Why Is My Turtle Not Using Back Legs

In this article we’re going to answer the question –¬†why is my turtle not using back legs?¬†

It can be a cause of concern for turtle parents to see their baby not using their back legs

What could be causing this problem

Is there anything you can do to help?

Carry on reading to find out!

Possible Reasons Your Turtle Is Not Using Their Back Legs

If your turtle has a problem moving forward or backward and they can’t move at all, it’s likely that one of the following things happened.

  • The shell got damaged (cracked) on one side
  • He was injured badly enough so he couldn’t walk normally anymore
  • A leg became infected with bacteria or fungus
  • One of his front legs stopped working completely (leg paralysis).

If you notice any of these symptoms in your turtle, then there may be something wrong with them.

You need to get him checked by a vet right away as each issue needs special treatment.

Why is my turtle dragging his back legs?

This could happen due to many different causes.

Some of those causes include:

Shell damage

Cracks in shells tend to cause injuries inside the body which makes movement very difficult.

Sometimes cracks also affect vision, making it hard to see where you’re going.

Leg injury/paralysis

This happens when either an individual leg becomes severely inflamed or it gets cut off, usually because of trauma such as stepping on a nail or getting caught up in fishing net etc… Injuries like this might result in complete loss of use of that particular leg.

Turtles are known to heal fast but sometimes infections take longer than normal to clear up and recovery takes time as well.

When infection does occur it tends to spread quickly through tissues causing more serious health concerns.

That’s why it is important to take your turtle to the vets to get him checked out as soon as possible

Last thing you want is for the infection to spread

This will only just make things worse


There are several diseases that attack both reptiles and amphibians including fungal infections, bacterial infections, viral infections, parasites and cancerous tumors among others.

Once a disease affects the immune system, its ability to fight infection decreases dramatically.

As a result, the affected animal begins to show signs of illness.

These animals often stop eating and drinking water until eventually dying.

It is important to seek help immediately for this type of condition.

Many diseases cannot be cured without proper diagnosis and treatment.

Even though most of the above mentioned diseases are rare, once you find out what kind of disease your turtle is afflicted with, you’ll want to treat it immediately.

Worms and Parasites

Most times, when people think “worms” they automatically assume humans only have worms.

That isn’t true!

All kinds of creatures harbor various types of internal parasites.

Turtle eggs grow within the fleshy tissue around the intestines.

After hatching, larvae eat the soft part of the intestine before growing into adult form.

So basically, in order words, worms aren’t just worms, they are actually tiny little sea snails that live inside the intestines of certain species of aquatic life.

They feed on blood and mucus secreted from intestinal walls.

Because of their feeding habits, they produce waste products such as feces which smell bad and attract vermin.

Another thing to note, while earthworms burrow under ground, these ones reside within the digestive tract.

They leave the body mainly via defecation and urination.

To prevent worm infestation, keep your pond clean by removing dead fish, sludge and debris regularly.

Clean your tank thoroughly after every meal.

Don’t forget to check sand too.

What should you do if your turtle is dragging his back legs?

Your first step should always be to consult with your veterinarian.. Since each case requires specific treatments, here are some general tips to follow.

Get your turtle examined by a professional Veterinarian

Do not give medication unless instructed to by a Vet.

Try to isolate the injured leg to limit further damage and infection.

Take your turtle to a specialist who knows how to handle and care for tortoises.

Make sure you provide ample space for swimming in a shallow container so that he can swim freely

Provide adequate nutrition

Give fresh air and lots of exercise

Why is my turtle not walking properly?

Sometimes, when turtles lose control of their movements they exhibit abnormal behavior.

For example, a turtle that used to go backwards now starts walking forwards.

Or a turtle that used to crawl slowly across land suddenly decides to run.

Such behaviors may indicate neurological disorders caused by brain lesions, spinal cord injuries, infectious diseases, degenerative diseases, metabolic conditions, toxic exposure or nutritional deficiencies.

It is recommended that you contact a qualified turtle rehabilitation expert for assistance.

Can turtles become paralyzed?

Paralyzed limbs are extremely painful and disfiguring.

Tortoises are especially susceptible to this problem since they spend so much time lying flat on their backs.

Usually after a period of immobilization, the animal dies from exhaustion.

Paralysis may also develop when a limb bone breaks or develops tumor.

Other factors contributing to paralysis includes malnutrition, poor circulation, lack of oxygen supply, improper wound healing, prolonged immobility, genetic defects and infections.

When faced with a crippled tortoise, it is advisable to call a veterinarian for advice.

Treatment options include physical therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and drugs.

Unfortunately, there are no medications available that specifically target neural regeneration in vertebrates.

Therefore, researchers continue to search for effective ways to stimulate nerve regrowth and repair.

Here are few tips to follow:

Keep your turtle hydrated by providing plenty of fresh water daily

Watch for changes in appetite and activity level

Monitor for swelling and tenderness

Observe fecal output and urine production

Check surrounding temperature

Check your turtle periodically during quarantine.

Contact your local Veterinary Hospital regarding availability of diagnostic tests and procedures.

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