Maggie needs help

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Maggie Cummings

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Yeah, alright, stop with the Maggie jokes now. I DO need help, but it's the tortoise kind, not the Maggie kind. I have had Hospital Girl since she was days old. I have fed her the best diet and taken really good care of her and tried to get her ready to be adopted. But she has had one URTI after another. She's almost died numerous times. I finally just set her up in a nice habitat and figured I'd keep her until she was a little older and could take being adopted out. But as well as having all these resp infections she eats her substrate. And I don't mean she kind of eats her substrate, I mean she would rather eat her substrate then eat a meal...so I had to set her up in an aquarium on astro turf. This is what her poop looks like after 3 days without any substrate. She had 4 bowel movements that third day and they all looked like this ...

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Not only do I feed her good, but I use Joe Heinen's TNT and have used it on her for almost 5 years. So I asked Yvonne what to do about her and she suggested sprinkling Miner All and stop using any colored lights. So I did that, but it didn't make any difference. She'll eat freshly picked dandelions but she's pretty much stopped eating her regular food. So today the sun finally came out. For the first time this year she was able to go outside in the sun. So I set her in her newly made pen which was planted with Sulcata graze and dandelions and red clover. It hasn't started to come up yet but there was clumps of grass all around plenty of grass to eat, but no, what she wanted to eat was rocks. After I had put her in the pen I got my camera because I thought I was gonna take those first day of summer kind of pix. But I spent my time pulling rocks out of her mouth. At first I saw pointy things going down her throat. I mean major pointy things sticking out of both sides of her neck as she swallowed. Big sticks. So that's when I realized this was gonna be a major session of me protecting her from eating crap. She wasn't the least bit interested in eating grass, she just wanted to eat rocks. I have never seen anything like it.

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She fought me for those rocks...

Here's a good example...

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She didn't want to let go...

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As you can see, not only does she just want to eat rocks, she's blowing bubbles out her nose, so she has another resp infection. I need advice because I was really looking forward to having her stay outside all summer. Oh...here's her latest poop, this is after being off substrate and on
astro turf, but after 2 days I realized she was eating and shredding the astro turf. Then I put her on newspaper...she starting eating that the first night. Here's her poop after being off of substrate for 9 days...

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Off substrate for 11 days...

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She's had numerous poops in these last 2 weeks of being off substrate. I don't know what to do...I wanted to be able to put her outside this summer. I was thinking I might have a better chance after the Sulcata graze all came up. Maybe with all that green stuff growing she might not eat rocks. Yvonne suggested to feed her Mazuri as it has all the good minerals and stuff in it. So I'll start feeding her Mazuri and keeping loads of food in front of her face. Maybe if I can keep her stuffed she might not want to eat rocks or sticks....anybody have any ideas? I'm afraid she's going to burst her intestines or something.
 

ascott

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So Maggie you say she has snubbed her nose to food other than dandelion ...does she eat the dandelion greens and the flowers? If yes, then stuff her full of as much as possible...and I mean let her gorge on them..then I soak the hell out of her...

What first came to mind is ...ok fine if you want to eat the substrate then make the substrate something she CAN eat but wont hurt her....I know you have hay around ...lol...I would first take a broom and dust pan.and ho to your outdoor enclosure that you have set up for your rufian...I would sweep it out and really sweep it like you would an indoor room...then use the dustpan and get all the tempting crap out of there....I would then take a bunch of hay and toss it in there...then do a dance all around on it to break it down and will also pack it down some...then toss a little more in there to give it some fluff...then toss your rufian in there and sit and watch and see what happens....

I would also do the same in his indoor enclosure....so if he eats the hay...so what eat till ya roll over ...but keep soaking each and everyday and I would even soak the rufian twice a day for awhile till signs of his bad habits have cleared out....

I wish you luck Maggie...

Apology Maggie...I realized I referred to your rufian as a he as well as a she...apologies...:D
 
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Maggie Cummings

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Thanks hon, my ruffian and I appreciate your advice...:p
 

Jacqui

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I agree inside I would use hay and her weeds/greens. It's going to be a bit messy and needing constant changing, but other then something for her to eat, I would remove everything else and leave it bare. For outside, If you can get your weeds/greens/grass really growing in thickly, she should not be able to get down to find those yummy rocks. If it's thick enough, they can stay on top, atleast that's what my "helpers" were doing today while we were cleaning out tortoise flower beds and they were exploring the unfenced sections. You may just need to build her a new enclosure, with no substrate/dirt in it and add clean dirt to the bottom. Then there would be nothing beside dirt as a base. Then plant your plants in it. Sorta a raised bed perhaps.
 

