Abcesses in chelonians are localized infections usually occurring in conjunction with another systemic infection. Generally they are made of hard caseous lumps containing cheesy yellow/white pus. Normally, abscesses do not respond well to systemic antibiotics alone and require a surgical incision to remove the pus or fluid. The ear is the most common site for abscesses to occur, but can be found in the legs, mouth and other body parts. The following is a reference only and not intended to be an account of how to do it yourself. It does go into detail on what needs to be done to eradicate abscesses, how to determine if the animal has one, and is strictly based on the authors experience with abcesses as a trained rehabilitator. Under no circumstance should one take this information and attempt to do the procedures described because an incision is made into a live animal, through skin and muscular tissue. There is risk involved in performing these procedures, such as cutting tendons and joints, thus creating a much larger problem than it was in the first place. Treating abcesses should be done in a sterile environment, with sterile instruments and should only be done by trained individuals; preferably a veterinarian.
As stated above, abcesses are localized infections occurring in conjunction with systemic infections. The site of the abscess may have noticeable swelling , or may be hidden in underlying tissue without any noticeable change on the exterior. Often times, though, there is slight swelling at the site which seeps yellowish/whitish liquid and this can form a crust. As the infection worsens, the site will begin to stretch over the underlying swelling producing a profound lump.
Ear abcesses are most common among the North American box turtles. They can be caused by keeping the animal in conditions that are too hot and dry. Aquatic turtles can also get ear abcesses, but the cause is often because the animal is kept in poor water conditions. An abcess can occur as the result of bacteria entering a wound, where then it can proliferate. Animals under stress have a weakened immune systems and are not able to fight off infection and thus the bacteria proliferate to the point of causing illness.
Abscesses which occur in the fleshy tissue can be lanced and the caseous material removed. The preceding photographs show the process of removing the caseous material from an ear.