laurenhodgec

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Jul 2, 2021
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London
Hi all,

First of all, apologies my first post is not a positive one - but in need of some advice!

My three year old Spur Thighed called Speckles fell ill around a week ago, his appetite had dropped, no pooping, and very lazy and lethargic which is the complete opposite to his usual self. I gave it two days but he only got worse, I took him to the vets straight away, as we arrived and I opened the lid to the box I had transported him in, there was blood in his wee :(

The vet took him for an X-ray straight away and confirmed he had Fecal Impaction and pretty badly too. She said she could see a "sandy" texture and suggested that he's been eating too much of his substrate - which was surprising because his substrate does get in his food sometimes, but after doing lots of research before I bought it it was highly recommend and labelled as safe to be eaten! Unfortunately, it just hasn't agreed with my little tort - they advised me to remove the substrate immediately (for anyone wondering it was a mixture of top soil and sand) he's now on some medicine and back to the vets on Monday to see how things are progressing.

Now I'm in a position of going back to finding a new substrate, we tried wood chips before but they was a no no as I caught him eating one of those before too, I'm now looking into "hemp bedding" but have read quite a few scary stories of them being digested and then causing sharp cuts in the guys which sadly results in death. I would like to find something that's safe, and that he enjoys as he's never buried in the 50/50 soil & sand is this is something I'd like him to be able to do. There are so many voices and opinions on the internet, it becomes hard to know what's best and I feel like I'm being torn in a lot of directions.

I will be asking the vet for their opinion on Monday, but I know there is a lot of people on here with lots of experiences so any advice would seriously help!

P.S I have just came across coconut substrate... would be great to hear people's experience with this?!
 

TaylorTortoise

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Coco coir is good. Cypress mulch is good. People on here suggest to mix both, or use one or the other.
NEVER use sand. Never use sand with another substrate, We don't use it in general. It causes impaction. I am so sorry you are going through this with your young one. Hope all is well and this suffices.
 

Yvonne G

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I don't know if this product is available in the UK, but maybe you can order it online: Miner-all, manufactured by Sticky Tongue Farms:

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Minerall+reptile&ref=nb_sb_noss_2&tag=exoticpetnetw-20

This product give the tortoise the minerals he's not getting from his diet and keeps him from sampling his substrate.

I like to use fir bark, sold here as "Orchid Bark." But lots of people use and like coco coir or cypress mulch.
 

ZEROPILOT

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There are a few reasons why a tortoise will eat substrate.
1) Colored light bulbs that make substrate look like food.
2) A mineral deficiency.
3) Sticky or clingy substrate that attaches to the food....Amongst others.
Eating of substrate should be stopped as soon as it is seen. A serious impaction could require surgery and may cause death.
It is 100% avoidable.
 

TaylorTortoise

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There are a few reasons why a tortoise will eat substrate.
1) Colored light bulbs that make substrate look like food.
2) A mineral deficiency.
3) Sticky or clingy substrate that attaches to the food....Amongst others.
Eating of substrate should be stopped as soon as it is seen. A serious impaction could require surgery and may cause death.
It is 100% avoidable.
What substrate do you recommend that is not sticky or clingy?
 

Sarah2020

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Hi and welcome. I use orchid bark available from uk based swell reptiles online with delivery, never looked back since getting this. I change it around 8 to 10 weeks with a deep clean. They trample sand and soil everywhere inc their food sadly your seeing the life threatening end result. Well done for swift action and hope it all gets sorted.
 

wellington

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Never ever use sand. Wish you had found this forum a long time ago. We would have told you to get rid of the sand, as you know now, it causes impaction.
I like coconut coir, it won't cause impaction but can be dragged every where. The next would be the orchard bark.
Because you have already experienced impaction, you should give warm water soaks'daily. Also be sure to give proper humidity and a large enough, low sided water dish, clay saucer, that he can fit in and self soak if he wants.
 

Tom

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Hi all,

First of all, apologies my first post is not a positive one - but in need of some advice!

My three year old Spur Thighed called Speckles fell ill around a week ago, his appetite had dropped, no pooping, and very lazy and lethargic which is the complete opposite to his usual self. I gave it two days but he only got worse, I took him to the vets straight away, as we arrived and I opened the lid to the box I had transported him in, there was blood in his wee :(

The vet took him for an X-ray straight away and confirmed he had Fecal Impaction and pretty badly too. She said she could see a "sandy" texture and suggested that he's been eating too much of his substrate - which was surprising because his substrate does get in his food sometimes, but after doing lots of research before I bought it it was highly recommend and labelled as safe to be eaten! Unfortunately, it just hasn't agreed with my little tort - they advised me to remove the substrate immediately (for anyone wondering it was a mixture of top soil and sand) he's now on some medicine and back to the vets on Monday to see how things are progressing.

