tamzsturg

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Hi there, I recently made my first post discussing my little Horsefield Tarquin’s situation. He had stopped eating (apart from a mouthful a day seemingly just to please us) and just wanted to sleep and hide in a dark corner completely avoiding his bulbs. His bloodwork came back from the vets and they say he could have renal/kidney problems, wether its reversible or not is hard to tell :( The vet said he’s not amazing, but he’s not doing awfully, somewhere in the middle, so he still has a chance of getting better with the help of a feeding tube to get to him to drink and eat. I will do anything to make sure he survives this. However, Tarquin would have to be put under anaesthetic to have the op, and vet said should be hydrated as much as possible before we can do that. He doesn’t really drink when we bath him (twice a day at the moment), and he never uses his water bowl willingly. Does anyone have any words of wisdom or advice, or experiences with tortoises who develop renal/kidney issues? I can’t help but feel like I failed my baby, what if this has been slowly progressing since he came out of hibernation? I’m so upset and don’t know what to do, all I can think about is what did I do wrong, is this my fault? :(
- Tamzin
 

Lyn W

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Hi Tamzin
Sorry your little tort is going through this.
I rarely see my tort drink and he never drinks in his soaks but they do absorb water through the cloaca (vent) so they are benficial to help hydrate him. I also soak his food before feeding so they get water that way too, but that's not much help to you if he's not eating.
When my tort wasn't eating I covered his food in the juice of a cucmber because he loves that. Too much cucmber flesh can act as a laxative so you don't want that while he's ill.
I'll tag a few more experienced people to see if they can help @Yvonne G , @zovick , @ZenHerper , @Tom. @KarenSoCal
 

tamzsturg

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Hi Tamzin
Sorry your little tort is going through this.
I rarely see my tort drink and he never drinks in his soaks but they do absorb water through the cloaca (vent) so they are benficial to help hydrate him. I also soak his food before feeding so they get water that way too, but that's not much help to you if he's not eating.
When my tort wasn't eating I covered his food in the juice of a cucmber because he loves that. Too much cucmber flesh can act as a laxative so you don't want that while he's ill.
I'll tag a few more experienced people to see if they can help @Yvonne G , @zovick , @ZenHerper , @Tom. @KarenSoCal
Thank you so much for your response and tagging people! I’m going to keep bathing him and trying to get him to drink, and I’ll encourage some food that has high water content/has been wet. I worry with potential kidney problems though could food not be great at this time? If his kidneys are struggling to function properly then I wonder if it is dangerous for him to eat as he can’t flush out the food/waste properly.
 

Lyn W

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Thank you so much for your response and tagging people! I’m going to keep bathing him and trying to get him to drink, and I’ll encourage some food that has high water content/has been wet. I worry with potential kidney problems though could food not be great at this time? If his kidneys are struggling to function properly then I wonder if it is dangerous for him to eat as he can’t flush out the food/waste properly.
Did the vet xray him to check for stones?
I wouldn't have thought eating would be any more dangerous than drinking but see what the others say.
Is he peeing at all?
If you haven't already done so it may be worth using the search facility to see other threads about similar problems.
 

tamzsturg

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Did the vet xray him to check for stones?
I wouldn't have thought eating would be any more dangerous than drinking but see what the others say.
Is he peeing at all?
If you haven't already done so it may be worth using the dearch facility to see other threads about similar problems.
They x-rayed him and yep no stones, just the bloodwork came back with some signs of potential renal/kidney issues. I’ve had a look through the forum, some threads give me hope and others not so much :( But yes he’s still peeing, its not as much or as frequent as usual, but he did pee yesterday after his bath
 

Lyn W

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They x-rayed him and yep no stones, just the bloodwork came back with some signs of potential renal/kidney issues. I’ve had a look through the forum, some threads give me hope and others not so much :( But yes he’s still peeing, its not as much or as frequent as usual, but he did pee yesterday after his bath
That's a good sign espcially if it looked normal. Any swelling in his limbs?
I would try the cucmber juice on his food to see if that gets him interested.
 

tamzsturg

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That's a good sign espcially if it looked normal. Any swelling in his limbs?
I would try the cucmber juice on his food to see if that gets him interested.
Yes its still a good sign I guess. He had a swollen leg a few weeks ago but was treated with antibiotics to treat the swelling/limp which is now gone - we don’t know if this is linked to his now apparent issues. I think we’re at a pivotal moment now where if we act quickly he could be on the road to recovery, but every day counts, and potentially another week of him not eating or drinking would be absolutely detrimental to his health. I ordered him some new food which is on the way after another user told me her tortoises can’t resist it even in the winter when they dont want to eat. He’s basking with his eyes shut right now under his lamps which he’s been avoiding recently so I’m I’ll try him with some yummy foods when he wakes up.
 

