Why is My Tortoise Not Opening Its Eyes?

Spur-Thighed Tortoise

Written by Lisa

When not researching and writing about weird and wonderful animals, Lisa enjoys spending time with her 'two' families: her husband and 3 kids, and her 3 dogs, Sooty the cat, Frank the terrapin, and Bob the bearded dragon.

Last Updated on January 25, 2021

If your tortoise has been keeping its eyes shut for extended periods of time, it is generally a sign that something is not quite right. However, contrary to what you might assume, the problem is unlikely to be an issue with its eyes.

In fact, it is typically caused by problems within the tortoise’s enclosure. A closed tank or vivarium is not recommended for a tortoise as it can lead to low humidity levels. It is this dry environment that could be the cause of closed eyes in some tortoises. Nevertheless, closed eyes might also be a sign of illness.

Tortoises are best kept in an open enclosure if living indoors. In warmer climes, tortoises do very well outdoors. It is crucial to check what species of tortoise you have to ensure that it is living in a suitable environment. Remember that as reptiles tortoises are cold-blooded creatures and cannot increase their own body temperature. They will only ever be as warm as the environment in which they are in.

It is up to you then to use artificial heat to create a temperature that is as close to its natural habitat as possible. Tortoises that are too cold will try to conserve energy by not eating and slowing down their metabolism. If this happens then they are likely to keep their eyes shut too.

Tortoise Eye Stuck Shut

With some illnesses, such as respiratory illness for example, the eyes of a tortoise can become watery and swollen. This can lead to the tortoise being unable to open its eyes. It is important to look for other signs of illness if your tortoise has suddenly stopped opening its eyes.  

These symptoms can include:

  • mucus around the nose and mouth
  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • difficulty breathing.

It is essential that you contact a vet as soon as possible if you suspect that your tortoise might have a respiratory illness. Urgent treatment will be required to prevent the illness spreading to the lungs and pneumonia from developing.

Tortoise Not Opening One Eye

If your tortoise is closing only one eye, this can indicate an injury or infection to the eye. Check to see if the eye looks swollen or if there is any trauma to the surrounding area. If you suspect an injury or infection, call a vet for advice. It is likely that they will want to examine the affected eye before recommending any specific treatment.

It is vital that you get to the root of the ‘eye(s) not open’ problem as soon as possible as most tortoises will refuse to eat when they cannot open their eyes, which can then lead to further problems.

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