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Eyes swollen shut - am I providing the right care to my babies?

Discussion in 'Sulcata tortoises' started by Kaseybrunot, May 5, 2019.

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  1. Kaseybrunot

    Kaseybrunot New Member

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    I was given two baby Sulcata tortoises in October 2018. I received them from a girl who said that her uncle is a breeder, and she gave me some very poor advice in caring for them.. I have watched various videos, and read various care guides, and have cared for them to the best of my knowledge.

    They are in an open lid large concrete mixing bin, their substrate is a mix of coco coir and cypress mulch, they have a large hide which they love, which has a wet piece of sphagnum moss inside. I spray the enclosure at least once a day, but it admittedly does lose humidity due to it being an open top. They previously had two moonlight bulbs (one 100W and one 150W on a dial about halfway turned up) with no light or UVB bulb. I read that if you take them outside in the sun, they would not need a UVB bulb and I decided to do this instead since it was less expensive. However, I found that it was difficult for me to get them out as often as I would like so this past week I bought them a 100W murcury vapor bulb. It’s cutrently on a timer, along with the 150W moonlight bulb (the dial 75% turned up). The bulbs switch at 8PM and 7:30AM. I have read that coil UVB bulbs can hurt their eyes and cause blindness, so I avoided this type. Is it possible that the adjustment to the UVB caused the swelling of their eyes? The temps range from about 88-75 during the day, and about 75-82 at night, which I check with a radar thermometer gun. I feed them storebought greens, such as spring mix, collard greens, mustard greens, and chard. I soak them every few days and scrub their shells with a soft bristled toothbrush.

    I picked them up today to soak them and noticed that their eyes were swollen shut. I soaked them immediately and their eyes have opened up, but ones left eye is still a bit swollen. I read to soak them with warm water and carrot flavored baby food, so I will do that in the next hour. They are currently eating and are pretty active, but I am still scared.

    I understand that I am not an expert, and that many of you are. Please do not tell me to just go read a care guide, I have done that, and have seen many differing opinions and have cared for my babies with the advice of many care guides. If there is something I am doing wrong, please tell me what it is and how I can fix it. Is thereanything that I can do differently to help their eyes open up and prevent this from happening again? I just want to provide the best care for my babies as possible.

    Thank you so much for your help
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  2. Ben02

    Ben02 Well-Known Member

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    Hi and welcome!!!

    As you said, open top tables are not good for sulcatas, they need high humidity. (I don’t keep sulcatas so someone else may add to that).

    Do you use a coil bulb? Baby torts eyes are very sensitive to this.

    Tortoises don’t do well in pairs, they are solitary animals who see other torts as a threat or competition for territory.

    Bathe every day and gently pour Luke warm water over the eyes, this may just help them open.

    I would add some more weeds to their diet like dandelions, plantain etc.....

    Best of luck
    Kaseybrunot and Cowboy_Ken like this.
  3. ZEROPILOT

    ZEROPILOT Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    Welcome.
    Your issues need to be resolved. And I don't keep Sulcata. But many of us do.
    @Tom comes to mind.
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  4. Lyn W

    Lyn W Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Hi and welcome.
    You have obviously tried your best for your torts, and most of us have all made mistakes or been given the wrong information when we started out. There is a lot of old, outdated information around in books, on some other websites and especially from pet shops and some breeders, so it can be confusing. This is the best website for up to date information from very experienced keepers worldwide, so if I were you I would check everything you have heard or read so far and start again with the caresheet here.

    I think your temps maybe a bit low for sulcata babies but check the caresheet for help with that. I have a leopard but his care is similar and I know his temps need to be higher.

    I always keep a bottle of saline solution (the sort contact lens wearers use) in my tort first aid kit, so it may worth getting some of that and gently dripping a couple of drops over the eyes when they are in the soak to wash them out. @Yvonne G may be able to recommend an eye cream, but you may have to see a vet to get that.

    Can you post a picture of your torts and their enclosures with the bulbs you use so that members can advise you on any changes you can make to help solve this problem?
    Last edited: May 5, 2019
    Ben02 and Maro2Bear like this.
  5. TechnoCheese

    TechnoCheese Well-Known Member

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    Please give these a read-
    How To Raise A Healthy Sulcata Or Leopard, Version 2.0 https://tortoiseforum.org/index.php...ealthy-Sulcata-Or-Leopard,-Version-2.0.79895/

    For Those Who Have a Young Sulcata... https://tortoiseforum.org/index.php?threads/For-Those-Who-Have-a-Young-Sulcata....76744/

    Beginner Mistakes https://tortoiseforum.org/index.php?threads/Beginner-Mistakes.45180/

    -temps should never fall below 80 in the coolest part of the enclosure.

    -open tops do not work well with this species. You need to enclose the enclosure to have very little ventilation, or make a new enclosure.