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Sounds like something is wrong with the environment. Can we get pics of the enclosure, tortoise and lighting?

What substrate? Is it damp? Is there a humid hide?
What lighting? What types of bulbs? What type of UV bulb and at what distance from the torotise?
What are your four temperatures? Warm side, cool side, basking area, and overnight low?
What size is the tortoise and what size is the enclosure?
 

tamzsturg

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Sounds like something is wrong with the environment. Can we get pics of the enclosure, tortoise and lighting?

What substrate? Is it damp? Is there a humid hide?
What lighting? What types of bulbs? What type of UV bulb and at what distance from the torotise?
What are your four temperatures? Warm side, cool side, basking area, and overnight low?
What size is the tortoise and what size is the enclosure?
Tarquin used to be in a vivarium when he was little, but as he grew up it was evident he just wanted to get out. We then made him a run for outside when its warm enough, but again he became agitated and scrabbled at the edges to escape. We have a large garden which has now been tortoise proofed so he cant escape. He trundles about in the soil and plants and has a little hide with hay that he burrows in and a water dish (which we’ve never seen him use). Inside the house he lives in our living room, where he has two lamps that are UVA+UVB. The bulbs are about 30cm away from his shell. The basking spot is about 27°C and the rest of the living room is 20°C. The summer in the UK has been pretty awful this year and its not been warm enough for Tarquin to go out as much as he usually does in previous years - hes 14 years old and we’ve had him for 12 years. He’s loved basking and being outside for years and years, but recently when we noticed he was not himself and something may be wrong, he doesn’t want to bask, he just wants to be in a dark corner and acts as if hes trying to brumate.
 

Tom

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Tarquin used to be in a vivarium when he was little, but as he grew up it was evident he just wanted to get out. We then made him a run for outside when its warm enough, but again he became agitated and scrabbled at the edges to escape. We have a large garden which has now been tortoise proofed so he cant escape. He trundles about in the soil and plants and has a little hide with hay that he burrows in and a water dish (which we’ve never seen him use). Inside the house he lives in our living room, where he has two lamps that are UVA+UVB. The bulbs are about 30cm away from his shell. The basking spot is about 27°C and the rest of the living room is 20°C. The summer in the UK has been pretty awful this year and its not been warm enough for Tarquin to go out as much as he usually does in previous years - hes 14 years old and we’ve had him for 12 years. He’s loved basking and being outside for years and years, but recently when we noticed he was not himself and something may be wrong, he doesn’t want to bask, he just wants to be in a dark corner and acts as if hes trying to brumate.
He's too cold. Basking temp should be 36-37C and daytime ambient needs to be around 24-27. If the room temp is 20C, I can guarantee you its even colder down on the floor.

Loose in the house is a recipe for disaster. They die in so many ways with this practice and cold temps is one of the main ones. Get him a large enclosure with the correct temperatures and keep him in it. You can reduce the escape attempts by having lots of decor and hiding spaces in the enclosure and by making it large enough. Then, it will take time for him to settle in. Letting him out to roam the floor will only make him restless and discontent within the safety of his confines. Same thing in the garden. They need to be confined to a safe enclosure area. It sounds like you've made the entire garden a safe enclosure area, so that should work during suitable weather. Remove the hay from the outdoor hide. Hay acts as an insulator and keeps heat producing mammals warmer like a blanket would. It does nothing for an ectotherm, and is likely to mold.

Review this for all the correct care info. Pet shops and vets typically give terrible advice:

Questions are welcome.
 

tamzsturg

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I’m not really sure what type of large enclosure would work for him in the house. When we had our run for him in the garden it was enormous but he still paced up and down the edges scrabbling at the sides to escape. I will definitely try and get more bulbs to up the temperature, I was wrongly under the impression that the mid-high 20s were the right °C for Tarquin, I feel awful now. I will also get rid of the hay outside although its not even warm enough for him to be out at the moment. What I can’t understand is why he loved his heat lamps a few weeks ago and now he doesn’t want to sit under them? If he’s cold why is he trying to hide somewhere dark and and cool:(
 

tamzsturg

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He's too cold. Basking temp should be 36-37C and daytime ambient needs to be around 24-27. If the room temp is 20C, I can guarantee you its even colder down on the floor.

