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Desert tortoise died. Need insights & closure

Discussion in 'North American Tortoises (genus Gopherus)' started by mimsy, Feb 5, 2017.

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  1. mimsy

    mimsy New Member

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    My tortoise had a flooded burrow while hibernating about 2 weeks ago...I thought he was probably dead! But we got all the water out and tapped his foot and it moved. He was alive. WOW
    Anyway a few days later he came out of his burrow. He was coming out every day and sunning himself. Seemed fine...Wasn't eating but would walk around the enclosure. I figured he was just getting himself out of hibernation mode. Mostly he basked in the sun a lot and sometimes dug a little.

    Yesterday it was dusk and he was still out! I noticed he was kind of gagging and opening his mouth. His mouth was kinda muddy/wet.Trouble breathing. His eyes also weren't very responsive. We got him inside for the night in a box with a towel. Put a heater next to him and got it up to 80ish degrees. He got a little more perky and eyes would actually blink and respond. But when I tilted him forward sometimes some water/spit came out of his mouth. Some a little full of dirt. And he continued to do his neck stretching and struggling to breathe while in his box. I lifted him and tilted him a few times more over the next couple hours and sometimes some fluid came out. But I felt like I was disturbing him especially since it was his bedtime. Then I figured for night he needed temp lowered so I turned off heat and left him alone (maybe bad idea?). His box temp went down to 70ish. I was gonna wake up again in an hour but ended up sleeping longer. :(

    Anyway this morning at 4 am ish I woke up with a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I went to check on him & he was dead. I was angry because I wanted to take him to 24 hour vet asap last night but parents wouldn't help and I didn't have the $. Would vet have been able to help?

    I'm just wondering what happened. I'm guessing respiratory tract infection or pneumonia? I wish I checked his burrow sooner so he wouldn't have gotten sick. He must've been carrying some dirty water in his system all those 2 weeks! He seemed fine though all those 2 weeks & I was naive. :(
  2. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member Tortoise Club

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    My guess would be pneumonia or URI.
  3. Diamond

    Diamond Active Member

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    I was thinking pneumonia as well. So sorry for your loss.
  4. dmmj

    dmmj The member formerly known as captain awesome Moderator 10 Year Member!

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    definitely pneumonia or an RI and to be honest at that point I don't think a vet could have done anything it would have been too late just my opinion
  5. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    And this is why I say over and over not to hibernate them outside. A good friend of mine lost his tortoise the same way.

    Sorry for your loss and may your tortoise rest in peace.

    If you ever decide to do it again, please come back and we will help you safely hibernate your tortoise indoors and out of the reach of cruel Mother Nature.
    bmw325ii, Tidgy's Dad and wellington like this.
  6. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    May not have been more than water that filled its lungs and tortoises can't cough like we can to clear their lungs. As it slowly raised its metabolism over the last two weeks, the fluid in the lungs became too much to overcome with the higher, increased metabolism. The same pneumonia would do except the flooded burrow filled the lungs. The dramatically slowed metabolism of hibernation allowed it to survive until the increased metabolism caught up with it
  7. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    There is a way to try to get the water out of a tortoise's lungs. Doesn't always work, but does sometimes.

    Holding the tortoise and supporting his head, point him up to the ceiling then very quickly swing him down so he's pointing to the floor. Gravity will help get that water out. Do this several times. Then position the tortoise in a box on a slight incline with the head pointing down. Chances are good that the tortoise will still get pneumonia, but with the water removed from the lungs treatment will probably help him get over it.

