You’ve been keeping turtles and tortoises as pets for years.
You’ve had them long enough that one or two have become part of your family’s daily life, so much so that they can almost be considered members in their own right!
But what happens if your pet starts acting strange?
What do these odd behaviors mean, and how can you help him get better?
So the question is – why is my turtle biting the air
If your turtle is basking and it’s near the end of basking time then it simply could mean your turtle is dehydrated. Your baby may have just been enjoying basking so much they forgot about the water!
Let’s get into more detail
What does it mean when your turtle bites the air?
If your turtle is not basking and it’s biting the air it can be a cause of concern.
When a turtle opens its mouth wide, puts its head back, closes its eyes and chews on the edge of its shell, it means that something isn’t right.
It could be because there’s food stuck inside the roof of his mouth (known as “roofing over”), but more often than not it’s simply a sign of stress.
There are many causes of stress, from being kept in poor conditions to sudden changes in environment, such as moving somewhere new.
In either case, most turtles will start chewing on things to relieve some of the anxiety – usually anything soft and movable that won’t hurt them.
This includes cardboard tubes, paper towels, toilet tissue, newspapers and even plastic bags.
They may also bite through shells, which is actually quite normal behavior.
Why does my turtle keep his mouth open?
Sometimes, however, your turtle’s constant chewing may indicate that there is something wrong with his mouth.
A lot of people aren’t aware that turtles must close their mouths when sleeping, otherwise water gets into their bodies, causing hypothermia and possibly death by drowning.
Also, when your turtle breathes, he has to make sure all of the air goes down into his lungs instead of coming straight out again.
Any small holes present allow excess moisture to escape his body, leading to sogginess and eventually suffocation.
Turtles who continue to hold their breath during sleep tend to wake themselves up frequently throughout the night, which interferes with deep restful slumber.
If your turtle is still breathing properly despite having his mouth closed, then perhaps his tongue is swollen due to irritation.
Your vet should check if he needs antibiotics, since sometimes bacteria can enter the wound that forms between his lower jawbone and gums.
Another possibility is that your turtle has started gnawing on himself in order to remove a foreign object lodged within his throat.
These objects can range from bits of food to dental floss, cotton balls, toothpicks, etc., which can cause choking hazards.
Some vets recommend removing the obstruction using a syringe filled with rubbing alcohol, although I personally wouldn’t want to go that far unless absolutely necessary.
To avoid further problems, it would be best to take your turtle to the vet to get him checked out
What are signs of a stressed turtle?
Stress-related issues aside, there are certain behavioral patterns to watch out for that may give you an indication that your turtle is struggling emotionally.
For example, your turtle may suddenly stop swimming, bury itself deeper in the substrate, hide underneath furniture, refuse to eat or drink, cower when approached, or act aggressively towards you or others.
Of course, every individual shows different symptoms depending upon age, sex and breed, so always consult your veterinarian if you notice behavioral changes in your pet.
It’s important to note that sometimes turtles pick up injuries without showing obvious physical damage.
One common symptom is bleeding behind their eye, where blood vessels break because of rough handling or trauma.
Other times, though, you may see no visible injury at all, yet your turtle continues to show distress.
There are several reasons why this could happen, including internal parasites, infections, tumors, disease, malnutrition, liver failure, kidney and heart diseases, hormonal imbalances, neurological disorders, and toxic substances entering the bloodstream.
With proper care, however, your turtle will heal completely without ever knowing what truly happened to bring her misery.
As mentioned earlier, turtles naturally bite the air when they breathe.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re ill, especially if they were given sufficient space to roam freely and socialize normally prior to becoming sick.
Sometimes, it’s best to leave your turtle alone until she feels well enough to interact with everyone else again.
Just remember to provide plenty of fresh water and spend quality time with your turtle!