Loose in the house is a recipe for disaster. They die in so many ways with this practice and cold temps is one of the main ones. Get him a large enclosure with the correct temperatures and keep him in it. You can reduce the escape attempts by having lots of decor and hiding spaces in the enclosure and by making it large enough. Then, it will take time for him to settle in. Letting him out to roam the floor will only make him restless and discontent within the safety of his confines. Same thing in the garden. They need to be confined to a safe enclosure area. It sounds like you've made the entire garden a safe enclosure area, so that should work during suitable weather. Remove the hay from the outdoor hide. Hay acts as an insulator and keeps heat producing mammals warmer like a blanket would. It does nothing for an ectotherm, and is likely to mold.

Review this for all the correct care info. Pet shops and vets typically give terrible advice:

Questions are welcome.
Could you give any advice on what the best bulbs would be for him? Thank you
 

Tom

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I’m not really sure what type of large enclosure would work for him in the house. When we had our run for him in the garden it was enormous but he still paced up and down the edges scrabbling at the sides to escape. I will definitely try and get more bulbs to up the temperature, I was wrongly under the impression that the mid-high 20s were the right °C for Tarquin, I feel awful now. I will also get rid of the hay outside although its not even warm enough for him to be out at the moment. What I can’t understand is why he loved his heat lamps a few weeks ago and now he doesn’t want to sit under them? If he’s cold why is he trying to hide somewhere dark and and cool:(
Indoors you need a minimum of 122x244cm. Bigger would be better, but the key is making lots of hiding areas and sight barriers with plants, logs, rocks and hides, and then leaving him in there to settle which might take weeks. This behavior is also more pronounced in spring when wild males would literally walk miles in search of receptive females. Or even unreceptive females...

The reasons tortoise choose to park where they park are myriad. In the wild, the temperature wherever they choose to park is going to be suitable. Because of this, temperature usually isn't a factor in where they choose to park. This is what they must be kept in enclosures that always have suitable temperatures. Give them the choice and they will choose a cold dark place where they will languish and die eventually.
Could you give any advice on what the best bulbs would be for him? Thank you
All the bulb and housing recommendations are in the care sheet that I linked previously, but here is more info:
There are four elements to heating and lighting:
  1. Basking bulb. I use 65 watt incandescent floods from the hardware store. Some people will need bigger, or smaller wattage bulbs. Let your thermometer be your guide. I run them on a timer for about 12 hours and adjust the height to get the correct basking temp under them. I also like to use a flat rock of some sort directly under the bulb. You need to check the temp with a thermometer directly under the bulb and get it to around 95-100F (36-37C).
  2. Ambient heat maintenance. I use ceramic heating elements or radiant heat panels set on thermostats to maintain ambient above 80 degrees day and night for tropical species. You'd only need day heat for a temperate species like Testudo or DT, as long as your house stays above 60F (15-16C) at night.
  3. Light. I use LEDs for this purpose. Something in the 5000-6500K color range will look the best. Most bulbs at the store are in the 2500K range and they look yellowish. Strip or screw-in bulb types are both fine.
  4. UV. If you can get your tortoise outside for an hour 2 or 3 times a week, you won't need indoor UV. In the UK, get one of the newer HO type fluorescent tubes. Which type will depend on mounting height. 5.0 bulbs make almost no UV. I like the 12%. You need a meter to check this: https://www.solarmeter.com/model65.html
Problems with MVBs:
1. They run too hot for a closed chamber, which is what you should be using.
2. They cause too much carapace desiccation which causes pyramiding.
3. They are fragile and break easily.
4. They are temperamental sometimes and shut themselves off for 20 minutes at a time.
5. They are expensive.
6. Their UV output runs from one extreme to the other. Some produce way too much UV, and other produce none at all after two or three months.
 

tamzsturg

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Indoors you need a minimum of 122x244cm. Bigger would be better, but the key is making lots of hiding areas and sight barriers with plants, logs, rocks and hides, and then leaving him in there to settle which might take weeks. This behavior is also more pronounced in spring when wild males would literally walk miles in search of receptive females. Or even unreceptive females...

The reasons tortoise choose to park where they park are myriad. In the wild, the temperature wherever they choose to park is going to be suitable. Because of this, temperature usually isn't a factor in where they choose to park. This is what they must be kept in enclosures that always have suitable temperatures. Give them the choice and they will choose a cold dark place where they will languish and die eventually.

