A controversial constipation remedy

Armadilloguy

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Alright, everyone. Long-time listener, first-time caller.

I "discovered" a potentially controversial yet very effective remedy for constipation in tortoises.

Before I explain, I want to clarify that I did quite a bit of research over the years before performing this, and concluded that, in my opinion, wasn't abusive despite what some big-time reptile enthusiasts may be led to believe.

I also want to clarify that since I definitely take my tortoise's health very seriously, I performed this with patient and attentive care. She was in my hands the whole time and was prepared to stop immediately if something looked wrong.

Many (if not all) tortoise owners have experienced a flip-over, whether it be a few minutes after it occured or when they arrive home from work, and unless the tortoise is very heavy or got cooked by its heatlamp, the tortoise is fine after getting righted or righting itself, if not a bit dazed and back to normal after a nap.

I have caught my tortoise on her back after trying to climb in her enclosure multiple times (this enclosure was promptly mad flip-proof, so don't worry) and each time was minutes after the flip occured, which is when I either righted her helped her right herself to get her used to helping herself if I'm ever gone. Despite this, the first result on google says that ANY period of time a tortoise spends on its back can prove fatal, due to its internal organs putting pressure on its lungs. This confused me, because if this were the case, my tortoise would've died a long time ago. This contradiction (like the many other annoying contradictions in reptile care) frustrated me, so I researched the specifics.

I learned from compiling information I gained from various sources (articles, YouTubers, reptile experts etc) that it's not necessarily that black and white. Small tortoises, such as mine, have lighter organs and far less mass being pressed against the lungs, and as such take hours upon hours to even make an impact on breathing, and would usually die from their heat source overheating them in their vulnurable belly-up position before they suffocate. Large tortoises, on the other hand, wouldn't do so well, as their heft is enough to crush their lungs, so I want to clarify that if I had a sulcata, the following procedure would definitely be abuse.

Before I make my final admission, there's a big detail that needs to be addressed: tortoises void their bowels when they are on their backs.

Have you guessed it yet?

My tortoise hadn't pooped for a week (light eating but no other symptoms), I got worried, and after many warm baths with no result, the lightbulb went on. I picked her up, cupped her shell-down in my hands and watched. I watched attentively for about 60 seconds for signs of breathing problems (with an intent to right her if I saw them, which I didnt) and as expected, the week old blockage was released.

I put her back on her feet and she's happy as a clam, even more peppy than before.

A single minute of discomfort resulted in a remedy for an actual health issue (which I will prevent with the proper dietary additive in the future, I'm considering pumpkin)

So, what do you think? Am I an abuser? Or did I do what was necessary? Was a minute on her back more stressful than a trip to the vet plus commute? Does that level of discomfort equate to inexcusable suffering?

(Note: Im not suggesting this as a mainstream remedy for anybody)
 

Sitona

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Empirical data is good and all but would you mind explaining the underlying mechanism of this type of treatment?
 

Yvonne G

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I've had tortoises for over fifty years and in that time I have found many tortoises on their back. Some of them had been that way so long that there was a circle scraped in the dirt around them as they tried to right themselves. Most of them had pooped all over the place as they struggled. The light bulb never went off over my head.

Do tortoises like being on their back? no, but in this case I think the benefit outweighs the discomfort. But I would hesitate to start advising this as a way to relieve constipation. I can see it not working out so well if the keeper was not as attentive as you were.
 

Armadilloguy

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I've had tortoises for over fifty years and in that time I have found many tortoises on their back. Some of them had been that way so long that there was a circle scraped in the dirt around them as they tried to right themselves. Most of them had pooped all over the place as they struggled. The light bulb never went off over my head.

Do tortoises like being on their back? no, but in this case I think the benefit outweighs the discomfort. But I would hesitate to start advising this as a way to relieve constipation. I can see it not working out so well if the keeper was not as attentive as you were.
I agree. My title was misleading in that I'm not actually advising this to anyone. I can definitely see people using successes like this one as an excuse for neglective animal care. I kinda created this post to hear thoughts on it, especially since prior to doing my little "stunt", research yielded nothing in regards to curing constipation via up-ending.
 

