! Please HELP Newbie-Is my Baby Sulcata sick?

Henry’s mom

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currently from those pics i see nothing of concern. has there been any facial swelling or edema of the front body? any rear leg toenails falling out? did the bumps you saw look like these (see attached picture). if not at this time i dont see anything to worry about. IF they have austwickia the bumps will come back and you will see them again sooner then later. so keep an eye out for anything like that. follow the care guide here and this will def give them the best care you can at this age.
I think and hope this is good news. No he hasn’t had any just like the ones in the pictures, no edema, no toenails falling out. Yay…I sure hope he’s ok or will be. I’m definitely going to read the care sheet so then I can ask about a couple things I don’t know if it’s not answered there. Thank you so very much!!
 

mastershake

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sounds good. def read the care sheets and take them as bible at this age especially. everyone here will help if you are willing to listen and learn. again if at any point at all you want to have him checked you are welcome to get with me here or i can give you the info of the vet locally we work with directly. she is about 45min to an hour from tampa. we are about another 30 min from there.
 

Henry’s mom

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The MVB bulbs aren't recommended anymore because they have been found to dry and damage tort shells.
Many of us use a T5 HO tube kit for UVB with a separate flood basking bulb and a ceramic heat emitter (CHE) for night and extra heat. The CHE just gives heat because torts need darkness to sleep and must be run through a thermostat to turn it on and off which keeps temps even and stops it getting too hot.
Check the caresheet for temps but I think your baby may need to be warmer at night.
That’s great information. Thank you so much. I was wondering how to keep it warmer in there without having my house heat cranked up. Is there also a way to keep their water dishes warm? He liked laying in it when it was warm but not much otherwise. I’ve moved it right under the light which helps but it’s still not getting warmer than 87-90F max. A heat pad for under? Right now his mulch/bark substrate gets all wet under his water dishes and I leave it under the dishes in case it’s good for humidity but worry it could mold and cause issues. The respiratory problem maybe?
 

Henry’s mom

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sounds good. def read the care sheets and take them as bible at this age especially. everyone here will help if you are willing to listen and learn. again if at any point at all you want to have him checked you are welcome to get with me here or i can give you the info of the vet locally we work with directly. she is about 45min to an hour from tampa. we are about another 30 min from there.
I will definitely listen and learn…and put into practice. I want him healthy and happy. ? I didn’t know you were local so that’s fantastic since you have a vet you trust. I’m in Trinity area. I’ll definitely check with you and everyone about questions or concerns. Thank every one of you for taking your time and offering such good advice and so quickly. It seems like their health can change very fast.
 

Henry’s mom

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i recc a temp gun for basking temps and for ambient you can use a regular gauge or the gun if you take multiple temps in various locations it will give you a good idea you want a basking spot around 95-100 deg. keep his temps up now and just monitor him. he prob will be fine. 10 hours is not really that long of a time. what concerns you about the daily urates. they should have daily urates at this age. you do need to make sure night time temps stay up around 80deg ambient in the enclosure. i really dont personally like the mercury bulbs. i much prefer to use a separate t5 tube style uvb bulb and a separate basking bulb for heat.
Ooh all of this is very helpful. I use a temp gun and another posted about a CHE that could help at night. I thought I read that some urates were ok but too much was a bad sign and I needed to soak more to make sure he’s hydrated. Can’t remember if it mentioned anything about that in relation to RIs though. Glad it’s ok he’s doing it so much.
 

Henry’s mom

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we are near sarasota also. if you feel they need to see a vet we have a wonderful local one in sarasota which i know is about an hour but i would recc her without hesitation. if you change a few things with your setup at this time it sounds like that are doing fine though
Wonderful! Thank you for everything!
 

Tom

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The coolest area and night temp is usually about 76. Then the rest of the enclosure gets cooler as further away from the light (obviously) so most of it ranges 82-100. He has the hide side of the enclosure but you can see in the enclosure pic that I have it closed off since he’s so tiny and hardly ever uses his cave hide. I thought it might be like getting a bigger house as he got bigger. Is that wrong to do? I use a 100W mercury lamp with 8.5” dome. I don’t know what he weighs but just saw that’s important so I’ll get a food scale (I guess that’s the right kind?) I bought him from a local reptile pet store in the Tampa area in FL. I don’t know what you mean about how was he started?
76 is a little too cool at night for this species. Try for 80 at the coolest.

Swap out the MVB. Here is a simplified lighting breakdown for you:
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 LED 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 colder climates, 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% HO bulbs from Arcadia. You need a meter to check this: https://www.solarmeter.com/model65.html A good UV bulb only needs to run for 2-3 hours mid day. You need the basking bulb and the ambient lighting to be on at least 12 hours a day.
Here is all the correct care info:

His weight will give us a good clue about how he's doing.
 

