Degenerative diseases

Pyramiding in Tortoises

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: May 1, 2018
Pyramiding in Tortoises

Many people decide to open their homes to a tortoise, since this animal can easily be kept as a pet as long as it is properly looked after. Always bear in mind the need for a large space where the tortoise can walk and exercise freely.

In addition, tortoises can even live well into their 80s, depending on the species and the individual characteristics of each tortoise. Therefore, this animal can be with you for a long period of time.

Today at AnimalWised we will explain what all about pyramiding in tortoises and why does it happen so that you can prevent this disease that could seriously affect your pet's health.

You may also be interested in: Hemangiosarcoma in Dogs


  1. What is pyramiding?
  2. Why does pyramiding occur in tortoises?
  3. Can you treat pyramiding in tortoises?
  4. How to prevent pyramiding in tortoises

What is pyramiding?

Pyramiding is a disease affecting the tortoise's shell, with it becoming deformed as a result of excessive growth. This anomalous development affects the scutes - the outside of the shell formed by keratin - most of all, making them grow vertically.

Unfortunately, affectation of the shell can lead to serious consequences for the tortoise. It may interfere with normal lung function, which causes weakness and deformity in limbs, nail problems, arthritis, paralysis as a result of deformation of the vertebrae and even a slow death. For females, pyramiding affects the laying of eggs, also causing problems during this process.

Pyramiding in Tortoises - What is pyramiding?

Why does pyramiding occur in tortoises?

Pyramiding in tortoises may have multiple causes. Some tortoises will develop it due to certain factors and others will instead present a completely different aetiology. The causes of pyramiding in tortoises may be the following:

  • Low humidity: When the tortoise doesn't have the necessary humidity conditions, pyramiding can develop.
  • Sedentary life: Lack of exercise weakens the tortoise's anatomical structures, predisposing it to various anomalies.
  • Dietary problems: Overfeeding, excess protein or a diet low in calcium and vitamin D3 are closely linked to the onset of pyramiding.
  • Lack of exposure to the sun: Tortoises need exposure to direct sunlight in order to synthesize vitamin D3 and fix calcium to their structures. If they don't have enough vitamin D3, their shell will become damaged.
  • Thyroid and parathyroid gland diseases: These glands synthesize hormones that affect calcium metabolism. In pathological conditions they will cause damage to the tortoise's shell.
  • Genetic factors: Some species of tortoises have a genetic predisposition to pyramiding, such as the Geochelone Sulcata or the Geochelone gigantea.

To correct the cause of pyramiding, it is important that your tortoise undergoes an exhaustive veterinary examination.

Pyramiding in Tortoises - Why does pyramiding occur in tortoises?

Can you treat pyramiding in tortoises?

Regrettably pyramiding in tortoises cannot be treated, although it can be partially improved if the disease is detected in the early stages or if the tortoise is young.

It is equally important to determine what has caused the disease, so that you can correct the factor and give your young tortoise an improved quality of life.

Pyramiding in Tortoises - Can you treat pyramiding in tortoises?

How to prevent pyramiding in tortoises

Pyramiding in tortoises can be prevented. To do so, you only need to implement the following dietetic hygiene measures:

  • Your tortoise's diet should be balanced, high in fiber and low in proteins and fats.
  • It's important to give your tortoise calcium-fortified foods and ensure that you are not giving it an excessive amount of phosphorous; the relationship between calcium and phosphorus should be 2:1.
  • It is important for the atmospheric and body temperatures to be appropriate for your tortoise, with each species having an optimum temperature.
  • Humidity is also another hugely important factor, even for tortoises originating from arid areas. You should give it moist hiding places which they can use whenever they want to. Water should be made available for them throughout the whole day, and they should enjoy weekly baths with warm water, as well as being able to enjoy the sunlight too. You must also take into account the particular needs of each species.
Pyramiding in Tortoises - How to prevent pyramiding in tortoises

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Pyramiding in Tortoises, we recommend you visit our Degenerative diseases category.

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Pyramiding in Tortoises