Making concerning noises

clarardavis

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Hi I have a 8 and 1/2 year old sulcata named Razie and I have been concerned about a respiratory issue for awhile now. I have gone to 3 different vets over the course of his lifetime with the respiratory issues seeming to come and go. The first vet was honest about not knowing much about tortoises they gave him baytril shots I believe and it kinda worked? Went back later on, then to see another vet, the vet that our local reptile zoo (in Washington state) used. This vet too scared me because when we arrived everyone came out excited to see a large tortoise like it was their first time seeing one. The reptile zoo did have 2 large sulcatas. After 4 or 5 visits with them, I first was prescribed shots I couldn't finish because he wouldn't walk and wouldn't eat after them and I wasn't positive that was the correct treatment anyways.. then he was prescribed this nebulizer type deal where I was supposed to put him in a box and attach a nebulizer to the box and smoke him out for 15 min. I couldn't find a box big enough, and had made 5 DIY boxes by the end, never finishing the full 30 day regime they wanted. He seemed to be kinda better after just one time in the box, the respiratory symptoms had lessened and I wasn't sure about this medication either. I stopped trying when I (forgetting the instructions) held the nebulizer up to his nose and he had an extremely hard time breathing for the entire night. I swore I would never use the nebulizer again. My next course of action was to go on this website and from the recommended vet list I googled every doctor in the state reading to see if any had experience with tortoises. And one doctor had written 2 sections on tortoises in a couple textbooks or something like that which was better than anyone else could say on their websites so I booked an appointment. When we got there it seemed like the whole office kinda hated each other, the doctor kept repeating she's done this for 27 years, was very rushed I had to push my questions for a few word response, but she did swab his mouth which was a first from any doctor I've been to, and they did not have a scale big enough for him. A week and a half later he was prescribed an oral medication 6mL every other day which I could not get him to eat. He could smell it in everything I tried to hide it in and I even went to squirt it in his mouth when he went to take a bite of something else and he would not open his mouth for the rest of the night. He was very suspicious of me feeding him after that for at least a month. It was like I betrayed him. I know I should be a good mom and do what's right but I'm not sure what is. What doctor do I trust? What medication do I trust? His breathing sounds worse these days. Every time I pick him up he makes this weird noise. He sounds very mucus-y with no discharge on the outside of his nose. His breathing sounds like he has to get past the mucus to take a breath each time. If I have to do shots I will have to take him somewhere to get them as I cannot bring myself to do them on my own. I can't seem to get him to eat 6 whole mL of medicine ... I've tried every trick I could find at the time on the internet. I've taken to looking up doctors from out of state thinking maybe they'd do a tele visit? I feel like I could trust the mouth swab results but the doctors was so unhelpful and unnerving that idk what I should do. Thank you for any advice. Me and Razie.
 

Tom

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Hi I have a 8 and 1/2 year old sulcata named Razie and I have been concerned about a respiratory issue for awhile now. I have gone to 3 different vets over the course of his lifetime with the respiratory issues seeming to come and go. The first vet was honest about not knowing much about tortoises they gave him baytril shots I believe and it kinda worked? Went back later on, then to see another vet, the vet that our local reptile zoo (in Washington state) used. This vet too scared me because when we arrived everyone came out excited to see a large tortoise like it was their first time seeing one. The reptile zoo did have 2 large sulcatas. After 4 or 5 visits with them, I first was prescribed shots I couldn't finish because he wouldn't walk and wouldn't eat after them and I wasn't positive that was the correct treatment anyways.. then he was prescribed this nebulizer type deal where I was supposed to put him in a box and attach a nebulizer to the box and smoke him out for 15 min. I couldn't find a box big enough, and had made 5 DIY boxes by the end, never finishing the full 30 day regime they wanted. He seemed to be kinda better after just one time in the box, the respiratory symptoms had lessened and I wasn't sure about this medication either. I stopped trying when I (forgetting the instructions) held the nebulizer up to his nose and he had an extremely hard time breathing for the entire night. I swore I would never use the nebulizer again. My next course of action was to go on this website and from the recommended vet list I googled every doctor in the state reading to see if any had experience with tortoises. And one doctor had written 2 sections on tortoises in a couple textbooks or something like that which was better than anyone else could say on their websites so I booked an appointment. When we got there it seemed like the whole office kinda hated each other, the doctor kept repeating she's done this for 27 years, was very rushed I had to push my questions for a few word response, but she did swab his mouth which was a first from any doctor I've been to, and they did not have a scale big enough for him. A week and a half later he was prescribed an oral medication 6mL every other day which I could not get him to eat. He could smell it in everything I tried to hide it in and I even went to squirt it in his mouth when he went to take a bite of something else and he would not open his mouth for the rest of the night. He was very suspicious of me feeding him after that for at least a month. It was like I betrayed him. I know I should be a good mom and do what's right but I'm not sure what is. What doctor do I trust? What medication do I trust? His breathing sounds worse these days. Every time I pick him up he makes this weird noise. He sounds very mucus-y with no discharge on the outside of his nose. His breathing sounds like he has to get past the mucus to take a breath each time. If I have to do shots I will have to take him somewhere to get them as I cannot bring myself to do them on my own. I can't seem to get him to eat 6 whole mL of medicine ... I've tried every trick I could find at the time on the internet. I've taken to looking up doctors from out of state thinking maybe they'd do a tele visit? I feel like I could trust the mouth swab results but the doctors was so unhelpful and unnerving that idk what I should do. Thank you for any advice. Me and Razie.
Every sentence above is all about treating the symptoms. Did anyone, anywhere along the way ever address the CAUSE of the problem? They don't just get a RI for no reason. It is an indicator that something is wrong with the husbandry, and its usually temperatures.

