Athenameikle

New Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2021
Messages
4
Location (City and/or State)
Oxford
Hello, I am hoping for some help with what could be causing my Russian tortoise (Sheldon) to act this way and how best I can help him. I have booked a vets appointment but it’s 5 days away and I’m worried he will be suffering.

Bit of background - I got Sheldon from a pet shop locally, I wasn’t as aware of the dangers of doing so until after I’d got him. They couldn’t tell us how old he was only that he was born in 2020, we got him the begging of February 2021. He only weighed 25g when we got him and now weights 27g, we took him to a reptile vet in late March who checked him over and confirmed he seemed healthy enough and just advised more calcium. Since then he has it 5 times a week over food.
He is usually very active and although has days where he isn’t as active now and then he still always eats and wanders round.
I had to move his enclosure for 1 night last week (it’s been back in normal place now for 4 days) since we moved it he has been alot less active hardly coming out of his house atall in the day, I have kept bathing him every day but he isn’t anywhere near as active as usual.
2 days ago he kept opening and closing his mouth continually which I’ve never seen him do before in this way he’s since stopped and now it is appearing his eyes are slightly swollen and he’s mainly keeping them shut, I know he can still see as he’s managing to move around and flinched when food was put close to him. Tonight I bathed him and he seemed slightly more active however still extremely worried.
Does anyone know anything that could help him?
 

Athenameikle

New Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2021
Messages
4
Location (City and/or State)
Oxford
They might not be swollen it’s hard to tell, however he’s not opening them like normal.
 
Joined
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Messages
27
Location (City and/or State)
San Diego
I'm not an expert and a fairly new tortoise keeper but it sounds like it could be either a respiratory infection or hatchling failure syndrome. Hopefully someone more knowledgeable comes across this thread.

Does the tortoise have any discharge coming from the eyes or nose?

What kind of enclosure do you have the tortoise in and what are the ambient temperatures?

Also, if you can remember, was there a water bowl in the enclosure at the pet store where you bought the tortoise?
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
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Jan 9, 2010
Messages
58,042
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Hello, I am hoping for some help with what could be causing my Russian tortoise (Sheldon) to act this way and how best I can help him. I have booked a vets appointment but it’s 5 days away and I’m worried he will be suffering.

Bit of background - I got Sheldon from a pet shop locally, I wasn’t as aware of the dangers of doing so until after I’d got him. They couldn’t tell us how old he was only that he was born in 2020, we got him the begging of February 2021. He only weighed 25g when we got him and now weights 27g, we took him to a reptile vet in late March who checked him over and confirmed he seemed healthy enough and just advised more calcium. Since then he has it 5 times a week over food.
He is usually very active and although has days where he isn’t as active now and then he still always eats and wanders round.
I had to move his enclosure for 1 night last week (it’s been back in normal place now for 4 days) since we moved it he has been alot less active hardly coming out of his house atall in the day, I have kept bathing him every day but he isn’t anywhere near as active as usual.
2 days ago he kept opening and closing his mouth continually which I’ve never seen him do before in this way he’s since stopped and now it is appearing his eyes are slightly swollen and he’s mainly keeping them shut, I know he can still see as he’s managing to move around and flinched when food was put close to him. Tonight I bathed him and he seemed slightly more active however still extremely worried.
Does anyone know anything that could help him?
Pet stores typically tell you the wrong stuff and sell you the wrong stuff.

What are you using for heating and lighting? What type of UV bulb?

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

What substrate is he on?

Calcium should primarily come from the right foods. 5 days a week is too much. Calcium interferes with the absorption of other important nutrients and trace elements.

Here is the correct care info:

We will help you get him back on track.
 

Athenameikle

New Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2021
Messages
4
Location (City and/or State)
Oxford
I'm not an expert and a fairly new tortoise keeper but it sounds like it could be either a respiratory infection or hatchling failure syndrome. Hopefully someone more knowledgeable comes across this thread.

Does the tortoise have any discharge coming from the eyes or nose?

What kind of enclosure do you have the tortoise in and what are the ambient temperatures?

Also, if you can remember, was there a water bowl in the enclosure at the pet store where you bought the tortoise?
No no discharge of any kind, he is in a tortoise box table. I am pretty sure there was water at the pet store but he was only there for 1 morning before we took him.
 

Athenameikle

New Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2021
Messages
4
Location (City and/or State)
Oxford
Pet stores typically tell you the wrong stuff and sell you the wrong stuff.

What are you using for heating and lighting? What type of UV bulb?

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

What substrate is he on?

