White spots on a turtle shell are a common issue that many turtle keepers face. The white spots can be unsightly appearing as either small or large patches. It can sometimes take over all the shell if left untreated and cause a whole lot of other issues.
In general, three primary reasons for white spots on a turtle shell are shedding of the shell, mineral deposit buildup, and rotting of the shell.
The problem is that it’s difficult to tell the difference between all of the causes, even for an experienced eye. We’ll go through each of the causes and help you find out what the underlying issue is in this article.
Once you’ve discovered the cause, treating and preventing further shell damage is considerably simpler, but the best thing you can do for yourself and your turtle is to visit the veterinarian.
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1. Shedding Of The Shell
As a turtle owner, you should be aware of two types of shedding: ecdysis and dysecdysis. Ecdysis is a natural kind of shedding, whereas dysecdysis is an unusual form of shedding.
Shell shedding is an essential function of a turtle’s existence. Turtles shed their skin and scutes regularly to be able to allow growth and fight off algae and dirt that might be on the shell.
Scutes that are shed are paper-thin and will often appear to lift on the edges as they begin to release from the shell.
Sometimes they will not come loose completely and air will get trapped underneath. This will give a metallic, copper-colored shiny appearance underwater. This is normal.
The new shell or skin should be vivid, colorful, and spotless after eclosion ecdysis shedding.
Shedding is off-track in Dysecdysis. It’s difficult to say what constitutes “abnormal” because each species’ normal Ecdysis (properly exoskeletal shedding) varies significantly.
However, if the scute does not fall off promptly (usually within a week or so), you may want to assist the turtle in shedding them. Vitamin E is usually to blame when scutes do not slip off correctly.
When a turtle sheds excessively, it is generally an indication of over-feeding, overly warm water temperatures, poor water quality, a skin condition, or some other infection in the body.
How To Help When Abnormal Shedding Occurs
- Maintain optimum basking spot and water temperatures. Overheating appears to cause dysecdysis in some species.
- Feed your turtle with the right amount of nutrients and do not overfeed it.
- Have clean water with the right temperatures that are within the normal parameters.
- Inspect your turtle of any abnormal skin condition or infection throughout the body
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2. Mineral Deposit Buildup
This condition is frequently mixed up with shell rot and shell bacterial development. It’s tough to tell the difference between the two, and the criteria that are used to distinguish them are complex, sometimes misleading.
Mineral deposit formation is often caused by water high in minerals. Mineral deposits have a distinct feature: the scutes will be transparent beneath, as they are when the turtle sheds.
There will be a white to off-white covering or glazing over the scutes. There won’t be any pitting, and if there is, there might be a bacterial infection ay hand.
A turtle with mineral deposits on its shell almost always has large areas that turn white, and most of the time they can be harmless if dealt with it in a timely matter.
Preventing Mineral Deposit Buildup
You could start by using an aquarium water conditioner, this will greatly reduce the mineral levels in your tank’s water.
You might also try to improve the water conditions by doing one or more of the following:
- Use a quality water filter
- Change a portion of the water every week
- Provide your turtle with a basking area that will allow it to completely dry off
What Is Hard Water?
In basic terms, hard water is water with high mineral content, such as calcium and magnesium. With hard water, the water evaporates, leaving traces of minerals behind.
Shower faucets, sinks, bathtubs, and even turtle shells are all prone to this mineral residue.
RELATED READ: How To Clean A Turtle Shell
3. Rotting Of The Shell
When a turtle has its shell rotten it could be one of the two forms: the wet form or the dry form.
In medical terms, this is also referred to as SCUD (Septicaemic Cutaneous Ulcerative Disease) and it can be devastating for the turtle shell if left untreated.
SCUD has different appearances, and it can be sometimes hard to diagnose when we count in the mineral deposits and shedding.
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Wet Form SCUD
The wet form is the most common, and it will present as a white and/or yellow lesion on the shell, will smell bad with a squishy texture.
