Advice for a wheezing sulcata

Nibs

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Hi

I have two Sulcata's, both two years old and over the last few months, I've noticed that one of them makes a slight wheezing noise when they breathe - you can hear a slight sort of wheezy squeak when she breathes in and out.

I have taken her to a specialist reptile vet a couple of times as I was really concerned about a respiratory infection but whilst they have run lots of tests, done xrays and have tried a variety of medication, nothing has had any impact. As far as the vet was concerned, the tests showed up clean and the xrays were clear so she was puzzled as to what may have caused it. In all other respects she seems fine, she eats well, drinks a lot and is as active as she has always been, trying to get into everything.

I wondered therefore if anyone on here had any advice?

Thanks
 

Yvonne G

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Hi, and welcome to the Forum!

Did the vet look up into the tortoise's nose? There might be something stuck up in there.

I know it doesn't sound like this could possibly be the problem, but it just MIGHT be - pairs seldom work out well. Tortoises are territorial and they don't want other tortoises in their kingdom. Try setting up Wheezer in his own habitat and see if the wheezing stops.

When a dominant tortoise tells a subordinate tortoise to get out of the territory, the more submissive of the two is at a loss as to how to obey this command. He's stuck inside four walls and has no way out. It is stressful for both of them. Just try two enclosures and see if the problem clears up.
 

Tom

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Do they live together?

What are your four temps? Warm side, cool side, basking area, and overnight low?

What heating, lighting, and UV equipment are you using?
 

Nibs

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Hi, and welcome to the Forum!

Did the vet look up into the tortoise's nose? There might be something stuck up in there.

I know it doesn't sound like this could possibly be the problem, but it just MIGHT be - pairs seldom work out well. Tortoises are territorial and they don't want other tortoises in their kingdom. Try setting up Wheezer in his own habitat and see if the wheezing stops.

When a dominant tortoise tells a subordinate tortoise to get out of the territory, the more submissive of the two is at a loss as to how to obey this command. He's stuck inside four walls and has no way out. It is stressful for both of them. Just try two enclosures and see if the problem clears up.

Hi Yvonne.

Thanks for the welcome :)

I don't remember the vet specifically looking up there - definitely something to check.

Ok, will try separating them. I haven't noticed any dominant behaviour on behalf of either of them but will certainly give this a go if it might help.
 

Nibs

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Do they live together?

What are your four temps? Warm side, cool side, basking area, and overnight low?

What heating, lighting, and UV equipment are you using?

Hi Tom,

Yes, they are together currently but I will try separating them on Yvonne's advice.

Temps currently are: warm side 25 degrees centigrade ; cool side 18 degrees ; basking area 32 degrees and overnight 15 degrees.

Heating is from a storage heater in their room which has a large window for natural light just generally, and then I have a combined heat, light and UV lamp for them specifically.

Are there things I can improve? I have found some of the advice I have encountered so far contradictory, so glad I found this site!
 
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Tom

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Temps currently are: warm side 25 degrees centigrade ; cool side 18 degrees ; basking area 32 degrees and overnight 15 degrees.

Heating is from a storage heater in their room which has a large window for natural light just generally, and then I have a combined heat, light and UV lamp for them specifically.

Are there things I can improve? I have found some of the advice I have encountered so far contradictory, so glad I found this site!

Those temps are FAR too cold for sulcatas. Basking area should be around 37. Over night low and ambient anywhere in the enclosure should not drop below 26-27. The cool side during the day should be closer to 30-32. Adult sulcatas can survive night temps of 15, as long as they can warm up the next day, but these temps are not "good" for them.

This is a tropical species and they need warm temps year round. This is VERY difficult to accomplish in an open topped enclosure in a cold room. I recommend a couple of large closed chambers for these guy. The sound you hear is probably the onset of a respiratory infection. I am surprised you haven't had a problem sooner.

Here is all the sulcata info:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/how-to-raise-a-healthy-sulcata-or-leopard-version-2-0.79895/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/for-those-who-have-a-young-sulcata.76744/
 

Nibs

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Those temps are FAR too cold for sulcatas. Basking area should be around 37. Over night low and ambient anywhere in the enclosure should not drop below 26-27. The cool side during the day should be closer to 30-32. Adult sulcatas can survive night temps of 15, as long as they can warm up the next day, but these temps are not "good" for them.

This is a tropical species and they need warm temps year round. This is VERY difficult to accomplish in an open topped enclosure in a cold room. I recommend a couple of large closed chambers for these guy. The sound you hear is probably the onset of a respiratory infection. I am surprised you haven't had a problem sooner.

Here is all the sulcata info:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/how-to-raise-a-healthy-sulcata-or-leopard-version-2-0.79895/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/for-those-who-have-a-young-sulcata.76744/

oh no, I had no idea - they were the temps the vet had given me and so I changed their set up to make it cooler in line with them (moving them into a bigger room and into an open topped enclosure). Sounds like I have been given some very bad advice.