    -tortoises should not be kept in pairs, and yours need to be separated.

    -Mercury vapor bulbs do not work well for baby tortoises. The bulbs are much too desiccating on their shells.

    -I would definitely soak them daily.

    Can we see pictures of the enclosure?
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  6. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    TechnoCheese said everything I was going to say.

    I will add that most of the care info you find for this species is wrong. Old, outdated and based on incorrect assumptions about how they live in the wild. You said not to have you read a care sheet, but all of your questions are answered and everything you need to do is spelled out in the care sheet.
    TechnoCheese likes this.
  7. Kaseybrunot

    Kaseybrunot New Member

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    I left to get baby food and when I came back an hour later, the little guys eyes were shut again. The other one has one swollen and one open still. I put the little one in a bath with baby food, but his eyes haven’t reopened. Is it possible that the UVB bulb is causing this? It’s the only thing that I have changed in the past month and this has never happened before. It is a 100W zoomed powersun UV bulb in a foulées sun dome fixture that is on a timer from 7:30am - 8pm.. I will post photos and try to find a closed enclosure for them, but I really want to get their eyes fixed and okay ASAP.
  8. Kaseybrunot

    Kaseybrunot New Member

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    Flukers** I turned the UVB light off and turned the moonlight bulb on just in case.. If this is the problem, which UVB bulb is good for them? I looked into the lamp and it was so bright that it hurt my eyes.. I know that coil lights are bad, but which ones are okay to use?
  9. Kaseybrunot

    Kaseybrunot New Member

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    AD8C153A-6701-4F26-BD9C-485118CF6DF3.jpeg 45609B16-93E0-4666-90AE-7C33C12EBEB3.jpeg F79E49B7-691B-4EFD-8F26-A98015CF4366.jpeg 2309F1E1-9CD7-4C59-89AA-C4F1C7730B3B.jpeg Here is their enclosures as well as photos of their eyes.
  10. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Remember: You've come here asking for help, and helping your babies is my only intention, so don't get mad when I level with you and tell you what is wrong and what to fix. Most people say thank you, but a select few get mad and leave. I don't want you to leave. I want you to stay and save these tortoises. So here goes:
    • You cannot maintain the correct living conditions for a sulcata in containers like that. The low sides and wide open top is the worst possible way to do it. They need a closed chamber or even a large closed in fish tank with most of the top covered. The room air is too cold and too dry. The more the room air ventilates freely in the enclosure, the worse it is for the tortoises. You need to get something else.
    • Colored bulbs should not be used over tortoises. They see colors better than we do. Making them live in a purple world messes with their little brains, confuses them and upset their circadian rhythms. Use a CHE or a radiant heat panel set on a thermostat to control night temps and ambient day time temps, and white lights for daytime hours.
    • All lamps need to be mounted over head. Not at an angle like that. They need to hang directly over head and point straight down, and you need to adjust the height to get the correct temperature under it. Those clamps will eventually fail, and not only could that harm your babies, it could burn your whole house down. The proximity and the angle might be what is burning their eyes. When the suns UV rays are at their strongest, mid day, the sun is directly over head. The ridges on their eyes shield their eyes from the high UV levels and on warm days, they stay out of the hot mid day sun all together.
    • The MVB needs to be mounted at the correct height. What does the box say? 12" or 18"? That would be a good starting point and then use a digital thermometer or an infrared temp gun on a flat rock under the bulb to dial it in and fine tune the basking temperature. Best to not use and MVB at all because they desiccate the carapace and cause pyramiding. I use 65 watt flood bulbs form the hardware store for basking.
    • Those stick-on dial type thermometers are inaccurate and unreliable. Use a $10 digital one from the hardware store instead.
    • Those ramped water bowls are fine for snakes and lizards, but they are literally death traps for tortoises with their rigid shells. Get rid of it ASAP and replace it with a cheap terra cotta plant saucer sunk into the substrate.
    • In addition to the above, they each need a much bigger environment, a basking slate, a proper humid hide with one opening, and another terra cotta saucer sunk into the substrate for food.
    Living in SoCal, we can use the sun for UV. A half hour two or there times a week is enough. During our winter, they can go a couple few weeks with no sun during our cold rainy spells. No big deal and it won't hurt a thing.

    Questions, comments and conversation are welcome. The above may seem harsh, but somebody has to tell you what is wrong so you can make it right. Don't hate me. :)
    Lunaqua, SWFLTortoise, Lyn W and 3 others like this.
  11. Kaseybrunot

    Kaseybrunot New Member

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    Thank you for your help! I understand and recognize that I am not an expert. I have only tried to give them the best care that I can based on other people’s advice. I appreciate you taking the time to try to help me. I do however have a few questions.