Now I'm in a position of going back to finding a new substrate, we tried wood chips before but they was a no no as I caught him eating one of those before too, I'm now looking into "hemp bedding" but have read quite a few scary stories of them being digested and then causing sharp cuts in the guys which sadly results in death. I would like to find something that's safe, and that he enjoys as he's never buried in the 50/50 soil & sand is this is something I'd like him to be able to do. There are so many voices and opinions on the internet, it becomes hard to know what's best and I feel like I'm being torn in a lot of directions.

I will be asking the vet for their opinion on Monday, but I know there is a lot of people on here with lots of experiences so any advice would seriously help!

P.S I have just came across coconut substrate... would be great to hear people's experience with this?!
Most of the care info you find will be wrong. Sadly, most vets know very little about tortoise care too.

Here is the correct care info, including substrate info:
 

ZEROPILOT

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Location (City and/or State)
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There are a few reasons why a tortoise will eat substrate.
1) Colored light bulbs that make substrate look like food.
2) A mineral deficiency.
3) Sticky or clingy substrate that attaches to the food....Amongst others.
Eating of substrate should be stopped as soon as it is seen. A serious impaction could require surgery and may cause death.
It is 100% avoidable.
I've used fine Orchid Bark for most of my indoor enclosures with excellent results.
It holds humidity too.
 

CarolineD

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Coco coir is the best for consumption I have heard. However my usually lively little girl is acting the same way and this post has me worried she might be impacted as well. I use wood chips on the bottom for absorbing purposes, then about 3-4 inches of coco coir on top. Their food falls in it constantly. I don’t have the cash for an X ray from the vet at the immediate moment. Any natural remedies I can do right now?
 
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Hi Lauren. As a vet tech I've seen many issues with constipation, obstruction and GI perforation with various substrates. For this reason in my indoor habitats I only use pure coconut coir substrates. (Just to clarify - not the stringy fiber stuff for birds and make sure it doesn't have perlite or vermiculite mixed in.) It passes through well when ingested; also it does not mold like other substrates. Feeding on a stone slate or tray will help limit contamination with substrate into the food although they will still track it around. Now if your tortoise is eating the substrate by the mouth full that is another issue all together. What is the diet you are feeding? High fiber is important. Adding some chopped hay to the food your tortoise is used to eating will help with digestion. Good luck and keep asking questions. There are a lot of great keepers/breeders here who can help direct you. The more information and even pictures you provide the more accurate help you can get.
 

laurenhodgec

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Messages
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London
Coco coir is good. Cypress mulch is good. People on here suggest to mix both, or use one or the other.
NEVER use sand. Never use sand with another substrate, We don't use it in general. It causes impaction. I am so sorry you are going through this with your young one. Hope all is well and this suffices.
Hi Taylor, I have now changed to coco coir, he loves it and is fully digging, thank you so much.
 

laurenhodgec

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Messages
7
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Can you post pictures of your setup?

Do you feed him on a plate or a stone? This may help him not eat so much substrate.

Also, do you soak him? I would soak him twice a day for 30 min in warm water.
Thanks so much the reply.

I have now got a large piece of slate under his bowl/plate which is helping. He baths once a day, but I have increased this to twice a day now.
 

laurenhodgec

New Member
Joined
Jul 2, 2021
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
London
Coco coir is the best for consumption I have heard. However my usually lively little girl is acting the same way and this post has me worried she might be impacted as well. I use wood chips on the bottom for absorbing purposes, then about 3-4 inches of coco coir on top. Their food falls in it constantly. I don’t have the cash for an X ray from the vet at the immediate moment. Any natural remedies I can do right now?
Hi Caroline,

I have now changed it to coco coir and he loves it, thank you!