Calcium should primarily come from the right foods. 5 days a week is too much. Calcium interferes with the absorption of other important nutrients and trace elements.

Here is the correct care info:

We will help you get him back on track.
He has a Arcadia 2nd Generation UV Basking Lamp, 100 Watts. My partner tracks his temperatures i will find out what they are. I have attached a picture of a similar looking substrate to what he has.
oh ok the vet advised us to give him the power 5 times a week to ensure his bones grew properly as said we was squishier than he should be - thank you for making me aware.

Thank you for all your advice! Much appreciated!
 

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Henry’s mom

Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2021
Messages
97
Location (City and/or State)
Tampa FL
Hello, I am hoping for some help with what could be causing my Russian tortoise (Sheldon) to act this way and how best I can help him. I have booked a vets appointment but it’s 5 days away and I’m worried he will be suffering.

Bit of background - I got Sheldon from a pet shop locally, I wasn’t as aware of the dangers of doing so until after I’d got him. They couldn’t tell us how old he was only that he was born in 2020, we got him the begging of February 2021. He only weighed 25g when we got him and now weights 27g, we took him to a reptile vet in late March who checked him over and confirmed he seemed healthy enough and just advised more calcium. Since then he has it 5 times a week over food.
He is usually very active and although has days where he isn’t as active now and then he still always eats and wanders round.
I had to move his enclosure for 1 night last week (it’s been back in normal place now for 4 days) since we moved it he has been alot less active hardly coming out of his house atall in the day, I have kept bathing him every day but he isn’t anywhere near as active as usual.
2 days ago he kept opening and closing his mouth continually which I’ve never seen him do before in this way he’s since stopped and now it is appearing his eyes are slightly swollen and he’s mainly keeping them shut, I know he can still see as he’s managing to move around and flinched when food was put close to him. Tonight I bathed him and he seemed slightly more active however still extremely worried.
Does anyone know anything that could help him?
I’m having pretty much the identical problem with my 5 mos baby Sulcata. Really worried. Hope to read good info below.
 

Henry’s mom

Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2021
Messages
97
Location (City and/or State)
Tampa FL
Pet stores typically tell you the wrong stuff and sell you the wrong stuff.

What are you using for heating and lighting? What type of UV bulb?

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

What substrate is he on?

Calcium should primarily come from the right foods. 5 days a week is too much. Calcium interferes with the absorption of other important nutrients and trace elements.

Here is the correct care info:

We will help you get him back
Hi Tom. I know this thread is dated but I’m having almost the same exact problem with Henry’s eyes staying closed for two days and prior opening and closing his mouth a couple days before too. He was also temporarily moved for one night to clean/rearrange his enclosure but didn’t get below 76. However what’s different and scaring me more is that he’s not eating and only sleeping mostly in one spot the last two days. I soak him daily. Thursday night was moved. Friday slept all day and after soak he opened his eyes, walked around a tiny bit and ate a very few sprigs of lettuce. Then when I put him in his newly arranged enclosure he perked up bright eyed and investigated everything for about an hour! I thought everything was all good. Yesterday/Saturday he just slept all day and even when I was near him and he’d just lift his head but his eyes would stay closed mostly. I did get him to try and eat a little bit of aloe and he liked it but didn’t want much. I don’t know if that has any nutrients other than water. Today/Sunday has been the worst. He has barely moved much and even in his soak his eyes have not opened today. In the soak he couldn’t even try climb up when he’s done. I can’t get him to eat even a bite of anything I’m trying. I don’t know what to do and doubt they can survive very long without food. He’s also still been squeaking/sneezing a couple times a day for about two weeks. I keep making improvements to his enclosure. I think I should probably take him to the vet. What do you think? I believe it was you @Tom or possibly @mastershake that have a great vet you recommend in the Bay Area? I would appreciate either of your thoughts please. I’m not sure if you guys will see this since the thread’s from months ago so I’ll make a new thread too just in case.
Hi Tom. I know this thread is dated but I’m having almost the same exact problem with Henry’s eyes staying closed for two days and prior opening and closing his mouth a couple days before too. He was also temporarily moved for one night to clean/rearrange his enclosure but didn’t get below 76. However what’s different and scaring me more is that he’s not eating and only sleeping mostly in one spot the last two days. I soak him daily. Thursday night was moved. Friday slept all day and after soak he opened his eyes, walked around a tiny bit and ate a very few sprigs of lettuce. Then when I put him in his newly arranged enclosure he perked up bright eyed and investigated everything for about an hour! I thought everything was all good. Yesterday/Saturday he just slept all day and even when I was near him and he’d just lift his head but his eyes would stay closed mostly. I did get him to try and eat a little bit of aloe and he liked it but didn’t want much. I don’t know if that has any nutrients other than water. Today/Sunday has been the worst. He has barely moved much and even in his soak his eyes have not opened today. In the soak he couldn’t even try climb up when he’s done. I can’t get him to eat even a bite of anything I’m trying. I don’t know what to do and doubt they can survive very long without food. He’s also still been squeaking/sneezing a couple times a day for about two weeks. I keep making improvements to his enclosure. Can anyone help me?
Pet stores typically tell you the wrong stuff and sell you the wrong stuff.

