Tortoises can sustain injuries due to drops during handling and falls from high places.
After all, most tortoises are active climbers, and they often attempt to scale rocks and other raised surfaces in their surrounding environment.
Usually, tortoises can survive a fall as their strong shells protect their vulnerable internal organs.
However, being dropped from a height can inflict significant injuries, including shell cracking and breakage, broken bones, head trauma, and internal injuries.
A bad fall can puncture the layer of skin underneath the carapace or plastron. Consequently, the exposed wounds can be infected by bacteria and fungi, leading to shell rot.
If a tortoise sustains an injury due to a fall, it must be checked by a herp veterinarian.
What Happens If You Drop A Tortoise?
Dropping a tortoise can be a traumatic and painful experience, especially if it falls on a hard surface, like concrete or a tiled floor.
If the tortoise lands on its back, the impact can cause its shell to crack or break, thus leaving its skin exposed and vulnerable.
Also, the shards of a broken shell can puncture the skin, causing pain and bleeding and exposing them to bacterial infections of the bloodstream, like sepsis.
However, minor shell injuries can heal on their own without medical intervention. Even if the cracks are severe, they can still be repaired.
Several treatments 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.
An experienced herp vet will administer this after a physical examination. Follow-up treatments are often included to ensure the tortoise’s shell is healing correctly.
The most important factor will be checking for infection or improper healing.
Will A Tortoise Die If It Falls on Its Back?
The chances of a tortoise dying from falling on its back are quite low.
Usually, the tortoise will sustain injuries to its shell and limbs, which can be treated. However, there are circumstances where a tortoise is likelier to die lying on its back.
Leaving a tortoise on its back in the sun, for instance, can be fatal if it’s unable to flip itself over.
In this case, the tortoise is likely to die of overheating. Tortoises, like all reptiles, are cold-blooded animals, which means they can’t self-regulate their body temperature.
According to Ecology and Evolution, the body temperature of tortoises depends on thermal fluctuations in their environment.
This is why most species of torts dig burrows to cool themselves when the temperature is too high. If the tortoise can’t get out of the sun because it’s on its back, this can lead to its body temperature rising excessively, resulting in dehydration and heat stroke.
Moreover, a tortoise lying on its back exerts pressure on its lungs, which can cause them to collapse and even result in death by suffocation.
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.
Major injuries are usually apparent upon observation, including the following:
- Fractured shell.
- Broken bones.
- Severe bruising.
- Profuse bleeding.
If the tortoise has sustained internal injuries, you may observe a change in its overall demeanor. For example, it may not be able to eat or walk as well as it did previously.
If the tortoise doesn’t show any obvious signs of injury, monitor it closely for 24-48 hours to see whether it’s exhibiting unusual changes in behavior.
I Dropped My Tortoise on Its Back
As mentioned, dropping a tortoise on its back can cause serious damage to its shell and internal organs.
So, immediately after the accident, your first step is to examine its carapace for signs of damage, such as cracks and bleeding.
Take the tortoise to a vet for care and treatment if you notice any abnormalities. Otherwise, these injuries will only worsen or result in death.
According to the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine, repairing a tortoise’s shell isn’t as complicated as we might think. In most cases, cracked or broken tortoise shells can be repaired using the following:
- Epoxy resin.
- Wire stitching.
Your 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 closely for any behavioral changes that may signal an underlying problem. If you notice anything unusual, schedule a check-up with your vet. Check for signs, such as:
- Reduced mobility.
- Loss of appetite.
- General lethargy.
I Accidentally Dropped A Baby Tortoise
Falling from a height at any age can inflict injuries, putting a tortoise at risk of other health problems.
Young tortoises, especially hatchlings, are highly susceptible to serious injuries because their shells aren’t yet fully developed. So, even a drop from a few feet can shatter their carapace/plastron and severely wound the vulnerable skin under their shells.
Unfortunately, young tortoises can be quite hyperactive, increasing the risk of rolling over in your hands and falling, despite your best efforts at handling them carefully.
Depending on the severity of the injuries, your vet might:
- Apply epoxy resin to stick back the pieces of the broken shell together.
- Use wires to keep them in place.
The vet will also clean and disinfect the wounds and administer antibiotics to minimize the risk of developing a bacterial infection.
What Do I Do If I Dropped A Tortoise?
If you accidentally drop a tortoise, you must check its shell and other body parts for injuries.
Short drops will cause minor injuries or none at all. If you’ve dropped a tortoise from a considerable height, the chances are that it’s sustained serious injuries that may not be obvious or outwardly visible.
So, schedule a check-up with a vet to examine the tortoise in the aftermath of a drop. The vet will assess the damage and recommend 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. So, it’ll need time to rest and mentally recover from this traumatic experience.