What Are The Signs That Your Turtle Is Dead: Typical Signs?

by The Pets Pampering Team
dead turtle

Our turtles are adored. But, no matter how tragic, we may have to find our turtles dead on occasion. Every living being must perish at some point. That is life’s harsh fact. It can be difficult to tell if your turtle is truly deceased. Many people believe that a brumating turtle is dead. I’ll give you some hints in this article on how to identify if your turtle is dead.

It’s incredibly difficult to distinguish a dead turtle from a sluggish or brumating turtle. Brumating is the hibernating process for cold-blooded animals such as turtles.

Extreme cold temperatures can cause your turtle to become inactive and unresponsive. You could think your turtle is dead at that point. Turtles can sometimes become lethargic and unresponsive as a result of illness.

If your turtle becomes unresponsive unexpectedly, take her to the veterinarian before proclaiming her dead. The veterinarian can save the turtle’s life if it is unwell.

A Brumating turtle vs a Dead turtle:

Brumating is the hibernating process for cold-blooded animals such as turtles. Turtles go into brumation when the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit in their surroundings. Turtles are in a very low-activity state at this time, and they eat very little. Normally, a turtle spends the entire winter brumating in the wild.

A turtle in captivity might go into brumation if its owner fails to give sufficient care and temperature. If you come across your turtle brumating, let it alone.

During the brumation period, turtles usually dig holes in the substrate and bury themselves. They sleep for the entire winter. I always recommend letting a brumating turtle alone unless it begins to emit an odor.

No Response To Stimulation

A brumating turtle is still aware of their environment enough to detect if you try to agitate it. Pull on your turtle’s legs gently, press on their cloaca, or even flip them on their back. Your turtle is most likely dead if it does not move or respond to your efforts.

Cold To The Touch

If you touch your turtle and it feels unusually chilly, it could be dead. This indicator is more difficult to spot because a brumating turtle has a lower body temperature. You might need to look for more evidence that your turtle is deceased.

Bad Odor

As a deceased turtle decomposes, it emits a foul odor. In a deceased turtle, this process will begin rapidly, however cooler temperatures may cause it to take longer. This odor is quite awful and indicates that your turtle has died.

With Sunken Eyes

If you’re not sure if your turtle is alive, look at its eyes. Deep, sunken eyes may indicate that your turtle has passed away. However, dehydrated turtles can have sunken eyes as well, so you’ll need to look for other indicators to be sure your turtle is dead.

dead turtle

Maggots and flies

There’s a significant possibility your turtle is dead if you see maggots or flies infesting its body. The immune system of a brumating turtle slows down, making it simpler for them to develop maggot-infested injuries. A turtle coated in flies or maggots, on the other hand, is most certainly dead.

Shriveled and Sunken Skin

The skin of a dead turtle may appear loose, shriveled, or sunken. As the dead turtle decomposes, this can happen. If your turtle’s skin appears shriveled or odd, it’s possible that they’re dead rather than just brumating.

Rotten Shell or Skin

Another clue that you’re dealing with a deceased turtle is a rotting shell or skin. This rotting takes place while the dead turtle decomposes. When a turtle is bromating, its shell can become soft, so look for additional indicators of mortality before giving up on your turtle.

Limp Legs

The muscles of a brumating turtle are still under control. Pick up your turtle if you discover it still with its legs sticking out of the shell. They’re probably dead if their legs are limp and swinging aimlessly. The legs of a brumating turtle should still be within their control.

What are the signs that your turtle is dead?

Here are some things to look for to determine whether or not your turtle is indeed dead:

* Stimulate it: the most straightforward technique to tell if a turtle is alive is to stimulate it. If you poke or prod a turtle, it will usually respond. When the turtle is disturbed, it will move, close its shells, and even hiss. Turtles’ tails and legs also respond quite quickly. If you gently pull up the legs or touch the tail, they will quickly respond by hiding the tail within the shell and moving the legs to liberate them.

* Apply gentle pressure to the cloacal region: If you apply gentle pressure to the area between the turtle’s tail and the cloaca, the turtle will try to flee. Some turtles even stretch their heads in response to this form of cloacal pressure. Turn the turtle back on its shell if it exhibits no signs of movement. * Bad odor: deceased turtles, like other dead animals, decompose quickly and emit a foul odor. It happens when microbes feed on the dead turtle’s tissues, releasing unpleasant fumes. A foul odor is frequently the first indicator of a dead turtle. If the temperature is colder, a dead turtle will begin to smell in about a day.

