Desert Tortoise Restless Movements While Sleeping

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So our 28 year old desert tortoise has been very restless at night lately. Pretty much all night long he does this intermittent wild neck stretching and head pumping thing. We've taken him to the vet for this type of behavior before (although that time he wasn't stretching his neck out as far - he was mainly just pumping his head into his shell all night) and they couldn't find anything wrong or abnormal. In the daytime he's completely normal and goes about his habits as if nothing is off. He's eating, drinking, roaming, pooing and peeing perfectly fine. It's only when he lies down to sleep that we catch this behavior. It's warmer lately, but not abnormally so in his hide (probably 70-77 at nights). We can take him to the vet again, but I'm worried they're not going to find anything yet again and we'll just stress him out with the trip. Has anyone else seen theirs do this?

Vimeo videos here:




 

Blackdog1714

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Have there been any recent changes to diet, enclosure etc.. besides the heat? Also do you have digital temp probes to monitor the hide and outside. I am just terrified to see what y'all's daytime temps are like. @Yvonne G @Tom
 
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Have there been any recent changes to diet, enclosure etc.. besides the heat? Also do you have digital temp probes to monitor the hide and outside. I am just terrified to see what y'all's daytime temps are like. @Yvonne G @Tom
No real changes to diet. Our friend has brought him over a lot of hibiscus from their yard lately to feed him but we've checked and they don't use any pesticides or spray anything on their flowers. We have digital temps that probe both inside his hut and outdoors. Our days have gotten up to the high 90's lately but nothing crazy heat-wise. We don't usually put him in his hide at night until the end of the day when his hide temperature has at least dropped below 80.
 

Tom

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Where is this? I mean where in the yard is the tortoise? Is this outside in a corner, or is this inside a shelter of some sort?

Are there ants, silverfish, springtails or other bugs in the area?
 
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This is outside in his tortoise hide that we shut him in at night. There are bugs and ants in the yard (we can't for the life of us get rid of them without resorting to pesticides). We don't think there are any particularly in his hide, but we haven't taken it completely apart to clean out recently. We've seen this behavior in a couple of his sleeping spots throughout the yard (not just in his hide) but only when he's sleeping. We'll probably bring him inside tonight and see if he does it inside as well - before we tear his hide apart to look for ants.
 

Sarah2020

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They do move in their sleep in the 2nd and 3rd video there appeared to be something jumping on top of the rock he put his face up to.
 
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So we brought him inside overnight to see if it was due to anything in his hide outside - and he still did this behavior, pretty much every 5 minutes or so - ALL night long. I can hear a breathing sound when he pumps into his shell each time too. I don't think this is ant or pest related:


 

zovick

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So we brought him inside overnight to see if it was due to anything in his hide outside - and he still did this behavior, pretty much every 5 minutes or so - ALL night long. I can hear a breathing sound when he pumps into his shell each time too. I don't think this is ant or pest related:


It appears to me as though your tortoise has a respiratory infection of some type and the head movements are made to help it get air into its lungs. I would suspect mycoplasma since it is a Desert Tortoise. Personally, I believe a visit to a good vet is in order to have this possibility checked.
 
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It appears to me as though your tortoise has a respiratory infection of some type and the head movements are made to help it get air into its lungs. I would suspect mycoplasma since it is a Desert Tortoise. Personally, I believe a visit to a good vet is in order to have this possibility checked.
We have an appointment tomorrow. Our vet was stumped the last time we took him in for this - although this time it's way more pronounced and way more frequent.
 
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While we've mainly seen him do this only while he's asleep, we did catch him doing it this morning with his eyes open (but while lying down) and he also did this weird behavior at the end of the video where he tries to bite his leg:

 

Sarah2020

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He looks uncomfortable hope the vet can help.
 

zovick

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We have an appointment tomorrow. Our vet was stumped the last time we took him in for this - although this time it's way more pronounced and way more frequent.
Glad you have an appointment. Hopefully your vet will see the obvious problem this time. If not, I would look for a different vet. Be sure to show him/her your videos.

The tortoise definitely is having trouble breathing which is why it is pumping its head in and out. Since tortoises do not have an expandable rib cage, they have to use their diaphragm and other musculature in their legs, throat, and neck to get air in and out of their lungs. If the lungs are not getting enough oxygen due to an infection, then the tortoise has to resort to pushing its head in and out to help move the air.

I can also see the tortoise's eye is watering in at least one of your videos which is another sign of a respiratory problem.
 

TaylorTortoise

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Keep us updates please, this does look extremely uncomfortable and definitely not normal.
 

Jan A

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Glad you have an appointment. Hopefully your vet will see the obvious problem this time. If not, I would look for a different vet. Be sure to show him/her your videos.

The tortoise definitely is having trouble breathing which is why it is pumping its head in and out. Since tortoises do not have an expandable rib cage, they have to use their diaphragm and other musculature in their legs, throat, and neck to get air in and out of their lungs. If the lungs are not getting enough oxygen due to an infection, then the tortoise has to resort to pushing its head in and out to help move the air.

I can also see the tortoise's eye is watering in at least one of your videos which is another sign of a respiratory problem.
It also seems that he is consistently rubbing only one side of his head when he extends his neck/head against the chair indoors. Is that the same eye that is watering?
 

zovick

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It also seems that he is consistently rubbing only one side of his head when he extends his neck/head against the chair indoors. Is that the same eye that is watering?
The right eye is definitely watering, but in the most recent video in post #11, it appears that the left cheek has moisture on it below the eye so the left eye may also be watering.

The tortoise is obviously in distress and needs to see a vet for proper diagnosis and treatment of this problem, IMHO.
 

Tom

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While we've mainly seen him do this only while he's asleep, we did catch him doing it this morning with his eyes open (but while lying down) and he also did this weird behavior at the end of the video where he tries to bite his leg:

Take a drive up to Calabassas and see Dr. Attila Molnar. Most vets know little to nothing about torts and do more harm than good. They inject the wrong stuff for the wrong reasons and never look at, or deal with, the CAUSE of the problem.

Thankfully, Dr. Molnar is an outstanding exception to this generality. He's a great vet that is up on current treatments and techniques, but he's also a turtle and tortoise keeper and has his own collection. He's one of the few vets I trust with reptiles.

 
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Took him to our vet - who said the behavior is extremely odd but physical examination everything looked great. Same with xrays. No impaction or any signs of respiratory issues. No signs of bites or mites or any skin irritations. Waiting on blood results, but the vets only ideas was something in his diet irritating him (though he didn't see any signs of inflammation or irritation in his throat or mouth) or neurological (either something acute triggered from his diet or something in the environment - or something chronic progressing) which he said can be terribly difficult to diagnose.

I'll hear more tomorrow when the blood results come back, though Gorts odd behavior has stopped so far today (however he has started dragging his back left leg since coming back from the vet. Not sure if that's related or just from the vet manhandled him during the physical exam)

Thanks for the Dr. Molnar recommendation, if we don't learn anything from the blood results we'll definitely reach out to him next!
 
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And I think the "watering" on the cams is just the shinier parts of his skin reflecting and looking wet on the cams. He definitely has no eye or nose discharge
 

zovick

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And I think the "watering" on the cams is just the shinier parts of his skin reflecting and looking wet on the cams. He definitely has no eye or nose discharge
Strange. However if the wet appearance is just due to the lighting and reflections off the skin and there truly is no respiratory problem, I wonder if there could be something stuck in the tortoise's throat.
 
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