So sorry to hear you think your tort is unwell, I know it can cost money but I would highly recommend trying to get him to a vet, especially if the symptoms continue. I would recommend lots of warm baths, massages and food that passes through the digestive system easily, keep me up to date.
 

maggie3fan

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Jun 30, 2018
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PacificNorthWest
I feed my tortoises on Frisbee's. I use fine grade orchid bark and no tort has ever eaten the substrate. I have tort tables in the house that have had the same orchid bark for over 15 years. Spot clean daily...
 

laurenhodgec

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Joined
Jul 2, 2021
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
London
Hi Lauren. As a vet tech I've seen many issues with constipation, obstruction and GI perforation with various substrates. For this reason in my indoor habitats I only use pure coconut coir substrates. (Just to clarify - not the stringy fiber stuff for birds and make sure it doesn't have perlite or vermiculite mixed in.) It passes through well when ingested; also it does not mold like other substrates. Feeding on a stone slate or tray will help limit contamination with substrate into the food although they will still track it around. Now if your tortoise is eating the substrate by the mouth full that is another issue all together. What is the diet you are feeding? High fiber is important. Adding some chopped hay to the food your tortoise is used to eating will help with digestion. Good luck and keep asking questions. There are a lot of great keepers/breeders here who can help direct you. The more information and even pictures you provide the more accurate help you can get.
Thank you so much for taking the time to respond, your advice has been super helpful and it's great to hear from somebody who is a vet tech themselves! I can confirm he has moved over to Coco Coir and he loves it, he's digging like never before, it's just a shame I never came across this stuff sooner! To confirm, he was never eating the substrate on purpose, it was a case of it getting in his food as he's a messy eater ;)
 

laurenhodgec

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Jul 2, 2021
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
London
Never ever use sand. Wish you had found this forum a long time ago. We would have told you to get rid of the sand, as you know now, it causes impaction.
I like coconut coir, it won't cause impaction but can be dragged every where. The next would be the orchard bark.
Because you have already experienced impaction, you should give warm water soaks'daily. Also be sure to give proper humidity and a large enough, low sided water dish, clay saucer, that he can fit in and self soak if he wants.
Hi there, thanks for your reply!
I too wish I found this sooner, it would have saved my tort a lot of pain. I have found a lot of information out there on substrate seems to be false, so I'm super grateful to now have advice from this forum. I can confirm I have changed his bedding to Coco Coir and he loves it, it's made a huge difference so thank you!
 

laurenhodgec

New Member
Joined
Jul 2, 2021
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
London
Hi all,

First of all, apologies my first post is not a positive one - but in need of some advice!

My three year old Spur Thighed called Speckles fell ill around a week ago, his appetite had dropped, no pooping, and very lazy and lethargic which is the complete opposite to his usual self. I gave it two days but he only got worse, I took him to the vets straight away, as we arrived and I opened the lid to the box I had transported him in, there was blood in his wee :(

The vet took him for an X-ray straight away and confirmed he had Fecal Impaction and pretty badly too. She said she could see a "sandy" texture and suggested that he's been eating too much of his substrate - which was surprising because his substrate does get in his food sometimes, but after doing lots of research before I bought it it was highly recommend and labelled as safe to be eaten! Unfortunately, it just hasn't agreed with my little tort - they advised me to remove the substrate immediately (for anyone wondering it was a mixture of top soil and sand) he's now on some medicine and back to the vets on Monday to see how things are progressing.

Now I'm in a position of going back to finding a new substrate, we tried wood chips before but they was a no no as I caught him eating one of those before too, I'm now looking into "hemp bedding" but have read quite a few scary stories of them being digested and then causing sharp cuts in the guys which sadly results in death. I would like to find something that's safe, and that he enjoys as he's never buried in the 50/50 soil & sand is this is something I'd like him to be able to do. There are so many voices and opinions on the internet, it becomes hard to know what's best and I feel like I'm being torn in a lot of directions.

I will be asking the vet for their opinion on Monday, but I know there is a lot of people on here with lots of experiences so any advice would seriously help!

P.S I have just came across coconut substrate... would be great to hear people's experience with this?!
Hi all, I just wanted to post an update - apologies I have not had time to individually reply to each of you, but I thoroughly appreciate everyones advice and well wishes for my tort. I can confirm his substrate has been changed to Coco Coir and he loves it and is digging it in like never before. It's truly sad that it took for my tort to become so unwell for me to realise that the substrate I had was wrong all along, but I will now be sure to help spread the word as best as I can!

As of today, Speckles is making a recovery and has passed all the nasty stuff he has needed to, we have a final check up on Sunday but after a scary few weeks, all is looking good.

Thanks again - I will be sure to post here if I ever need help again, as I've gained lots from hearing from you all!
 
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