How to heal minor turtle injuries with Clark the Cooter

TW: photographs of turtle injuries

Clark loves exploring the yard

It’s not uncommon for turtles to be troublemakers.

Minor bumps, scrapes, and scratches are normal for most turtles who like to be explore outside of their tank. I am not a veterinarian or animal medical professional, this is not advice, this is just what I do as a turtle owner.

How I got Clark

I volunteer with an incredible turtle rescue called Little RESQ. They are Ontario’s first registered charity dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of red eared sliders (and other reptiles).

I was contacted by Little RESQ that our local PetSmart tank was getting a new turtle: Clark, a male cooter of unknown age. I was super excited that the tank was being occupied once again; it had been many months since a turtle was in that tank due to the pandemic.

Clark’s intake photo

Clark is a handsome little turtle who is friendly and charming. I was shocked just how different the personalities were between sliders and cooters.

I was alerted that he may have minor injuries due to some bullying from his red eared slider tankmates. It is not uncommon for cooters to be bullied by sliders. They tend to bite appendages, bully for basking space, and even try their best to keep food away from the turtle being bullied.

Clark’s tail during intake

When I finally got a chance to look at his tail, it wasn’t a vet-worthy injury but it worried me enough to ask to take him home with me to dry-dock him. Once I got approval, we made our way home and we set up the dry-dock station to start the healing process.

How to heal your turtle’s minor injuries:

  1. Make sure that this isn’t an emergency situation – is your turtle alive and conscious? If not, please call your emergency vet ASAP.
  2. Stop any bleeding using pressure and fresh gauze
  3. Once the wound is not actively bleeding, clean the wound with a 50/50 iodine solution. Use medication and gauze wraps as necessary
  4. Keep all wrappings, towels, and areas clean and sanitized to prevent infection
  5. Dry dock in a secure and low-traffic area with proper heating and lighting
  6. Be patient, turtles heal well but it takes time

If at any time your turtle contracts a respiratory infection, maggots, infected wounds, or the wound looks worse, please visit your vet right away.

This information was taken from Little RESQ’s Website. Please visit them for more information regarding this topic.

Clark’s tail took about a month to heal properly. Dry docking is always a pain but is necessary for wounds to heal properly. He wasn’t the biggest fan of it but he enjoyed his soaking time in the tub throughout the day.

He was a bit finicky with the gauze wrap around his tail to keep the topical medication on but he got used to it.

Halfway through the treatments – looking better!

What I didn’t anticipate during these healing sessions was the bond between Clark and I to solidify as much as it did.

It has been a delight to build trust with him and see him settle into his routines. He has even allowed me to hand feed him – unlike Turkey, he is gentle and respectful of my fingers.

He is the easiest and sweetest turtle I’ve had the privilege of caring for. Now that his tail has healed, we’re focusing on quality of life things: whittling down his beak with harder foods, exercising and play in and out of the tank, dealing with pilling on his shell, and figuring out what is up with his plastron.

If you’re interested in rescuing Clark, please contact Little RESQ for more information. Click here for his Little RESQ page.

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