Help! Inherited a Sulcata. Small for age and hasn't eaten

AliciaOro

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May 15, 2022
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Lynwood
So thank you all again. Small updates that has happened in the last few hours.

1. We now have repti-calcium (and have tried to sprinkle lightly on the food)

2. He has gone poop in some water and was slightly green in the water. A moss green color.

3. He has gone pee as well separately.

4. We got him a 10.0 uvb flourscent. Having a small water enclosure with a ramp in that we have filled with dirt and light water to make it slightly muddy.

Things we have found out

1. He only had a red 'warming' light before.

2. Pretty certain he never had direct sunlight before today. He was out there for about 2 hours.

3. We measured at 5.7 inches long. We are guesstimating that he is 1.5 to 2 years old at least. The first time we saw him was March 2021.

We are totally learning as we go and thank you all for the help. We also have a vet appointment on Tuesday.
 

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TammyJ

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So thank you all again. Small updates that has happened in the last few hours.

1. We now have repti-calcium (and have tried to sprinkle lightly on the food)

2. He has gone poop in some water and was slightly green in the water. A moss green color.

3. He has gone pee as well separately.

4. We got him a 10.0 uvb flourscent. Having a small water enclosure with a ramp in that we have filled with dirt and light water to make it slightly muddy.

Things we have found out

1. He only had a red 'warming' light before.

2. Pretty certain he never had direct sunlight before today. He was out there for about 2 hours.

3. We measured at 5.7 inches long. We are guesstimating that he is 1.5 to 2 years old at least. The first time we saw him was March 2021.

We are totally learning as we go and thank you all for the help. We also have a vet appointment on Tuesday.
He needs as much soaking as he can get. And he needs a dark hide.
 

Guts

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Heads up that ramp bowl is a death trap for even healthy animals, get him a terracotta dish from the hardware store instead.

Best of luck, good on you for taking in this poor tortoise. I wish legal action could be taken against the previous owner.
 

Kwiggy

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Heads up that ramp bowl is a death trap for even healthy animals, get him a terracotta dish from the hardware store instead.

Best of luck, good on you for taking in this poor tortoise. I wish legal action could be taken against the previous owner.
New member here but have cared for a variety of torts in a store setting for years without issue with these bowls, would you mind expanding on that? Now I'm all paranoid.
 

Nash

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Hello! There are many here that give advice but the ones to listen to are Tom, Yvonne and Mark. This isn't their first rodeo. They are very active and old timers to this site. They have given lots of advice to MANY people. Please listen to them. A lot of the other folks I see giving you advice are new comers. There is no way to turn the pyramiding around. Your Sulcata will have to live like this the rest of his life. He's suffering as it is. Please listen to Tom for your sake as well as your Tort's.
 

maggie3fan

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I am niot an expert, but I know a little. MBD is very painful...meaning it hurts bade. You need to play God here and decide what is right for that tortoise. Euthanize? rehab? Sulcata in the wild walk for miles eating a bite here or there, 25 miles or more. He needs a umide hide with about 80% humidity, needs different substrate
New member here but have cared for a variety of torts in a store setting for years without issue with these bowls, would you mind expanding on that? Now I'm all paranoid.
I agree with you...20 years experience and my sister 40 years and never a problem. But other keepers have, so with most of the experts on TFO, those ramp bowls are a no no.
 

Nash

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And Maggie, she is another one you want to listen to ;); Mary Knobbins, one of her torts :tort:has given her an excellent education! What a character!!!
 

Terri S

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This is so very helpful and I am reading over it now. We did give him a little bath today and while we see it's recommended every 3 days since he does seem to need it we are thinking of doing it again tomorrow.

I have attached the pellets that we got for him since we get that colorful is something that draws them. I cut up a whole bunch of grass so he doesn't have to fight it. View attachment 344778
Also when soaking is good to scoop up some water and poir it on him not on his face, but that helps with hydration as well.
 

Terri S

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So thank you all again. Small updates that has happened in the last few hours.

1. We now have repti-calcium (and have tried to sprinkle lightly on the food)

2. He has gone poop in some water and was slightly green in the water. A moss green color.

3. He has gone pee as well separately.

4. We got him a 10.0 uvb flourscent. Having a small water enclosure with a ramp in that we have filled with dirt and light water to make it slightly muddy.

Things we have found out

1. He only had a red 'warming' light before.

2. Pretty certain he never had direct sunlight before today. He was out there for about 2 hours.

3. We measured at 5.7 inches long. We are guesstimating that he is 1.5 to 2 years old at least. The first time we saw him was March 2021.

