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Keeping people safe while caring for pets during the COVID-19 outbreak

To all our valuable clients and their pets, we at the Veterinary Center will continue to stay open to care for ill pets during this difficult time, but to ensure the health and safety of you, your pets, and our staff, we are implementing some new protocols:

  • Our waiting room is very small, and our exam rooms are even smaller, making social distancing impossible. Therefore, for the health and safety of both pet owners and our staff, we will continue to ask pet owners to hand off their pets in carriers to our staff in the parking lot outside the Center. Pet owners will not be allowed inside the Center. Instead, staff members will carefully remove pets from their carriers inside the building and then return carriers to pet owners in the parking lot. No other personal objects (toys, blankets, etc.) will be taken into the building.
  • Pet owners will be asked to provide detailed accounts on the phone to the staff about what is going on with their pets. Owners are welcome to listen on their phones to the appointment in progress as it goes on in the exam room and should feel free to ask questions as the doctor comes up with recommended plans for treatment.
  • Once the staff and the pet owner have agreed on a treatment plan for a pet, owners will be asked to sign permission for treatment online and can either wait in their cars in the parking lot until their pet’s care is complete, or they can return later to the Center at a time they work out with the staff to pick up their pets.

All payment for services will be due at the time of treatment, as usual, and will be processed over the phone. We are sorry if these new policies inconvenience our clients in any way, but in order to keep our staff healthy so that we may be there to treat your pets, we feel that these steps are necessary. We cannot compromise on these new policies and risk the health of our staff. Please be patient during these trying times so that we can all get through this safely and not compromise our health or the health of our beloved pets.

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  • Monday-Thursday: 9am-6pm
  • Friday: 9am-5pm
  • Saturday: 9am-2pm
  • Sunday: Emergency Phone Consultations Only
Turtle Vet Care in Bedford Hills, NY

Turtle Vet Care in Bedford Hills, NY

Turtle Behavior

Turtles are intelligent, interesting creatures that come in a variety of species. Among the most common turtles kept domestically are the red-eared slider and the American painted turtle. Turtles generally live in water but must be provided with a dry area, as well. Specific behavioral, environmental, and nutritional requirements for turtles vary, depending on species. An exotic animal veterinarian can educate you regarding the requirements of your specific pet. Since turtles’ body temperatures (and as a result, their immune systems, digestion, and behavior) are regulated by the temperature of their surroundings, you must learn the requirements for your turtle species. Regardless of species, all turtles carry Salmonella bacteria; thus, care must be taken to wash hands after handling any turtle.
  • Aquatic turtles (live in water): sliders, painted, map, cooter turtles.
  • Semi-aquatic turtles (live near water): box, wood turtles.
Call our turtle vet in Bedford Hills, NY, we look forward to seeing you soon!

Turtle Housing

For most turtles, an aquarium works well. A young, red-eared slider can be housed in a 20-gallon aquarium, to start. In general, 4”-5” turtles each require 2.5 square feet of space. Turtles 8” or longer need a minimum of double this amount of space.

Water should be at least 1.5 to 2 times the top shell (carapace) length, and tanks should have several inches of air space between the water surface and the tank top to prevent escapes and predation by other pets, such as cats and dogs. Since turtles defecate frequently, a water filtration system should be used to maintain water cleanliness.

Weekly water changes are also required to keep the water clean. Feeding turtles in an enclosure separate from their living enclosure can help minimize water soiling. Heat must be provided by an over-the-tank ceramic heat bulb, an under the tank heater, or a submersible heater.

An out of the water basking zone should be provided with a bulb focused over this area. Ideally a second haul-out area should be at the cooler end of the tank. Water temperatures must be maintained within particular ranges specific to given species. Several thermometers should be used to measure temperatures both in and out of the water.

Ideally, a heat gradient, with the warmest temperature in the basking zone (85-90°F for red-eared sliders), and the coolest temperature farthest from this zone, should be offered. For red-eared sliders, water temperature should range approximately 75-85°F, but never fall below 75°F.


Some turtles are herbivores (eat only plant matter), others are carnivores (eat only animal matter), and some are omnivores (eat both plant and animal matter). An exotic animal veterinarian can educate you as to the specific dietary needs of your particular turtle. Adult red-eared sliders are omnivores. Their diet should be made up of about 50% commercial aquatic pelleted turtle diets and live fish and insects (guppies, goldfish, tubifex worms, and earthworms), appropriate to their size. The other 50% can include plant matter in the form of chopped leafy greens (kale, romaine, red and green leaf lettuce, parsley, dandelion and mustard greens, carrot, and squash) and a small amount of fruit. They are generally fed every 2-3 days. Young, growing red-eared sliders are more carnivorous and eat mainly turtle pellets or live fish every day. They accept more vegetable matter as they age. Turtles should be offered a calcium supplement without vitamin D dusted on their greens every day when they are growing and every other day when they are adults.


