Cuttlebone vs. Calcium Supplements

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CheerAngel8

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Hi! :)
Heres my question is cuttlebone or calcium supplements better for a russian tortoise. Both of them have the calcium a :tort: needs.
Please Respond!
 

GeoTerraTestudo

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CheerAngel8 said:
Hi! :)
Heres my question is cuttlebone or calcium supplements better for a russian tortoise. Both of them have the calcium a :tort: needs.
Please Respond!

The long answer is complicated, and ideally tortoises should get both (see below). But the short answer, in my view, is that if you had to choose just one, it should be calcium supplement. Here's why.

In nature, tortoises get their calcium by eating plants growing on calcareous soils, as well as from the occasional snail. They also get the vitamin D3 they need from their exposure to UVB radiation in sunshine when they bask or forage.

In captivity, tortoises might not get these things. The plants they eat may might not contain enough calcium, and they might not have access to snails. In addition, captive tortoises might not spend enough time in the sun.

To compensate, we can provide a variety of foods, and an artificial UVB bulb. However, that might not be enough, so we can sprinkle a little calcium/vitamin D3 supplement on their food to make sure they get it.

Having a cuttle bone around is still a good idea. That way, if they feel a craving for calcium, or if they just want to gnaw on something to wear their beak down a bit, they can do so. For example, a rapidly growing juvenile or an adult female with eggs might need more calcium, and this way they can get it whenever they want.

So, I think we should provide tortoises with what they need first, and then a safety in case they need more. This means giving them as much time outdoors as possible, quality artificial lighting indoors, a variety of foods, calcium and perhaps vitamin D3 supplement, and a cuttle bone just in case.
 

Tom

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I agree with GTT. Thanks for saving me all that typing. :D

I offer cuttle bone to my torts and they rarely touch it. I give them calcium on their food twice a week to make sure they are getting enough.

It also varies with species, sex and age, as GTT alluded to. My growing babies get more and more often. My adult males seldom get any, and if they do its because they were eating food that a female left behind. My adults females get it regularly since they are constantly producing eggs. My two species of tort grow to quite a large size and will need a lot of calcium over a lot of years to do it. If I had a smaller species, I might use a bit less than I do.
 

Madkins007

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Just as a side note- there is little practical reason to not offer cuttlebone along with supplements. While it is possible to OD on calcium, it is extremely unlikely... assuming good UVB/vitamin D and hydration. Excess calcium should be passed in the stools.
 

kimber_lee_314

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My tortoises actually love their cuttlebones, so I always keep them in their enclosures, but I supplement once a week with calcium and once a week with TNT just to make sure! (They also don't touch their cuttlebones until their totally disgusting looking!)
 

HerpDaDerp26TV

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My RT's ignore their cuttle bone :p
They don't mind the herpative I sprinkle on their greens.
 

GeoTerraTestudo

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Madkins007 said:
Just as a side note- there is little practical reason to not offer cuttlebone along with supplements. While it is possible to OD on calcium, it is extremely unlikely... assuming good UVB/vitamin D and hydration. Excess calcium should be passed in the stools.

Agreed. As I mentioned above, we really should be giving our tortoises both calcium supplement and cuttlebone, in case they want it. However, if I was forced to choose one at gunpoint, it would be the supplement. ;)

It does seem like some tortoises are not interested in cuttlebone. Maybe this is because their needs are met, so they see no need to gnaw on it.

I've read that, while tortoises can't OD on calcium, they can OD on vitamin D3 supplements. This is why some people sprinkle calcium on their tortoises' food without the D3 (some even just grate cuttlebone onto the greens, instead of buying separate powder). However, since my guys live indoors, they get a calcium/D3 combo.
 

terryo

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I never give any supplements to my tortoises or turtles when they're outside for the Summer. In the Winter I rarely give any because they each finish off a cuttle bone in two weeks. I like it because it keeps their beaks trimmed.
 

GeoTerraTestudo

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terryo said:
I never give any supplements to my tortoises or turtles when they're outside for the Summer. In the Winter I rarely give any because they each finish off a cuttle bone in two weeks. I like it because it keeps their beaks trimmed.

