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Date:   03 February, 2013  
Focus: Small animals - dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs & rabbits
The slider can't walk normally at home but is OK at the vet
Dr Sing Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS
First written: March 29,  2004
Date:   03 February, 2013 
Be Kind To Pets
Veterinary Education
Project 2013-0203

Turtles are symbols of longevity and hard work to the Chinese. In Singapore, they are easier to keep in small apartments.  They are usually kept in tanks and don't smell bad or make a lot of noises unlike dogs. Many are much loved by the young owners but many have been abandoned into reservoirs or given up to the animal shelters. 

Red-eared sliders or terrapins are the only approved species of turtles to be kept as pets in Singapore. This is because other turtles like Star Tortoises are prohibited by the government.

They are bought as hatchlings in the wet markets and in certain pet shops for 50 cents in the 1980s and more in 2013.  

I seldom have terrapins as patients since they are not favoured as pets compared to dogs and cats. I may have a handful of cases per year.  Dog patients predominate as patients in all veterinary surgeries in Singapore and in my practice and when a terrapin patient comes in, it is a challenge to cure its disease.       
One fine day in March 2004, a red-eared Slider was not walking normally and so the owner brought him in for consultation.

"It tilts its body towards the left and lifted its right leg, when it walks," the teenager put his slider on my The red-eared Slider (turtle) is popular as pets in Singaporeconsultation table. Instead of neglecting it, the busy teenager who spent a lot of time text-messaging his friends on his mobile phone spared an hour to consult me.  

"Let's see how it walks," I had a general examination of the big terrapin. "It walks straight now. I don't see any turning to the left side when it walks!"
At the veterinary surgery, it had behaved normally. "This is a common situation for many pet owners when the pet is at the veterinary surgery," I said. " Their pets look normal when they should be sick!"  

"What is the problem with this terrapin?" the boy asked.
I lifted it up and examined every part of its body. I extended its four legs while it attempted to retract them.  

"Look at just below and in front of its right armpit," I said. " Embedded under the skin is a 4 mm-long wooden splinter. This condition is diagnosed as "foreign body".  

I used a pair of small curved scissors to cut off the foreign body from the skin of the armpit. "There is a little bleeding from the skin after snipping off the wooden splinter," I advised the owner. "However, it is not serious."

The turtle was bleeding a bit. It felt good and energetic wanting only to zoom away from me when placed on the consultation table. "It wants to go to the most tranquil and scenic Singapore's Pierce Reservoir," I said.

"No, no, no way!" the boy said. "It goes home to where it is a family member. Everyone is pleased with its good behaviour. It does not bark at all hours unlike the dog of my neighbour. It does not spray urine on the corridor walls unlike the cat of another neighbour. My whole family loves it."

This turtle went home and now in 2013 when I chanced upon its images of the foreign body in this slider,  taken in 2004, time had really passed by. I had not seen it for the past 9 years and I presumed it is in excellent health and will be just 16 years old.  No news is good news for the vet! 

Wooden splinter in the armpit of a red-eared Slider, Toa Payoh VetsBE KIND TO PETS.  The picture is captioned: "I want to swim in the Pierce Reservoir" sends a message to new pet owners to be responsible for their pets. It is  not meant to encourage turtle swimming in reservoirs. Its owners would never allow it to swim in any reservoir as it would swim far away and be lost.  It is very well cared for and never needed veterinary attention for the past 7 years. Till it had a foreign body.

DON'T abandon the Red-eared Sliders in reservoirs and ponds in the Botanic Gardens, Mount Faber, ponds and parks.  When you have a pet, BE KIND. Take care of it for as long as it lives.    


The top of the shell (carapace) is smooth and gently curved and is olive to black with yellow stripes and bars. It is a medium -sized turtle that is best identified by a red or sometimes yellow patch that is found just behind its eye.

The Red-eared Slider is almost exclusively aquatic. It rarely ventures out of the water except to lay its eggs or to migrate to a new water body, should the need arise. As a water dweller, the adult turtle feeds primarily on aquatic plants. Young turtles are mostly carnivorous, gradually switching to vegetation as they age.

This Slider is commonly seen basking in the sun, on logs or masses of vegetation. When basking sites are in short supply, they may even pile on top of each other, up to three turtles deep. The Red-eared Slider very easily is spooked and will slide directly into the water from its sunning spot at the least provocation.

During the breeding season between March and July, the female may find herself swept away by a persistent suitor. The male Red-eared Sliders attempt to win over a female by engaging in courtship activities include swimming backwards in front of the female with their forelegs stretched out, palm side up.

Red-eared Sliders may produce up to three clutches of four to 23 eggs in a single year. With each nest, the female will go on shore and dig a shallow hole that is three to 10 inches wide. She deposits her eggs in these excavations and subsequently covers them up with soil and materials to seal in the eggs for protection from predators and the elements. The young turtles hatch 60 to 75 days later, although they may spend the winter in the nest.

Source: Texas Park and Wildlife  -
The above case was seen in 2004 and I have not seen this glider since then. It is 2013 now and two interns had produced an interesting video based on my story concept related to the case of 3 terrapins with swollen eyes hospitalised at Toa Payoh Vets in 2012.


More info:
Male sliders are said to have a concave lower shell while the female has a horizontally flat lower shell. Female sliders are bigger in size. Male sliders have longer toe nails. 

More interesting turtle cases seen at Toa Payoh Vets at:

Updates will be at this webpage:

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All rights reserved. Revised: February 03, 2013

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