Have you recently noticed that your turtle’s nail is bleeding? There could be a chance it’s broken and in need of your attention, or possibly professional attention. In most cases, you have nothing to worry about at all. In other cases, you will need to seek veterinary assistance as soon as possible to prevent the condition from worsening and potentially becoming life threatening.
I know it’s scary. He’s your beloved pet, after all. But don’t worry, you can address the situation on your own.
Here’s what to do if your turtle’s nail is bleeding — and why it happens in the first place.
Turtle Broken Nail Causes
Turtle nails are made from keratin, the same structural protein that makes up human nails and hair. According to science, female turtles naturally have shorter claws on their front limbs, while males typically have longer claws. Most of the time, you can determine whether a turtle is male or female by their claw length.
Just like a human nail, the nail of a turtle will grow continuously and will wear down naturally as they move over rough terrain and rocks. That’s the trouble with pet turtles. Since they don’t usually get the right type of substrate needed to wear down their nails in the same way they would in the wild, it can leave their nails prone to overgrowth.
Aquatic turtles don’t normally have an issue with overgrown claws. However, box turtles that live on wood shavings or newspaper are particularly susceptible to overgrown nails. When your turtle’s nails are overgrown, they can easily get caught in areas of his habitat, which can cause nail bleeding, injuries, and possibly even the loss of the claw.
It’s important to remember that overgrown nails prevent your turtle from walking normally, causing abnormal movement and pressure on her footpads, which can lead to painful sores and overall unhappiness. Left untreated, these sores can result in an infection.
In addition to long nails getting caught on things, nail breakage and bleeding in turtles can occur as a result of biting (from themselves and other turtles) as well as poor nutrition and lack of sunlight. And it can occur if you accidentally cut into the nail quick.
Ways to Treat and Prevent Nail Bleeding
Keep Him in a Dry, Cool Area
Often referred to as dry docking, remove him from the tank and keep him in a dry, cool area. You’ll probably need to do this for the next couple of days in order to allow the bleeding to stop. Besides keeping him healthy, doing this will remove your turtle from a stressful situation, avoiding any unwanted stress and anxiety. If possible, choose a small, basic enclosure where he won’t be at risk of further damage.
Apply Pressure to the Area
To stop the area from bleeding, apply pressure to the area using your hands and a clean, dry cloth or old piece of clothing. It’s the best way to stop him bleeding and speed up the healing process. Ask a friend for help if you’re struggling to do everything single-handedly.
Clean the area
To keep things hygienic and your pet turtle less prone to infection, clean the wound area with diluted Novalsa or Betadine. Then apply a little Neosporin over it. Avoid using ointments or medicines, as these may slow the progression of healing and even make your turtle sick.
Dab on Some Cornstarch
If you cut too close to the quick of your turtle’s nail while trimming, you can injure the turtle and cause bleeding. If this happens, simply dab on some cornstarch directly to the tip of the nails to treat the bleeding. You can also apply a little antibacterial ointment to keep the area clean and ward off infection.
Provide him with the Right Environment
If you’re holding him in a captive environment, the least you can do is give him an environment as close to his natural environment. This way, your turtle’s nails can wear down naturally and you’ll significantly cut his risks of getting his nails trapped and caught in things.
Trim His Nails Regularly
To ensure their nails are kept at a manageable length, trim your turtle’s nails 2-3 times per year. If your turtle’s nails are overgrown, it’ll be easy to see. If you have any concerns about trimming his nails or you don’t feel confident doing it yourself, book an appointment with your vet. They’ll be able to do it for you — safely and effectively.
If you are going to trim your turtle’s nails, make sure you use a pair of clean, well-sharpened clipped designers especially for the purpose of nail cutting. Keep a styptic pencil and hydrogen peroxide at hand while performing the trim. Steer clear of the quick to avoid any unwanted bleeding.
Up his Vitamin Intake
Feeding your turtle with a nutritious, vitamin-rich diet can help strengthen his nails and prevent breakage and bleeding. According to experts, turtles lacking vitamin C, calcium, and other nutrients are more vulnerable to dry skin and nail breakage. Try feeding him a more nutritious diet so that he gets all the vitamins he needs to thrive.
Show him the Sun
Interestingly, turtles need a source of ultraviolet (UV) light in their tanks in order to effectively absorb nutrients and maintain nail health. Your turtle spends most of his days basking this type of light to produce vitamin D3. And he’ll need this vitamin in order to absorb calcium. Of course, make sure you don’t overdo it, as this can lead to adverse effects.
Take Him to the Veterinarian
If the bleeding has not stopped and your turtle seems in pain, take him to your veterinarian immediately. While nail bleeding in turtles is generally harmless, it’s worth keeping your eye on it to ensure things do not progress.
You can do your bit of first aid for your injured turtle, including keeping the area clean and housing her in a safe, clean, and cool environment. However, if you have any concerns whatsoever regarding your turtle’s wellbeing, get him professionally checked over. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Do Turtle Nails Grow Back?
Unless the nail bed has been significantly damaged, your turtle’s nails will most likely grow back. If his nail has been torn off completely, expect to wait a lot longer for it to regrow.
Provided that you take good care of him and fulfil his health and environmental needs, you can definitely expect your turtle’s nails to grow back and regain their full health. By improving his home, upping his intake of nutrients, and giving him regular nail trims, you can support your turtle’s nail health and prevent issues like bleeding and broken nails from happening once more.