Herpesvirus Infection in Reptiles


PetMD Editorial

Updated Aug. 16, 2022

Herpesvirus Infection

Pet reptiles, especially turtles and tortoises, are affected by many different types of infection, some that can damage more than one body organ or system. One such viral infection is caused by the Herpesvirus, which is actually quite common in pet reptiles. However, freshwater turtles, green sea turtles and freshwater tortoises are a few reptiles that are more prone to the disease.

Symptoms and Types

In reptiles, the Herpesvirus can affect multiple organs and systems. But in freshwater turtles and green sea turtles, the virus mainly damages the liver – often killing liver cells and enlarging the organ. The infection can also lead to digestive problems, such as a loss of appetite, or a constant itch for these reptiles.

In tortoises, on the other hand, the viral infection is usually seen in the mouth. The virus then kills the cells in the mouth's mucus membrane. General symptoms for tortoises include loss of appetite, regurgitation of food, mouth sores, and discharge from the mouth and eyes.


A veterinarian will commonly prescribe antiviral medicines for the infection. The medication can be either an ointment (for application on mouth sores), or oral medicine (for generic treatment of the disease).


Once the animal is quarantined, to prevent the Herpesvirus from spreading, the pet reptile's habitat needs to be thoroughly disinfected.

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health