We were moving house so we dismantled the turtles aquarium and went to the new location.

However, when we placed the turtle out on the balcony to bask in the sun while we cleaned up the house and set up the aquarium, the turtle found its way out of its comfort zone and escaped off the roof.

We had anticipated that, and placed barriers where we thought was a deadly opening but somehow it climbed. So it fell down three floors and cracked its shell. There is some weird stuff sticking out of its shell (see bottom picture). I don't know how I can help it right now. It's Sunday here and all vets are closed as far as I know. I also really can't afford a vet treatment right now.

The turtle can still move around (so spinal cord is okay) but I think it's in a very bad shape. What can I do?

Turtle on roof top

Turtle on roof top

enter image description here

Injured Turtle (Not for the squeamish!)

Injured turtle

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    I remember once rushing a bird that fell (strangely enough) to the local animal shelter after an emergency call on a weekend. You might need to find a place like that. They did save the bird.
    – dearN
    Commented Aug 31, 2014 at 16:34
  • You didn't say where you were, but some animal hospitals in moderate-sized cities do have 24-hour emergency/walk-in service. I've used the MSPCA's Angell Memorial more than once. I agree that the animal needs to be seen as soon as possible; that is NOT a trivial injury.
    – keshlam
    Commented Aug 31, 2014 at 22:58
  • Can't believe I'm looking this up almost exactly a year later. Did your turtle make it? I just had the same thing happen to my RES. We leave him out to bask too in a plastic trough, He managed to climb out of his trough and then over the balcony ledge too and fell 5 stories down onto concrete. Luckily he's still alive and his shell is completely intact, he seems to have responses in all his limbs, but is not moving much, and there was a bit of blood that he coughed up. Took him to the vet - he's being kept for observation :(
    – user5704
    Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 10:26
  • Dear Candice, I am very sorry about what happened to your turtle. It is in fact heart breaking when you think you could've done more to keep it safe. I took the turtle to a vet and after calling to check on him 2 days later, I was told it was euthanize due to too much internal damage. I hope yours make it. Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 11:51
  • Just asking, but did the turtle survive?
    – Isabel
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 3:34

3 Answers 3


As covered in the other answers, your only option is to see a vet in order to have surgery done. Or in the worst case, have it humanely put to rest.

I want to stress how important it is that a professional veterinarian/surgeon takes care of this injury.

A turtle's shell is not only its spine, but its ribs as well. Below is a diagram of how turtles came to develop their shells that we see today. In the diagram of the modern turtle's skeleton, you can see how the ribs are spread out through the carapace (upper half of the shell).

Turtle shell with ribs

Turtles are slow growers, so unless it's a small crack, it's unlikely that it will heal naturally. A crack as large as yours will have to be rebuilt and sealed in order to prevent water and air from entering the inside of the shell.

As far as what's sticking out of the carapace, I'm not very good with identifying internal organs, but based on its location I would say it's either the liver, or some intestines.

You can reference the diagram below to see for yourself.

Anatomy of a turtle's insides

Now, as you can see, the crack in your turtle's shell is extremely close to where the lungs should be. You should not try simply press the intestines back inside as you could risk pressing against the lungs, collapsing them, or interrupting the heartbeat, causing a stroke.

I imagine your turtle is pretty stressed out from the injury, so the shock of moving his insides, even if you managed to avoid the lungs and heart, could very well kill him.

If it is the intestines sticking out, you have the risks I've mentioned, but also the risk of placing them back inside in a way that would encourage impaction.

Hopefully you've been able to get him to a vet. Otherwise be sure to keep the wound clean with pure water, keep the turtle out of the tank, but rinse him twice a day to keep him hydrated until the vet appointment.

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    Thank you for your very detailed answer ! I took the turtle to a veterinarian for treatment. Actually in truth, i just said, i found the turtle on the streets(maybe a car ran over him) so they will take care of him and maybe find someone to adopt him. Commented Sep 7, 2014 at 8:31

You should take this animal to a vet right away. Repairing the shell will require surgical skills to clean the wound and create a suitable patch. Otherwise the turtle will likely die of infection (if it survives the shock and possible internal injuries).

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    Well, just to be fair the OP made the statement that they can't afford a vet right now and was asking what they can do. Very little is probably the answer (I don't know), but saying they should go to the vet when they said they can't afford it isn't really going to help much. Commented Aug 31, 2014 at 22:59
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    @DavidMulder It doesn't matter if they say that they can't afford the vet, if going to a vet is the only option, then that's the answer. There are some vets that will allow payment plans (which could be noted in the answer).
    – Spidercat
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 2:11

This animal really MUST see a vet to assess the damage (if the tissue leaking out is vital organs or just muscle tissue).

Try calling some if the voicemails of local vets. In my area vets put ways to contact an emergency vet in their voicemails for things that happen when they are closed.

If you cannot find a vet today, gently rinse the area with clean (potable) water and keep him in a dry area without any loose substrate to get into the wound. Make sure he has access to drinking water and food if he shows interest.

Do NOT attempt to repair the shell yourself, as you may seal an infection into your repair. Allow the wound to drain.


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