in that area before. You'll need to keep a very close eye on that area to make sure it's actually healing properly.
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Post Posted: Thu Oct 04, 2018 4:52 am   Re: Turtle hesitates to bite food

I would also inspect her regular home for safety ! If you have any small gravel may of bit down and broke her beak or something she bit hard may of caused the damage. Small rocks or gravel if swallowed can cause internal blockages too.



Just for me if you don't mind. Were you holding a flash light or a lamp when taking the video in the background to get that type of eye glow ? Thanks'
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Post Posted: Thu Oct 04, 2018 5:53 pm   Re: Turtle hesitates to bite food

Yes, the flash was on in the video. Her tank has a sand substrate with no rocks, but I'll check the tank for anything she may have injured herself on when I get back home this weekend. I just did a 3/4 water change and cleaned the filter last week. My wife is currently dry docking her after a call to the vet, and I'll take her to the vet's office next week.

Thanks for all of the help. I'll update this thread when I have some more info.
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Post Posted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 7:27 pm   Re: Turtle hesitates to bite food

I cleaned the tank, installed a new heater, and installed a new UV bulb. She is still taking a long time to finish her food, but it looks like it is starting to heal.

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Post Posted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 10:24 pm   Re: Turtle hesitates to bite food

Does look much better, hopefully she'll be back to normal soon!
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