Baby Sulcata sick; eyes closed, not eating or pooping, lethargic

Nesquik

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Joined
Nov 27, 2022
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
California
Hello, I’m new here.
I have two Sulcatas. One is Chomper and one is Dry Bones. Here’s a bit of a back story, I’ve never owned reptiles before. I got them from a friend who I thought was very knowledgeable and I just recently found out they don’t have much experience with tortoises themselves. I took on the responsibility of them so I want to do what I can to help them not only survive but be happy and thrive.
I got them in early October when they were about a week old. Chomper was given his name because he liked to eat. Like everything. He’d try to eat our garden hose, his food dish, his little basking stand, even his shell once. He was hilariously adorable about everything he wanted to eat. But for the past couple weeks he’s not been himself. His eating dramatically slowed downed. He also started sleeping more.
When he first showed signs of being sick, I panicked and started looking into what could be the problem. I start giving him baths every day (I only was doing it two times a week before), I turned up the heat in his place, I adjusted his food, I adjusted his home, I tried everything I thought could fix the problem short of taking him to the vet. Fast forward a few days and he’s in his bath but he keeps wagging his tail. I flip him over and see that he has a little poop stuck to his butt so I grab some toilet tissue to clean him up and it turns out that it was stuck in him like he was constipated. After he finally passed it, he seemed happier but still very lethargic. After a few days he still wasn’t better and now his eyes are closed all the time. I start looking into what that could be a symptom of and read something about vit. A deficiency so I start giving him carrot baths. After the first one, he seemed a lot happier. He finally strolled around his place, opened his eyes and even ate!
But now he’s back to being sleepy all the time, eyes closed, not eating. Mind you, he hasn’t pooped since he was constipated about a week ago. I don’t know what to do. I didn’t want to bother with a bunch of questions others have already asked but I am at a loss now and am so worried. Please help.
The closest reptile vet near me is over an hour away. I called them but they’re closed today. I am going to try to get him in asap with them because I’m at a loss and figured I’d ask y’all for some help in the meantime.
I’ve attached a picture of his place. It has coco base with some reptile wood chips I bought off Amazon when we first got them. You might see some grass, I read somewhere at some point that grass was a good substrate. I put some Timothy grass down for them and both of them always seemed caught up in it so I cleaned it out as best as I could. Any help, I’ll even take criticism. I just want him to feel better.
 

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Tom

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Hello and welcome. We will try to help. To save time, let's start with explaining that all the care info you get for these guys is all wrong from almost every source. Vets learn from the same wrong sources, so they are usually any help either, and frequently misdiagnose the problem. YT, FB, and pet stores, all wrong.

Here is the correct info. Read through this a couple of times, and then come back with questions. You will likely see several things that are not right:

To be clear, did you give them Timothy grass, or was it dry Timothy hay?

Also, they should never live in pairs. They need to be separated ASAP. Groups of juveniles can sometimes work, but not pairs.
 

Nesquik

New Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2022
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
California
Hello and welcome. We will try to help. To save time, let's start with explaining that all the care info you get for these guys is all wrong from almost every source. Vets learn from the same wrong sources, so they are usually any help either, and frequently misdiagnose the problem. YT, FB, and pet stores, all wrong.

Here is the correct info. Read through this a couple of times, and then come back with questions. You will likely see several things that are not right:

To be clear, did you give them Timothy grass, or was it dry Timothy hay?

Also, they should never live in pairs. They need to be separated ASAP. Groups of juveniles can sometimes work, but not pairs.
Thanks for replying, I’ve been anxious scrolling through the other posts. I’ll read that link now.
I gave them Timothy hay. Again, something I bought off internet.
they haven’t been housed together since we first got them. They only spent less than a week together and have seemed much happier from it.
I also didn’t mention he has a Mercury uvb light.
 

Nesquik

New Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2022
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
California
Hello and welcome. We will try to help. To save time, let's start with explaining that all the care info you get for these guys is all wrong from almost every source. Vets learn from the same wrong sources, so they are usually any help either, and frequently misdiagnose the problem. YT, FB, and pet stores, all wrong.

Here is the correct info. Read through this a couple of times, and then come back with questions. You will likely see several things that are not right:

To be clear, did you give them Timothy grass, or was it dry Timothy hay?

Also, they should never live in pairs. They need to be separated ASAP. Groups of juveniles can sometimes work, but not pairs.
So I started reading through the link. So much I didn’t know.
So he has a thermometer in his home, but his night time temps get into the mid 60s… he has a ceramic heater too and a heating pad under the tank. But I was told 60s were fine at night. I didn’t know.
Also she recommends not getting a uvb light. Now I’m gonna sound stupid but is there a difference between the florescent HO UV light she suggests and a mercury uvb bulb? Asking because I genuinely don’t know and I’m very flustered and can’t think straight.
That’s as far as I got, I’m gonna go back but I wanted to ask about that before I forgot.
 