What are you using for heating and lighting? What type of UV bulb?

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

What substrate is he on?

Calcium should primarily come from the right foods. 5 days a week is too much. Calcium interferes with the absorption of other important nutrients and trace elements.

Here is the correct care info:

We will help you get him back on track.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
58,042
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Hi Tom. I know this thread is dated but I’m having almost the same exact problem with Henry’s eyes staying closed for two days and prior opening and closing his mouth a couple days before too. He was also temporarily moved for one night to clean/rearrange his enclosure but didn’t get below 76. However what’s different and scaring me more is that he’s not eating and only sleeping mostly in one spot the last two days. I soak him daily. Thursday night was moved. Friday slept all day and after soak he opened his eyes, walked around a tiny bit and ate a very few sprigs of lettuce. Then when I put him in his newly arranged enclosure he perked up bright eyed and investigated everything for about an hour! I thought everything was all good. Yesterday/Saturday he just slept all day and even when I was near him and he’d just lift his head but his eyes would stay closed mostly. I did get him to try and eat a little bit of aloe and he liked it but didn’t want much. I don’t know if that has any nutrients other than water. Today/Sunday has been the worst. He has barely moved much and even in his soak his eyes have not opened today. In the soak he couldn’t even try climb up when he’s done. I can’t get him to eat even a bite of anything I’m trying. I don’t know what to do and doubt they can survive very long without food. He’s also still been squeaking/sneezing a couple times a day for about two weeks. I keep making improvements to his enclosure. I think I should probably take him to the vet. What do you think? I believe it was you @Tom or possibly @mastershake that have a great vet you recommend in the Bay Area? I would appreciate either of your thoughts please. I’m not sure if you guys will see this since the thread’s from months ago so I’ll make a new thread too just in case.
There I nothing a vet can do for this. Where did you get the tortoise?

Read this:
 

Henry’s mom

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Joined
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Messages
97
Location (City and/or State)
Tampa FL
There I nothing a vet can do for this. Where did you get the tortoise?

Read this:
Yes I’ve read over it several times and it’s super helpful. I switched the basking bulb from the mvb to the incandescent flood light but it’s not as bright or as wide but I would think that would have helped him. Still need to get the uv tubes but it’s only been a couple days without the mvb.

Why do you think he doesn’t need a vet? No RI? Are you saying it’s only environmental?
 

Lyn W

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Joined
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Messages
22,811
Location (City and/or State)
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Most tortoise problems are caused because of things we do or don't do for them.
So if there are any problems I would look at everything in his environment to make sure the 4 temps, uvb, humidity, substrate and diet etc are all good. Also check your thermometers are accurate and not giving misleading readings.
If you try to follow the caresheet you should see improvements, and if you want to post pictures of your set up you'll get good feedback.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
58,042
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
.

Why do you think he doesn’t need a vet? No RI? Are you saying it’s only environmental?
Several reasons:
1. Vets don't know tortoise care. There is no semester on tortoise care in vet school.
2. Vets want to treat symptoms without addressing and correcting causes of problems. This is pointless and futile.
3. Vet treatments, which are most often unneeded, unhelpful, sometimes detrimental, and based on mis-diagnosis, usually put an already compromised tiny baby over the proverbial edge.
4. Tortoises don't get sick for no reason. Its not like a kid in school who gets a cold. They usually get sick because something in the environment is wrong, or because the breeder didn't start them correctly.

With the above in mind, let see if we can discover and correct your problem.

Where did you get the baby? Do you know how it was started?

What does your baby weigh in grams?

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

What are you using for night heat?

Answers to these questions will help get us started.
 

mastershake

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Joined
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Messages
585
Location (City and/or State)
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we have a great vet near us we use for torts BUT if the changes they need are not made then a vet will not be of any help. they need to be setup properly first and foremost. then most things can be solved making some further changes. if then that still does not work they might need a vet for anti biotics etc. any good reptile and tort vet will agree i promise that. you are welcome to get with me i can give you her info but they are in sarasota. she is very knowledgeable with torts but like i said a vet visit does not negate correct setup and care. and i do not in any way shape or form mean to sound rude by saying that at all.
 

