Baby Sulcata possible MBD? Help

JeannetteBasil

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My four month (I think) old sulcata is acting strange. I noticed he stopped eating about three or four days ago. At first I didn’t think anything of it. And then I realized he hasn’t pooped or peed the last couple days when I soaked him. He usually is pretty active during the day, but he stopped moving around three or four days ago also. Today, he hasn’t moved once. I put him in his food and he fell asleep. All of his symptoms started at once, not gradually.

I’ve googled and read a lot of threads. I have him soaking in baby food and water now.

He mostly eats lettuce, but he has Timothy hay, grass, and clover in with him. I cover the lettuce in ZooMed grassland pellets and a Repashy grassland grazer tortoise diet gel premix. (I tried kale and collards, but he wasn’t interested) I got him from Tortoise Supply. I sprinkle calcium powder on his food once a week.

The humidity during the day is 30-70% and typically from 50-80% at night. During the day, the temp is 100 F and 80 at night.
 

Tom

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1. Has it been eating well for the time you've had it? How long have you had it?

2. How often do you soak him?

3. Where in the enclosure is the hygrometer giving you those readings, and what type of hygrometer?

4. What substrate is he on? Is it damp?

5. What is your UV source and did the tortoise get to be outside in the sun when the weather was warmer earlier in the year?

6. Your humidity should be 80% or above all the time.

7. Do you mean the whole enclosure is 100 during the day, or that the basking spot is 100 during the day? 80 in the coolest corner of the enclosure farthest from the heat source is goo.
 

JeannetteBasil

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1. Has it been eating well for the time you've had it? How long have you had it?

2. How often do you soak him?

3. Where in the enclosure is the hygrometer giving you those readings, and what type of hygrometer?

4. What substrate is he on? Is it damp?

5. What is your UV source and did the tortoise get to be outside in the sun when the weather was warmer earlier in the year?

6. Your humidity should be 80% or above all the time.

7. Do you mean the whole enclosure is 100 during the day, or that the basking spot is 100 during the day? 80 in the coolest corner of the enclosure farthest from the heat source is goo.


1. He’s been eating pretty much everyday since I got him. I got him Sept 31 of this year so almost three months.

2. I soak him almost everyday for 20-45 minutes.

3. The readings are from the hot side of his cage, where he spends most of his time. I’m not sure what type but I got it from petsmart.

4. The warm side has potting soil. Between the cool and warm side there are pebbles. On the cool side there is pitting soil again. There is also a thin layer of calcium sand but that’s mostly mixed in with the soil. Yes, I spray his cage 10-20 times a day to keep the humidity up.


5. I have a ZooMed UVB bulb.( I read last night that coiled ones are bad so I’m going to get a new one as soon as possible) Yes, I took him outside a lot when it was warmer. It’s been just above freezing here recently so that’s not an option.

6. I know. After I spray his cage it is. Could I get a baby humidifier to help or would that be bad?

7. His basking spot is 100. He spends the majority of time on the hotter side of his cage. The cool side is 70-80.
 

Tom

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1. He’s been eating pretty much everyday since I got him. I got him Sept 31 of this year so almost three months.

2. I soak him almost everyday for 20-45 minutes.

3. The readings are from the hot side of his cage, where he spends most of his time. I’m not sure what type but I got it from petsmart.

4. The warm side has potting soil. Between the cool and warm side there are pebbles. On the cool side there is pitting soil again. There is also a thin layer of calcium sand but that’s mostly mixed in with the soil. Yes, I spray his cage 10-20 times a day to keep the humidity up.


5. I have a ZooMed UVB bulb.( I read last night that coiled ones are bad so I’m going to get a new one as soon as possible) Yes, I took him outside a lot when it was warmer. It’s been just above freezing here recently so that’s not an option.

6. I know. After I spray his cage it is. Could I get a baby humidifier to help or would that be bad?

7. His basking spot is 100. He spends the majority of time on the hotter side of his cage. The cool side is 70-80.

Hmmm…. We've got a mixed bag of errors and unknowns here. I see several possibilities for what might be going wrong. I'll point them out and maybe you will have a feeling for which one or ones you think it might be. Hopefully we can figure out the problem and solve it quickly.