Lyn W

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That’s great information. Thank you so much. I was wondering how to keep it warmer in there without having my house heat cranked up. Is there also a way to keep their water dishes warm? He liked laying in it when it was warm but not much otherwise. I’ve moved it right under the light which helps but it’s still not getting warmer than 87-90F max. A heat pad for under? Right now his mulch/bark substrate gets all wet under his water dishes and I leave it under the dishes in case it’s good for humidity but worry it could mold and cause issues. The respiratory problem maybe?
As well as the water dish in his enclosure I would recommend having a separate tray or bowl for him so that you can take him out and soak him in luke/baby warm shallow water which should NEVER cover his head. That way you can bail out the water as it cools and top up with warm so it never gets cold. If he moves about in it that will encourage him to poop.
Heat pads are not good for torts. They dig down to cool off so they would be digging nearer the heat and could burn themselves. They can also be a fire hazard under substrate.
You should aim to get his temps to those given on the caresheet.
Right temps + humidity = healthy tort
Too cold + humidity = sick tort
 

Henry’s mom

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76 is a little too cool at night for this species. Try for 80 at the coolest.

Swap out the MVB. Here is a simplified lighting breakdown for you:
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 LED 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 colder climates, 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% HO bulbs from Arcadia. You need a meter to check this: https://www.solarmeter.com/model65.html A good UV bulb only needs to run for 2-3 hours mid day. You need the basking bulb and the ambient lighting to be on at least 12 hours a day.
Here is all the correct care info:

His weight will give us a good clue about how he's doing.
Oh thank you so much for all of the great info. I will definitely be updating some things!
 

Henry’s mom

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As well as the water dish in his enclosure I would recommend having a separate tray or bowl for him so that you can take him out and soak him in luke/baby warm shallow water which should NEVER cover his head. That way you can bail out the water as it cools and top up with warm so it never gets cold. If he moves about in it that will encourage him to poop.
Heat pads are not good for torts. They dig down to cool off so they would be digging nearer the heat and could burn themselves. They can also be a fire hazard under substrate.
You should aim to get his temps to those given on the caresheet.
Right temps + humidity = healthy tort
Too cold + humidity = sick tort
Oh thank you so much Lyn!
 

Henry’s mom

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So I need some opinions please. I apologize for such a long post.

I’ve been struggling with my 5.5 mos old sulcata’s health for almost 4 weeks now and getting him into a new enclosure I’m finishing building tonight (taking me longer than expected). I’ve been hoping that’s going to resolve all his issues but I’m still very concerned.

He hadn’t eaten a ton at a time since I got him in October but I don’t know what to compare it to other than what I’ve read here. He stopped eating two weeks ago and the last 3 days he’s thankfully eating again and the same or a little more than he used to when I got him. BUT I just read last night that he is very under weight. He’s still only 36g so this makes me even more concerned about his mouth.

For about 6 weeks he’s been making a clicking sound when opening and closing his mouth even when not eating. His mouth/lips have been black for about 2 mos. I’ve read that’s often a poop eater but with everything else going on I want to check. I’m at his enclosure regularly throughout the day and always clean the poop right away when I see it. I hope he is though because he’s only had half of one poop in the last two weeks. Since he hasn’t been eating I figured that’s why.

Then last night he was laying with his head bent around and I saw this alarming dark circle on the side of his head behind his eye. He rubs his eye or face so made me think. I snapped the pics below but then when he started moving around the spot disappeared even when I got him to stretch his neck out. Weird. The day before it looked like that side of his head/neck also had more skin than normal but may have just imagined it.

Also over the last 6-8 weeks I think/thought he was starting to shed on his neck and one piece fell off and then another started (about 4-6 weeks ago now) and has been hanging on. This morning when I went in he has this hunk of something on his mouth. I thought it was lettuce but it’s attached. That hanging skin is not there (it was right by the hunk of stuff today) and don’t know if this is it or tissue dying or what?

Does anyone have any thoughts to share? I know @Tom and @mastershake have been helping and know some about my situation/struggles but I’d love to hear from anyone that might have some insight. I feel like he really should get to a vet to check him but struggling to find one appropriate that’s taking new patients.

Thank you for your help.
 

Yvonne G

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98% of the time the reason a baby tortoise isn't eating is due to improper husbandry. Are you sure his enclosure conditions are like what you read about in our care sheet?
 

Henry’s mom

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I forgot to attach pictures.
2 from last night show the spot on the side of his head that magically disappeared
2 from this morning on the same side show nothing there
2 this morning with the chunk of stuff hanging on his mouth

You can also see that after 2+ weeks of daily carrot baby food soaks, even with bathing and cleaning with a brush and q-tip after each one, I’m having difficulty getting it all off his neck skin. Don’t want that to cause an infection or irritation either. Any suggestions for this would be helpful too.
 

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Henry’s mom

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98% of the time the reason a baby tortoise isn't eating is due to improper husbandry. Are you sure his enclosure conditions are like what you read about in our care sheet?
Hi Yvonne. They are much better than they were when I started ignorant to knowing their care but not perfect until he gets moved tonight. I’m hoping everything will resolve after a few days in there but if this is unrelated or more serious I want to make sure I do what’s needed if anything other than his enclosure.
 

Henry’s mom

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Does anyone think I should be concerned with his mouth or just give it a few days in the new enclosure to see what happens? I don’t want to wait too long if it’s urgent or could prevent further problems.
 

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