    I have read that tortoises should be unable to see through their enclosure. So what would be a good enclosure to use? I have seen a plastic tub with a lid and holes drilled in the sides for ventilation, but how could the lamp and the CHE be mounted overhead?

    I have a digital thermometer with a probe in the middle over the enclosure, but I mostly use a radar thermometer gun to check the temps. I use the stick on one inside the enclosure to check the humidity. Are there digital humidity readers that work better?

    I had a terra-cotta plant saucer for water, and do have one for food that is in the back corner unable to be seen in the photo. Their water saucer would constantly be drained and spilled out within an hour. I got this one at an expo and was told that tortoises should be fine with them as long as the water isn’t filled up too high. I add substrate on top of the hill that to climb in to make the climb easier, and they have seemed to enjoy the larger bowl and haven’t had any problems. I understand that an accident could happen and I very closely watched them In the days after I put it in to ensure that they got in and out without any problems. Im not saying you’re wrong by any means, but are all of the bigger dishes bad for tortoises? are there any that would work?

    The MVB bulb says to be 10-20 inches away, I had it at about 12, but it is on a tilt which as you said could make it brighter. I did not account for that. I also thought that they helped prevent or lessen the effects of pyramiding. I will definitely switch it out for a flood bulb.

    I did have a terra-cotta saucer flipped upside down as a basking slate, and that worked well while they were very little but as they have gotten big I have struggled to find one that works. I bought a couple different types of small tiles from Home Depot, but most got too hot under a light (I tried moving it further away, but this brough the overall temps too low). There were a couple that stayed the right temp, but I got spooked thinking the marble might be bad for them. Is this okay to use?

    I’m sorry for asking so many questions, and I do appreciate you taking time out of your day to help me. I love these little guys and just want to do right by them.

    I did buy human eye drops and they did open their eyes for a minute, but then I soaked them and their eyes were shut again when I pulled them out. Will their eyes reopen on their own or should I continue to use the eye drops?
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  12. xMario

    xMario Well-Known Member

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    Cheap way: plastic greenhouses u can buy them on Amazon here are pictures of my setup right now maybe this gives u some inspiration or ideas for ur new setup [emoji4] 20190506_074506.jpeg 20190506_074533.jpeg
  13. TechnoCheese

    TechnoCheese Well-Known Member

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    It really is fine if the tortoise can see through the walls. The real problem is when the enclosure is too small. People often keep adult tortoises in very small tanks, and usually mistake the problem (tiny enclosure size) for the clear glass.

    Your thermometer is fine, but really any digital hygrometers work. You can find one online or at your local hardware store.

    Sometimes you will get clay saucers that leak, but I usually exchange those for feeding/basking slates. You can use a terra cotta saucer large enough for them to fit in, and sink it into the substrate so that it can’t be tipped over.

    Pyramiding is caused by dryness/lack of humidity (not lack of UVB), so the MVB is only making it worse.

    I would get a larger terra cotta saucer for the basking spot. I believe they make them up to 16 inches in diameter.

    I would continue the eye drops.

    Don’t worry about asking too many questions! The more the better, and that’s what we’re here for ;)
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  14. Mel from hell

    Mel from hell Member

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    Hi Kasey:) this, is what’s worked for me. I? Offer advice from my past as an exotic vet tech, blah blah!
    Anyhooo? The eye drops, are a fine idea. But I always went a step further..,, Bausch n Lomb has s Eye Gel in a small tube in eye section. . It’s for sleeping in, for adults with dry eyes. I, use it all the time. I put just a wee amount in each eye, rub it in just barely! N softly. With ur Finger. Not, cotton balls or q tips. Then, wipe off any excess with ur finger. In that first enclosure u showed? Just put Saran Wrap or foil over the top parts u can get to. Then, when sprayed, it’ll hold some extra, humidity. I also, do things way more different than most,so go on members, cut into me I? Try to soak my Russian, twice a day if she seems in the mood~~ruby? Is a Soaking Ho! She cruised my steam heated kitchen floor, which is great in upstate NY. I’ll sometimes, put a big, 1960”s, kinda flat plate out. After a 1/2 check? She has clawed her way into that plastic bowl/plate. And there, she sits on her thrift store throne. . So she really digs , baths. I use pretty damn warm water, too. Her eyes would glob up when she was younger and I’d wet a large, q tip ( soaked in, n LIGHTLY rub back n forth, to clear anytime. Then, I’d use the fancy, eye drops that are more of a gel consistency. Purple box. I also fed her foods like baby vegetable mixes mixed with crushed up Mazuri chow. Another member suggested light was maybe too close to her eyes? That! Was great advice, trust it. I also, feed on slate piece n I really rinse her greens n tear it up. I like to feed wet assed greens. When I soak her, I make it deeper than most but yes, she can touch the bottom. She splays her legs out, closes eyes n naps. Make sure, to splash water at first, ALL over her like 3 x at first. And don’t make rookie mistake:) makes sure when removed from bath, that u rinse her down, with warm water. Rinse those eyes, ok? If they Still? Seem gummy or close again, shortly?
    Get that eye gel in the tube n do what I suggested. Remember, she’s pooping n weeing
    In that soak bowl. Could b a simple, Ph factor.
    But, it can also indicate she’s too cold in her home or getting into respiratory infection, they could also b having unseen Spats. I’d get the other one, away if possible? There are also medicated eye drops, sold at feed stores. broad spectrum kinda stuff. I’ve used it on my 32/33? Aged python,as well as my llamas, birds and 2! Of my larger Koi fish. when she’s scratched her eye. I think? It’s in a yellow box??sorry so long winded. Everything I do or suggest, I’ve personally done, or experimented on my own, for last 52 years of keeping tortoises n snakes.
    I wish good luck for you!
    Also? Does anyone know if the London dude, ever got his torts back ? :) thanks
  15. Kaseybrunot