  1. I don't usually see these issues with Tyler's babies, so I'm willing to guess your baby wasn't overly-dehydrated when you got it.
  2. Your daily soaking routine is excellent. Are you keeping the water warm for the entire duration of the soak?
  3. The typical pet store hygrometers are not usually reliable or accurate. The stick on dial types are the worst. Get a digital one from HD or Lowes for about $10.
  4. Let's talk about your substrate. The goal here is to find your issue, so please don't feel like you are being picked on. I have to point out and explain the potential problems if we are to figure this out. I don't like store bought-in-a-bag soil because you can't know what it is made of. Is it composted mulberry leaves, or is it chemically treated yard clippings and oleander trimmings? No way to know. Best to use something that is known to be safe. Pebbles and sand should never be used. Not even as part of a mix. Both are huge impaction risks. The best substrate is fine grade orchid bark. I buy it in bulk in the garden centers and nurseries around here.
  5. The coil bulbs are not an effective UV source, in addition to being potentially dangerous. But since he got lots of sun before the weather got cold, I doubt that lack of D3 is your issue. How long has it been since he's seen the sun?
  6. I don't like to use humidifiers. I prefer to solve the problem. The problem is that you have an open topped enclosure. This is letting all of your heat and humidity up and out into the room. Your life would be much easier and your tortoises life better if you buy or build a closed chamber.
  7. The coolest area of the cage should never drop below 80 for this species. 70 is much too cool and can lead to respiratory infection and failure to thrive.
So in looking at all this, I see four probable causes for your current issue:
  1. If Tyler bought this baby from an outside source that starts them too dry, you might be experiencing breeder failure syndrome. A call to Tyler to ask about how your baby was started can confirm or eliminate this possibility. Was it soaked frequently? Was it kept inside most of the time? Was it kept on damp substrate with a humid hide?
  2. Your tortoise might be impacted with sand or pebbles. An X-ray can confirm or deny this one, but beware that most vets don't know diddly squat about tortoise care and they will probably want to shoot your tortoise up with antibiotics and "vitamin injections", either or both of which can be harmful or fatal. I'd would politely decline any injections and just ask for the X-ray.
  3. Depending on how long it has been since your tortoise has seen the sun, MBD is a possibility, but that seems unlikely.
  4. Your temps sound like they've been too cool. Is the tortoise showing any RI symptoms? Runny nose, gaping mouth or frequent yawning? Squeaking sounds or breathing noises?

I know that the conflicting care info for this species can be confusing and daunting, but I don't have a solution for that issue. I've raised a lot of these babies in a lot of different ways and I know what works and what doesn't. I've done years of experimentation that can be viewed here on the forum. Of course, everyone making a care sheet thinks that same thing about their own methods. All I can do is offer the info, and you will have to decide which way to go. Here is my care info:
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/how-to-raise-a-healthy-sulcata-or-leopard-version-2-0.79895/
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/for-those-who-have-a-young-sulcata.76744/
 
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JeannetteBasil

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The pebbles I use are bigger than his head so there’s no way he could be eating them. I’ll get the sand out of his cage immediately.

He hasn’t been in the sun for about a month.

No runny nose, yawning, or gaping mouth. I haven’t heard any strange noises.


When I picked him up this morning, his plastron seemed a little less soft. He kicked me but didn’t open his eyes until I put him back.

I covered the top of his enclosure with a poster board and aluminum foil to keep heat and moisture in a couple days ago.
 

Tom

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The pebbles I use are bigger than his head so there’s no way he could be eating them. I’ll get the sand out of his cage immediately.

He hasn’t been in the sun for about a month.

No runny nose, yawning, or gaping mouth. I haven’t heard any strange noises.


When I picked him up this morning, his plastron seemed a little less soft. He kicked me but didn’t open his eyes until I put him back.

I covered the top of his enclosure with a poster board and aluminum foil to keep heat and moisture in a couple days ago.

So we can rule out the pebbles.
Sun a month ago, coupled with your current supplement and diet routine, should eliminate MBD.
Doesn't sound like you have an RI.
Your temps haven't been perfect, but it doesn't sound like that is the cause of your issue.

That leaves the sand, and how this baby was started in its first few weeks and months, as our most likely possibilities. Time to call Tyler and get an X-ray.
 

JeannetteBasil

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Okay. I’m going to call a vet and get an appointment.

What would be the next step if the sand is the issue?
 

Tom

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Okay. I’m going to call a vet and get an appointment.

What would be the next step if the sand is the issue?

Depends on how bad it is. Sometimes it can be pushed through, but if the tort isn't eating then surgery may be required.

What size is your tortoise? How many grams?

Tell me more about the soft plastron. Is is soft like a plastic butter tub lid that has some give to it when pressed, or is it soft and sort of squishy like a wet sponge?
 

JeannetteBasil

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I last checked a couple days ago and he weighed 44 grams. He usually weighs 46-48 grams.

His plastron just has a little give. I would definitely compare it to a butter tub lid.
 

Tom

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I last checked a couple days ago and he weighed 44 grams. He usually weighs 46-48 grams.

His plastron just has a little give. I would definitely compare it to a butter tub lid.

The plastron is a promising sign. That sounds normal.

On the other hand, the weight is a bit low for the age, and this is a common sign of a dry started baby. Not jumping to any conclusions here. Just stating what I see as we go along.
 

JeannetteBasil

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Okay. I’ll call the place I got him. I’m going to a pet store later. Should I get liquid vitamins or will that not help?
 

JeannetteBasil

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I just checked on him and he moved almost a foot away from his hide. That’s the first time his moved by himself in a couple days.
 

Bambam1989

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I just wanted to pop in and say that you are in good hands. Tom knows his stuff.
And thank you for your willingness to listen and learn. Feel free to ask us to elaborate on any of the information your given.
 

JeannetteBasil

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I took him to the vet today. They gave him fluids and gave me antibiotics to give to him every three days. They didn’t give me a diagnosis, just that he is very small and sick.
 

TammyJ

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I took him to the vet today. They gave him fluids and gave me antibiotics to give to him every three days. They didn’t give me a diagnosis, just that he is very small and sick.
And of course, you already know that he is very small and sick!
Hoping for the best. Thanks for your good efforts with him!
Everything Tom tells you is the best possible advice. This I have learned here after being here quite a while and having stuck around.
 

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