Devastated. Greek tortoise died from a bladder stone. No symptoms shown.

Tom

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Hi everyone,

Wondered if I could get some advice.
Hello and welcome. Sorry to hear about the death in the family.

Bladder stones are caused by dehydration. They can be exacerbated by a diet too high in protein, dry substrate and the accompanying low humidity, and small enclosures that don't afford enough exercise. Extremely hot or cold temperatures that cause them to be more inactive and also contribute. Bladder stones are NOT caused by calcium supplements or feeding foods with oxalates or goiterogens.

So tell us about the size of the enclosure, the substrate, and your four temperatures. Warm side, cool side, basking area, and overnight low?
 

Lyd1012

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Hi everyone,

Wondered if I could get some advice and maybe explanation as to why she died.

My Greek spur theighed tortoise Tortellini died on Thursday. She was a little quiet the week before but that's not unusual especially when the weather kept changing.

I've had her since a tiny baby and really thought my husbandry was up to scratch. But maybe it wasn't 😢

She was eating right up until the
night before. Was still pooing and weeing as far as I could tell. Deffinately saw a poo and wee about a week before she died. Unfortunately a lot of the time it goes into the soil so I don't see it.
I never saw her drink much but she always had water and it got dirty so I always thought she must be going in it and drinking. I bathed her sometimes too.

She had a uvb 12% and a basking lamp. She had soil as the substrate.
Her diet consisted of mainly Lambs lettuce, raccidio, Romaine lettuce, kale, Watercress, rocket and pak choi over winter. As soon as weeds were available I would get her dandelions, forget me nots, plantain and I have grown mixes of other weeds in the past too.

She had calcium on most feeds and an arcadia multivitamin powder on 1/2 times a week.


She had a tortosie table with a door and space to wander the whole room. In summer we let her outside when it's nice.

She was going to be six this year and we had planned to built her a proper all year round outside enclosure.

We had a baby last summer so it's been harder to dedicate time to her but she always had water and food and space.

I feel like I've in some way caused it and am absolutely devastated.

How long would it take to make a large stone? And why did she show no signs?

I can't add the x ray unfortunately it won't let me. But it was quite large.

Thanks
 

Lyd1012

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Hello and welcome. Sorry to hear about the death in the family.

Bladder stones are caused by dehydration. They can be exacerbated by a diet too high in protein, dry substrate and the accompanying low humidity, and small enclosures that don't afford enough exercise. Extremely hot or cold temperatures that cause them to be more inactive and also contribute. Bladder stones are NOT caused by calcium supplements or feeding foods with oxalates or goiterogens.

So tell us about the size of the enclosure, the substrate, and your four temperatures. Warm side, cool side, basking area, and overnight low?
The enclosure is a 8ft x 3ft table and she had access to the whole room, which is probably about 10ft x 10ft.
Warm side was usually 26-28c, basking 32c, cool side 20-22c, overnight about 20c.

We turned her soil over every few months with water to saturate it and I would spray the top each week.
 

Lyd1012

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I figured out how to add the x ray.

Here it is. And a picture of my sweetheart.
 

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zovick

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I figured out how to add the x ray.

Here it is. And a picture of my sweetheart.
Very sorry you lost such a beautiful tortoise. I'm sure you are grief-stricken.

Unfortunately, I have no idea why or how that stone could have formed and grown to such a large size without the tortoise ever showing any symptoms.
 

Lyd1012

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Very sorry you lost such a beautiful tortoise. I'm sure you are grief-stricken.

Unfortunately, I have no idea why or how that stone could have formed and grown to such a large size without the tortoise ever showing any symptoms.
Thank you. I am heartbroken. She was eating dandelions I'd pick just the night before and she didn't look ill. I wish she'd shown me signs and I could have got her to a vet and maybe saved her.

I feel so guilty and I have felt sick since I found her. I'm finding it so hard.

