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How Can I Tell If A Tortoise Is Healthy And Doing Well

Discussion in 'Tortoise FAQs - New and need help?' started by Prashant, Feb 23, 2018.

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  1. Prashant

    Prashant Member

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    I wanted to know what things to keep in mind for the Tortoises for initial years
    like growth what should be considered to make sure they grow healthy and steady. parameters are like growth lines,size year wise, what are the healthy growth sign that babies show.. how to nurture them correctly. how can build healthy relationship between you and baby tortoise.
    Brunurupucis likes this.
  2. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member

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    Constant weight/size gain. Normal behavior, eating, drinking, pooping peeing, active, etc.
    There is no "norm" for how much weight/size gain. They all will do their own thing.
    Having proper temps, humidity, uvb, hydration, diet, exercise and enclosure is what is needed to grow properly and healthy and consistently. You giving this will give you the relationship with them.
    @Markw84 can help with temps, humidity, diet, etc
  3. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    @Prashant This is an excellent question. I saw this and realized we really don't have anything written on this that I am aware of, yet such a common and good question for any new tortoise keeper. I assume this is a different question than a care sheet and will answer that way. This is how do I know if the tortoise is doing well? What do I watch for? What does a healthy tortoise look and act like?

    I'm sure others will chime in (I hope) but here is what I do as I obsess over a new tortoise I get:

    First, I'm sure we all check to see it visually looks healthy. Preferably we've done this to decide if it is a tortoise we want to get. It still applies if we already have it and want to do our 'check up'. = I want it to feel like it is what something that same size would feel if it were totally full of water. Not empty and light. Eyes clear and bright. Nose clear, not runny. Breathing clear, no strange noise other than a "hiss" when it expells air if startled and draws its head in. (In picking a new tortoise, I would make it do this). When you pull on its legs, they should feel strong and retract with a strong pull. It's shell should feel firm and solid. If under a year old, the plastron can have a bit of a "give" when you press on it, but feel more like a lid on a tub of butter, not a spongy feel. I want to see new growth in the seams. Even if I am buying a hatchling from someone else, I would still want to see growth expanding the seams. (unless you are very experienced and want the experience of growing a tortoise 'your way' from the earliest possible stage). Since I can choose, I will want one that is growing smooth, not pyramided. I know it has been raised well hydrated and humid. This is not necessary, but a bonus. You certainly can have extremely healthy, pyramided tortoises. The important thing is that I want to see good growth. That means its metabolism is working.

    Now that I have it home, and I am dealing with MY tortoise - I want to see it eat! A healthy tortoise is going to eat every day. There may be a bit of an adjustment time, but a really good, healthy tortoise will normally eat right away, and vigorously. Again, if I have a choice, that is what I want and look for. I am always concerned if a tortoise refuses food. It can mean nothing, if temporary, but it always is a cause for extra vigilance on my part whenever I see this. A new food may be tested tentatively, but foods you know the tortoise likes, should be eaten and it should eat with vigor. I feel that reflex is important.

    I want to see it poop! Diet will dramatically affect the consistency, but generally I strive for good, firm stools with visible fiber in it. It should be regular. I look for it fouling every bath, every day and count on it. If they don't, I am concerned and on vigil. Urates are normal for a tortoise. It should be white and creamy, not gritty. The amount will vary tremendously with diet and hydration. So I do look for creamy urates when present. This will also frequently be passed in the bath. Tortoises tend to release water and therefore uric acid and urates when additional water is available. So in the bath it is normal to see your tortoise "pee" and with it, some white, pasty, urates. Also, with diet, this could sometimes have a slight green or yellow tint.

    Bath time is important for me in monitoring my tortoise. I like to see it active and moving. Some do seem to enjoy it and develop a basking style pose, and just soak for a while. But I also like to see lots of movement and walking about trying to get out as part of the bath. I want to see active, strong movement. I like to use the cement mixing tubs for medium sized tortoises as they have the rounded, sloped ends that create almost a treadmill effect to the tortoise. Movement is very important for a tortoise. Both in the bath and in its enclosure, I need to see strong, deliberate, coordinated movement. Tortoises should walk high and strong on their legs. No dragging, or apparent weakness standing. I also use this time to look over the tortoise and the items I outlined in the first paragraph above. I watch growth seams forming and how the growth is coming in. I like to see new growth seams with fresh keratin expanding. The newer keratin will look different when wet and should seem to stay a bit wet looking longer than the older, more central part of the scutes. I like to see good, new, healthy growth.

    I always place new food in the enclosure while I am bathing the tortoises. When put back, they are very active and eat readily. I look for this.

    I also like to see that the tortoise has selected a place that is obviously a "hide" to sleep and rest. Pushed into a corner, in an actual hide, or under a plant. This is normal behavior, and I like to see it picking a resting/hiding spot. They should not be sleeping at night in the open. That would not be natural.

    Once you get used to all the above activities, then it is important to watch for changes. I want things to remain consistent as above. If the tortoise suddenly changes its normal routine, again, that would put me on vigil. You will become very in tune to what is 'normal' for your tortoise and a change is one of the first signs to be watchful that something isn't starting to go wrong.

    Hope this answers your question and helps
  4. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    I forgot to add that I always keep track of their weight as a good indicator of consistent growth. I do weigh weekly with a new tortoise, but have to keep weekly variations in perspective. Over the course of a month, however, there should be a consistent weight gain for a younger tortoise. I also measure mine monthly. I use a caliper as I want to see actual, precise growth. How much a tortoise grows can vary considerably. I've had sulcatas double the size of a clutch-mate their first two years kept in identical conditions. As a general rule, for my minimums, I would like to see a tortoise at least triple its hatch weight its first year. I like to see about an 8-10% gain per month the first 4 years or so. Again, that can vary tremendously above and below, but that is what I use as a marker to judge.
    Cathie G, Morty'sMamma, Lyn W and 4 others like this.
  5. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Supporter

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