New Sulcata Owner - Came from a dog/cat rescue in poor shape - Please Help!

Melissa Wahl

New Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2015
Messages
19
Location (City and/or State)
Kentucky
Our local animal shelter took in what we later learned to be a sulcata tortoise as the result of an animal seizure by the police. They posted him on FB as free and had no information on him. We've had him since Friday. He came in a guinea pig cage (plastic bottom, wire top) with a sprinkling of hay for substrate, a bowl with what looked like bird or mouse food in a little bowl and a pie plate for water as well as a plastic hidey house. He's about 6 1/2 long, 4 1/2 wide. No idea how old. His name is Sheldon. :)

After doing our research (my son is the one who wanted him, he's 18) the next day we got him a 5' kiddie pool and are using organic potting mix (just a mixture of dirt and peat, no vermiculite!) got a mercury vapor bulb for UVB light and heat, gave him a small pile of hay, the pie plate with water in it and the hidey house. He's VERY lethargic. He hardly moves around his house and has only eaten a tiny bit in there when we offer him some greens (spring mix salad, bok choy, broccoli and romaine lettuce). He eats better after we've soaked him (which we do once a day 5-10 mins in pie plate) and will go through about a handful of that mix each day. Then he walks around my son's room for a few minutes then stops. We have not seen any poop or pee out of him yet. But what I find even more concerning is the twitching he does when he's sitting on the floor. I found a Youtube video showing a tortoise doing the same thing and they said it is a symptom of MBD.

First, I'd like to know if our husbandry is correct. Second, should I bring him to a vet or can we get him better with the correct diet, which I understand is the only real treatment for this disease?

I apologize if all these questions have been answered before, but if I could get them consolidated onto this one thread it would be so helpful to my son and I. I am a very experienced animal lover who currently is caring for six dogs, five cats, three horses, one donkey and two parrots. But this guy is so different from anything I've ever had as a pet. Any and all help will be greatly appreciated! :)
 

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 23, 2008
Messages
93,363
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
Hi Melissa, and welcome to the forum!!

He's probably lethargic because he's not warm enough. Have you measured the temperatures all over the floor of the wading pool? (and he needs to stay in that pool, not let loose around the house)

Can you post pictures of the tortoise? Sometimes you'll see their front legs move a bit as they breathe in and out. I don't know about the twitching being associated with MBD, though. I've never heard that one.
 

russian/sulcata/tortoise

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Aug 6, 2014
Messages
8,458
Location (City and/or State)
Northern California, bay area
welcome to the forum! is the tort is small they should not be fed lots of hay most of there diet should be fresh grasses and nontoxic weeds. don't let him wonder around the house he will eat something that will harm him. get the soaks up to 20-30 minutes a day. whats the the cool side and basking spot temps? enclosure and tort pics will help.
 

Melissa Wahl

New Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2015
Messages
19
Location (City and/or State)
Kentucky
Here's a photo from when he came home.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?...85165590051.2048618.1259353498&type=1&theater

The temp under the light is 95 and the temp in the rest of the enclosure is 78. I'll have to get a pic of his new digs for you to see. We only let him out of his pen for a few minutes in my son's room and he is always there to watch him. I will try the extended soaking time. He does seem to enjoy it.

So the twitching is not a common symptom? When I first saw him do it, it looked like he was almost "revving up" to get up from lying down, but did find it very odd that it happens periodically, not regularly like from breathing.

ETA - a photo of his house.

photo (14).JPG
 
Last edited by a moderator:

wellington

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Tortoise Club
Joined
Sep 6, 2011
Messages
49,282
Location (City and/or State)
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Hello and Welcome:). I don't have the experience that Yvonne has, but I have never heard of twitching being related to MBD. I'm guessing it's just normal leg movement. Most info you will find on the Internet, even most vets sites is incorrect. I would do the longer soaks and give him time to get adjusted to his new home and the better food you are feeding him. Most likely he came from very poor conditions and diet.
 

Melissa Wahl

New Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2015
Messages
19
Location (City and/or State)
Kentucky
Oh you guys are making me feel so much better about Sheldon! :) I was so hoping it was just needing time to adjust and hopefully that's all it is. I will have my son do the longer soaks. And I agree that he probably did come from poor conditions. Thank you! :D
 

Melissa Wahl

New Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2015
Messages
19
Location (City and/or State)
Kentucky
I wondered if it was too small for him. And yes, we have plans to make him a nice big area outside. We live on a little farm so have plenty of room for him. My son is looking forward to building it, actually. :) I will also work on getting him someplace bigger to live while he's inside. Thank you!
 