I'll read through the care information and change their set up accordingly. Thank you for the advice, glad I found you before the problem got worse.
 

Nibs

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Thanks Tom for the advice. I have gone through and read all the care sheets and it looks like I have been given some very bad information on how best to look after these torts - not least that they need to be kept very dry and at lower temps than anyone on here suggests. I have ordered a few things now that should help me rectify the immediate temperature issues and will make their hide humid as a starter

With the closed chambers, can I just query on advice for two year olds - in the closed chamber threads I found, they all have the caveat for being for babies. I assume mine fit into the juvenile category and am a bit unsure of what I might need to do differently for their age - is it just a case that the suggestions of what to use need to be scaled up for their bigger size?

Thank you for your help - I'm horrified I could have been keeping them in bad conditions just through lack of knowledge.
 

Tom

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oh no, I had no idea - they were the temps the vet had given me and so I changed their set up to make it cooler in line with them (moving them into a bigger room and into an open topped enclosure). Sounds like I have been given some very bad advice.

I'll read through the care information and change their set up accordingly. Thank you for the advice, glad I found you before the problem got worse.

Your experience is, unfortunately, not uncommon. Sounds like your vet gave you advice that would work okay for an adult Horsfield, but totally unsuitable for a tropical species. Vets are just people. They don't know everything, and there is no class on tortoise husbandry in vet school.

Closed chambers are the best way to house any species of any size or age. The concept is this: Rather than fight the existing conditions in the room where your enclosure sits, simply contain some of that air and only heat and humidify that contained portion of air. Closing that bit of air inside a chamber makes it easy to maintain whatever temperatures and humidity levels are desired for any species or age. It also cuts down tremendously on electricity usage while giving the tortoise optimal conditions.

A large closed chamber is good for any size sulcata. Larger sulcatas simply require larger enclosures. I recommend 80% humidity for babies to simulate the African rainy season that they hatch into, but more moderate levels are fine for older, larger sulcatas. While the environment they come from is arid for part of each year, they spend their time in humid underground burrows during that time of year. I'm reading a book on wild sulcatas and leopards right now by Vetter, and he lists sulcata burrow humidity at 60% during the dry season. This is the only reference I've ever found for it.

In any case, your tortoises need it warmer right now and tonight.

Can you show us a pic of your tortoises to verify the species? Sometimes there is confusion over the common names (spur thigh) and we should eliminate any possibility of mis-identification. Also, what size are they now?
 

Nibs

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Your experience is, unfortunately, not uncommon. Sounds like your vet gave you advice that would work okay for an adult Horsfield, but totally unsuitable for a tropical species. Vets are just people. They don't know everything, and there is no class on tortoise husbandry in vet school.

Closed chambers are the best way to house any species of any size or age. The concept is this: Rather than fight the existing conditions in the room where your enclosure sits, simply contain some of that air and only heat and humidify that contained portion of air. Closing that bit of air inside a chamber makes it easy to maintain whatever temperatures and humidity levels are desired for any species or age. It also cuts down tremendously on electricity usage while giving the tortoise optimal conditions.

A large closed chamber is good for any size sulcata. Larger sulcatas simply require larger enclosures. I recommend 80% humidity for babies to simulate the African rainy season that they hatch into, but more moderate levels are fine for older, larger sulcatas. While the environment they come from is arid for part of each year, they spend their time in humid underground burrows during that time of year. I'm reading a book on wild sulcatas and leopards right now by Vetter, and he lists sulcata burrow humidity at 60% during the dry season. This is the only reference I've ever found for it.

In any case, your tortoises need it warmer right now and tonight.

Can you show us a pic of your tortoises to verify the species? Sometimes there is confusion over the common names (spur thigh) and we should eliminate any possibility of mis-identification. Also, what size are they now?

Hi tom.

Thank you - that's really useful to know and I'll make changes accordingly.

I have raised got their temperatures up now, not quite to the right levels today but I have a ceramic heater and better bulb on the way which I hope will get me up the final few degrees more needed and have put tin foil round the enclosure as a start to a closed chamber.

Here are some pictures of my two, hopefully they show you what you need for id. One is 7" and the other 8" size wise now.


Thanks
 

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Tom

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Definitely sulcatas. They look pretty good.

Its definitely time to separate them.
 

Nibs

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Thank you for all the help - the temperatures are now right and they are in closed chambers, this already seems to be making a difference to the wheezing, so fingers crossed she will soon be felling better.
 

Tom

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Thank you for all the help - the temperatures are now right and they are in closed chambers, this already seems to be making a difference to the wheezing, so fingers crossed she will soon be felling better.

Thanks for the update and good news.
 

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