Terry Allan Hall

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Jacqui said:
I agree inside I would use hay and her weeds/greens. It's going to be a bit messy and needing constant changing, but other then something for her to eat, I would remove everything else and leave it bare. For outside, If you can get your weeds/greens/grass really growing in thickly, she should not be able to get down to find those yummy rocks. If it's thick enough, they can stay on top, atleast that's what my "helpers" were doing today while we were cleaning out tortoise flower beds and they were exploring the unfenced sections. You may just need to build her a new enclosure, with no substrate/dirt in it and add clean dirt to the bottom. Then there would be nothing beside dirt as a base. Then plant your plants in it. Sorta a raised bed perhaps.

Good basic plan, but how about digging out the floor of the pen, covering it it completely with 1/4" mesh hardware cloth (pretty sure the little beast won't chew through that!), then cover the mesh w/ 4-6" of clean soil, well seeded?

Should keep him out of mischief, and being out in the sun every day should clear up the resp infection pretty quickly.
 
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Maggie Cummings

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Jacqui said:
I agree inside I would use hay and her weeds/greens. It's going to be a bit messy and needing constant changing, but other then something for her to eat, I would remove everything else and leave it bare. For outside, If you can get your weeds/greens/grass really growing in thickly, she should not be able to get down to find those yummy rocks. If it's thick enough, they can stay on top, atleast that's what my "helpers" were doing today while we were cleaning out tortoise flower beds and they were exploring the unfenced sections. You may just need to build her a new enclosure, with no substrate/dirt in it and add clean dirt to the bottom. Then there would be nothing beside dirt as a base. Then plant your plants in it. Sorta a raised bed perhaps.

So am I supposed to do that for the rest of her life? She needs to learn how to be a tortoise, doesn't she?
 

Jacqui

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maggie3fan said:
So am I supposed to do that for the rest of her life? She needs to learn how to be a tortoise, doesn't she?

The hope would be with time, getting over the RI hopefully and not ever getting one back, she would change her ways. However, she may not. What your doing IS allowing her to be a tortoise just a more closely monitored one in a more protective and "clean" environment. Clean meaning without rocks or other substrates she can ingest which could harm her.
 

Yvonne G

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They hay substrate is a good idea. Do you still have any of the bags of salad-style hay left over from that stuff I gave you? It would make great substrate. If not, then take the scissors and cut hay up into small pieces so it lays flatter and makes a good substrate. Whadda' ya think, hon? :p
 

Laura

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i think she might be a canidate for a rabber matt outside. 4x6, fence it off and place hay on top or just leave the matt and give her a plate of food.. she will either learn or have to live like that.. there has been worse..
but that poop is not good.. how can she get her nutrition with all that in her?
 

dmmj

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Have you considered putting her in a heavily grassed area? Some place where she would have a ton of grass and weeds, and little dirt to get a hold of?
 

ascott

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Maggie I bet she will evolve into some other good stuff as she gets older...I think that if you can continue to keep her going and get her through this stage she will be good...also I was thinking earlier while we were putting easter baskets together...perhaps since she likes rocks...maybe add a rounded rock or two to he'd enclosure(s) to allow her some outlet for chomping AT and allowing her to burn off that desire but make them a bigger rounded rock so there is no way for her to pick up and swallow...I sure hope she cuts you some slack and moves onto better habits...lol :p
 
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Maggie Cummings

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dmmj said:
Have you considered putting her in a heavily grassed area? Some place where she would have a ton of grass and weeds, and little dirt to get a hold of?

That area is heavily planted with a Sulcata graze seed that just hasn't started to come up because our weather has been more winter than spring. I was hoping it would start to grow and fill in...I've put her in the box turtle pen, lots of grass and not many roaks...

Laura said:
i think she might be a canidate for a rabber matt outside. 4x6, fence it off and place hay on top or just leave the matt and give her a plate of food.. she will either learn or have to live like that.. there has been worse..
but that poop is not good.. how can she get her nutrition with all that in her?

She needs to learn how to be a tortoise so that I can adopt her out. Nobody else is going to treat her the way I have been. A new keeper wouldn't know how to treat her and an experienced keeper wouldn't want to care for someone like that...I'm not keeping her, I've already had her for 5 years, she was supposed to be long gone I was just rehabbing her. This morning I realized the box turtle pen has lots of grass and no rocks. So she's in there and the box turtles are all freaking out in the other pen, poor guys...:(

emysemys said:
They hay substrate is a good idea. Do you still have any of the bags of salad-style hay left over from that stuff I gave you? It would make great substrate. If not, then take the scissors and cut hay up into small pieces so it lays flatter and makes a good substrate. Whadda' ya think, hon? :p

Me to use scissors? Really?
 