My son is nearly 1 and I wanted them to grow up together and the weather is just getting nice to take her out. 💔
 

EppsDynasty

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I am so sorry for your loss, it's hard especially when you don't have answers. I hope you may have some piece of mind in getting some questions answered here. Life taking care of a tortoise is not an exact science, and with there being 100 to 1 wrong information it gets even harder. I thank you for posting your story here, it may help another person or tortoise.
 

zovick

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Thank you. I am heartbroken. She was eating dandelions I'd pick just the night before and she didn't look ill. I wish she'd shown me signs and I could have got her to a vet and maybe saved her.

I feel so guilty and I have felt sick since I found her. I'm finding it so hard.

My son is nearly 1 and I wanted them to grow up together and the weather is just getting nice to take her out. 💔
Do you think you will get another one and try again? You should, because the growth on your tortoise was perfect with no signs of pyramiding at all.
 

Lyd1012

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Do you think you will get another one and try again? You should, because the growth on your tortoise was perfect with no signs of pyramiding at all.
Thank you. Yes the vet said she was in such great condition otherwise. I'm proud of that, just a shame because with her growth and health other than the bladder stone she should have lived a long healthy life and I feel like I've unintentionally failed her. I'm finding it hard after having my son last year and knowing I haven't spent as much time with her as I used to.

I think we may get another one, I think me and my husband need to forgive ourselves first.
 

Tom

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The enclosure is a 8ft x 3ft table and she had access to the whole room, which is probably about 10ft x 10ft.
Warm side was usually 26-28c, basking 32c, cool side 20-22c, overnight about 20c.

We turned her soil over every few months with water to saturate it and I would spray the top each week.
Are you sure the bladder stone was the COD? They can live with those for long periods of time, and the stone itself doesn't kill them. What kills them is the inability to pass feces ad bodily waste through the cloaca because of the large obstruction. On the occasion that that happens, there are signs of a problem for a long period of time. They stop eating, they stop defecating, they get lethargic, and often they start dragging their back legs or showing some inability to walk.

There are some mistakes in your husbandry that might be a contributor. I'm only pointing them out to be helpful and get you the answers you seek.
1. Basking area needs to be closer to 36-37C. Their immune and digestive systems can't function if they can't get warm enough. The rest of the temperatures seem fine for the species. Did you brumate the tortoise this winter?
2. Soil should never be used as tortoise substrate. It is made from all sort of weird ingredients and composted yard waste. Any number of toxic elements of foreign bodies can be found in store bought soil and it doesn't matter if the label says "organic" or "sterile" or anything else.
3. Loose in the room is often a death sentence in one of many ways. They eat things that they shouldn't, its too cold, they get kicked, stepped on and we had one a couple of years ago that got its head smashed in the door jamb.
4. You might have been giving a little bit too much calcium. Calcium interferes with the absorption of other important trace elements and nutrients. They should only get some a couple fo time per week. Every feeding is too much.
5. Overall, the foods you were feeding sound great. Adding some fiber and sprinkling a dried leaf or flower topper on top over winter would have been a good idea, but what you were doing was pretty good.

I do see another little spot in your X-ray other than the stone, and the tortoise could have swallowed any number of other things that wouldn't show on an x ray while down on the floor or from the soil substrate. I also see quite a bit of food piled up in the GI tract, but I don't know if that is an abnormal amount or not. The stone is obvious and that's where I'd point the finger too, but the lack of symptoms makes me think that this death might have been caused by something else even though there was a large bladder stone present. I've saved your X-ray photo and I'm going to show it to my tortoise vet friends and see if they see anything that I don't. They are much more experienced looking at x-rays than I am.
 

Tom

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Thank you. Yes the vet said she was in such great condition otherwise. I'm proud of that, just a shame because with her growth and health other than the bladder stone she should have lived a long healthy life and I feel like I've unintentionally failed her. I'm finding it hard after having my son last year and knowing I haven't spent as much time with her as I used to.

I think we may get another one, I think me and my husband need to forgive ourselves first.
If you do decide to try again, realize that most of the care info out in the world is all wrong. For decades we have all had the wrong idea. Vets, pet shops, breeders, etc... We've all been using and teaching the same wrong info for generations. Give this a read through and note the things that are different than what you were told previously:

Questions and friendly arguments are welcome. Let's talk tortoises.
 

zolasmum

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Thank you. Yes the vet said she was in such great condition otherwise. I'm proud of that, just a shame because with her growth and health other than the bladder stone she should have lived a long healthy life and I feel like I've unintentionally failed her. I'm finding it hard after having my son last year and knowing I haven't spent as much time with her as I used to.