KarenSoCal

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So I started reading through the link. So much I didn’t know.
So he has a thermometer in his home, but his night time temps get into the mid 60s… he has a ceramic heater too and a heating pad under the tank. But I was told 60s were fine at night. I didn’t know.
Also she recommends not getting a uvb light. Now I’m gonna sound stupid but is there a difference between the florescent HO UV light she suggests and a mercury uvb bulb? Asking because I genuinely don’t know and I’m very flustered and can’t think straight.
That’s as far as I got, I’m gonna go back but I wanted to ask about that before I forgot.
Hi there! I'm sorry one of your babies isn't feeling well.

60's is WAY too cold for your torts. Even as adults they should be at 80° minimum, day or night, throughout the entire enclosure.

The fluorescent type UVB tubes are the best for tortoises. They put out much more reliable UVB than other bulbs. My preference is the Arcadia T5 HO system. The first time you buy, you need to buy the fixture and the tube. After that, you can just buy the replacement tube. MVB's have a host of problems...here is a post explaining why we don't like them.

Problem with MVB, by Tom
Problems with MVBs:
1. They run too hot for a closed chamber, which is what you should be using.
2. They cause too much carapace desiccation which causes pyramiding.
3. They are fragile and break easily.
4. They are temperamental sometimes and shut themselves off for 20 minutes at a time.
5. They are expensive.
6. Their UV output runs from one extreme to the other. Some produce way too much UV, and other produce none at all after two or three months.

The ceramic heater is good to have. It should be running on a thermostat so it turns on and off as needed. You don't want it on continuously or you might cook the baby. There are several reptile thermostats available on Amazon. You want one good for at least 1500 watts. I would highly suggest you get one with 2 or 3 outlets in it. Often keepers find that 2 CHE's are needed, and you don't want to run 2 t-stats. Both CHE's can plug into the same t-stat.

The heating pad is not a good idea. Torts don't understand heat coming up from below them. They are wired to feel heat coming from the sun, which is from above. When they are too hot, their natural instinct is to dig down into cooler ground. With a pad, instead of getting cooler, they are digging closer to the heat source. Which brings me to...

You don't mention a basking bulb, which is necessary. It should be on 12 hours a day...~8 AM to 8 PM. It needs to supply bright light and heat. It should not supply UVB. I've found that an incandescent flood bulb works the best. It has to be incandescent...NOT an LED or "replacement" low wattage bulb sold in all the stores here in CA. Incandescent bulbs are no longer legally sold in CA, and the online supply houses won't ship them here. Fluker's makes a bulb that works and you can order. What I had to do was get an out-of-state family member to buy a bunch of them and ship them to me. I know...a terrible nuisance. I use 50 watt; others use 65 watt. You will have to experiment with your thermometer placed at tortoise height, and raise/lower the bulb until the basking area is at 95-100°F. It helps if you put a piece of slate or a nice rock directly under the lamp. The torts seem to like having a rock to lay on. Note..the basking bulb must be a "flood" bulb; not a "spot" bulb. You want the heat spread out, not concentrated into a narrow beam.

I think that's all for now...BTW, I suggest that whoever "she" is, don't take any more of her advice. I'm not trying to be nasty. It's just that she has led you wrong several times now. She would do well by joining this forum.
 

Nesquik

New Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2022
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
California
Hi there! I'm sorry one of your babies isn't feeling well.

60's is WAY too cold for your torts. Even as adults they should be at 80° minimum, day or night, throughout the entire enclosure.

The fluorescent type UVB tubes are the best for tortoises. They put out much more reliable UVB than other bulbs. My preference is the Arcadia T5 HO system. The first time you buy, you need to buy the fixture and the tube. After that, you can just buy the replacement tube. MVB's have a host of problems...here is a post explaining why we don't like them.

Problem with MVB, by Tom
Problems with MVBs:
1. They run too hot for a closed chamber, which is what you should be using.
2. They cause too much carapace desiccation which causes pyramiding.
3. They are fragile and break easily.
4. They are temperamental sometimes and shut themselves off for 20 minutes at a time.
5. They are expensive.
6. Their UV output runs from one extreme to the other. Some produce way too much UV, and other produce none at all after two or three months.