All turtles should be examined by an exotic animal veterinarian both just after they are acquired, to ensure that husbandry and feeding requirements are being met, and annually to make sure turtles stay healthy. In general, all turtles carry some gastrointestinal parasites. Thus, their feces should be checked, and they should be de-wormed at least once. Proper preventative medicine, particularly with reptiles, whose health depends so much on their environmental conditions, is essential to helping ensure your turtle’s well-being.

Adapted with permission from the Zoological Education Network.

Initial Tank Size

    • Starter tank of 10-20 gallons acceptable
    • Tank size needs to get bigger as turtle grows
    • Adult tank size should be 10 times the

turtle’s body length, 5 times the width, and 5 times the depth



  • Aquatic turtles need land for basking out of water
  • Semi-aquatic turtles need 75% land and 25% water
  • Acceptable substrates for outside of water: pelleted recycled paper (Yesterday’s News®, Care Fresh®), sphagnum moss, leaf litter, unfertilized potting soil
  • If use gravel in water, it must be large enough not to swallow
  • When choosing substrate, remember you must remove soiled bedding weekly and change it completely 1-2 times a month


  • Air temperature should range from 75°F on one end to 110°F (basking area) on the other end
  • Need at least 2 thermometers in tank at cool and warm ends and one in water to monitor temperature
  • Water temperature should be between 75°F-80°F
  • Can heat water in tanks smaller than 300 gallons with a stainless steel commercial aquarium heater (less likely to beak than glass models)
  • See for water heaters
  • Air may be heated with over-the-tank heat bulbs (halogen and incandescent bulbs which produce heat as infrared light) or under the tank heat mats (be careful not to overheat with mats)


  • Best light is natural sunlight, unfiltered by window
  • Exposure to natural sunlight during warm months, even in colder climates, is ideal
  • House outdoors as much as climate permits
  • Whether inside or outside, provide a shade area to prevent overheating
  • Full-spectrum lighting containing wavelengths in the UVB spectrum (290-320 nm) is essential
  • UVB light is essential in making vitamin D in skin, which enables reptile to metabolize calcium properly and maintain healthy bones;
  • Typically, bulbs are either incandescent or fluorescent
  • Incandescent (traditional screw-in) full-spectrum bulbs provide visible (infrared) light and some heat. Most produce some UV light but not in required UVB spectrum. Incandescent bulbs are good for producing heat but not UV light. Will likely need more than one incandescent bulb of varying wattage when using these bulbs for heat
  • Mercury vapor bulbs produce UVB and some heat. May need additional incandescent bulb for heat when using mercury vapor bulbs for UV light
  • Fluorescent, coiled, screw-in bulbs produce UVB and light, but little heat. Some compact fluorescent bulbs produce excess UVB and can cause “snow blindness” or conjunctivitis. Will likely need additional heat source (incandescent bulb, halogen bulb, or under-tank heater) when using fluorescent bulb
  • Combination units have full-spectrum fluorescent and halogen spot light for heat
  • Bulbs producing UVB and visible light should be on 12 hours per day
  • Change UV bulbs every 6 months

Water Filtration

  • Filter required for aquatic turtle’s water; may or may not be used for semi-aquatic species in which water can be drained manually
  • The larger the filter, the better
  • Large external canister filters (such as the Magnum 385®) containing activated charcoal best
  • Clean filter every few weeks
  • Vacuum at least 50% of the gravel, if present, in the water every few weeks to help establish normal bacteria in tank
  • Change 20-30% of the water in tank every 2 weeks
  • Do not need to de-chlorinate water unless fish are present


  • Overall recommendation is 50% commercially prepared diets (i.e. Mazuri® turtle pellets and gel diets, Reptomin®) and live food (fish, earthworms, crickets, shrimp, mealworms) plus 50% vegetables and fruit. Live fish prey are preferable to frozen fish, as fish frozen for longer than 3 months lose nutrients and can cause nutritional deficiencies
  • Vegetables to try include dark green leafy plants such as spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, and romaine lettuce, plus other vegetables such as squash, carrots, zucchini, and others. The more variety, the better.


  • For carnivorous turtles, if the diet is at least 30% or more commercially prepared products (such as pellets), supplements generally are not necessary
  • For more omnivorous species, especially those consuming a lot of vegetables, supplement with calcium 2-3 times a week (but make sure it’s phosphorus-free)

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