Vitamin A is a nutrient that helps to maintain the immune system and maintain the health of the body's cells. Turtles need to get vitamin A from their food, and if they don't get enough of this crucial vitamin, they can become very ill. Here are three things turtle owners need to know about vitamin A deficiencies.
How do turtles become vitamin A deficient?
Turtles become vitamin A deficient when they're fed an unbalanced diet. It's easy to inadvertently feed your turtle an unbalanced diet because commercial turtle foods don't usually have sufficient quantities of vitamin A to serve as your pet's sole diet. This is because vitamin A is unstable, so it breaks down over time. When a bag of turtle food sits on the shelf at the pet store, it loses some of its vitamin A content.
Your turtle's commercial food needs to be supplemented with a range of fruits and vegetables. Turtles like to eat iceberg lettuce, but it doesn't have much vitamin A. Fruits also don't have much vitamin A. Choose vegetables that have a high vitamin A content, like romaine or other dark green lettuces, carrots or aquatic plants. Egg yolks and fish are also good sources for omnivorous species of turtles.
Why are vitamin A deficiencies a concern?
Vitamin A deficiencies cause swollen eyes, peeling skin and a runny nose. These symptoms are uncomfortable for your turtle, but over time, more serious health problems can occur.
If your turtle doesn't get enough vitamin A in their diet, they could develop a wide range of health problems. Pneumonia, a lung infection, is associated with deficiencies of vitamin A, and turtles with this infection often don't get better until they receive supplementation of this crucial vitamin. Otitis, also called ear infections, can also develop secondary to a vitamin A deficiency. Other secondary infections may also result; this is because of the crucial role vitamin A plays in maintaining your pet's immune system.
How do vets treat vitamin A deficiencies?
Your vet will give your turtle an injection of vitamin A to quickly return their levels to normal. At home, you may need to start giving your turtle vitamin A pills. It can be hard to get your turtle to take the pills, but you can gently coax their mouth open and push the pill inside. You can also try rubbing your pet's nose to make them open their mouth. Don't give your turtle more pills than your vet recommends, because too much vitamin A is also dangerous.
If you think your turtle has a vitamin A deficiency, take them to a vet (such as pet services at Rivers Animal Hospital).