How to Fix Cracked Turtle Shells

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There are many possible reasons that you may find a pet turtle with a cracked turtle shell, including a dog attack or car accident. Minor turtle shell repair is possible with a fiberglass patch or resin, but you should always seek veterinary treatment for a cracked shell. This is because the shell can easily hide serious internal damage, and many turtles may need antibiotics to stop an infection in the broken turtle shell.

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Always seek veterinary treatment for a cracked shell.
Image Credit: Dr-MYM/iStock/GettyImages

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Evaluate the cracked turtle shell

A cracked turtle shell may be very minor, or it may be so severe that it looks like a portion of the shell may fall off. A cracked shell may occur if a dog chews on the turtle, if the turtle is dropped or hit by a car, or from a fight with another turtle. Even minor cracks may be hiding serious injuries. In order for the crack to occur, it is likely that your turtle's internal organs were compressed and possibly damaged. In other cases, the internal tissue may have been punctured by the object that caused the crack.

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If you discover a crack in your turtle's shell, be sure to take her to a vet right away. Even if it is a minor crack you can repair at home, your turtle may need additional treatment for infections or internal injuries. Your vet can also provide pain relief medication to make your turtle more comfortable. If you discover a wild turtle with a broken shell, take her to a wildlife rescue or rehabilitation center for treatment.

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Initial care for injured turtles

When repairing a broken turtle shell, keep in mind that turtles do bite and are more likely to do so when they are injured and in pain. Your vet will perform an exam to rule out more serious injuries and will thoroughly clean the cracked shell. It is important to remove the debris from the broken shell to prevent infection.

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Then, dry the shell and make sure that the shell stays dry until your turtle is healed. Administer medications and apply ointments and bandages as instructed by your veterinarian. Once any infection has healed sufficiently, your vet will be ready to repair the shell. Before you attempt a repair on your own without consulting a vet, remember that it is important to avoid sealing in infected tissue that can cause serious illness down the line.

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Turtle shell repair

There are many possible methods of turtle shell repair. One option for a minor crack is to cover it with a fiberglass patch that attaches to the shell with glue. This method is not recommended for turtles who live in the water because it is likely to fall off quickly. Even if the patch remains on, it can easily get infected. Resin material may also be used to patch a turtle shell, but this also carries a higher risk of infection from trapped bacteria.

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Veterinarians may utilize a dental composite that is commonly used on human teeth. This material is not only durable but can also kill bacteria. Alternatively, they may make the repair by gluing bra clasps to the shell and using a zip tie to close the crack.

Turtle shell healing process

Depending on the severity of the injury, it can take months or even years for the crack to fully heal. Be sure to follow all of your veterinarian's instructions to treat and prevent infection and make sure your turtle is as comfortable as possible. Monitor your turtle and the repair, as the patch may need to be reapplied or adjusted as the turtle heals.

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