Horsefield Tortoise Infectious Diseases such as Respiratory, Herpes, injuries, Septicemia and Metabolic Bone Disease

Understanding the infectious diseases that are prominent within the horsefield tortoise community can help you to act preventatively so that your horsefield tortoise lives a long and healthy life. 

Continue reading to learn more!


Horsefield Tortoise Infectious Diseases such as Respiratory, Herpes, injuries, Septicemia and Metabolic Bone DiseaseThis problem happens a lot. The cause is from too low of temperatures. The symptoms are a runny nose, abnormal eyes or a constantly open mouth. Bring the temperature back up to the level it needs to be at to fix this respiratory issue. Also, for a short time, raise the temperature a bit higher that normal and lower the humidity. If that doesn’t fix the problem see your vet for antibiotics.



There is no cure and it is very contagious. Isolate this tortoise from any other animal. You can treat your tortoise Acyclovir, an antiviral drug.  This drug will help to suppress herpes and help him live longer. Horsefield tortoises can die from herpes not a lot is known about this disease but stress can accelerate its growth.

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A tortoise can be inflicted injuries by accident on himself or by predator bites. Also, aggressive behavior with one another, especially revolving around mating can result in injury. Horsefield tortoise males are extremely aggressive when it comes to mating. Be aware of these and separate when needed to avoid ramming, biting and even death. When tortoises have such health issues in the wild then gravitate to warmer temperatures. Increase the temperature a few degrees to help their immune system to fight back harder to help improve recovery.

Skin injuries can be taken care of by washing with fresh running water and then clean it with povidone iodine. Do not wipe the injury. Lastly, put antibiotic ointment in the injury. Within a warm and dry temperature it should form a scab and start to head.

Shell injuries can be taken care of by using Betadine.

Watch the injured area to make sure it heals properly and it does not get a bacterial infection. If the wound is more severe, as the owner, you are obligated to get medical attention (via veterinarian) for your tortoise.



This is an infection that usually happens with young tortoises. This infection runs in the tortoises blood and usually doesn’t have a very good outcome. You can tell he has septicemia when there is visible internal or external bleeding between the keratin layers (or creases/divides) in the shell.

It takes a bit to get to this point and there are several signs that you can look for before it gets very bad and turns into septicemia. These pre-warning signs include a runny nose, lethargy and sunken eyes.

Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)

This disease is very common. It is caused from a lack of nutrients; calcium, vitamin D and UV light. The first signs are when the shell gets soft and their jaw starts to get messed up. If untreated, both signs will worsen to the point of further body malfunction.

A simple explanation is that bones account for much of a tortoise’s body (shell included). When it doesn’t get enough of the nutrients that the bones need they start to bread down.

To prevent this feed your tortoise a variety of foods, cuttlebone, and UV exposure through either a lamp or natural sunlight.

If you think your pet might have MBD take him to the vet. The vet will most likely prescribe calcium supplements and instruct you to feed him extra high nutritional foods and UV exposure.  Foods high in calcium include cactus pads, collard greens, dandelions, mulberry leaves, mustard greens and turnip tops.

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