We are totally learning as we go and thank you all for the help. We also have a vet appointment on Tuesday.
I was given a sulcata in that condition years ago. They had never been out of the enclosure I do believe. Once i started letting him out as much as possible and soaking he began to thrive. I let her live outside in the summer. She starting getting bigger and bigger fast she was so happy and she could eat alot. Until I could no longer lift her. I put plastic on the bottom of a thick box toed a rope to it like a sleigh. When it started getting chilly at night I would bring her in. The next year i had to use a furniture dolly. I eventually had to rehome her to a sanctuary that could take her. My point is I believe she will get better. Her eyes do look like they are bulging. You might want to look into that as well. Keep up the good work.
 

maggie3fan

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I am definitely not an expert, but I've seen some stuff. If he has serious MBD...he most probably is in pain 24/7. You need to decide now is he able to be saved? You can feed him calcium rich diet until the cows come home, but generally once there's muscle problems the MBD has progressed too far. His carapace is noticeably sunken...putting pressure on his lungs and organs, painful. I have operated a small special needs turtle and tortoise rescue for almost 20 years.
I want to show you why we say he may be too far gone...oh and if he pooped hes got to have eaten something...
Mary Knobbins...about 9 or 10 years ago. Compare her to your tort...Mary is pyramided badly...BUT there is no sign of MBD. She acts fine and notice her carapace while pyramided is not sunken, it's rounded..
on the far right. IMG 0294
about 9 or 10 years ago. Compare her to your tort...Mary is pyramided badly...BUT there is no sign of MBD. She acts fine and notice her carapace while pyramided is not sunken, it's rounded...
this is her now...


100 2444
She's about 40 pounds now...
So in my opinion, you need to decide is that tort in pain from the MBD? If there is no pain, can he be rehabbed and live a good life? Mary ain't very pretty, but she's healthy as hell. I have had Sulcata for a long time and I just know how hard it is to really "save" one.

100 2400

You NEED to get him in something bigger yesterday...he needs to walk a lot and needs room to do it. Lynnwood? Colorado? Or Washington? In the U.S. we 'soak' our tortoises daily for hydration and humidity. The British 'bath' their tortoises (guess they get dirty:)...So the first thing is to soak him DAILY...get him in something better asap. Stop read stuff about tort keeping that doesn't come from TFO as you'll get confused. I realize how and why you have him now. I know. But a good part of rehab starts now...you and that tort don't have any time left.
Please hang around if you decide you can rehab him, continue to ask questions and you'll get support here and no disrespect whatever you decide to do
 

AliciaOro

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May 15, 2022
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Location (City and/or State)
Lynwood
Hi,

So we are brand new Sulcata owners as of 24/48 hours ago. The previous owners had her for 1.5 to 2 years and kept in a 10 gallon tank with a red sun light. Feed mainly lettuce. This tortoise weighs about.maybe 3 pounds.

We were able to get her crawling around outside for a little. However main issues are

1. Back legs are not holding up. She mainly crawls using front legs and kicks with the back.

2. Has pooped but has not eaten anything. But has also taken a huge gulp of water

3. As mentioned severally underweight

So far we have cleaned out the 10 gallon and added local dirt to it for burrowing fun.
We have also gotten nutrient dense food pellets (but she refuses to eat them) as well as a calcium that we will be putting with the water.

We have also gotten a UVB/UVA bulb for night time. We are super aware that she cannot stay in the 10lb tank and are trying to figure out a spot outside.

Main thing is we want her to eat and get back on a balanced diet to get some weight on. And we need to figure out about the back legs if they are still usable or if we have to build a rolling chair.

Any information would be very helpful!
Hello All,

First I want to thank everyone for the help, information and suggestions. As new tortoise ppl we were jumping off the deep end.

Secondly I wanted to provide an update on Bowsette.

She went to the vet yesterday. She is severely under weight (not even reaching a pound) and does have MBD that is effecting and giving her a soft shell.

However the vet gave her some antibiotics, a calcium booster and tube feed her.

We've been able to get her to 'eat' by blending her food into her soaking water. We include the calcium in this as well and give it to her outside. So getting natural sunlight as well as a food bath. Once we see her take a few mouthfuls of the "food water"...we then rinse her off (she loves warm showers apparently) and then give her a normal soak. Making sure none of the "food bath" is still on her.

Afterwards she spends sometime outside and doing her version of walking (more swimming style) in spft dirt.

We do have regular blended food for her to eat in the tank (the vet feels it's a fine size until she starts moving more and we are planning on getting one of those long tubs) and while we haven't seen her eat any of it my father in law swears he did.

So far the game plan is to try and get bowsette up to fighting weight and movement. It's a long game plan but once she starts eating on her own I am sure it will go easier.

Again thank you all for the advise!
 

Guts

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Joined
Nov 2, 2020
Messages
94
Location (City and/or State)
Tennessee
New member here but have cared for a variety of torts in a store setting for years without issue with these bowls, would you mind expanding on that? Now I'm all paranoid.
That piece of advice comes from Tom and Yvonne, they’ve seen torts drown in them I believe. I’ve never used them because of their advice.

So glad to hear they’re doing a bit better OP, sullys are amazingly hardy. Best wishes for Bowsette!
 

tag78

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Joined
May 18, 2022
Messages
7
Location (City and/or State)
Mojave Desert
Hi,

So we are brand new Sulcata owners as of 24/48 hours ago. The previous owners had her for 1.5 to 2 years and kept in a 10 gallon tank with a red sun light. Feed mainly lettuce. This tortoise weighs about.maybe 3 pounds.

