Can turtles drown? You may be surprised to know that they can! The reason is that they do not have gills. Being cold blooded, they have the ability to spend long periods underwater. Although they live in water, and can remain underwater for extended periods, they have to come up for air.
If you plan to or already have a pet turtle, you need to be aware of some basic facts about this unusual creature to be able to provide suitable care.
Important Turtle Facts
Turtles are completely fascinating and have complicated bodies and functions.
The most common misconceptions about turtles arise when people consider them to be similar to fish. Turtles are not fish; they are reptiles. To be more specific, they are chelonians. Other creatures in the chelonia order include tortoises and terrapins.
Turtles breathe air through lungs, like people and thus are unable to remain underwater continuously for unlimited periods. Their ability to hold their breath underwater for extended periods is far longer than people, but they do have to come up to the surface every now and then, failing to do so may lead to drowning.
Another important fact that you must know is that turtles are cold-blooded or ectothermic creatures. They are unable to regulate the temperatures of their bodies like people. The temperature of a turtle’s body is established based on his surroundings, whether water or air. This is why it is extremely important that you maintain and control the temperature of your turtle’s tank or habitat.
It would surely help you to know the names of some of the body parts of a turtle. The mouth of an aquatic turtle is called a beak. Turtles don’t have teeth, but beware of the turtle’s bite, because that can really hurt! The carapace is the top of the turtle’s shell, while the bottom is plastron. The vent is near the end of the plastron. The panels on the shell are known as scutes.
Is the Turtle a Male or a Female?
Unless you are an expert, you may not be able to tell if your turtle is a male or a female when it is young. You would be able to identify the sex in an adult turtle as the males have longer and thicker tails and their front claws are longer.
Do Turtles get Sick?
Yes, turtles may get sick like all other animals. Some of their illnesses are quite serious and you must visit the vet right away if this happens.
One of the most common and fatal illness is a respiratory infection or cold. This is often called RI by turtle owners. If it is left untreated, this can turn into pneumonia and can lead to the turtle’s death very soon.
The symptoms you need to look out for are lethargy, lack of appetite, strained breathing, wheezing, runny nose and swollen eyes. If you observe one or more of these symptoms, increase and maintain the tank’s temperature to approximately 90 degrees Fahrenheit and take it to the vet right away.
Can Turtles Drown?
We’ve already discussed the fact that turtles can drown as they don’t have gills like fish. They breathe through their lungs.
If you believe that your turtle is ill and has probably drowned, you must not flip it over. There is a possibility that he may have some air left in the lungs, and if you turn your pet upside down, he will surely die.
The right treatment would be to place the turtle gently on a flat area. Move the front legs inwards and outwards firmly. Any water that may have gathered in the lungs will push the water out through the nose. You need to contact the vet right away. Even if the turtle is very still do not be alarmed because they can stay completely still for long periods and your turtle may still be alive.
If your pet is a land tortoise, he may or may not have the ability to swim. If placed in a tank, he may sink to the bottom like a rock and drown.
More Turtle Emergencies
There are some other situations in which it would be advisable to take your turtle to the vet. This includes an accident or fall due to which the shell breaks, serious injuries or cuts on the head or eyes, blood flow from the vent, eyes, nose or mouth, diarrhea or vomiting.
Since now we know that turtles can drown, we can make a few suggestions on how this can be avoided. While building an indoor or outdoor habitat for your turtle, make sure that you have a steady ramp that he can use to get out of the water when needed to. The outdoor habitat should be in a place that doesn’t get flooded in heavy rain. If your turtle hibernates in the outdoors, be sure that he isn’t in a place where he may drown in melting snow.