Henry’s mom

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Joined
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Messages
97
Location (City and/or State)
Tampa FL
we have a great vet near us we use for torts BUT if the changes they need are not made then a vet will not be of any help. they need to be setup properly first and foremost. then most things can be solved making some further changes. if then that still does not work they might need a vet for anti biotics etc. any good reptile and tort vet will agree i promise that. you are welcome to get with me i can give you her info but they are in sarasota. she is very knowledgeable with torts but like i said a vet visit does not negate correct setup and care. and i do not in any way shape or form mean to sound rude by saying that at all.
Hi and thanks so much for responding and providing help. I completely understand about his setup needing to get correct and I didn’t think you were being rude one bit! I would love to get your vet’s info in case of emergency but I plan on coming on here for advice prior to the vet. You all are very knowledgeable (sounds like very often a lot more than the vets) and helpful.
I’m going to respond to Tom’s questions above and you can both see what your thoughts are if you wouldn’t mind. It’s breaking my heart that I’m harming him. ?
 

Henry’s mom

Member
Joined
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Messages
97
Location (City and/or State)
Tampa FL
Most tortoise problems are caused because of things we do or don't do for them.
So if there are any problems I would look at everything in his environment to make sure the 4 temps, uvb, humidity, substrate and diet etc are all good. Also check your thermometers are accurate and not giving misleading readings.
If you try to follow the caresheet you should see improvements, and if you want to post pictures of your set up you'll get good feedback.
Thank you Lyn. I’m responding below with my temps and info but how do I make sure the thermometer are accurate? Just use multiple? I have an infrared gun that I use daily and like but if it’s only surface temp it doesn’t seem as helpful. I have two cheap little thermometer/hygrometer it says and I’ve been using them but I also have two others which I’m not sure which is best to use or multiple. I also bought two different thermostats but again not sure which or both. Same with timers. I need to set this all up and not sure how is best. I’m just going to do my best.
 

Henry’s mom

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Joined
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Messages
97
Location (City and/or State)
Tampa FL
Several reasons:
1. Vets don't know tortoise care. There is no semester on tortoise care in vet school.
2. Vets want to treat symptoms without addressing and correcting causes of problems. This is pointless and futile.
3. Vet treatments, which are most often unneeded, unhelpful, sometimes detrimental, and based on mis-diagnosis, usually put an already compromised tiny baby over the proverbial edge.
4. Tortoises don't get sick for no reason. Its not like a kid in school who gets a cold. They usually get sick because something in the environment is wrong, or because the breeder didn't start them correctly.

With the above in mind, let see if we can discover and correct your problem.

Where did you get the baby? Do you know how it was started?

What does your baby weigh in grams?

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

What are you using for night heat?

Answers to these questions will help get us started.
Sorry for the delay. Typed this all last night then my phone died and didn’t post.

Thank you for your thoughts on the vet. It makes sense and I appreciate it.

I got him from a somewhat local reptile pet store and I’m not sure how he was started. I believe in his tank was two siblings, orange wet food in one corner, and possibly a bowl but not sure. Only a mat/carpet looking substrate (maybe coco coir?). I think he said he soaked them daily or every other but not positive. I’ve loved and collected tortoises (not alive) for many years but admittedly didn’t do enough research prior to finally getting a live one so I didn’t look for the proper things.

I’ve attached a couple pictures of his enclosure and him for reference.

Last night he weighed 36 gm and it feels like he’s a little lighter-he hasn’t eaten for 2 days. ? I gave him 2 baby food soaks last night, one this morning, and will do more. He did drink some and open his eyes during the soak last night but closed again afterwards. He’s moved around a little today and occasionally opens his eyes. They aren’t super swollen like I’ve seen pictures on here. Just a little darker than normal when closed.

I changed his substrate from cypress mulch to orchid bark but I couldn’t find fine grade right away (it’s on order) so I bought what I could finally find hoping it would hold moisture better. It seems it doesn’t though. I opened up the “hide” side of the table to see if, even though wood, if I could get some humidity in there. Then a little hide inside there for security feeling. It stays around 55% so not great but better than the rest of the enclosure. I mist the rest of the enclosure down 2-3 times a day. I was doing 7-8 times a day but worried too wet. Prior to changing substrate I could get it to 80-90% but now it’s hard to reach 70%. For the hide though I need heat. It’s only about 76F in there. Thinking maybe I could put an RHP in it? (Safely and effectively with wood?)

