New and in need of help! (Russian picky eater)

AmandaKG

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Oct 8, 2018
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Hello! I got my girl, Marge, who's a Russian tortoise, in June. The seller didn't seem to know much, but assumed she's 2-3 years old. He told me she was bred in captivity, but I highly doubt that now, after doing research. :(

I really worry about her diet and the appearance of her shell. The seller said it was just wear and tear from being outside, but I think it's more than that.

She had a very beat up and dry shell, that also has some indents in it. Lately, I've noticed her skin has been very dry and flakey. So, I've been more consistent with a weekly bath that includes pedialyte. She absolutely hates baths, though. And I do warm the water just slightly, hoping itll feel better.

When I bought her, the pet store told me she was a picky eater and they had been feeding her zucchini. What an understatement. I have tried everything under the sun and found that she will only eat: Belgian endive, radicchio, red lettuce, zucchini, and occasionally romaine. If I add softened pellets, she stares at her food with rage in her eyes and a quiet vow to burn the world down... and wont touch any of it.

Part of my yard is filled with weeds, including lambs quarter, pursley, dandelion, clover. She wont even acknowledge them. I have a fig tree and mulberry tree and she wants nothing to do with the leaves. In her enclosure, I've planted violas, mexican heather, aloe, geranium, alyssum - not a nibble.

Shes been outside since I've gotten her. First she was in a large planter with a single hiding spot, shade and areas of sun. She seemed happy there. For the past month, she's been in a 24x8' enclosure, with a hiding spot and lots of plants. She hardly leaves her little burrow, although, it might be due to the recent cool weather.

If anyone can give me an opinion of her shell and diet and suggestions, I'd be grateful! 20181008_161544.jpg 20181008_161509.jpg 20181008_160634.jpg
 

TriciaStringer

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Welcome! She sounds just like my Pepe. He was eight when we got him and he gave me and any food I offered the stink eye for almost a month. Wouldn’t touch anything I planted either. He’s bitten me a few times when I try to hand feed him. I did sneak in a few dandelion leaves in the process though. Just keep trying. I rubbed cucumber juice all over his greens a few times and that seemed to get him eating better. He did eventually realize he had food all around him. She will too. Keep offering.
Have you had her poop checked for parasites, also how is her beak? An overgrown beak can make eating difficult.
Good luck!
 

LaLaP

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Hi! I have a couple wild caught Russians and their shells have similar imperfections. It's totally normal. Sometimes I rub a little coconut oil and they look less flaky and weird. I'm not sure if it actually improves the shell but it looks good and keeps me from fretting over it. It's safe if you wanna try it.

I am dealing with a picky eater too. I've been serving the junk food (lettuce in my case) he likes chopped very finely and mixing in more and more good weeds (also finely chopped). It's a slow process of little by little up-ing the ratio of good to bad foods. Some days he lets me know I've gone too far but I think it will work in the end.

Oh and a good trick for getting them to like soaking is doing it in the morning and making the water 85-90 degrees. If you put her in warm water before she's had a chance to bask and bring her temp up she will enjoy it. My tort went from wildly trying to get out of the soak like it was acid to stretching out with eyes closed and scooting closer if I dare to stop stroking his neck!

Hope these tips help. Happy torting!
 

JoesMum

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Hello! I got my girl, Marge, who's a Russian tortoise, in June. The seller didn't seem to know much, but assumed she's 2-3 years old. He told me she was bred in captivity, but I highly doubt that now, after doing research. :(
You are correct. This Russian is much older than 2-3. How old is impossible to guess, but she looks near full grown.
I really worry about her diet and the appearance of her shell. The seller said it was just wear and tear from being outside, but I think it's more than that.

She had a very beat up and dry shell, that also has some indents in it.
This tort is wild caught. Your seller is correct the shell condition is natural wear and tear. Even those Russians raised entirely in captivity do not have completely smooth shells; it is just the way the shell grows. Yours is showing a lifetime of outdoor life and all the digging and climbing that Russians love to do.

Lately, I've noticed her skin has been very dry and flakey. So, I've been more consistent with a weekly bath that includes pedialyte.
All animals shed skin. Snakes do it all in one go. Humans do it in tiny bits that become house dust. Tortoises do it in patches and look downright tatty on occasion. It requires no treatment or potions and the old skin will rub off as your tort goes about its business.

Please don't use pedialyte unless your tort is dehydrated. It contains sugar and too much sugar is bad for a Russian which cannot process it properly; it causes digestive and kidney problems. Regular soaks in plain warm water, best done first thing in the morning before your tort has warmed up properly, is the way to go.