I think we may get another one, I think me and my husband need to forgive ourselves first.
She was beautiful,and I don't think you have anything to forgive yourself for. These things happen, and there is another tortoise out there looking for a wonderful home with you and your little boy - please try again. Now you have this forum to help you, and there are people who know a huge amount about tortoise care to advise you - you are exactly the sort of loving tortoise carer that any little tortoise needs.
Very best wishes from Devon
Angie
 

Lyd1012

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Are you sure the bladder stone was the COD? They can live with those for long periods of time, and the stone itself doesn't kill them. What kills them is the inability to pass feces ad bodily waste through the cloaca because of the large obstruction. On the occasion that that happens, there are signs of a problem for a long period of time. They stop eating, they stop defecating, they get lethargic, and often they start dragging their back legs or showing some inability to walk.

There are some mistakes in your husbandry that might be a contributor. I'm only pointing them out to be helpful and get you the answers you seek.
1. Basking area needs to be closer to 36-37C. Their immune and digestive systems can't function if they can't get warm enough. The rest of the temperatures seem fine for the species. Did you brumate the tortoise this winter?
2. Soil should never be used as tortoise substrate. It is made from all sort of weird ingredients and composted yard waste. Any number of toxic elements of foreign bodies can be found in store bought soil and it doesn't matter if the label says "organic" or "sterile" or anything else.
3. Loose in the room is often a death sentence in one of many ways. They eat things that they shouldn't, its too cold, they get kicked, stepped on and we had one a couple of years ago that got its head smashed in the door jamb.
4. You might have been giving a little bit too much calcium. Calcium interferes with the absorption of other important trace elements and nutrients. They should only get some a couple fo time per week. Every feeding is too much.
5. Overall, the foods you were feeding sound great. Adding some fiber and sprinkling a dried leaf or flower topper on top over winter would have been a good idea, but what you were doing was pretty good.

I do see another little spot in your X-ray other than the stone, and the tortoise could have swallowed any number of other things that wouldn't show on an x ray while down on the floor or from the soil substrate. I also see quite a bit of food piled up in the GI tract, but I don't know if that is an abnormal amount or not. The stone is obvious and that's where I'd point the finger too, but the lack of symptoms makes me think that this death might have been caused by something else even though there was a large bladder stone present. I've saved your X-ray photo and I'm going to show it to my tortoise vet friends and see if they see anything that I don't. They are much more experienced looking at x-rays than I am.
Thank you.

No not positive it was that. But the vet assumed it would have cause her kidneys to fail?

Thank you for your help.

I actually think the temperature under her lamp was higher than I said. When I used the infrared temp gun to check her shell she was more like 36 under the lamp. No I didn't brumate her.

Sorry I should have clarified. The room she was in was a specific reptile room, only me and my husband went in there to care for them. I have other reptiles in there too but they are all enclosed in vivs. She had like a plastic parimeter that she couldn't get out of. I know this wasn't the best but I wanted her to have more space until we could build her outside house.

That's interesting to know about soil becuase I'm on a specific spur theighed Facebook group and they suggest it.

Thank you. Its hard to find a good exotic vet so any other insight from your friends would be brilliant.

Thanks
 

Tom

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That's interesting to know about soil becuase I'm on a specific spur theighed Facebook group and they suggest it.
Sadly, FB and YT have become the main sources of torts info throughout the world, replacing forums like this one, and their info is dismal. Further, if someone comes along and tries to show evidence based facts that what they are saying is not true, or what works better, they get banned. It makes it very difficult for a person like yourself with the best of intentions to get the right information to work with.