Jodie

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2014
Messages
4,359
Location (City and/or State)
Spokane Valley WA
He looks good. Did you see the care guides in the Sulcata section? It is great and will tell you all of the basics you need to know. Welcome to the forum and congrats!
 

dmmj

The member formerly known as captain awesome
10 Year Member!
Joined
Aug 15, 2008
Messages
19,717
Location (City and/or State)
CA
Got to love youtube, full of well meaning but misguided people. Twitching is not associated with MBD, weak legs, and mis-shapen shells are. The twitching is more than likely him breathing, they pump their legs sometimes when they breathe.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
62,989
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
I don't know about the twitching being associated with MBD, though. I've never heard that one.

Actually this is quite common in lizards with MBD. There is not enough calcium in the blood stream for muscles to function properly so they sometimes develop a twitch. I've never seen the twitch in a tortoise though.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
62,989
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Hi Melissa. Welcome to the forum. These might help:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/how-to-raise-a-healthy-sulcata-or-leopard-version-2-0.79895/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/for-those-who-have-a-young-sulcata.76744/

I have not seen anyone mention UV yet. This is critical for this tortoise RIGHT NOW. If its too cold for sunshine, I would recommend a 160 watt Powersun MVB. You can get one online relatively cheap and delivered to your door. If you don't want to add any more heat you can order an Arcadia 12% HO bulb from http://www.lightyourreptiles.com. These work very well and produce lots of the right type of UV.

In addition, using a powdered calcium supplement with D3 in it won't hurt anything.

As soon as it is warm enough, mid day sun shine in a safe enclosure will be your best friend.
 

weldorNate

Active Member
10 Year Member!
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Messages
191
Location (City and/or State)
North Dakota
Congrats on getting a tortoise and hope everything works out for u at least u started getting him into something bigger
 

Melissa Wahl

New Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2015
Messages
19
Location (City and/or State)
Kentucky
momof4 and weldorNate - thank you! :)

Tom - We have a 125 watt Mercury Vapor bulb for UVB and heat. Do you think this is sufficient?
 

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 23, 2008
Messages
93,363
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
Hi Melissa:

I think your light might be up just a bit too high. Also, if it were my set up, I would try to get the light more towards the middle to help heat the whole area.
 

gingerbee

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Nov 22, 2009
Messages
796
Location (City and/or State)
Washington state
Great job saving this guy!! I was afraid he might look worse from the care he received!! Looks like your off to a good start and all the experts here are so much help. Congrats on your new addition!!
 

Melissa Wahl

New Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2015
Messages
19
Location (City and/or State)
Kentucky
Yvonne - Okay, I'll have my son set it a little lower. :)

gingerbee - thank you! I wish I knew more about how they cared for him so I could know why he's so lethargic. I'm thinking maybe he was under some sort of light where he used to be, but it was taken away from him when he was taken by animal control/police. We also found a wheat thin in his cage as well as part of a cigarette pack wrapper. :(

He's still awfully lethargic although he's eating pretty well. So I've decided to take him to see my vet. He's not an expert at tortoises, but he is the on-call vet for a small local exotic animal zoo so hopefully he can help Sheldon out. I'll let you all know how he's doing. Thanks again for all your help! You guys are awesome. :)
 

Melissa Wahl

New Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2015
Messages
19
Location (City and/or State)
Kentucky
(This is a copy of the post I put on my other thread in introductions)

The vet appointment went very well! Turns out the vet has treated sulcatas before which was great. He said (as many of you have said) that it's probably the trauma of being taken from his home, then going to the animal shelter without a heat lamp for a day, and then adjusting to his new home that has him off his feed. But he said overall he looks great - nice clear eyes, shell and skin look healthy. He also said he didn't see evidence of any parasites by way of no ulcers on his mouth or bum. He took a stool sample o_O with a q-tip and tested it to be sure and it came back clean. He just said to keep doing what we're doing and he should have his appetite back in another week or so. So relieved! :D

Also, we're planning on building him a table - we were thinking 4' by 8' would be good. Is that big enough? We have a bunch of leftover lumber from a building project we have going on here at the house, and the builder is a great guy and I'm sure will do a great job once we tell him what we need. :)
 

New Posts

Top