All the bulb and housing recommendations are in the care sheet that I linked previously, but here is more info:
There are four elements to heating and lighting:
  1. Basking bulb. I use 65 watt incandescent floods from the hardware store. Some people will need bigger, or smaller wattage bulbs. Let your thermometer be your guide. I run them on a timer for about 12 hours and adjust the height to get the correct basking temp under them. I also like to use a flat rock of some sort directly under the bulb. You need to check the temp with a thermometer directly under the bulb and get it to around 95-100F (36-37C).
  2. Ambient heat maintenance. I use ceramic heating elements or radiant heat panels set on thermostats to maintain ambient above 80 degrees day and night for tropical species. You'd only need day heat for a temperate species like Testudo or DT, as long as your house stays above 60F (15-16C) at night.
  3. Light. I use LEDs for this purpose. Something in the 5000-6500K color range will look the best. Most bulbs at the store are in the 2500K range and they look yellowish. Strip or screw-in bulb types are both fine.
  4. UV. If you can get your tortoise outside for an hour 2 or 3 times a week, you won't need indoor UV. In the UK, get one of the newer HO type fluorescent tubes. Which type will depend on mounting height. 5.0 bulbs make almost no UV. I like the 12%. You need a meter to check this: https://www.solarmeter.com/model65.html
Problems with MVBs:
1. They run too hot for a closed chamber, which is what you should be using.
2. They cause too much carapace desiccation which causes pyramiding.
3. They are fragile and break easily.
4. They are temperamental sometimes and shut themselves off for 20 minutes at a time.
5. They are expensive.
6. Their UV output runs from one extreme to the other. Some produce way too much UV, and other produce none at all after two or three months.
Reading all of that now and speaking to my parents about building him a new vivarium/house in the living room with hotter basking lamps etc and the right substrate. The vet wants to fit Tarquin with a feeding tube in the upcoming week and I’m wondering if we should take him to the tortoise rescue place so they can give him the right environment to recover in and administer the food via his tube while we prepare his new home/buy the correct things. I just worry that if he comes home after his operation and tube but the environment is still not right, that we are jeopardising his chance of regaining his health.
 

Tom

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Reading all of that now and speaking to my parents about building him a new vivarium/house in the living room with hotter basking lamps etc and the right substrate. The vet wants to fit Tarquin with a feeding tube in the upcoming week and I’m wondering if we should take him to the tortoise rescue place so they can give him the right environment to recover in and administer the food via his tube while we prepare his new home/buy the correct things. I just worry that if he comes home after his operation and tube but the environment is still not right, that we are jeopardising his chance of regaining his health.
I wouldn't take him anywhere or do a feeding tube.

When they don't eat, there is a reason. Vets typically treat the symptoms of the problem without addressing and correcting the CAUSE of the problem. If you correct this tortoises environment and temperatures, then the appetite will come back on its own. Tortoises cannot digest their food, and so will not eat, when the environment is too cool. Forcing food into a tortoise without it living at the correct temperatures is not just pointless, it is actually deadly. This is why they stop eating before hibernation. When they are going to be cold, they don't want food in their gut. Food in their gut during hibernation and cold temps will rot and kill them.

Follow the care sheet. Get your tortoise warmed up and under the correct lighting, and it will recover and be fine. Keep soaking in warm water daily until the appetite comes back.
 

tamzsturg

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I wouldn't take him anywhere or do a feeding tube.

When they don't eat, there is a reason. Vets typically treat the symptoms of the problem without addressing and correcting the CAUSE of the problem. If you correct this tortoises environment and temperatures, then the appetite will come back on its own. Tortoises cannot digest their food, and so will not eat, when the environment is too cool. Forcing food into a tortoise without it living at the correct temperatures is not just pointless, it is actually deadly. This is why they stop eating before hibernation. When they are going to be cold, they don't want food in their gut. Food in their gut during hibernation and cold temps will rot and kill them.

Follow the care sheet. Get your tortoise warmed up and under the correct lighting, and it will recover and be fine. Keep soaking in warm water daily until the appetite comes back.
I agree with everything you’re saying, but the vet also told us that he needs to start eating and drinking again very quickly otherwise the issues with his kidneys could develop into full blown kidney failure. This has obviously worried me as kidney failure cannot be reversed. Tarquin has been to the toilet twice today, two pees and one poop, which I think is a good sign. I’m a little worried about the feeding tube situation myself as I’m assuming its not a very pleasant experience, and putting him under anaesthetic scares me, also what if he got an infection from the operation. Just sounds like an ordeal. And that all makes a lot of sense thank you for explaining that! We will keep bathing him and get hotter bulbs asap. I hope he actually sits under the bulb if he needs to heat up, instead of walking off into a dark corner like he does now. I keep popping him under and encouraging him to stay, but every so often he just burrows away in the colder parts of the room again.
 