Where are you? Please go into your UserCP and put in a location. Very different advice for Venice Itally vs, Venice Florida...

If you are going to go to a vet and start a course of treatment, it is important to finish it. As you've learned first hand, most vets don't know much about tortoises and usually prescribe the wrong stuff, misdiagnose the problem, and fail to address the CAUSE of the problem.

How are you housing this tortoise? Where does it live? How are you heating it, and what are the temperatures during the day and over night? Let's see if we can correct the problem. Fix the problem and the symptoms go away.
 

Maro2Bear

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Greetings.

Sounds like you are located in the great PNW/Washington State. Sooo, following @Tom ’s lead in questions, can you tell us more about your set-up - lighting, heating, indoor or outdoor, substrate & temperatures (day & night). If your conditions aren’t right, no amount of shots will fix the possible URI that your tort is exhibiting.

Soo, help us help you. Uploading some pix of everything always helps.

Good luck. Ps , in the mean time, increasing your ambient temps a few degrees always helps.
 

clarardavis

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Nov 29, 2016
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Yes we live in Wa State on the west side. His house is a shed outside that has a doggy door to a fenced-in lawn area. I have a MVB lamp and a 44 florescent tube from reptilesun. Daytime temp is mid 80s and night time temps im not as sure maybe 70s.
 

clarardavis

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Messages
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If I wake him up suddenly at night he seems to not be able to breathe very well for awhile after. In the beginning he never made this weird hiccup/loud internal body adjusting type noise, it first happened maybe a couple years ago. I'd only hear it rarely
 

clarardavis

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5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 29, 2016
Messages
11
If I wake him up suddenly at night he seems to not be able to breathe very well for awhile after. In the beginning he never made this weird hiccup/loud internal body adjusting type noise, it first happened maybe a couple years ago. I'd hear it rarely, it'd be at least weeks or months in between instances. Now, Everytime I pick him up he will make the noise after I put him back down. He will also make the noise sometimes while eating. He's made this funny noise while eating for the majority of his life. It's like a choke, bawk, pshh, a one syllable noise that accompanies letting out a big gust of air, the main portion of the noise kinda had a higher pitch to it. It's very hard to describe...it's not a noise I can make. When his food was wet it would make it more likely to happen. I feel like it is that noise from eating that has progressed into the scarier noise I hear when I pick him up or at night or at times seemingly without a reason why. One time he heard me sneeze and after that I heard what sounded like him trying to copy me and sneeze as well. From my understanding they do not have a diaphragm so sneezing is impossible to do. But that's what it sounds like he's wanting and trying to do. Sometimes he breathes in a way I recognized from when I've been sick and so stuffed up that each breath would be clearing a path through the mucus sounding like popping and air bubble. It sucks so bad to be sick like that. 😭 I can't hear him breathing when he sleeps but for the most part when he's awake I can hear him breathe. He puts his emotions into the way he breathes.. I've blown out air in the same manner out of frustration before. And other times he will just loud breathe for awhile... I think maybe to communicate with me. Because of the emotional part, at times I've questioned if it was really a problem at all. But recently the noises have become more concerning... The noise, besides becoming almost predicable, has lots more undescribable sounds in it.