Without a necropsy, we can only guess. Your level of care was better than 99% of the people out there, so both the stone and the unexpected death are quite surprising. As Zovick complemented, you did a wonderful job raising this tortoise. Far better than most. If you try again, regardless of what the COD was in this case, your tortoise did form a urolithic stone. Urates are the by-product of protein digestion. They collect and congeal in a tortoise that is not well hydrated enough. I too would have assumed the tortoise was drinking and staying hydrated judging from the soiled water dish daily, but there is just no substitute for frequent and regal soaks in a captive tortoise. It prevents problems like this. I normally recommend soaking adults like yours twice a week. More in hot dry weather or during times of increased protein intake like from a seasonal clover or broadleaf plantain patch.

It would be nice if there was an obvious mistake to point out and know the COD with certainty, but you did a fine job overall. With minor adjustments, I think you will enjoy longer term success if you try again in the future. Now your challenge will be to find a breeder that doesn't make any of the dozen or so common breeder mistakes...
 

Lyd1012

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Sadly, FB and YT have become the main sources of torts info throughout the world, replacing forums like this one, and their info is dismal. Further, if someone comes along and tries to show evidence based facts that what they are saying is not true, or what works better, they get banned. It makes it very difficult for a person like yourself with the best of intentions to get the right information to work with.

Without a necropsy, we can only guess. Your level of care was better than 99% of the people out there, so both the stone and the unexpected death are quite surprising. As Zovick complemented, you did a wonderful job raising this tortoise. Far better than most. If you try again, regardless of what the COD was in this case, your tortoise did form a urolithic stone. Urates are the by-product of protein digestion. They collect and congeal in a tortoise that is not well hydrated enough. I too would have assumed the tortoise was drinking and staying hydrated judging from the soiled water dish daily, but there is just no substitute for frequent and regal soaks in a captive tortoise. It prevents problems like this. I normally recommend soaking adults like yours twice a week. More in hot dry weather or during times of increased protein intake like from a seasonal clover or broadleaf plantain patch.

It would be nice if there was an obvious mistake to point out and know the COD with certainty, but you did a fine job overall. With minor adjustments, I think you will enjoy longer term success if you try again in the future. Now your challenge will be to find a breeder that doesn't make any of the dozen or so common breeder mistakes...
Thank you for your kind words. I really hope she had a good life.

I did wonder about getting a necropsy done. But the vet that can do them isn't in till Wednesday and even if kept in the fridge it will have been 6 days.

I am an animal studies lecturer and exotics is my main passion. I have done a lot of research over the 5 years I had her, but unfortunately like you say even with my best intentions there is a lot of conflicting information. It is sad as you say I have mostly got it right but there's tortoise out there with terrible husbandry older than her and alive. But yet she is dead. Sometime I wish I didn't care as much as I do. 💔

I always struggle when an animal passes but most I've had have lived to an old age for there species and I know I gave them a good life. The fact she's gone far too soon is what's bothering me.

Yes I suppose that is also true, I have no idea if her breeder was good either. I got her from someone who had got her from a breeder. I have her papers though.

Thanks
 

EppsDynasty

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@Lyd1012 ....
Your peace of mind will come in how you care for future animals especially tortoises. It sounds like you gave her a beautiful life and most likely longer than she would have had with someone else. You will never forget her and think of her when taking care of other torts. Her life will ensure countless others have a better life, you'll make sure of it. Whether it's yours or someone else you come across that isn't doing it right. It is one of the hardest things to take in an animal that wasn't raised right, give it a wonderful life full of wonderful things, Fall in Love and then have to lose all of that all at once and try to figure out Why? Caring like you do doesn't suck, it's how and why she and I'm sure others get a better life. Tom is 100% right on this one, you have no idea of the conditions she was raised and kept in.
 

ryan57

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Sadly, FB and YT have become the main sources of torts info throughout the world, replacing forums like this one, and their info is dismal. Further, if someone comes along and tries to show evidence based facts that what they are saying is not true, or what works better, they get banned. It makes it very difficult for a person like yourself with the best of intentions to get the right information to work with.

