All tortoises suffer from internal parasites, particularly nematodes (round unsegmented worms) Minor infestations are not serious. If tortoises are kept in groups they should be wormed possibly every other year. A solitary tortoise should be wormed about every 4 years. Obviously if you see worms then it would need treatment as soon as possible. Fresh samples of faeces can be checked by a vet for worm eggs to assess the severity of any infestation and can then be treated with tasteless granules called "Panacur" which you can sprinkle on their foods.


Please be aware that some cat and dog wormers are not suitable, so please take advise from a specialist tortoise vet.




These are small internal parasites that cause considerable damage. Your tortoise may become lethargic and passing black diarrhoea (blood stained) There may also be undigested food in the faeces before the diarrhoea. You must take your tortoise to a specialist tortoise vet who may have to tube your tortoise with a special wormer.


Runny Nose Syndrome (RNS)


RNS is not a nice illness and can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection. It usually shows as a colourless discharge and blowing of bubbles from the nose. This disease is very infectious to other tortoises and can be lethal. You must isolate the tortoise and provide a clean and sterile area and carry out perfect hygiene when handling this tortoise. You must consult with a tortoise specialist vet as the tortoise will need treatment. If this is left it can and will turn into pneumonia.


When tortoises suffer inadequate husbandry over a long period, they cease to grow and their immune systems become ineffective. Newly acquired tortoises must be isolated from other tortoises just in case they are carrying this disease. We suggest that a quarantine of 18 months is carried out on any new tortoises that you acquire.




This can usually occur especially if your tortoise has RNS. If your tortoise has RNS and its breathing gets noisy then it may be pneumonia. This disease is lethal and will kill your tortoise, but getting it to a specialist vet without delay will give it the best possible chance of surviving.


Herpes Virus


The Herpes virus has been in tortoises for years but unfortunately in the last few years it has jumped species. This is a very serious and fatal disease in the tortoise population. An active tortoise from a high risk situation can pass this virus on, without you knowing and also without showing signs of the illness. By the time you are aware that your tortoise has Herpes it is too late. There is no cure but there is a test to see if your tortoise is a carrier but it is expensive. If you buy a tortoise that was bought in from the wild then you will most probably have a tortoise with the herpes virus and you could infect other tortoises that come into contact with yours.


Symptoms:- Fungal and bacterial infection, respiratory problems, swelling of the limbs, swelling of the tongue and pharynx, puffy eyes, sores on limbs and not eating.


Contagious:- Herpes is carried and passed on through the body fluids and this includes saliva produced when feeding. It can be carried to other tortoises without the carrier showing any signs of the illness. It shortens the life of the carrier to possibly 10 years.


Incubation:- There is no definite time scale that we know of at the moment. We do know from another member that has lost tortoises due to the herpes virus, that one day, the tortoise was fine and within 24-48hrs their much loved tortoise was dead.


Quarantine:- You must be strict with this, especially with any of the wild caught tortoises that are swamping pet shops and the internet. They are a high risk tortoise due to the way they are stacked and packed and totally stressed during transit. These tortoises must never mix with the older tortoises already in this country or younger ones that have been bred by responsible breeders.


Hygiene measures:- You must ensure that you use antibacterial and antiviral hand washed in addition to thoroughly washing your hands. Never put the tortoises near each other or in each other's areas. Wear disposable gloves when handling each tortoise. Sterilize all utensils and equipment used in their areas. Ensure that shoes etc. are dipped or changed between areas.


The situation:- There is no need to panic, but you must ensure that your tortoise is kept safe. DO NOT mix other tortoises without knowing where it has come from and whether this tortoise has mixed with any other tortoises as well. All tortoises are at risk. We do have members who have lost tortoises with this virus. In one case the visiting tortoise was kept in a totally different area well away from the other tortoises. Even with strict quarantine and good husbandry, they lost 3 other tortoises due to the herpes virus. The only thing that the member didn't do was to change shoes from one area to another. Was this how it was transferred? We cannot be sure.


Older tortoises, we hope, should be fine if they do not come in contact with the younger tortoises.


We have stopped doing the health checks at out talks and information days because of this virus and because several people have had their tortoise die from it.


We WILL NOT put tortoises at risk. If you wish to have your tortoise checked then contact us.