The ceramic heater is good to have. It should be running on a thermostat so it turns on and off as needed. You don't want it on continuously or you might cook the baby. There are several reptile thermostats available on Amazon. You want one good for at least 1500 watts. I would highly suggest you get one with 2 or 3 outlets in it. Often keepers find that 2 CHE's are needed, and you don't want to run 2 t-stats. Both CHE's can plug into the same t-stat.

The heating pad is not a good idea. Torts don't understand heat coming up from below them. They are wired to feel heat coming from the sun, which is from above. When they are too hot, their natural instinct is to dig down into cooler ground. With a pad, instead of getting cooler, they are digging closer to the heat source. Which brings me to...

You don't mention a basking bulb, which is necessary. It should be on 12 hours a day...~8 AM to 8 PM. It needs to supply bright light and heat. It should not supply UVB. I've found that an incandescent flood bulb works the best. It has to be incandescent...NOT an LED or "replacement" low wattage bulb sold in all the stores here in CA. Incandescent bulbs are no longer legally sold in CA, and the online supply houses won't ship them here. Fluker's makes a bulb that works and you can order. What I had to do was get an out-of-state family member to buy a bunch of them and ship them to me. I know...a terrible nuisance. I use 50 watt; others use 65 watt. You will have to experiment with your thermometer placed at tortoise height, and raise/lower the bulb until the basking area is at 95-100°F. It helps if you put a piece of slate or a nice rock directly under the lamp. The torts seem to like having a rock to lay on. Note..the basking bulb must be a "flood" bulb; not a "spot" bulb. You want the heat spread out, not concentrated into a narrow beam.

I think that's all for now...BTW, I suggest that whoever "she" is, don't take any more of her advice. I'm not trying to be nasty. It's just that she has led you wrong several times now. She would do well by joining this forum.
Yeah… I see that now. I wish I had asked sooner. I feel so dumb. Will he be okay? Those are his night temps only.
He does have a basking light, I just don’t keep it on all the time because online it said the mercury uvb was enough with a ceramic heater.
I will remove the heating pad now.
But I was reading another post about hatching failure syndrome or something.. I’m not saying that is what is going on but I do worry I haven’t been giving him what’s best for him. His shell has definitely gotten softer. Is there a possibility he won’t be able to recover from whatever damage has been done to him?
Also, for dry bones… he has a similar set up. I will obviously make adjustments as soon as possible. I am currently making a cart for my local hardware store to pick up tomorrow so I can do something better for them. But I have some grow lights for my seedlings in the early winter. Would those be considered okay for them? I keep seeing t5 tube and that’s basically what I have for my seedling, will they work for my tortoises as well?
 

KarenSoCal

Well-Known Member
Tortoise Club
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jul 8, 2017
Messages
5,552
Location (City and/or State)
Low desert 50 mi SE of Palm Springs CA
Yeah… I see that now. I wish I had asked sooner. I feel so dumb. Will he be okay? Those are his night temps only.
He does have a basking light, I just don’t keep it on all the time because online it said the mercury uvb was enough with a ceramic heater.
I will remove the heating pad now.
But I was reading another post about hatching failure syndrome or something.. I’m not saying that is what is going on but I do worry I haven’t been giving him what’s best for him. His shell has definitely gotten softer. Is there a possibility he won’t be able to recover from whatever damage has been done to him?
Also, for dry bones… he has a similar set up. I will obviously make adjustments as soon as possible. I am currently making a cart for my local hardware store to pick up tomorrow so I can do something better for them. But I have some grow lights for my seedlings in the early winter. Would those be considered okay for them? I keep seeing t5 tube and that’s basically what I have for my seedling, will they work for my tortoises as well?
I have a plant bulb also that came with the Arcadia fixture. Unfortunately, the plant lights provide beautiful full spectrum lighting, but I don't think they supply much UVB. The tubes we order for torts come in % of UVB in the light's output. The plant light doesn't even mention UVB.It says full spectrum, but UVB might be so low that it's useless. I'll tag a member who can tell us for sure.

Please don't feel dumb...we were all clueless at some point. Focus on what's important...you have reached out for help and we are going to do our very best to help you and your babies. As for his survival...I know you are going to make the positive changes necessary for him. But this is important!!...if he doesn't pull through, it is most likely lack of proper care before you ever got him. Even at a week old, that 1st week is so instrumental in his future well-being that you should not blame yourself for him not thriving. But we're going to do everything possible to help him through this...and you too.

I would turn up the heat in the enclosure to 85° day and night, in the entire enclosure. The cold temp could have started an upper respiratory infection (URI), so we'll treat it as one. Increased heat often is the only treatment needed. As he starts to improve, leave the temp at 85° until it has been 2 weeks since the last symptoms have disappeared. There's no rush to lower the temp. When you do, just drop it to 80°.