Armadilloguy

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Empirical data is good and all but would you mind explaining the underlying mechanism of this type of treatment?
I believe the voidance of bowels evolved for the purpose of lowering the weight pressed against the lungs, which can be incredibly beneficial to large individuals with both heavy organs and heavy bowel contents.
 

Tom

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There are other ways that I would prefer to flipping them on their back.

Car rides, long warm soaks in a bath tub, and feeding the correct foods will also help avoid the problem in the first place.
 

wellington

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I agree with Tom that the other ways should be tried first. The long soaks, which most don't do long enough and in a big container, most don't do, so lots of moving can happen and car rides are almost sure shooters.
Also, that the source of the constipation needs to be fixed.
I don't think what you did is abuse, just more a last resort.
On another note, tort owners should fix the flipping problems once a tort has flipped itself
 

mark1

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is being flipped over a suspected cause of bowel torsions ?
 

Maro2Bear

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Greetings.

Soooo, how does anyone know for certain their tort is constipated & needs to go? The OP‘s tort might have easily defecated the next day (or so) perfectly fine on its own. No intervention, no stress. Does everyone observe every bowel movement, urination or urate deposit? I don’t think so. I would be in @wellington & @Tom ’s camp on this in that proper hydration, good proper hydrating fibrous nutritional foods, coupled with long, warm, soaks that make torts paddle a bit is where we should be at. Until our Sully got way too heavy to lift, she got a proper soaking in containers that were oversized & water deep to encourage paddling.

Proper food, proper hydration, proper room to roam (exercise) & regular soaking goes a long way to ensure “normal” bowel movements.

Good luck & Happy Torting
 

Armadilloguy

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From reading your great responses (thanks by the way) I think my problem was the regular soaking. For the years I've had her, I'd assumed the purpose of a warm bath was solely hydration, which I accomplished with a humidifier and regular spraybottling so I rarely ran baths. Will do from now on.

On another note, I believe part of the cause of her uncharacteristic constipation was the stress of travel. I have an ideal setup for her at the place I'm staying, so don't worry about that, but it's a place she's unfamiliar with and it's after a 4-day car ride. Ill take up the car ride recommendation in the future for the purpose of getting her used to it.

Everyday we learn new things, and you guys help! Speedy's gonna be stoked :)

Thanks all

Oh and a final question: I've been treating her with an occasional bit of apple more than usual lately. Could that have been a contributor to the blockage? (Shes a red-foot)
 
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ZEROPILOT

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My mind goes to the cause of the constipation.
If it is due to an illness and not just your run of the mill kind. the stress of flipping that animal on it's back might be too stressful.
I've never had an issue with my torts that cucumber or an extended soak didn't cure.
If I remember correctly, I think that every tortoise I ever had that had flipped over DID poop all over itself. Maybe 25 times.
And there was just one fatality.
 

Lyn W

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Wouldn't most kinds of stressful situations for torts trigger pooping?
I've made my tort poop by just gently vibrating his soaking tray enough to concern him while he was in it, and hey presto ?!
I think I've read that that's the reasoning behind car rides too.
 

ZEROPILOT

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Wouldn't most kinds of stressful situations for torts trigger pooping?
I've made my tort poop by just gently vibrating his soaking tray enough to concern him while he was in it, and hey presto ?!
I think I've read that that's the reasoning behind car rides too.
They poop just going into a cardboard box WAY before the box ever gets to my car
 

MenagerieGrl

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Additionally,If the hypothesis was certain, then it would stand to reason, everytime the tort was flipped on it's back, it woud Poop ?. . then . .
 

wellington

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Additionally,If the hypothesis was certain, then it would stand to reason, everytime the tort was flipped on it's back, it woud Poop ?. . then . .
Mine never pooped but did pee. That's why they should be soaked after they have flipped. They usually empty their bladders and need some hydration.
 

MaNaAk

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Mine never pooped but did pee. That's why they should be soaked after they have flipped. They usually empty their bladders and need some hydration.
I put a tray with some warm water and lettuce in it for Daisy's breakfast and she stepped in to have breakfast and pooped on her way out. I was very pleased as I was getting concerned. Otherwise she pooped on the way to the vets some weeks ago.

MaNaAk
 

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