* Does the turtle float? This isn’t a foolproof or exact procedure. The noxious fumes that spread poor odor also cause the turtle to float more. If you put a dead turtle in a shallow water tank, it will almost certainly float. However, even if the turtle is dead, there may not be enough gases to let it float, so this is not a definitive technique for declaring it dead. A living turtle can also choose to float in the water. While it is not a foolproof approach, it can help establish whether or not a turtle is indeed dead.

* Visual indicators: Turtles, I’ve learned, can breathe slowly and keep their breath for much longer than humans. They must, nevertheless, continue to breathe. When a turtle breathes, the lungs in the area between the front legs and the neck move slightly. This movement between the back legs and the tail is also noticeable. If you don’t see any movement, try putting a feather in front of the turtle’s nostrils and watching it move. Before making any decisions, observe for at least 10 minutes.

When turtles die, how do they appear?

After around 3 to 12 hours after death, the turtle becomes stiff. The stiffness normally goes away after a few days and the body loosens up. In addition, the eyes begin to sink in. A liquid may also trickle from the turtle’s mouth and nose. The turtle will begin to degrade soon after it has died. As a result, you can detect a foul odor in the vicinity.

We don’t want to see our dogs perish. Unfortunately, situations like these do happen. For the benefit of our surrounds and the environment, we must appropriately dispose of a pet turtle when it dies. Here are some general rules for burying a dead turtle:

Do not handle the dead turtle with your hands. It may cause major health problems for you. Disposable gloves should be used. As little as possible, handle the dead turtle. Do not attempt to handle a dead turtle found in the wild on your own. * Contact your local health department or police department. A healthy way to dispose of a tiny or medium turtle is to bury it. Place the dead turtle inside a plastic bag and place the bag in a box. You’ll now need to bury the box in a large hole. However, you must check with the local burial restrictions.

dead turtle

Some states have precise restrictions for how deep an animal must be buried. Keep an eye out for electricity lines or other utility cords when digging the hole. Also, stay away from areas near water or that are prone to flooding. Check to see if there is a dead animal removal service in your area. You can ask them to dispose of the dead turtle if there is one. For disposal, you can also contact your local sanitation department. If you want to make your turtle’s final arrangements with a little more care and don’t want him to wind up in a dumpster, you can contact your local veterinarian. The local veterinarian may have excellent resources for pet cremation. He can even handle the last-minute details for you.

Look for life

If your outdoor turtle shows no signs of deterioration, thirst, or disease, he’s undoubtedly still alive, and you can let him emerge out of brumation on his own in the spring when the soil temperature climbs over 50 degrees. According to Massachusetts Audubon, box turtles can even endure the freezing of their organs for brief periods of time. When you gently move your turtle’s legs away from his body, a living turtle will normally react by retracting further within the shell.

If there is no reaction or other physical symptoms that point to a dead turtle, slowly rewarm her in a room-temperature soaking bath. This will wake up a sleeping turtle and boost detectable indications of life. Fill an escape-proof tub halfway up her shell with electrolyte solution. You can rehydrate the turtle in a bath of clean, fresh water at room temperature — about 75 to 80 degrees, according to The Turtle Room.

Urinating or defecating, movement, or other signs of life may be triggered by rewarming in the water. In the skin between the head and legs or the tail and legs, look for a discernible pulse or breathing movements. Allow 15 to 30 minutes for your turtle or tortoise to warm up. Call your reptile veterinarian to schedule an appointment to check if your turtle is genuinely dead and to treat illnesses including shell rot, severe dehydration, and trauma.

How Long Can You Keep Your Pet Turtle Underwater?

If you think of turtles in the same way you think of amphibians (since turtles can stay underwater for a long time), you’re mistaken. Turtles are reptiles, which are terrestrial animals with scaly skin and the capacity to produce eggs with hard shells. They are not as reliant on water as amphibians are, and their larger lung system allows them to dwell on land for longer periods of time. Sea turtles are an exception, as they are rarely seen on land, yet even they must surface to breathe air, and their particular lungs are unaffected by water pressure when diving. When they move their flippers, they pump oxygen from their muscles and blood into their lungs. Green turtles can stay submerged for up to five hours, whereas Leatherbacks can stay submerged for over an hour and Hawksbills for 45 minutes.

Sliders & Painted Turtles

Pet turtles such as Painted Turtles and Sliders may stay underwater for long periods of time, especially during hibernation when they burrow into the muddy bottom of their bodies of water. When the weather turns cold where they dwell, these turtles can stay underwater for the entire winter. This is because of their slow metabolism and the way they collect oxygen from water. On a side note, due of their modified cloaca, which helps them draw oxygen from the water (in other words, they can breathe through their bums! ), the Fitzroy River turtle can stay underwater virtually indefinitely.

