Coco coir and respiratory infection

soph0899

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Hi everyone, I’m looking for some advice on coco coir substrate and respiratory infections for my Russian tortoise.

My tortoise is about 17 years old and I recently used coco coir for his house, I've never used it before but I saw recommendations for it. Initially he seemed fine with it but a few weeks ago I saw him holding his mouth open for a minute or so(only saw him doing this twice for a minute each time and haven’t seen it for 4 weeks now) and I thought he was making a whistling noise when he breathed. He does make a whistle noise occasionally, especially when he sleeps but I thought it seemed more pronounced. I assumed it may be the beginning of a respiratory infection and received antibiotics from the vets. He has no other symptoms - eating well, no discharge from nose, walking around and sunbathing and he has never had an infection before.
I realised the coco coir was quite dry and have taken it all out of his house a few days ago thinking it may have dried up too much and aggravated his respiratory system. He is still whistling occasionally but still acting normal so I’m wondering could the coco coir have caused the aggravated whistle and it wasn’t a respiratory infection? If anyone knows the answer to this - how long would it take to clear out of his body if he has breathed it in? Or can tortoises still act normal and have a respiratory infection and should I get a nebuliser to help clear it as his antibiotics course is finished now?

Thanks in advance if anyone has any ideas!
 

wellington

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When coir is used, it should be damp and patted down. It most likely was the coir as it doesn't sound like an RI with no other symptoms
Btw, I would be very cautious of that vet. To give antibiotics for an RI with no real symptoms or tests is not a reliable vet.
 

The_Four_Toed_Edward

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How humid was the enclosure? Coco coir shouldn't be so dry that it is dusty. Are there any other changes to his habits, diet or enclosure?
 

soph0899

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When coir is used, it should be damp and patted down. It most likely was the coir as it doesn't sound like an RI with no other symptoms
Btw, I would be very cautious of that vet. To give antibiotics for an RI with no real symptoms or tests is not a reliable vet.
Thanks for the advice :) Yes when I put it down it was damp and felt pretty cold - is that okay or should it feel more room temperature? I didn't really pat it down more just spread it around so potentially that is where I went wrong. Thank you, I've not had any experience of RI so I assumed that he was displaying the beginning stages and the vet believed he was putting in more than normal effort to breathe so advised that it would be best for antibiotics. Since I've now twigged that it may have been the substrate I will definitely be more cautious and look around for another. I've seen other people on here talk about orchid so I think I will try that instead. Would you say then that the occasional whistle is relatively normal and nothing to worry about?
 

soph0899

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How humid was the enclosure? Coco coir shouldn't be so dry that it is dusty. Are there any other changes to his habits, diet or enclosure?
Thanks for commenting :) I put in the coir to add humidity as I wasn't sure if the humidity needed to be higher, he is in a tortoise table and the humidity is about 45% I've changed nothing else it was only the new coir that I added in February and then the potential RI started about 4 weeks ago. How long would you say it takes for the coco coir to dry up? From what I had googled I thought it would hold the moisture in for quite a while.
 

Yvonne G

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Pat down your coir firmly with your palm then add a layer of fir bark over the top. (fir = orchid bark)
 

The_Four_Toed_Edward

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Thanks for commenting :) I put in the coir to add humidity as I wasn't sure if the humidity needed to be higher, he is in a tortoise table and the humidity is about 45% I've changed nothing else it was only the new coir that I added in February and then the potential RI started about 4 weeks ago. How long would you say it takes for the coco coir to dry up? From what I had googled I thought it would hold the moisture in for quite a while.
Yes, it stays humid but the surface of the coco coir can get too dry in those 4 weeks and become dusty. I spray mine a few times a week and turn it around a bit to keep it fully moist.
 

soph0899

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Yes, it stays humid but the surface of the coco coir can get too dry in those 4 weeks and become dusty. I spray mine a few times a week and turn it around a bit to keep it fully moist.
I see, that's where I went wrong then I think! Thank you for that tip I will try misting it this time to stop it going dusty :)
 

Tom

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Hi everyone, I’m looking for some advice on coco coir substrate and respiratory infections for my Russian tortoise.

My tortoise is about 17 years old and I recently used coco coir for his house, I've never used it before but I saw recommendations for it. Initially he seemed fine with it but a few weeks ago I saw him holding his mouth open for a minute or so(only saw him doing this twice for a minute each time and haven’t seen it for 4 weeks now) and I thought he was making a whistling noise when he breathed. He does make a whistle noise occasionally, especially when he sleeps but I thought it seemed more pronounced. I assumed it may be the beginning of a respiratory infection and received antibiotics from the vets. He has no other symptoms - eating well, no discharge from nose, walking around and sunbathing and he has never had an infection before.
I realised the coco coir was quite dry and have taken it all out of his house a few days ago thinking it may have dried up too much and aggravated his respiratory system. He is still whistling occasionally but still acting normal so I’m wondering could the coco coir have caused the aggravated whistle and it wasn’t a respiratory infection? If anyone knows the answer to this - how long would it take to clear out of his body if he has breathed it in? Or can tortoises still act normal and have a respiratory infection and should I get a nebuliser to help clear it as his antibiotics course is finished now?

Thanks in advance if anyone has any ideas!
Coir must be kept damp and hand packed. Any substrate that dries out and gets dusty can cause respiratory issues. The problem is not the coir. The problem is dry ness and dust. Keep it damp by dumping water into it. Spraying the surface does very little. How much water to dump and how often varies with each enclosure and seasonally too. You have to go by feel.

You will have the same problem with orchid bark or any other substrate if you don't keep it damp.

With damp substrate in an open table comes evaporation. Evaporation causes cooling, so you need to have some means of maintaining ambient heat. A CHE or RHP set on a thermostat will work, but that electric heat will cause more dryness and evaporative cooling so you'll need to add more water.

The solution to stop this un-winnable war is a closed chamber. Trying to heat and humidity an open tortoise table is like trying to heat your house in winter with no roof. It can't work. The only way an open table works is if the room conditions match the conditions needed by the tortoise. Most rooms are too cool and too dry. When you use a closed chamber, aka: vivarium, you contain all the heat and humidity, and separate it from the cold dry room air, and everything in your tortoise's environment works perfectly.
 

The_Four_Toed_Edward

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Coir must be kept damp and hand packed. Any substrate that dries out and gets dusty can cause respiratory issues. The problem is not the coir. The problem is dry ness and dust. Keep it damp by dumping water into it. Spraying the surface does very little. How much water to dump and how often varies with each enclosure and seasonally too. You have to go by feel.

You will have the same problem with orchid bark or any other substrate if you don't keep it damp.

With damp substrate in an open table comes evaporation. Evaporation causes cooling, so you need to have some means of maintaining ambient heat. A CHE or RHP set on a thermostat will work, but that electric heat will cause more dryness and evaporative cooling so you'll need to add more water.

The solution to stop this un-winnable war is a closed chamber. Trying to heat and humidity an open tortoise table is like trying to heat your house in winter with no roof. It can't work. The only way an open table works is if the room conditions match the conditions needed by the tortoise. Most rooms are too cool and too dry. When you use a closed chamber, aka: vivarium, you contain all the heat and humidity, and separate it from the cold dry room air, and everything in your tortoise's environment works perfectly.
Yes, the only problem with closed chambers is that it's hard to find one that is big enough. There are many threads here on how to DIY one using green houses, sometimes it is possible to use the existing tortoise table in the build, so that it is cheaper.
 

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