SOS! Red Eared Slider Shell Peeling – What to Do?

Red-eared sliders are known for their solid shells and red markings behind their ears. Many pet owners get scared when their pet turtles begin to shed their shells. This article will discuss the various signs, causes, and treatments of shell peeling in red-eared sliders.

Yes, red-eared sliders peel their shell once yearly, which it is part of a natural process. Young sliders might shed their shells more occasionally as they are in the growing stage. As the turtle grows old, its scutes fall off and are replaced with new shiny ones.

What is Shell Peeling in Red-eared Sliders?

red eared slider shell peeling

Shell peeling is a natural shedding process in red-eared sliders and is nothing to be worried about. Your pet slider will begin its shell peeling when the scutes begin to detach from the shell and fall off. There are several reasons why shell peeling occurs in red-eared sliders. It can be due to an unbalanced diet, fungal infection, parasite infestation, trauma, and improper environment.

When your pet turtle starts to peel its shell, it will reveal white or yellowish patches on the shell. These patches may have a rough texture and might be slightly raised. Shell peeling needs to be treated and should not be left unnoticed. The exposed area of the shell is prone to bacterial and fungal infections, which can later lead to MBD or shell rot.

Signs of a Healthy Shell Peeling in Red-Eared Sliders

Red-eared sliders have a hard protective shell that protects them against predators or danger. A healthy shell is essential for your red-eared sliders’ well-being, and thus, you should know about the various signs of healthy shell peeling. Here are three signs of a healthy shell in red-eared sliders.

Consistent Shedding

red-eared slider shedding

Shedding is a natural process that occurs in all reptiles. It is done to remove the old and damaged cells and replace them with new ones. Two types of shedding occur in red-eared sliders, the scutes and the skin. During shedding, the scutes and the skin will peel off to reveal a fresh layer underneath.

A healthy shell peeling in red-eared sliders will always be consistent and even. Your pet sliders shed their skin every few weeks and their scutes once or twice a year. Although, the frequency of the shedding also depends on your pet’s age, size, and health. If the shedding is uneven or patchy, it indicates an underlying issue such as dehydration, an unbalanced diet, parasitic infestation, or another medical problem. Inconsistent shedding can also cause shell rot in red-eared sliders.

No Cracks or Fissures

red-eared slider healthy shell

A red-eared slider with no cracks or fissures means they have a healthy shell. Cracks or crumbles can occur if your pet falls from a height or has any accidental traumas. Fissures are caused due to lack of calcium and vitamin D and can lead to medical issues such as metabolic bone disease. Cracks and fissures can become homes for bacteria to dwell in and cause various health problems.

Editor’s Note
If you see any cracks or fissures on your red-eared slider, you must immediately take them to a vet. Ignoring these cracks can further lead to shell rot and other health issues.

Vibrant Shell

red-eared slider with vibrant shell

The color of a red-eared slider’s shell considerably indicates its overall health. A vibrant and clear shell with no discoloration or deformities indicates that the shell is in excellent shape. The shell color might be different depending on your pet’s age and gender, but it should be overall consistent throughout. In cases of shell rot, your pet’s shell will have white or dark moldy discolorations with a foul odor coming. If you see this occurring, visit a vet immediately.

Signs of Unhealthy Shell Peeling in Red-Eared Sliders

An unhealthy shell will directly impact the health of your turtle. You should know the various indications of unhealthy peeling in red-eared sliders. Here are three signs of unhealthy peeling in red-eared sliders.

White or Discolored Shell

If your pet slider has any white patches or discoloration on its shells, it can be a sign of shell rot. Shell rot is a common disease that causes crumbling and softness in a shell. The discolored areas might also look cracked and raised. You can also notice your pet slider in much pain if you touch the area. This is a sign of unhealthy shell peeling in red-eared sliders.

Provide your red-eared slider with proper treatment, and make sure you visit a vet immediately. The vet will provide you with ointments and prevent the bacteria infection from spreading further.

