So, you've decided you want a pet turtle. You should invest in a good turtle book to help you take care of your new pet. Now you are looking at a selection of turtles and trying to decide which one is yours. Choosing a healthy turtle will save you heartache and possibly money on a veterinarian bill.
First, watch the turtles swim. Turtles should swim straight in a horizontal position, perhaps with the rear end slightly lower. They should not swim tilted back or sideways, nor should they bob on the top of the water. This could indicate a respiratory infection. If you suspect a respiratory problem listen for wheezing.
Next, pick up your turtle. Look at your turtle's eyes. The eyes should be bright and glossy looking. The eyes should not be sunken back into the sockets. When you handle the turtle it should retract its head into its shell, or struggle vigorously. Either is perfectly acceptable, it is just a personality difference.
Now inspect the shell. Look for fractures or abrasions on the shell. Check the firmness of the shell by gently pushing on the plastron (the bottom or belly part of the shell) and the carapace (the top or back of the shell). A healthy turtle should have a hard shell (except for softshell turtles).
Look at the legs. The legs should not look thin and the bones should not be felt under the muscles. The thighs should look round and firm to the touch. The legs and neck should not dangle when the turtle is picked up.
Check the skin. Make sure you do not see any cuts or abrasions. There should be no lumps or swelling. The skin should not have bruises or discoloration noticeable as these could be signs of a serious problem.
Now many of the problems I have mentioned above can be successfully treated, but the novice should be aware of the health issues before you purchase the animal. Starting with a healthy animal will make your first experience with turtle ownership much more pleasant and successful.
Taking the simple steps above will help you learn two things. One, that your turtle looks healthy, and two, you are dealing with a reputable breeder or pet shop. If health issues are present and are not being addressed by the current turtle owner, walk away.
Once you have chosen your turtle, it is time to take it home. Be sure to have its new home ready and waiting for your animal. Remember to have a floating pelleted aquatic turtle food purchased. It will be best if you have a pillowcase or similar cloth bag to transport your pet in. Be sure to turn the pillowcase inside out so that the turtle will not become tangled in any loose threads. If you have a long way to travel you may want to bring a cooler with you to keep your turtle's temperature in the correct range. You may also want to put some damp paper towels in the bottom of the cooler.
Taking these simple steps may help you to have a great experience and become a turtle lover like so many of us are. These pets can provide many hours of entertainment and you will soon learn that each turtle has their own personality. They may not be furry, but they do steal our hearts.
Once you have your pet, you may want to show off a little bit with a turtle sign, turtle socks, turtle caps or even a set of turtle coasters!