We were able to get her crawling around outside for a little. However main issues are

1. Back legs are not holding up. She mainly crawls using front legs and kicks with the back.

2. Has pooped but has not eaten anything. But has also taken a huge gulp of water

3. As mentioned severally underweight

So far we have cleaned out the 10 gallon and added local dirt to it for burrowing fun.
We have also gotten nutrient dense food pellets (but she refuses to eat them) as well as a calcium that we will be putting with the water.

We have also gotten a UVB/UVA bulb for night time. We are super aware that she cannot stay in the 10lb tank and are trying to figure out a spot outside.

Main thing is we want her to eat and get back on a balanced diet to get some weight on. And we need to figure out about the back legs if they are still usable or if we have to build a rolling chair.

Any information would be very helpful!
Hello Alicia, Tom here.

I inherited a 60lb sulcata 12 years ago (he's probably 100lbs now). He was healthy enough as far as I could tell but he didn't want to eat anything but green, juicy salad fixin's and melons. I knew I should be getting him to eat grasses so I sodded a small Bermuda lawn in his area. To get him to eat bailed grass (he gets orchard grass now) I had to cut it into tiny pieces, soak it and then add it to the stuff he likes (he loves pureed pumpkin and it holds the cut dried orchard grass and calcium really well). After several years, I have gotten him to eat the cut orchard grass (wet or dry) without being enticed with other greens. I think that is the best diet for him now (with regular goodies of course).

We live in the Mojave Desert so he gets all the sun he wants. No worries there. He gets a lot of Mulberry leaves from my trees and lots of cut Collard Greens ( they are relatively cheap at the grocery store and they are denser than other greens so they keep longer without going limp). I break up whole pumpkins and watermelons now and then for him. I like that he has to do some work to eat them. He always has fresh water and he can sit in the sprinklers when he wants to. Over the years he has dug his own burrow (it goes under a creosote bush and turns left so I don't know where it stops). I understand that they will dig until they get the micro-environment they are happy with.

Enough about me and Herman, now let's talk about your little guy. I have seen examples of tortoises that couldn't get enough purchase with the ground and didn't develop proper use of their back legs. There have been success stories of them gaining function of their back legs in time. If you think his growth is stunted it isn't a good idea to try to "catch up" with his growth. That will take care of itself. Just give him a good diet. Also, it is thought by many that the "pyramiding" of his shell will occur from a poorly balanced diet so I wouldn't overdo the calcium thing. Herm's shell already was affected when I got him. FIRST THING - access a good list of things you can and shouldn't feed him. It is surprising the things you find out they shouldn't be eating. (I put a PDF at the bottom, it's a start)

He will want to get out of the hot sun and he might even enjoy a little pool (not too deep) to sit in now and then. Give him a couple of different types of hiding places with different humidity variables that he can choose from. They like to be warm but need to be able to choose how warm. He will get himself turned upside down during his explorations. They are curious and climb over things. In 12 years Herman has done it three times and I had to help him get back on his feet each time. You would think they would learn not to do that.

I can tell you from experience - when you get around to an outdoor enclosure - they are escape artists. If there is a weakness in your defense, he will find it. While he is small I would keep a fairly strong net of some sort over the pen. Dogs think he is a curiosity at best and some birds might get after him while he is small. Herman is a 100lb critter but that didn't stop a coyote or a large dog, I don't know which, from chewing at his shell all the way around trying to get at him. He is a tough old bugger but he sustained some minor damage. He won't try as hard to get out if he can't see through whatever you use as a barrier. They just keep trying to get to anything they can see on the other side. You can put shade cloth on heavy hog wire if you decide to use that. He will try to climb over walls of stone or wire mesh if they can get purchase with their feet. I have noticed that Herm doesn't try to go over fences he can't see through and are a little taller than the top of his shell. They will use the links in chain link and wire fences to try to climb. That will damage the spurs on their front legs - not good!

When they get large (that doesn't take very long) they get very strong and will break things you didn't think of. I got Herman because the people that had him let him go under the subfloor to their house and he was breaking the plumbing. Sometimes when they meet an obstacle they just push harder instead of going around or backing up. Watch out when you let children (and adults for that matter) feed larger tortoises with their fingers. That beak is also very strong and sharp. They don't mean it but it is in their nature to bite at food pretty hard.

It does get below freezing here in this desert so I have a heated shed he spends his nights in during the winter. It isn't recommended that they spent much time below 50 degrees and I make sure he never has to see 40 degrees or below. He will come out and sun himself in the winter, even on cold days if the sun is blazing. You have to watch out for power outages and have a backup plan.

He has been a real joy to have in the family. Our pitbull, Buddy, loves him.

The pic below is from Christmas when we first got him - the pyramiding isn't quite as pronounced 10 years latter. Herm xmas pic (he was still being picky about eating leafy greens, romaine is better than iceberg if you must use it)

Welcome to the party, Tom W.
 

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Vibrantone

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Baby really needs real sun. the bulbs are ok, but nothing beats real sun. I am not a fan of the pellets, but if he likes lettuce , I would only feed him romaine or a mix with purple lettuce, no kale or spinach mixes....If you can get cactus, tiny tiny pieces, cut it up..
 
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