Excessive Peeling

red-eared slider with excessive peeling

Shedding is a natural process that happens to your red-eared slider once or twice yearly. This is a sign of your pet growing and getting a new layer of skin and scutes. Excessive peeling can be a sign of unhealthy peeling in red-eared sliders. Excessive peeling can be a cause of an underlying medical issue.

If your pet slider is shedding more than usual or big chunks of the shell, it may be due to a vitamin deficiency, an unbalanced diet, or unclean water. This can weaken your turtle’s shell and cause health concerns such as MBD. Making your pet more susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections.

Soft Shell

red-eared slider wet shell rot

A healthy shell is vibrant and will never have soft spots on it. Soft spongy spots on your red-eared slider’s shell can signify bacterial infection. They might also have a foul odor with yellowish-white fluid oozing from the damaged spot. This is also a sign of wet rot in red-eared sliders.

If you notice this occurring, you should visit a vet immediately. They will prescribe your pet slider with oral antiseptics and eliminate any infections.

How to Treat Unhealthy Shell Peeling in Red-Eared Sliders?

Now that we know the difference between healthy and unhealthy peeling, we should know how to treat them. Unhealthy shell peeling can cause various health problems to your pet and should be dealt with immediately.

The first thing you should do after noticing the sign of an unhealthy problem is to identify the cause of this infection. Unhealthy peeling can happen due to various factors such as an unbalanced diet, unclean water, trauma, or illnesses. 

Provide your red-eared slider with clean water and wash their tanks regularly. This will provide your turtle with a healthy and comfortable enclosure to live in. You should also avoid overcrowding the enclosure, which might lead to territorial aggression. This aggression can later lead to bites and open wounds making it perfect for bacteria to infest.

You should also provide your turtle with a nutritional diet and ensure they are getting enough calcium in its system. Calcium deficiency can cause medical issues like MBD in your pet turtle’s body. You should also clean the area with soap and warm water and gently dry it with a clean towel.

Once the wound is disinfected, apply some antiseptic cream such as betadine to kill all the bacteria and prevent the infection from spreading further. You can also put in some sterilized bandages to keep the area clean. If the infection persists, take your turtle to a vet immediately.

Shell Peeling vs. Shell Rot in Red-Eared Sliders

red-eared slider shell peeling vs shell rot

One of the issues many pet owners face is detecting the difference between a shell peeling vs. shell rot in red-eared sliders. Shell peeling is a natural process and happens to the shell’s outer layer, also known as the scutes.

This process takes place once or twice every year. At the same time, Shell rot is a medical illness that happens when your turtle is kept in an unclean environment and does not maintain a proper diet.

Physical trauma and overcrowding can also lead to your pet getting shell rot. Unlike shell peel, shell rot takes over three months to heal completely. If you ignore the shell, rot can be dangerous for your pet and even lead to death. 

Both shell peeling and shell rot require you to pay close attention to your pet and give it a well-balanced and nutritious diet. You should always provide your pet slider with a comfortable and safe environment to prevent it from getting a bacterial infection.


Is it normal for red-eared sliders shell to peel?

Shedding or the peeling process is entirely natural for red-eared sliders. Your pet turtle will shed their skin every few weeks and their scutes once every year. If you notice crumbling or softening of the shell, it might be a sign of medical illness.

What to do if your red-eared slider’s shell is peeling?

There is not much that you can do, as it is all part of a natural shedding process. You might see the scutes being a little raised and beginning to come off. You should not try and peel them off as they might cause more damage to your pet slider.

Final Thoughts

Yes, red-eared sliders go through a peeling or shedding process. This is part of a natural cycle and provides your red-eared slider with a fresh layer of skin and scutes. If your pet slider has discoloration or deformities on its shell, then this might be an unhealthy peel. This can be an early sign of shell rot. If you see any signs of bacterial infection, you should take them to a vet immediately.

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