I accidentally woke him up just now and it stresses and freaks me out to hear him struggle with breathing like that. I wanted to share in case it will help at all.
 

Tom

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Yes we live in Wa State on the west side. His house is a shed outside that has a doggy door to a fenced-in lawn area. I have a MVB lamp and a 44 florescent tube from reptilesun. Daytime temp is mid 80s and night time temps im not as sure maybe 70s.
Well here is the CAUSE of your problem, and the solution is simple, but not necessarily cheap or easy.

Cold and damp causes sulcatas to get sick. Where these guys come from every day is near 100 degrees, even in winter. They live 95% of their lives underground. Ground temps fluctuate between 80 and 85, all year, so they never get colder than that. In the morning, they come to the mouth of their burrow, warm up in the sun until their core temp is where they want it, and then go back underground to avoid cooking top side. Most people simply do not keep them warm enough. They can sometimes survive cooler temps, and many people use that as justification for keeping them too cold. "Well I've bene doing it this way for years, and my tortoise is fine..." It ISN'T fine. Its just somehow hanging to survive. This is also a primary cause of why some of the Sulcatas raised in cold climates are tiny for their age.

With all that in mind, your tortoise is sick because you live in a cold clammy climate and you are not keeping it warm enough. Heat lamps are not a safe or effective way to heat a large tortoise. It will slow burn the top of the carapace and still not be warm enough to get their core temp up. You need a different heating strategy. All the medicine in the world will not fix the symptoms of you don't correct the problem. You have a leaky boat. Your vet keeps giving you a cup to bail it out and try to stay afloat, but it will never work because the water just keeps coming. I'm telling to to "plug the hole". If you plug the hole, and then bail it out, you have a dry boat that floats perfectly, or healthy tortoise in this case...

Night temps should not drop below 80 for a healthy sulcata. With one that is already sick, night time low should be at least 85-86. Daytime ambient should rise to the low 90s for a sick or healthy one. That is AMBIENT in the whole enclosure, not the basking area under the bulb, the bulb which shouldn't be used anymore. This is not cheap or easy to accomplish, and this is why keeping this species in a cold wet or snowy climate is very difficult, labor intensive, and expensive.

I set my night box thermostats to 80 for most of spring and fall when day time temps are warm (80s) and sunny almost every day. I set the thermostats to 86 in winter when we have cold rainy spells and they can't warm up outside their boxes in the sun. I unplug the boxes in summer because they are not used. My tortoises burrow in the summertime to escape the 100+ daily temps outside, and ground temps here during that time are 79-80. Then in fall, I block the burrow entrances and they sleep in their heated boxes until Sumer returns.

Here are two different safe and effective heating strategies used in night boxes:



Using the above for reference, you can add radiant oil filled heaters to bring the ambient temp up to 86 day and night. The better your insulation and sealing, the easier this will be. Don't get the newer type of radiant oil heaters with all the electronic do-dads on them. This messes things up. The regular old fashion style work best, and control them with your own reptile thermostat that is rated to handle the wattage. In my reptile room (12x20 feet), I use two of these heaters both set on low (600 watts), each on their own 1000 watt thermostat. This maintains 80 when outside night temps drop slightly below freezing on a cold winter night.

Next you need a hotter area for the tortoise to warm up. A simple box, no insulation needed, inside your warmed shed with a Kane mat and a RHP overhead, both set on another thermostat to 92-95 ish, will give your tortoises a warmer retreat where is can safely and effectively get it core body temp up during the day when the sun isn't shining and outside temps are not warm. You can set this thermostat on a "heavy duty" appliance timer (about $15 at HD or Lowes) to come on from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm every day.

With the above temps of 86 24/7 and the warming area of 95ish during the day, symptoms should begin to disappear. After two full weeks with no symptoms, you can low night temps to 80, and daytime temps in the heated hide to 90ish.

Or just move to AZ, FL, South Texas or SoCal and set your tortoise up outside with one of the above linked night boxes.

Sulcatas are NOT easy to keep as adults in cold climates.
 
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