Top 4 Common Turtle Neck Issues? Causes, Treatment, Prevention

An injured turtle can be intimidating for any owner, especially when you are uncertain of the cause and treatment methods. 

The most common reason a turtle experiences health issues are improper diet, like vitamin A deficiency, which you can prevent with diet management. If you notice an infection or illness developing, you can treat many issues at home with medication. More serious issues can be treated by your local reptile veterinarian either through rigorous medication or surgery.

Continue reading this article to learn more about why your turtle’s neck might be swollen and how to treat and prevent this. 

Red, swollen turtle necks 

A red and swollen neck is a common symptom of respiratory infection and pneumonia. 

2 Causes of a red swollen neck

  1. The leading cause of respiratory illness is typically Vitamin A deficiency, which maintains immune and respiratory health. In addition to a swollen neck, they might wheeze, become lethargic, and have excess mucus.
  2. Pneumonia is a medical infection caused by an improper diet and a dirty environment. You can identify this medical condition by its nasal discharge, coughs, gasping, and fluid-filled lungs.


Pay close attention to your turtle’s behavior to identify whether they have a respiratory infection or are breathing normally. Unless they are extremely sick, you can purchase antibiotics from your local pet store and administer them at home, as recommended.

Pneumonia requires more rigorous treatment if you want your turtle to become better. Take your turtle to the vet for prescription antibiotics and in-patient care.


If you want to prevent a swollen neck, feed your turtle more Vitamin A and keep its shell clean. A clean environment will prevent them from developing respiratory infections.

Hard turtle necks 

If your turtle has a hard neck, it is a sign of an abscess on your turtle’s neck. Abscesses are pus-filled swellings. They are typically hard and tumor-like.

Causes of a hard turtle neck

Abscesses on your turtle’s neck are a common sign of Vitamin A deficiency. 


To treat abscesses in your turtle, you must take them to the vet for surgery. Your vet will remove the hard, pus-filled sac and flush the ear canal with an antimicrobial.


To prevent abscesses from forming on your turtle, you must ensure your turtle has enough vitamin A in their diet. Common foods to feed your turtle include yellow and orange vegetables, like squash and bell peppers.

Crusty turtle necks treatment and prevention 

A crusty neck is a common issue for turtles with inadequate diet and poor water quality.  

Treatment for a crusty turtle neck

  • If your turtle shows signs of a crusty neck, you should have your water tested to ensure it meets the standard requirement for their breed. A tank that has not passed water quality tests should be fully disinfected.

Before returning your turtle to the tank, clean them and test the water quality.

  • If your water quality passes inspection and there is no sign of bacteria, you might need to take your turtle to the vet to diagnose and treat their skin condition.

After performing blood tests to confirm the underlying issue, your vet might prescribe ointment and antibiotics. Use these as recommended until their skin issue has been resolved. 

Do not forget to clean your turtle’s shell with a diluted, veterinarian-approved disinfectant. Sometimes, fungus can transfer from your turtle’s shell to their skin and cause further issues.


Maintain a clean tank with good water quality if you want to prevent a crusty turtle neck. 

Lump on my turtle’s neck

Lumps on your turtle’s neck are typically a sign of abscesses. These typically form on either side of their necks, right behind the eyes.

Causes of lumps

Abscesses typically form because of an inadequate amount of vitamin A in your turtle’s diet. 

Treatment by a vet

Abscesses require surgical intervention from your veterinarian and cannot be treated at home. 


To prevent abscesses from forming, you should include ample vitamin A in your turtle’s diet. If you are uncertain whether you have enough vitamin A in your turtle’s diet, visit your reptile veterinarian and ask them for a blood test. The blood test can confirm whether they have enough vitamin A in their diet. 


Maintaining clean water and a healthy diet is the best way to prevent health issues in your turtle. Include a good amount of vitamin A, including squash, bell peppers, and other orange vegetables. 

In addition to a healthy diet, test their water quality regularly for bacteria. Water bacteria can lead to illness and infection, which can be difficult to treat.


Chris is a reptile enthusiast, breeder, and blogger from the Milwaukee, WI area. After breeding hundreds of bearded dragons to supply local pet stores and owning many other types of reptiles, he is now focused on sharing knowledge to help owners properly care for their little reptiles friends.

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