His basking flood light should be on continuously for 12 hrs/day. His UVB should be on 3-4 hrs/day, during the midday, maybe 11AM-2:00PM. In the spring when it gets really warm, you'll be able to take him outside in sunshine for an hour a day at first. Then you won't need to run the UVB tube at all till fall.

@Markw84 Am I correct about the plant lights? Or not?

I meant to post this for you. It should help.

4 elements of heating: By Tom
There are four elements to heating and lighting:

Basking bulb. I use 65 watt floods from the hardware store. I run them on a timer and adjust the height to get the correct basking temp under them. I also like to use a flat rock of some sort directly under the bulb.

Ambient heat maintenance. I use ceramic heating elements or radiant heat panels set on thermostats to maintain ambient above 80 degrees day and night for tropical species. You'd only need day heat for a temperate species like Testudo or DT.

Light. I use LEDs for this purpose. Something in the 5000-6500K color range will look the best. Most bulbs at the store are in the 2500K range and they look yellowish.

UV. If you can get your tortoise outside for an hour 2 or 3 times a week, you won't need indoor UV. If you want it anyway, get one of the newer HO type fluorescent tubes. Which type will depend on mounting height. 5.0 bulbs make almost no UV. You need a meter to check this: https://www.solarmeter.com/model65.html
 

Nesquik

New Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2022
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
California
I have a plant bulb also that came with the Arcadia fixture. Unfortunately, the plant lights provide beautiful full spectrum lighting, but I don't think they supply much UVB. The tubes we order for torts come in % of UVB in the light's output. The plant light doesn't even mention UVB.It says full spectrum, but UVB might be so low that it's useless. I'll tag a member who can tell us for sure.

Please don't feel dumb...we were all clueless at some point. Focus on what's important...you have reached out for help and we are going to do our very best to help you and your babies. As for his survival...I know you are going to make the positive changes necessary for him. But this is important!!...if he doesn't pull through, it is most likely lack of proper care before you ever got him. Even at a week old, that 1st week is so instrumental in his future well-being that you should not blame yourself for him not thriving. But we're going to do everything possible to help him through this...and you too.

I would turn up the heat in the enclosure to 85° day and night, in the entire enclosure. The cold temp could have started an upper respiratory infection (URI), so we'll treat it as one. Increased heat often is the only treatment needed. As he starts to improve, leave the temp at 85° until it has been 2 weeks since the last symptoms have disappeared. There's no rush to lower the temp. When you do, just drop it to 80°.

His basking flood light should be on continuously for 12 hrs/day. His UVB should be on 3-4 hrs/day, during the midday, maybe 11AM-2:00PM. In the spring when it gets really warm, you'll be able to take him outside in sunshine for an hour a day at first. Then you won't need to run the UVB tube at all till fall.

@Markw84 Am I correct about the plant lights? Or not?

I meant to post this for you. It should help.

4 elements of heating: By Tom
There are four elements to heating and lighting:

Basking bulb. I use 65 watt floods from the hardware store. I run them on a timer and adjust the height to get the correct basking temp under them. I also like to use a flat rock of some sort directly under the bulb.

Ambient heat maintenance. I use ceramic heating elements or radiant heat panels set on thermostats to maintain ambient above 80 degrees day and night for tropical species. You'd only need day heat for a temperate species like Testudo or DT.

Light. I use LEDs for this purpose. Something in the 5000-6500K color range will look the best. Most bulbs at the store are in the 2500K range and they look yellowish.

UV. If you can get your tortoise outside for an hour 2 or 3 times a week, you won't need indoor UV. If you want it anyway, get one of the newer HO type fluorescent tubes. Which type will depend on mounting height. 5.0 bulbs make almost no UV. You need a meter to check this: https://www.solarmeter.com/model65.html
Thanks for the clarification on the whole lights thing. I panicked and rearranged their whole set up, they’re out on my couch now. I brought out the full spectrum light but can easily switch them. I will be building them a new enclosures to better fit everything I learned. But I am still a bit scattered brain and wanna make sure I fully understand… please bear with me. So as I understand they just need general lights to see their surroundings, they also need a basking lamp that’s on 12hrs a day, a heat emitter on a thermostat and a UVB if I can’t take them outside for a few hours each week. Is that correct?
 

Nesquik

New Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2022
Messages
6
Location (City and/or State)
California
Also I really appreciate your help. I wish I could hug y’all. I also live in California so I can’t get a hold of incandescent lights as well. I have one of those fulkers incandescent basking bulbs, would that work? If not, I can reach out to my relatives out of state and beg them for help.
 
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