How to help a turtle with a bleeding shell

Updated November 21, 2016

With a hard shell covering a large part of their bodies, turtles and tortoises may seem like nature's tanks: hardy, little creatures that are protected from serious injury by their tough outer shells. This is not always the case, though. Numerous turtles are injured each year, and it's not just their exposed legs and heads that sustain damage. The carapace, or shell, can be injured by a vehicle or when chewed on by a dog or other animal, leaving the turtle bleeding and in need of some human help.

Use a stick to gently push the injured turtle into a box, so that you can transport it easily to a place where it can be tended. Cover the turtle's head with a towel to help calm it.

Inspect the injury. If the turtle is bleeding only slightly, and if you will be able to contact a veterinarian or turtle rescue fairly quickly, simply leave it in the ventilated box in a cool, quiet place.

Press gently on the turtle's carapace with a soft, clean cloth, if you can safely do so, to stop any heavy bleeding. Applying a little baking soda may help stop minor bleeding.

Clean the wound, if you can, with water or hydrogen peroxide, and bandage it. Gauze bandages with adhesive on the edges may work well on small cuts, while sanitary towels cut to size can come in handy for larger gashes.

Allow most types of turtles to soak in shallow water for about an hour a day, if you will need to take care of it for a few days, and if you can do so without getting too much water in the wound. This will keep the animal hydrated, though prolonged soaking risks letting bacteria into the cut or gash.

Take the turtle to a veterinarian or wildlife rescue as soon as possible for more in-depth treatment of its wound.


Always wash your hands after handling a turtle. Some species are known to carry salmonella and other bacteria. Cleaning and bandaging the wound is more important than applying medicines. A veterinarian or experienced rescue organisation will apply any necessary medications when the turtle is examined.


Be careful when handling any injured or ill turtle, no matter how tame you think it is. Even pet turtles tend to become stressed when injured and may bite.

Things You'll Need

  • Stick
  • Box
  • Towel
  • Soft, clean cloth
  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Bandages
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About the Author

Based outside Pittsburgh, Jamie Rankin began her career as a professional writer as a news and sports journalist with the "Daily Courier," a subsidiary of the "Pittsburgh Tribune-Review." Her work has appeared in both publications. Rankin, who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and communications from Point Park University, has been writing sports and pet-related articles online since 2004.