    I'm so sorry for your loss, Mimsy. It's never easy to lose a treasured animal friend.
    68merc, bmw325ii, TammyJ and 3 others like this.
  8. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    I've had to do the 3-4 times over the years with spotted turtles. As water cools Down their ability to swim declines with their slower actions and they can drown. Also if one is scared as you move it it withdraws into its shell. If it is just dropped in water without allowing it to get a breath and equalize it will sink and cannot surface. Draining their lungs like you mention saved them
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  9. enchilada

    enchilada Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    my success experience on drowning (turtle complete lost motion ability. looks dead):
    1. hold the turtle upside down, head point to ground
    2. push front limbs inward then release, repeat couple times
    3. gently stroke the neck and squeeze if necessary (water will come out from nose)
    4. put turtle in dry and warm container. wait
    5. repeat step1~3 every hour
    6. once turtle can move neck or limbs little bit, you can just leave it rest. most will revive in 24 hours. aquatic turtles revive faster than semi-aquatic
    ```````````````````````````````````````````````````
    only apply to drowning occurred less than 12 hours.
    Tidgy's Dad likes this.
  10. Tidgy's Dad

    Tidgy's Dad Well-Known Member

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    I am very sorry for you loss, Mimsy.
    But some good information given by members here may help to save others.
  11. Kenno

    Kenno Well-Known Member

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    So sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing the story with us.
  12. mimsy

    mimsy New Member

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    Hi, Family pet tortoise I had around 15 years died a few years ago.

    I was wondering if someone could give some insights. I'm sick over what happened. I'm wondering if he could have been saved.

    So his burrow filled with rain while he was hibernating, and he stayed in there. I guess it was like that for several hours. The next morning I noticed. We drained out the burrow. Surprisingly he was alive. The next couple weeks he would leave his burrow daily. Seemed a little under the weather but I thought he would be ok.

    A couple weeks later one day at dusk he wasn't going to his burrow to sleep. I realized something is wrong. We brought him inside in a box and with a small heater fan in the room to warm him up. Well I noticed he was starting to gasp for air. Trouble breathing. And he had fluid from his mouth. I held him face down and he would gasp and muddy water would come out.

    I knew it was an emergency. But I didn't have vet money, and my parents were "busy." "Oh, we'll check on him in the morning."

    Well a few hours later I checked on him and he was alive but not gasping. I turned off the heater because it was super loud & I thought it might be bothering him. (Maybe that was a mistake?)

    Then a few hours later I woke up with a bad feeling. I checked on him, and he was dead.

    This was a really traumatizing experience. I don't know how to find closure. And boy am I kicking myself for not being more careful about his burrow that winter. I guess I figured he would crawl out if it filled up, but he must have been enjoying hibernation a lot!

    Apparently when tortoises have been underwater you are also supposed to empty their lungs right away by holding them face down, but I did not know.

    Could he have been saved if I took him to the vet that night? Was it pneumonia?
  13. mimsy

    mimsy New Member

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    The hibernations always went well, but that year I waited too long to empty the water out of his burrow or drain it out. I think the year before my dad also dug a little ditch to make any water flow out instead of fill up the burrow.

    So mad at myself.
  14. mimsy

    mimsy New Member

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    Still so guilty over it and it's been like 2.5 years. I don't know how to get over it. When he died I couldn't even accept it. Felt like a nightmare or something & I had the urge to dig him out of the ground. Thought maybe he's not really dead. His suffering is my fault and I have to live with that forever.
  15. mimsy

    mimsy New Member

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    Thanks
  16. mimsy

    mimsy New Member

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    Thanks, I'm sorry too
  17. mimsy

    mimsy New Member

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    Good advice, thanks for sharing
  18. mimsy

    mimsy New Member

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    Do you think he could have been saved?
  19. mimsy

    mimsy New Member

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    Thanks, It's difficult
  20. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    That's a pretty sad story, and I really feel for you.

    Here are the "coulda, woulda, shoulda", but I'm not being mean. This is meant to help you in case you ever get another tortoise.

    The burrow should have been on high ground, but better still would have been to box him up and hibernate (brumate) him in a cool, dry place indoors.

    When you first found out he was under water, you should have immediately dug him out.

    You could either hold him with his head down towards the ground, or, supporting his neck and head, swing him quickly down to help force the water out of his body.

    Setting him up indoors with heat and lights would have been a good idea, until the weather warmed up and he could go back outside.

    At the first sign of gasping (pneumonia) he should have gone to the vet for antibiotics.

    Yes, he had pneumonia from the water in his lungs.
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