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I think Laura'a rubber stall mat and the hay is the best idea for outside. For inside, the bare bottom, but with the grass hay sounds good too. At least until you figure out the problem and fix it. I wouldn't trust this tortoise on dirt right now.

My question is: Why? I've seen this with colored light bulbs inside, but never outside. It seems like there might be some nutritional imbalance. I've had a couple of pebble eaters, but nothing anywhere near this degree. The Miner-all and some added calcium stopped my rock eaters, but this is something more. I have warned people that too much calcium can interfere with the absorption of other minerals and necessary things, like zinc for example. I have never used TNT, but I wonder if in your case it (or maybe something else) is causing some sort of mineral imbalance and the tortoise is trying desperately to balance the imbalance. I also fear that at this point it may have already become some sort of habit. That would require time on the stall mats or bare bottomed enclosure to break. I would not ordinarily question your feeding habits, but do you feed a lot of store bought greens over the winter? Maybe the tortoise is desperate for more fiber than she can get from store bought leafy greens. If this is her deal, I would think a grass hay substrate would satisfy that...

What have you been feeding on a day to day basis?
How often do you use the TNT and how much?
How often do you calcium supplement, and how, and how much?
Have you tried offering a cuttle bone to see what would happen?
 

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I think I am with Tom on this- changing the habitat to minimize 'bad' substrate and/ or to treat the URTI is a good step, but the long-term solution is to figure out why this is happening. I have some ideas, but not enough experience or knowledge to know which is right.

1. Mineral seeking, like Tom said. Dogs often eat stones to get phosphorous- which too much calcium in the diet can easily mess up. Iron is another common trigger for this.
2. 'Pica'- a symptom of a mental disorder in which the victim compulsively eats non-food items. This has been documented in lots of animals. Tortoises are know to demonstrate pica, but it is unknown if it is always 'normal' or may sometimes be a sign of a disorder. Many animals that show pica have been mistreated in some way.
3. Worms. Many wild animals, dogs, etc. seem to seek stones and so on as a self-treatment for worms.
4. Gizzard stones. Some species of tortoises in the wild intentionally seem to seek small stones and sand. One theory is that they use them much like gizzard stones to help break up foods. It may also be for any of the other reasons above though.
 
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Maggie Cummings

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Thanks for the advice guys, I am pulling my hair out on this one.

1. Thru the winter she's been fed grocery store produce, based on turnip greens, Spring Mix, romaine lettuce, mustard greeds, collard greens and radicchio. Regularly and twice a day. In the middle of the day she gets chopped up zucchini as a treat. Locally grown grass hay 24/7 but I've never seen her eat any of it.

2. TNT is sprinkled lightly over the food 3 times a week.

3. No calcium supplement as there's supposed to be calcium in the TNT...Total Nutrician Tortoises

4. No cuttle bone, but now with that reminder I will get one tomorrow...

She had pin worms as a hatchling but she's never been tested since then, that's good thinking and I'll get her tested

Thanks guys this is very frustrating for me...
 

kimber_lee_314

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Sounds like you have a long road ahead of you. What kind of antibiotics have you used for her RI's?
 

Gus

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This is a Best idea and how about putting him/her in a big blue tub for maybe a few month and place only veg or feed him with mazuri pellet to change the eating habit.....

dmmj said:
Have you considered putting her in a heavily grassed area? Some place where she would have a ton of grass and weeds, and little dirt to get a hold of?
 

lushcious

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I'm sorry I don't have much advice, but I commend you for your efforts on getting her better! I hope she pulls through and starts eating right.
 
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Maggie Cummings

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kimber_lee_314 said:
Sounds like you have a long road ahead of you. What kind of antibiotics have you used for her RI's?

She's on Baytril
 

Yvonne G

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I think I may have an inkling...

This is "Hospital Girl." Which means she has been in the hospital habitat for a long enough time that it now became her name. Which means she may have been on antibiotics off and on for quite a while. Which means maybe her gut flora and fauna are cleaned out. Do you have another tortoise of the same specie that you know for a fact is clean and free of disease? It might help Hospital Girl if she could eat the feces from a clean animal. If you don't have any, I'll send you some.
 
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