She absolutely hates baths, though. And I do warm the water just slightly, hoping itll feel better.
@LaLaP gave excellent advice on this one. Soak first thing in the morning in warm water.

When I bought her, the pet store told me she was a picky eater and they had been feeding her zucchini. What an understatement. I have tried everything under the sun and found that she will only eat: Belgian endive, radicchio, red lettuce, zucchini, and occasionally romaine. If I add softened pellets, she stares at her food with rage in her eyes and a quiet vow to burn the world down... and wont touch any of it.

Part of my yard is filled with weeds, including lambs quarter, pursley, dandelion, clover. She wont even acknowledge them. I have a fig tree and mulberry tree and she wants nothing to do with the leaves. In her enclosure, I've planted violas, mexican heather, aloe, geranium, alyssum - not a nibble.

Daily soaks of at least 20 minutes are essential for a tort that isn't eating. Offer food first thing in the morning straight after the soak.

Torts are picky eaters, but they won't deliberately starve themselves either. A hungry tort will eat.

Torts frequently don't handle change well and some can take a very long time to come out of the pet store traumas and decide that you and it's enclosure are safe. Do create a routine such as lights on using a timer, soak, feed and then leave well alone for your tort to be brave and explore.

Do make sure your tort is warm enough and that it can bask in the sun or under a lamp for long enough to get going. Without this, a tort cannot raise its body temperature enough to be active, eat or digest food.

With the shortening days approaching winter, Russians will start to think of hibernation and naturally start to wind down even if they are kept indoors. I suspect this is now happening to your tort

Do weigh your tort too. Always do it at the same time of day for consistency; straight after a soak is great. Don't weigh more often than once a week - you will get neurotic - and don't forget that a pee or a poop can make a difference!
Shes been outside since I've gotten her. First she was in a large planter with a single hiding spot, shade and areas of sun. She seemed happy there. For the past month, she's been in a 24x8' enclosure, with a hiding spot and lots of plants. She hardly leaves her little burrow, although, it might be due to the recent cool weather.

If anyone can give me an opinion of her shell and diet and suggestions, I'd be grateful! View attachment 253633 View attachment 253634 View attachment 253635
Russians spend a huge amount of time underground in the wild. It is safer and protected from the weather. Your tort is doing what comes naturally to her. With cooler days you may need to provide some basking heat to help her warm up because there isn't enough son.

Take a look at this thread that I wrote about keeping a Greek outdoors for some ideas that may help you
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/outdoor-accommodation-in-a-colder-uk-climate.140866/
 

I_love_tortoises

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Hi! I had the same problem with my Russian tortoise. I used this stuff that you put on the shell after a bath called Shell Saver and it worked wonders. IMG_0624.jpg
 

Lark_Tortoise

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This was a serious issue when I first got my russian. She wouldn't eat at all, and like you said, she would pick out the endive and radicchio. I would take other pieces of food and make sandwich/burritos inside those foods, and she would usually eat them. Then, after a month or so, she just began to eat more and more. Now she eats a lot. Also, at the beginning of Fall, she slowed down and refused to eat, so I brought up the temperature of her enclosure and soaked her daily and she went back to normal.
Good luck!
(You have a really cute tortoise)
 

Falcon70

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Welcome! Like the others said, just try to sneak in other, more beneficial foods such as the different weeds growing in your yard, which what she'll currently eat. They can hold out on food for a pretty long time, but eventually she'll cave and start eating what she should be. Russians are tough as nails and can take some time to warm up to their new surroundings, but are awesome little torts!
 

RosemaryDW

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Welcome to you and your totally normal wild caught tortoise. :)

She’s doing the normal peeling; it sure does look creepy the first time you see it. The neck is the worst.

I’m pretty sure my Russian was on an all Romaine diet before she escaped her last home. It took about five months for her to move to “safer” foods and eventually to full time weeds and all the other good things. Being outside with plenty of room to roam helped speed things up. Three years later and it’s hard to keep her from eating our yard to the ground. Yours will be slowing down on eating now, given winter is coming and the days are shorter. In the wild she would be getting ready for hibernation about now.

Russians come from a verrrrrrrry dry climate and need less water than other species. A weekly soak certainly won’t hurt them but you probably won’t see her drink often. My tortoise rarely drinks outside of emerging from hibernation.

You can make soaks less painful by putting her in in the morning, while she’s still groggy. Put her in something with sides high enough that she can’t see out of. And don’t stare at her, even though you’ll want to! Give her some privacy. With this approach mine will tolerate about fifteen minutes, sometimes less.
 

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