Dogs eat the oddest things, and if your dog ate a turtle, you might not be very surprised about Rover’s culinary adventures, but you may be somewhat concerned. Can dogs get salmonella from eating turtles? Can dogs get any parasites from eating turtles? And what about dogs who ingest the turtle’s shell? That must not be too good for them. These are all good questions. If your dog ate a turtle and is acting sick, please see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.
A Word About Salmonella
Turtles are cute, indeed, they make adorable pets, but turtles are also known for potentially making people very ill. The Food and Drug Administration warns that turtles, just like lizards, frogs and snakes, commonly carry Salmonella bacteria on their skin and the surface of their shells. Salmonella can also be found in these creature’s cages, tanks and aquariums. But what exactly is salmonella?
Salmonella are gram negative bacilli that reside in the intestinal tract of several animals, such as birds, reptiles and even some bugs. The bacteria are shed in these animal’s droppings and therefore these animals’ bodies and their surroundings may be contaminated.
In humans, salmonella can cause an infection that starts with symptoms showing up anywhere between 6 and 72 hours after exposure with the bacteria. Symptoms of salmonellosis include stomach pains, diarrhea, vomiting, fever and headaches. Fortunately, most people recover without treatment, but some people with lower resistance to infection may get so sick to require hospitalization, and in some cases, the infection can even turn fatal.
But what about dogs? Dogs and cats may too acquire salmonellosis when ingesting contaminated water or food or by preying on infected animals. As in humans, dogs that are most susceptible to salmonellosis are those who are young diseased or stressed, as it happens with dogs undergoing hospitalization, anesthesia or dogs given drugs that suppress the immune system. Also, as in humans, dogs develop fever, loss of appetite, and malaise followed by vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. However, dogs appear to be less susceptible to salmonella than people.
“Turtles have salmonella bacteria on their bodies and this can be passed to humans or animals and give them a GI illness. Signs to watch for include retching, dry heaving, vomiting, inappetance, fever, bracing of the abdomen as though in pain, and diarrhea. Watch for these things over the next few days. If you see any of them, get him to a vet right away.”~Dr. Mel J. veterinarian
Watch for Blockages
Another concern about a dog eating a turtle is the presence of the shell. The shell is hard as bone and as a bone it can potentially cause a bowel obstruction or even a bowel perforation.
With a bowel obstruction, a piece of shell can lodge in the dog’s intestinal tract preventing food to pass past it causing a blockage that causes vomiting, loss of appetite, and left untreated, life threatening complications.
A blockage is more likely to occur if the dog swallows large pieces of the shell whole. The risks are usually higher for smaller sized dogs, but depending on the turtle’s size, larger dogs can be at risk as well. Treatment may involve surgery to remove the blockage.
With a bowel perforation, sharp parts of the shell can puncture the dog’s digestive tract leading to life threatening peritonitis. It may help to feed the dog bread, pasta, or mashed potatoes to wrap around any sharp particles of the shell the dog may have ingested, suggests Joan, a veterinary technician for over 35 years. If you therefore notice any signs of a blockage or signs of a dog’s perforated bowel, see your vet as soon as possible. Symptoms to watch for include vomiting, lack of appetite, fever, painful abdomen and diarrhea.
Alternatively, if your dog ate a turtle recently within the past two hours, you can take your dog to the vet right away and the vet may try to get any large pieces of the shell out of the stomach.
Other Possible Problems
Turtles at times can be harbor parasites and these can be transmitted to dogs. If your dog is given a monthly heartworm pill and it contains an intestinal de-wormer that should take care of any parasites, points out Dr. Dan. If the dog is not on any dewormers, then it’s a good idea to contact a vet a prescription.
Another consideration is that dogs can potentially develop an upset stomach any time they ingest something that is not ordinarily part of their diet.
So if your dog ate a turtle you may see loose stools or vomiting, but these symptoms must be monitored very carefully considering that they can be also signs of a blockage or a potential salmonella infection. If your dog ingested a turtle, you may therefore want to play it safe and monitor your dog for any worrisome signs and consult with your vet immediately should you notice any of them.