When a turtle’s shell has been harmed, it is frequently a result of an infestation in the shell caused by a fracture, break, incision, or other sorts of lesion. When a turtle cannot properly dry out, fungus disease will be the most typical cause for this form to show up.
Dry Form SCUD
The dry form might look like a scab or a blister and It appears most times as white spots on the turtle shell.
The most common reasons for this problem are water quality and little if any, injuries sustained while climbing around in the habitat (scratched on the shell while scrambling, swimming, or diving into the water, substrate burns from heaters, etc). White spots appear on the shell most of the time.
Other signs that your turtle might have shell rot are:
- A change in coloration of the shell
- A foul smell
- Sores on the skin
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble breathing
Can Shell Rot Kill Turtles?
Bacteria can enter the circulation and cause septicemia in cases where shell rot breaches the shell.
It may also kill your turtle in a few days. If abscesses do not get treated right away, they can get bigger and persist for many years causing significant tissue damage.
The shell rot might also result in a deadly illness known as septicemic cutaneous ulcerative disease. This ailment is characterized by fast bacterial growth in the circulation. It can be fatal if bacteria from within the reptile’s circulation harm its vital organs.
RELATED READ: Can A Turtle Shell Repair Itself?
Ways To Treat Your Turtle Shell
First, if you detect that sometimes wrong with your turtle, you should remove the turtle and place it in a quarantine tank.
Clean the infected regions and, if required, remove afflicted scutes to ensure that the treatment is effective.
Remove all squishy, off-white colored materials. Take care because the condition might have spread deep inside your pet’s body. If you detect potential penetration into your pet’s body cavity beyond a few inches from the shell’s surface, stop and seek veterinary assistance.
Treatments for shell issues are listed below, to restore your shells to normal. Keep in mind that if the risk is present, shell injuries might take weeks or years to return to normal.
It takes at least a few weeks for the shell to appear to get better after treatment has started. You’re not looking for signs of healing or repair while treating; you’re looking for any sign that it’s spreading.
- Use a powerful, undiluted betadine, iodine, or Nolvasan solution to fully clean the infected areas. Allow the turtle to air dry in a warm environment for 45 minutes.
- Apply a thick layer of Silvadene cream to the affected area. Apply it to the trouble areas in a circular motion.
- For 18 – 20 hours each day, leave the turtle dry and cool.
- The next day, clean the entire shell with one of the aforementioned chemicals using a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Place them in fresh, clean water to soak. Allow them to swim, drink, and eat for approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
- Repeat step number 1.
RELATED READ: How to Keep Turtle Tank Clean?
Another excellent approach to cure shell diseases is with Acriflavine, an antiseptic that contains an antibacterial compound that may be applied to living tissue/skin to minimize the risk of infection, sepsis, or decay.
This is a treatment method where each step needs to be done within 1 week:
- Remove any carbon media from filters before doing a thorough water change. Add Acriflavine to the filter according to the label instructions.
- Repeat the procedure, this time adding another treatment of Acriflavine.
- Another complete water change, but do not add in Acriflavine this time. At this time, no carbon media should be added.
- Do a second complete water change and use another dose of Acriflavine for good measure.
It’s a personal preference whether or not the treated water should be kept in the habitat or changed. I’ve done both, and there are no differences in impact.
For the next several weeks, do 50% water changes every few days, and then reduce back to your normal schedule.
This will not only aid in the fight against anything that may be attempting to re-establish itself in your turtle’s environment, but it will also help with water quality until the turtle has had enough time to recover.
RELATED READ: Water Temps for Turtles
If you don’t know what they are, white spots on a turtle shell may seem like nothing. But if left untreated, these tiny dots can grow and turn into an abscess that will kill your turtle in days or weeks.
Shell rot is one of the most common health problems for turtles because it’s difficult to detect until it has progressed deep inside their body cavity.
To prevent this from happening to your pet, use our guide above that includes information about how to identify signs of infection as well as treatment options when necessary.