The other temps have changed since switching from the mvb to the incandescent flood light a couple days ago. Now the basking area is 95-105 but usually has a pinpoint that gets very hot like 110 but only a tiny spot. Right around it (I guess the warm side) it stays 90-95. The cool side is 76-79. The main difference with the bulbs is that the heat doesn’t change as gradually with the flood light. It quickly drops from 90-80 within inches. Not as much area in the 80’s now. I use a CHE at night and sometimes during the day if it’s not over 80 in most of the enclosure.

I know I have to get his enclosure covered until I can find a closed chamber to buy or find someone who can build one. I’m trying to figure out if there’s a way I can attach a piece of plexiglass to close in the top but don’t know if the lights/heat will be effective through the plexiglass or even if it would melt? Otherwise I’ve also looked at smaller indoor greenhouses but haven’t purchased yet.

I know this is super long but I hope it provides a lot of info so I can get it right. Thank you for your help.
 

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Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
58,042
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Sorry for the delay. Typed this all last night then my phone died and didn’t post.

Thank you for your thoughts on the vet. It makes sense and I appreciate it.

I got him from a somewhat local reptile pet store and I’m not sure how he was started. I believe in his tank was two siblings, orange wet food in one corner, and possibly a bowl but not sure. Only a mat/carpet looking substrate (maybe coco coir?). I think he said he soaked them daily or every other but not positive. I’ve loved and collected tortoises (not alive) for many years but admittedly didn’t do enough research prior to finally getting a live one so I didn’t look for the proper things.

I’ve attached a couple pictures of his enclosure and him for reference.

Last night he weighed 36 gm and it feels like he’s a little lighter-he hasn’t eaten for 2 days. ? I gave him 2 baby food soaks last night, one this morning, and will do more. He did drink some and open his eyes during the soak last night but closed again afterwards. He’s moved around a little today and occasionally opens his eyes. They aren’t super swollen like I’ve seen pictures on here. Just a little darker than normal when closed.

I changed his substrate from cypress mulch to orchid bark but I couldn’t find fine grade right away (it’s on order) so I bought what I could finally find hoping it would hold moisture better. It seems it doesn’t though. I opened up the “hide” side of the table to see if, even though wood, if I could get some humidity in there. Then a little hide inside there for security feeling. It stays around 55% so not great but better than the rest of the enclosure. I mist the rest of the enclosure down 2-3 times a day. I was doing 7-8 times a day but worried too wet. Prior to changing substrate I could get it to 80-90% but now it’s hard to reach 70%. For the hide though I need heat. It’s only about 76F in there. Thinking maybe I could put an RHP in it? (Safely and effectively with wood?)

The other temps have changed since switching from the mvb to the incandescent flood light a couple days ago. Now the basking area is 95-105 but usually has a pinpoint that gets very hot like 110 but only a tiny spot. Right around it (I guess the warm side) it stays 90-95. The cool side is 76-79. The main difference with the bulbs is that the heat doesn’t change as gradually with the flood light. It quickly drops from 90-80 within inches. Not as much area in the 80’s now. I use a CHE at night and sometimes during the day if it’s not over 80 in most of the enclosure.

I know I have to get his enclosure covered until I can find a closed chamber to buy or find someone who can build one. I’m trying to figure out if there’s a way I can attach a piece of plexiglass to close in the top but don’t know if the lights/heat will be effective through the plexiglass or even if it would melt? Otherwise I’ve also looked at smaller indoor greenhouses but haven’t purchased yet.

I know this is super long but I hope it provides a lot of info so I can get it right. Thank you for your help.
How long have you had him?
 

Henry’s mom

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How long have you had him?
Also last night after one of his soaks I was able to give him carrot baby food off a baby spoon (that’s rubber) and then he ate a little bit of mustard greens but I know if I can’t or don’t get his environment right he probably won’t continue to get better.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
58,042
Location (City and/or State)
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Also last night after one of his soaks I was able to give him carrot baby food off a baby spoon (that’s rubber) and then he ate a little bit of mustard greens but I know if I can’t or don’t get his environment right he probably won’t continue to get better.
Most breeders do not start them correctly. They keep them too dry, and it does irreversible damage. This damage doesn't kill them for weeks or months. They eat, walk around, bask and all seems fine, until the decline begins. If you bought one of these dry started babies, which is almost all of them from most of the breeders around the country, there is nothing you could have done. The lack of growth is a tell tale sign. Read this:
 
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