    Kaseybrunot New Member

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    Thank you so much for the help. I will be sure to do everything you said ASAP. I am moving this Friday, so hopefully they can have a perfect set up by then.

    I am still worried about their eyes. I have been giving them eye drops and multiple soaks a day. They will open their eyes for a few minutes and walk around and eat, but they close their eyes again shortly after. Is this normal? Should I continue to give them eye drops even if they open their eyes?

    If they are not 100% by Friday, I will take them to the vet and post an update.

    Thank you for your help
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  16. KatApril

    KatApril Member

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    By far im a newbie when it comes to tortoises but have a great deal of experience with turtles maybe someone else can chime in. Aside from the amazing advice given id also look into vitmin a deficiency, whenever a.turtle had this problem it was 70% of the the time a vitmain A issue, 30% of the time a water quality issue/infection. I feed my sulcata his multivitamins once a week as a just in case.
  17. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Vitamin A deficiency is a much more common problem with box turtles than it is with tortoises. Its easily corrected with diet, and I think your vitamin strategy is a smart way to go.
  18. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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  19. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    This is old incorrect info. It doesn't matter if they can see through. Many members here, including myself, have been using glass tanks without issue for decades. Nowadays, I've found that closed chambers work the best, by far. I use these: https://apcages.com/collections/terrestrial-cages
    I think those are the best, but it takes months to get one. You can get one quicker through Reptiles Basics and one other company whose name escapes me now...

    Put the probe where the tortoise is. I use little $10 Accurate ones from Lowes.

    About 1 in 10 terra cotta saucers is a "weeper". I use those for food and get another one for water. What the seller at the expo told you is wrong. They wanted to make a sale or they were ignorant. Use a bigger terra cotta saucer. Nothing works better. They are easier for rigid shelled tortoises to get in and out of, they are too shallow to drown in, and they offer good traction for wet tortoise feet.

    Only your thermometer can tell you the correct mounting height. Its different for everyone.

    The tilt doesn't make it brighter, it points the UV more directly into the eye.

    Pyramiding isn't preventing by UV. That is more old incorrect confusing info from the wrong sources. Pyramiding, we NOW know, is caused by growth in conditions that are too dry. All incandescent bulbs contribute to carapace desiccation which increases pyramiding. They are a necessary evil, and keeping the wattage low, and ambient warm is a way to mitigate the damage. The type of light emitted by MVB bulbs is exceptionally desiccating.

    A piece of sand stone, or slate, is the way to go.

    If it gets too hot under the bulb, that means your bulb is either too high in wattage or too close. Your basking bulb should not be controlling ambient temps, so the distance shouldn't matter for that. You need a CHE or RHP set on a thermostat to maintain ambient temps in your enclosure.

    You are welcome. We will help you.

    Their eyes will open when the damage done heals. The drops should help. Getting them into the correct conditions will help too. You can also do carrot baby food soaks to help with that and their over all health. Get a jar of carrot baby food (Human babies...) and mix it in with the soaking water. I do this every other day or so when needed. Soak for 40-60 minutes and keep the water warm all the way through.

    These were great questions. Keep them coming. Make us explain everything in detail until it makes sense.
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  20. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    TechnoCheese explained it well, but to put it another way, if your tortoises didn't have rigid beaks, rigid shells, and a lack of vocal cords, you'd be seeing and hearing all the signs of aggression. Imagine if they were puppies. You be seeing snarling and raised hackles and warning barks at each other. They don't want or need company. Other tortoises are seen as intruders, attackers or competitors, not as friends or companions. Pair dynamics are especially bad. They can usually get along in groups of three or more, but pairs are much too personal. Both of your tortoises are experiencing unnecessary stress right now. In time the chronic stress can hamper the immune system and lead to major problems or death. They are already showing you the signs of tortoise aggression. You need to separate them.
    Lunaqua likes this.
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