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what happens if you drop a tortoise?

Can Tortoises Survive A Fall? (I Dropped My Tortoise!)

Last Updated on October 5, 2023 by Samantha Harris

Tortoises may sustain injuries when dropped during handling and falling from high places.

After all, most tortoises are active climbers who often attempt to scale rocks, walls, trees, fences, and other raised surfaces in their surrounding environment.

Tortoises often survive a fall as their strong shells protect their internal organs.

Unfortunately, being dropped from a height can inflict significant injuries, including cracked shells and breakage, broken bones, head and eye trauma, and internal injuries.

A bad fall can puncture the skin underneath the carapace or plastron. Consequently, bacteria can enter the exposed wounds, leading to blood infection and shell rot.

It’s not always possible to visually assess the extent of any damage sustained from a fall. If a tortoise experiences a fall, it should always be checked over by a veterinarian.

What Happens If You Drop A Tortoise?

Dropping a tortoise is a traumatic and painful experience, especially if it falls on a concrete, wooden, or tiled floor. If the tortoise lands on its back, the impact may cause its shell to crack or break.

The shards of a broken shell can puncture the skin, causing significant discomfort and bleeding. This can expose a tortoise to bacterial blood infections, like sepsis.

Minor shell injuries can heal on their own. Even if the cracks are severe, they can usually be repaired. Vets can piece together cracked tortoise shells, but this depends on the location and severity of the cracks.

Minor cracks can be fixed by applying fiberglass to the carapace. Larger cracks may require prosthetic wires or zip ties to hold the broken pieces together.

Follow-up treatments are necessary to ensure the tortoise’s shell is healing correctly.

Will A Tortoise Die If It Falls on Its Back?

The tortoise may sustain injuries to its shell and limbs, which a vet can usually treat. Unfortunately, there are circumstances where a tortoise is likelier to die lying on its back.

For example, leaving a tortoise on its back in the sun can be fatal if it’s unable to flip itself over. In this situation, the tortoise is likely to die from heatstroke.

According to Ecology and Evolution, the body temperature of tortoises depends on thermal fluctuations in their environment. This is why torts dig burrows to cool themselves.

The upper area of the shell contains a lung and air sac space. When a tortoise is stuck on its back, the liver, stomach, and intestinal tract fill this area of the carapace, impacting its respiration.

will a tortoise die if it falls on its back?

I Dropped My Tortoise On The Floor

If you accidentally drop a tortoise from any height, the chances are that it’ll sustain injuries from the impact of hitting the hard floor.

Significant injuries are usually apparent upon observation, including the following:

  • Fractured shell.
  • Broken bones.
  • Severe bruising.
  • Profuse bleeding.
  • Eye damage.

If the tortoise has sustained internal injuries, you may observe a change in its overall demeanor. For example, the tortoise may be unable to eat or walk as well as previously.

If a tortoise has sustained internal injuries, you may observe blood in its poop. A black or tar-like stool signifies dried blood, while bright red blood means that it’s still bleeding.

I Dropped My Tortoise on Its Back

Dropping a tortoise on its back can cause severe damage to its shell and internal organs. Immediately after the accident, examine the carapace for signs of damage, like cracks and bleeding.

According to the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine, repairing a tortoise’s shell isn’t as difficult as we might think. Usually, cracked or broken tortoise shells can be repaired using:

  • Epoxy resin.
  • Fiberglass.
  • Wire stitching.

A vet may prescribe antibiotics to protect the wounds from infection. Even if the tortoise’s shell is intact and seems outwardly okay, it may have sustained internal injuries that are difficult to assess.

Monitor the tortoise for behavioral changes. Check for signs, such as:

  • Reduced mobility.
  • Loss of balance and coordination.
  • Inappetence.
  • General lethargy.

We strongly recommend that all dropped tortoises receive a health checkup from a vet.

I Accidentally Dropped A Baby Tortoise

Young tortoises, especially hatchlings, are vulnerable to severe injuries because their shells aren’t fully developed. One of the reasons baby torts sleep so much is to allow physical development.

Unfortunately, young tortoises can roll over in your hands and fall despite careful handling. Even a drop from a few feet can shatter their carapace/plastron and cause severe flesh wounds.

Depending on the severity of the injuries, a vet might:

  • Apply epoxy resin to stick the pieces of the broken shell together.
  • Use wires to keep them in place.

The vet will start by cleaning and disinfecting the wounds before administering antibiotics.

What Do I Do If I Dropped A Tortoise?

If you accidentally drop a tortoise, check its shell and other body parts for injuries.

Short drops can cause minor or no injuries. If you’ve dropped a tortoise from a considerable height, it’ll likely sustain severe injuries that aren’t always obvious or outwardly visible.

A vet will assess the damage and provide treatment, depending on the severity of the injuries.

Even if a tortoise hasn’t sustained any physical injuries, it’ll likely be stressed and in shock. This means it’ll need time to rest and mentally recover from this traumatic experience.