Tom

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I agree with everything you’re saying, but the vet also told us that he needs to start eating and drinking again very quickly otherwise the issues with his kidneys could develop into full blown kidney failure. This has obviously worried me as kidney failure cannot be reversed. Tarquin has been to the toilet twice today, two pees and one poop, which I think is a good sign. I’m a little worried about the feeding tube situation myself as I’m assuming its not a very pleasant experience, and putting him under anaesthetic scares me, also what if he got an infection from the operation. Just sounds like an ordeal. And that all makes a lot of sense thank you for explaining that! We will keep bathing him and get hotter bulbs asap. I hope he actually sits under the bulb if he needs to heat up, instead of walking off into a dark corner like he does now. I keep popping him under and encouraging him to stay, but every so often he just burrows away in the colder parts of the room again.
If he's pooping and peeing. He's fine. In the wild there will be periods of cooler weather and storms that they sit out and wait for better weather. Just like the digestive system, the kidneys, and all other systems of any ectotherm, cannot function correctly without the right temperatures. Soaking daily will keep the tortoise hydrated even if you don't see it stick its head down and drink. When they are getting ready for hibernation, they don't eat for 4-8 weeks. Its no problem. Forcing food into a cold tortoise that cannot digest it would be a big problem. Don't treat the symptom. Fix the problem, and the symptoms will disappear on their own.
 

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Tom is 100% correct.

He has to have the proper temperatures to run his immune, digestive, cardiovascular, renal, and other systems. There is no point to give him food (or force it into him) without the proper temperatures to digest, metabolize, absorb, and utilize the nutrients.

In fact, putting food into a long-term sub-optimal stomach in most cases results in quick death. The body is overloaded with stuff it cannot process. It is possible that the antibiotic treatment given, combined with poor hydration and incorrect temperatures is what has damaged his internal organs to their current degree.

Very quickly tonight: get a large plastic storage container and a reliable thermometer.

Place him in the container on a thick layer of newspaper and hang a heat lamp over him so that the temperature is correct. He must not be too hot or too cold - it can take some time to get things set well. A very large container will let you create a bit of a temperature gradient. Don't worry if he tries to get out...he's just trying to get to where he was used to being.

Soak him in warm water for 20 minutes every three hours. After 24 hours of hydration therapy under correct temperatures, take dandelion greens, puree them in a blender, and add some to the soak water so that some electrolytes and nutrition can be absorbed through the vent. Continue to offer foods and water, but continue the soak therapy every 4 hours.

In the meantime, begin to gather supplies to create a proper habitat.
 

tamzsturg

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If he's pooping and peeing. He's fine. In the wild there will be periods of cooler weather and storms that they sit out and wait for better weather. Just like the digestive system, the kidneys, and all other systems of any ectotherm, cannot function correctly without the right temperatures. Soaking daily will keep the tortoise hydrated even if you don't see it stick its head down and drink. When they are getting ready for hibernation, they don't eat for 4-8 weeks. Its no problem. Forcing food into a cold tortoise that cannot digest it would be a big problem. Don't treat the symptom. Fix the problem, and the symptoms will disappear on their own.
Thanks so much for the advice. So despite the vet saying his bloodwork came back a bit worrying, it could be just that his kidneys will start functioning properly again with more heat and continued hydration?
 

Lyn W

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Reading all of that now and speaking to my parents about building him a new vivarium/house in the living room with hotter basking lamps etc and the right substrate. The vet wants to fit Tarquin with a feeding tube in the upcoming week and I’m wondering if we should take him to the tortoise rescue place so they can give him the right environment to recover in and administer the food via his tube while we prepare his new home/buy the correct things. I just worry that if he comes home after his operation and tube but the environment is still not right, that we are jeopardising his chance of regaining his health.
Will the rescue place accept him and treat him?
If he is not too active at the moment a smaller warmer enclosure would be OK while he is off colour. If he is warmer he may eat and not need a tube. They won't eat if they are cold because their digestive system won't work properly but be careful you have a relaible thermometer to check he doesn't over heat. Try everything that's been suggested before getting the tube. Raising his temps as recommended by Tom might do the trick.
Set up a temporary enclosure, post pics and double check everything here if you need to.

When my tort wasn't eating well I also bought some Oxbow critical care from Amazon, followed the instructions to make a paste with it and spread it on leaves he liked. I folded them to hide it.

My leopard tort lives indoors because he's too big for a viv or table but he has his own room and in there he has a dog kennel with a reptile radiator (which is basically a flat CHE) and I run it through a thermostat. So he alwasy has a warm place to go as well as his basking and uvb lamps in the room.

Joesmum wrote this thread which may help you.
So that when he gets better you can see about setting him up properly outdoors if you don't have room indoors.
 
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