Without a necropsy, we can only guess. Your level of care was better than 99% of the people out there, so both the stone and the unexpected death are quite surprising. As Zovick complemented, you did a wonderful job raising this tortoise. Far better than most. If you try again, regardless of what the COD was in this case, your tortoise did form a urolithic stone. Urates are the by-product of protein digestion. They collect and congeal in a tortoise that is not well hydrated enough. I too would have assumed the tortoise was drinking and staying hydrated judging from the soiled water dish daily, but there is just no substitute for frequent and regal soaks in a captive tortoise. It prevents problems like this. I normally recommend soaking adults like yours twice a week. More in hot dry weather or during times of increased protein intake like from a seasonal clover or broadleaf plantain patch.

It would be nice if there was an obvious mistake to point out and know the COD with certainty, but you did a fine job overall. With minor adjustments, I think you will enjoy longer term success if you try again in the future. Now your challenge will be to find a breeder that doesn't make any of the dozen or so common breeder mistakes...
"I normally recommend soaking adults like yours twice a week. More in hot dry weather or during times of increased protein intake like from a seasonal clover"

Couldn't agree more about this. Yesterday afternoon Stump (sulcata) walked at least 1 mile with me. Exercise and space is more vitally important than most realize. As he's 30+ lbs I'm amazed at the quantity of urates with the spring clover intake, etc. All winter he's been getting 2 30-45 minute soaks DAILY after being out mainly for temperature reasons. If I would not have seen the quantity of urates produced by tortoises, if they are eating well, it is much more than most people would anticipate. You must watch them drink water AND soak them. I think daily is where I'm at on this. I do it daily not for hydration as much as expelling urine and urates prior to him going to bed but I have been shocked recently by the quantity. I can definitely see how a stone could happen SO easily. Lyd1012, so sorry for you losing your tortoise.
 

Lyd1012

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Are you sure the bladder stone was the COD? They can live with those for long periods of time, and the stone itself doesn't kill them. What kills them is the inability to pass feces ad bodily waste through the cloaca because of the large obstruction. On the occasion that that happens, there are signs of a problem for a long period of time. They stop eating, they stop defecating, they get lethargic, and often they start dragging their back legs or showing some inability to walk.

There are some mistakes in your husbandry that might be a contributor. I'm only pointing them out to be helpful and get you the answers you seek.
1. Basking area needs to be closer to 36-37C. Their immune and digestive systems can't function if they can't get warm enough. The rest of the temperatures seem fine for the species. Did you brumate the tortoise this winter?
2. Soil should never be used as tortoise substrate. It is made from all sort of weird ingredients and composted yard waste. Any number of toxic elements of foreign bodies can be found in store bought soil and it doesn't matter if the label says "organic" or "sterile" or anything else.
3. Loose in the room is often a death sentence in one of many ways. They eat things that they shouldn't, its too cold, they get kicked, stepped on and we had one a couple of years ago that got its head smashed in the door jamb.
4. You might have been giving a little bit too much calcium. Calcium interferes with the absorption of other important trace elements and nutrients. They should only get some a couple fo time per week. Every feeding is too much.
5. Overall, the foods you were feeding sound great. Adding some fiber and sprinkling a dried leaf or flower topper on top over winter would have been a good idea, but what you were doing was pretty good.

I do see another little spot in your X-ray other than the stone, and the tortoise could have swallowed any number of other things that wouldn't show on an x ray while down on the floor or from the soil substrate. I also see quite a bit of food piled up in the GI tract, but I don't know if that is an abnormal amount or not. The stone is obvious and that's where I'd point the finger too, but the lack of symptoms makes me think that this death might have been caused by something else even though there was a large bladder stone present. I've saved your X-ray photo and I'm going to show it to my tortoise vet friends and see if they see anything that I don't. They are much more experienced looking at x-rays than I am.

Hi Tom,

Have any of your tortoise vet friends had a chance to look at the xray? It's ok if not.

Also I wondered if she grew so well from a tiny baby of about 5cm to I would say about 25cm when she died over the 5 years I had her, with no pyramiding, does that mean she was growing too fast. I've seen a lot that where smaller than her at 5 years old.

Also a necropsy wouldn't be viable after 6 days would it? Shame we don't have a lot of exotic vets to perform it around where I am in North West England.

Thanks.
 
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