Aged in Stone

We can learn from fossil records. Painted Turtles have existed for millions of years, developing through cold ages. It is a common turtle found in slow-moving fresh waters throughout Canada, Mexico, and the United States.


Turtles hibernate in the winter, and in the north, this time of inactivity might last from October to March, but in the south, they may not hibernate at all! However, even in a month like February, if temperatures rise, turtles will become active until the cold returns!

dead turtle

The Painted Turtle hibernates by burying itself on the bottom of a body of water, as I previously described. Other places to hibernate are a shore bank along the river, woodlands, or meadows.

The turtle prefers to hibernate at a shallow depth, digging around 2 meters (7 feet) into the muck.

The turtle does not breathe in this position, but if its surroundings allow it, it can obtain oxygen through its skin. While starved of oxygen, the turtle’s blood, brain, heart, and even shell adapt to the high lactic acid buildup.

Turtles in General

Turtles are cold-blooded, with very low metabolic rates compared to warm-blooded creatures. These metabolic rates change as the temperature changes. Turtles move slowly in cold weather. Their metabolism speeds up in hot weather. Because their metabolism requires more oxygen in warm temperatures, their underwater time is restricted to only a few minutes. Their underwater time could last for hours at a time during the night as their metabolisms slow.

Red-Eared Slider Turtle Skin Is Peeling

If the shell of your red-eared slider is peeling, it is most likely due to the regular molting process that many turtles go through as they mature. However, atypical shedding could indicate injury or illness, so keep an eye on your turtle. Knowing the difference between normal and exceptional shedding is beneficial.

Red-eared slider shell peeling

It’s totally normal for the skin or turtle shell of your red-eared slider to peel. A turtle’s skin sheds in fragments rather than in one piece, as a snake does. As he matures, he may also shed the outer layer of scutes, the scalelike plates on the shell. This permits the shell to expand in order to fit his enlarged body.

Allow the shedding process to take its course. It may be tempting to help peel the shedding skin, but you risk infecting your turtle if you peel too much. While most shedding is normal, be on the lookout for any unusual symptoms that could signal an infection or disease. If you see abnormal skin or shell shedding, take your turtle to the vet.

Recognize abnormal shedding

Keep an eye on your red-eared slider for evidence that the molting is more than normal. Check the newly exposed skin of your turtle to ensure it is not raw or bleeding. If your turtle is shedding more than just the top layer of skin, it could indicate a bacterial or fungal infection underneath.

Algae can form on your turtle’s shell, giving the appearance of shedding. If you notice the problem early enough, you may simply brush the green algae off her shell and clean the tank and filter more frequently to resolve the issue. In more acute cases, your turtle may require medical treatment to clear the algae from her shell and fix it.

Keep in mind that turtles can carry salmonella. The bacteria does not usually make your turtle sick, but it can be dangerous to humans. To limit the risk of salmonella and other diseases, keep your turtle’s habitat clean and wash your hands after handling it.

Treating shell rot

Shell rot is caused by a variety of bacteria and fungi, and if left untreated, it can lead to septicemic cutaneous ulcerative illness (SCUD). Citrobacter freundii is one of the most common causes of SCUD. The scutes shed and discharge as a result of this. While shell shedding is the most noticeable symptom, the infection’s effects extend beyond the shell. Other signs and symptoms include petechial hemorrhages, fatigue, anorexia, and liver necrosis.

Your veterinarian will clean the wounds and remove any dead tissue, as well as prescribe an antibiotic to treat the infection. While your turtle is healing, make sure to boost sanitation measures and maintain his tank clean to avoid reinfection.

Other shell problems

A shell injury could cause your turtle’s shell to peel abnormally. Take your turtle to the veterinarian if you suspect an injury, such as if she is dropped or another pet chews on her shell. Even if the shell injury appears to be mild, she could have suffered more significant interior injuries. Skin and shell peeling can also be caused by a burn caused by a faulty heater or light.

Dietary deficits might potentially affect the shell of your turtle. A vitamin A shortage can result in full-thickness skin shedding, while a calcium deficiency can result in irregular shell growth and, in more serious cases, metabolic bone disease. Consult your veterinarian about any shell abnormalities to determine the best dietary changes and treatment alternatives.


We want our pets to live forever because we adore them. Unfortunately, that will never happen. When it comes to your pet turtle, though, there’s always the possibility that your supposedly lifeless critter is still alive. Look for the indications we covered to see if your turtle is dead, and perhaps you’ll get some good news instead of bad.

You may also be interested in: African Sideneck Turtle?

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