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can you take a tortoise to the vets?

Do Tortoises Need To Go To The Vet?

Last Updated on June 2, 2022 by Samantha Harris

Most of what we know about caring for pets comes from our knowledge of mammals. Because tortoises are reptiles, their needs are different from other domesticated pets.

Tortoises need an annual veterinary checkup, ideally with herp a vet. Tortoises don’t have vaccinations, but you’ll need a vet for health problems.

This includes beak trimming, vomiting, respiratory issues, drooling, weight loss, dehydration, parasites, egg binding, and Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD).

Being able to accommodate a tortoise with quality healthcare should factor into your decision to get a new vet or keep the one you have.

Despite how strong and resilient they may be, tortoises are exotic animals that need specialist care to live long, healthy lives in captivity.

Can You Take a Tortoise to the Vet?

It’s recommended that you take your tortoise for an annual checkup once a year.

Many assume that tortoises are completely self-sufficient without health problems. In truth, tortoises still get sick and stressed, so they need medical care.

Before you take your tortoise to the nearest vet, you need to call in to see if they can see your tortoise. Although tortoises are popular pets, they’re still considered exotic animals, and some vets may not feel comfortable treating them.

Contact several vet centers and see which one is the most:

  • Reputable
  • Convenient
  • Experienced with reptiles

Keep in mind that many vets add extra “exotic pet” fees.

Do Tortoises Need Vaccinations?

Tortoises can contract many diseases, but they don’t get vaccinated because there’s no proof that they benefit from getting them.

According to German Veterinary Weekly, there was no rise of antibody titers in vaccinated tortoises. Because vaccination does nothing to raise the antibody count in tortoises, vaccinating them is pointless.

how much are tortoise vet bills?

When Should I Take My Tortoise to the Vet?

You should take your tortoise to the vet once a year if it’s healthy. The number of vet visits may increase, depending on how long you’ve had the tortoise and how active it is.

Pet Stores

If you purchased your tortoise from a pet store, you should take it to the vet within the first 2 weeks of owning it because pet store tortoises tend to be grouped together.

This increases the chances of parasite and disease transmission between the tortoises.

Reputable Breeders

If you got your tortoise from an experienced, reputable breeder, there is a lesser chance of it having or developing a health issue. Still, you should take your new tortoise to a vet.

Owning Multiple Tortoises

If you have two tortoises and allow them to meet before making sure they’re both free of transmittable diseases, take them both to a vet.

Even if one of the tortoises has been raised in captivity all of its life, it could still have bacteria that the new tortoise may not have encountered. Tortoises raised outside of a tank are especially prone to diseases that may not affect them but instead affect other tortoises.


Laying eggs is a tiresome process that exhausts female tortoises. If she seems a little lethargic a few days after the egg-laying process, it’s okay to separate her from her babies and take her to the vet.

Mother tortoises don’t hang around long after the babies hatch, as hatching are independent.

Can a Breeder Check My Tortoise Instead of a Vet?

Caring for a tortoise can be difficult when you live in a rural area, as there may not be any vets nearby, especially those specializing in tortoises.

Because of this, there may be some benefit in consulting your local breeder about health issues your tortoise may have. However, this is only true if there are no other vets available.

A vet, even one with general training, will be better suited to take care of the medical aspects of any animal. Always get in touch with a vet before a breeder.

If you intend on owning a tortoise, but you aren’t able to reach a vet that handles them, you may want to reconsider owning an exotic pet.

If you already care for a tortoise and there are no vets available, you can contact your local breeder. Breeders have a lot of knowledge and experience with tortoises. So, they may be able to guide you if you’re concerned about your pet tortoise.

Of course, you should only contact a breeder over a vet for general concerns. Anything that requires a medical background, such as injections and surgeries, should be handled by a veterinarian.

How Do You Find a Good Vet for a Tortoise?

When seeking a good vet for your tortoise, look into all the vets that handle exotic animals in your area. Then, you can call them to ask questions and determine if they’re a good fit for you and your tortoise.

There are many online tortoise communities with listings of reputable vets worldwide. You can even contact a local breeder and see if the expert recommends any good vets.

Once you’ve found some vets near you, call them and ask questions, such as:

  1. How often do you treat tortoises?
  2. Do you have experience working with this (your) specific tortoise species?
  3. Can you trim tortoise beaks?
  4. What kind of surgeries can you perform on a tortoise?
  5. Are you available for after-hour emergencies?
  6. Are you able to keep tortoises overnight?
  7. Do you need me to bring anything to the appointment other than my tortoise?
  8. Do you make house calls (in the case of big tortoises)?

These questions will help you determine how experienced the vet is.

How Do Vets Check Tortoises?

A general checkup for a tortoise involves:

  • Checking for parasites
  • Injecting medicine or supplements
  • Checking eye health
  • Trimming the beak

Vets check for parasites with a fecal exam. They take the tortoise’s fecal matter and examine it in a lab.

Depending on the vet you choose, the expert will:

  • Take the sample when the tortoise is there
  • Ask you to bring a sample with you
  • Require you to send the sample via mail

If your tortoise needs an injection, this is also done at the vet’s office. Tortoise shots are all intramuscular, injected near either front leg.

No matter how simple the injection may seem, never give your tortoise a shot on your own. Always go to a vet for injections, as inexperienced hands can accidentally harm the tortoise.

Beak trimming is another common maintenance practice conducted by vets. Overgrown beaks can hinder a tortoise’s ability to eat. In the wild, tortoises keep their beaks trimmed down by eating harsher foods and using their beaks to dig around rough surfaces.

do tortoise need vaccinations?

How Much Are Tortoise Vet Bills?

Tortoise vet bills vary, depending on the following:

  • Region
  • Vet expertise
  • Procedure
  • Aftercare

In the United States, a bill for a general checkup from a regular vet may cost anywhere between $30-$65. Depending on the clinic, they may add an extra $30 for treating an exotic animal.

Reptile vets are more expensive because of their expertise. A regular checkup can go up to $120, depending on the needs and size of the tortoise.

If your tortoise needs special medication or surgery, the cost will increase, depending on the clinic and the kind of surgery that needs to be done.

Some clinics are more willing to set up payment plans for exotic animal treatment. This allows you to work down the total cost of treatment over time. It can make it far more manageable if your tortoise needs special care, but the upfront cost is more than you anticipated.

How to Transport a Tortoise to the Vet

Transporting a tortoise anywhere is all about making sure it is comfortable, so do the following:

  • Be sure to get a box larger than the tortoise itself, so that it has room to move around.
  • The container should be opaque or covered, because tortoises get stressed by what they see when being transported.
  • Keep the container covered, so that it’s dark, but make sure to leave enough holes for the tortoise to breathe.
  • If you’re able to, have some sort of bedding or substrate that the tortoise can bury into so that it feels safer.

Transporting a small tortoise is fairly easy, but you might run into trouble if your tortoise is big and heavy. If your tortoise is too big to transport, you’ll need to pay extra to either have the vet:

  • Come to you
  • Transport the tortoise for you, if that’s a service they offer

Tortoises need to see the vet yearly, so don’t let this inconvenience stop you. An annual checkup will ensure that your tortoise remains healthy and able to reach its full life expectancy.