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Animal Care Hospital

1146 Blairs Ferry Rd NE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402

Caring for a Box Turtle

May 15 2020

May 23 rd is World Turtle Day! While turtles aren’t as popular as dogs, cats, or, well, most other pets, they definitely have their own charms. One of the most popular types of turtle is the box turtle. Read on to learn about these fascinating animals in this article from me, your Marion, IA area veterinarian.


Box turtles are fairly small, rarely growing over 7 inches. However, they are very long-lived, and can live over 50 years. In fact, in the past, turtles used to be passed down between generations as family pets. Make sure you are ready for a lifetime commitment before proceeding.


There several types of box turtles, including the Ornate Box Turtle, The Eastern Box Turtle, The Gulf Coast Box Turtle, and The Three-Toed Box Turtle. These guys are all a bit different, so do some research before choosing your new pet!


Speedy will need a pen or tank, with appropriate bedding and a hide box. He’ll also require his own swimming pool. Turtles are much healthier if they spend time outdoors. Your pet may appreciate an outdoor pen in summer. You may want to bring him in for the winter. Otherwise, he will hibernate. When your turtle is indoors, you’ll need to provide a basking light, UVA/UVB lighting, and proper humidity levels. Ask your veterinarian for specific advice.

Food and Water

Turtles are omnivores, so Speedy will need a varied menu. Turtle diets generally consist of things like fresh fruits and veggies, insects, and meat. Your pet’s exact nutritional needs will depend on his species. Some need more produce, while others need more animal protein. Ask your vet for nutritional recommendations.

Choosing Your Box Turtle

Be sure to get Speedy from a reputable store or breeder. Box turtle populations are, unfortunately, in decline worldwide. Taking them as pets only adds to this problem. In fact, keeping wild ones is illegal in many places. Wild turtles also are more prone to having health issues, and often just aren’t happy being pets.


Watch for signs of health issues, such as bumps or redness in the shell, discharge in the eyes or nostrils, wheezing, lethargy, lack of appetite, cloudy eyes, and/or a foul odor. Call your veterinarian immediately if you notice any of these signs.

Do you have questions about turtle care? Please contact me, your Marion, IA area veterinarian, anytime!