Wow, sounds like a lot of cuttlebone-munching going on over there! :)

I have yet to see my Russians touch the ones in their pens. However, the redfoot I used to have did nibble on it from time to time, but not very often. Again, all these guys received calcium/D3 powder sprinkled on their food, and my redfoot also used to eat a lot of snails, so they probably just weren't craving calcium that much. Their beaks were fine, too. Nevertheless, I leave it in there for them, just in case.
 

jojodesca

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I am getting 2 turtles from a lady and they have overgrown beaks...i am going to use the cuttlebones with them to trim them up, but i might have to visit the vet....any advice????
 

Madkins007

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GeoTerraTestudo said:
(snip)
I've read that, while tortoises can't OD on calcium, they can OD on vitamin D3 supplements. This is why some people sprinkle calcium on their tortoises' food without the D3 (some even just grate cuttlebone onto the greens, instead of buying separate powder). However, since my guys live indoors, they get a calcium/D3 combo.

This is true. A couple of points to clarify for other readers, first-
- You NEED vitamin D/UVB light to properly metabolize calcium. You can offer a ton of calcium, but unless there is enough D in their system, it does not help. Most overdoses of calcium occur because the tortoises were not getting adequate D and the body is not using the calcium correctly.
- Vitamin D is created by the interaction of the UV-B portion of sunlight and skin in almost all vertebrates. While excess UV light has some concerns, like skin cancer or eye damage, you cannot OD on 'solar vitamin D'.
- UVB bulbs try to simulate sunlight for this purpose. They are not perfect, but help.
- There is vitamin D in some foods, but not much, and it is unlikely that any wild tortoise gets all the D they need from food. In fact...
- Some studies show that 'dietary D' (from food or supplements) does not accomplish everything that 'solar D' does. This is still being debated and studied, but should be kept in mind.

So- overdoses of vitamin D. As you read this, remember that they cannot OD from 'solar D', so this all applies to supplements. The symptoms of a D overdose is excessive calcification of soft tissues- something very difficult to see. While we don't have absolute clinical dosages, we do have a working formula for the right dosage- (Source: Dr. Mader "Reptile Medicine and Surgery", p. 1069) 5-10 IUs/kg of weight/day (or 0.005-0.010 IUs/gram of weight/day). Toxicity shows up when the levels are exceeded by 50 or more times (500IU/kg/day or more) for extended periods.

This is usually the result of over-enthusiastic supplementation- the 'if a little helps, a lot will help more' mistake we so often make. A weekly small pinch of vitamins or of calcium with D3, or even both really should not push the animal anywhere near the edge. However, they really should not get a supplemental dose every day.

(There is a chart for dosages at https://sites.google.com/site/tortoiselibrary/nutrition/guidelines-and-dosages?pli=1 Note that I had to redo the dosages as I messed up on the original formula)
 

Terry Allan Hall

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I buy limestone flour by the 5# bag and mix it little into their food daily...have cuttlebone available, but the Hermies seem pretty uninterested in it, although one of my daughter's box turtle chomps on one a lot (she'd been badly cared for and had a severely overgrown upper beak, so I'm presuming she feels like she needs it...no problem to makes sure she always has access to it).

Also, I found a few flat stones with a slightly bowled depression, and keep one full of limestone flour either enclosure. case in either's residents want extra.,..never seen any of them eat much, but 5# is a LOT of limestone flour (probably 5+ years worth!), so I just keep the bowls full.

And, cactus has a lot of calcium in it, so if your tort will eat it (most will), that's an excellent source, too...as previously mentioned, they're not likely to OD on calcium, as long as they stay hydrated.
 

blastoise91

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Guys are awesome. Answered any question i had about suppliment and cuttlebone needs. Save me lots of typing lol
 

Comrad Turtles "grandma"

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AWESOME thread! I was actually going to post the same question (cuttlebone vs supplement or both). So thank you all for the great information. This is extremely helpful for a new RT parent.
 

tygoh

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Since many do face a similar issue that cuttlebone is left for them to chew whenever they feel like it, is there a due period to dispose it if it is un-finish.
 

Terry Allan Hall

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tygoh said:
Since many do face a similar issue that cuttlebone is left for them to chew whenever they feel like it, is there a due period to dispose it if it is un-finish.

Are asking if cuttlebone becomes stale or spoiled?

Nope.
 

Madkins007

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tygoh said:
Since many do face a similar issue that cuttlebone is left for them to chew whenever they feel like it, is there a due period to dispose it if it is un-finish.

It won't go 'bad', but it will absorb stuff from the substrate. Several people have reported that their torts seem to actually prefer it that way.

I'd leave it until it started to smell, but mine never seem to last long enough to worry about.
 
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