An abscess is an infected injury that becomes filled with pus. In mammals, this pus is a liquid, but in reptiles, the pus is a solid. In pond sliders, abscesses are most commonly found around the ears, nose, legs, and jaw, although sometimes they occur internally, such as in the liver. Aural abscesses (also known as “ear infections”) are particularly common.


  • Palpable lump under the skin
  • Visibly swollen area
  • One or both ears appear very swollen
  • Change in behavior
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite


  • Poor husbandry
  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Dirty water
  • Persistent cold temperatures
  • Lack of/too little UVB
  • Stress
  • Parasites
  • Trauma
  • Broken bone
  • Bacterial/viral infection
  • Nutritional deficiency


If the swelling doesn’t go away within a few days, make an appointment with an experienced reptile veterinarian to have the area looked at. The only way to treat an abscess is via surgical removal, and your turtle will likely need to be dry docked while the wound heals. During this time, you may need to administer pain medication, gently clean the site with antiseptic, and apply topical medication or inject antibiotics.


Aural Abscesses in Aquatic Turtles. (n.d.). The Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine. Retrieved August 7, 2020, from https://avianandexoticvets.com/aural-abscesses-in-aquatic-turtles

Internal Abscesses Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals. (2017, April 28). Wag! https://wagwalking.com/reptile/condition/internal-abscesses-in-turtles

More red-eared slider health topics: