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Russian Tortoise Help

Discussion in 'Tortoise Health' started by Okapizebra, Jan 2, 2019.

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  1. Okapizebra

    Okapizebra Member

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    Hi all, I am new to the forum. I'm an experienced reptile keeper but first time tort owner. I wish my first post was a more positive one, but I am glad to be here regardless.

    After reading a gazillion threads about Russians, my mind is spiraling, so I decided to make my own post.

    I have had my adult Russian since the middle of October now. I purchased him from a reputable reptile shop. I have no idea how old he is, and am making the assumption it is indeed a he. Tail is long, always tucked to the side. I also assume he was wild caught considering I bought him as an adult. Didn't realize at the time just how bad of an idea it was to get a wild caught one, however. :(

    After the initial week or two of settling in, he was quite active. Enjoyed exploring his home, and ate pretty good for the first couple months. However, after a few cold snaps, he is sleeping more and more as time goes by and I'm getting more and more worried. He is being kept in a 3' x 3' homemade tortoise table. Substrate is a mix of coco fiber and cypress mulch. He has a heat lamp and an 18 inch UV bulb. Temps around the heat lamp range between a little over 100 down to 80 or so. Ambient temps in my home are 77-78. I live in Florida and it is relatively warm all year and always humid. Even with the cold snaps it never dropped below 75 in my apartment.

    I keep thinking it's his natural instinct and he's trying to hibernate, but I feel like I've done all the steps to avoid that. His lights are on 13 hours a day, temperatures seem to be plenty warm, he gets frequent (at least once a week) soaks in warm water.

    When he was eating well, he was fed a variety of leafy greens. Kale, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, romaine, and spring mix. I also occasionally give zoomed grassland pellets and have tried hay but he showed no interest in that. I have some dandelion greens, hibiscus, and other weeds growing outside but since it is winter they're not growing too fast at the moment, but will be available for him eventually. He barely goes to eat now, if at all. I think at this point it's been a few days since I've seen him eat anything.

    He seems to spend all day sleeping under his heat lamp. He does have a log he can hide under which he rarely ever goes under. I worry about him dehydrating by sitting under the lamp all day. Even if I move him to somewhere else, he'll immediately walk right back to the spot and fall asleep.

    His substrate is dry. Should I be moistening it? I keep reading conflicting info about this online. It's already humid here in Florida and I doubt the humidity in my home drops below 50%. I haven't moistened his substrate because I was afraid he would be too moist. Is this wrong?

    I'm guessing my first task should be to bring to a vet. But in the meantime, I'm hoping some of you can help me determine what I'm doing wrong and how I can fix it. I really love my little buddy and I want him to be happy and healthy. :( Please let me know if there is any other information I can provide! Pics attached of my tort and his enclosure. tort.jpg tort2.jpg tort3.jpg tort4.jpg
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  2. KarenSoCal

    KarenSoCal Well-Known Member

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    I really don't know what to suggest, but I do want to welcome you to TFO. You've come to the best place for info. We have lots of Russian owners here, and they have tremendous experience. Someone will chime in with suggestions soon.
  3. LaLaP

    LaLaP Well-Known Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    Hi and welcome! So he probably is trying to hibernate dispite all your efforts. I have 2 Russians and one is active and alert this winter and my other one is super sleepy and slow. I think some of them just have a very good internal clock that is telling them to sleep. My sleepy guy does eat a little everyday but not much.
    So first I suggest weighing him and keeping a log of his weight. This will tell you if something is wrong. Now remember, like people, tort weights will vary some from day to day just due to hydration and such. So don't freak out over small fluctuations and don't weigh daily. Try weekly at first.
    Next try adding some extra non heating lights, like a regular florecent fixture right above the enclosure. Summer sun is so much brighter than any indoor light so hitting him with bright lights will help fool him a bit better.
    Oh I should ask how you are measuring your temperatures because unfortunately there are lots of faulty gauges and it's possible that it's not as warm in the basking spot as you think. I suggest getting a temperature gun that can be purchased at any hardware store for about $12. It is great for spot checking temps.
    Do you soak him regularly? While he's not eating soak him a lot. Maybe even daily for 20-30 minutes in warm (85-90 degree) water. This will keep the lights from dehydrating him.
    I hope this is helpful.
  4. LaLaP

    LaLaP Well-Known Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    Oh and here is some good info for when you are first starting out...

    https://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/

    https://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/russian-tortoise-care-sheet.80698/

    Oh and if it were me I wouldn't take him to the vet quite yet. Try some things first. Tortoises can go a long time without eating so don't worry too much yet. But do watch for symptoms of respiratory infection like runny or bubbly nose in addition to the not eating. If you see that post here and we can tell you how to treat that too.
  5. Okapizebra

    Okapizebra Member

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    Thank you everyone!

    Yes, I am measuring with a temp gun. It's quite handy.

    And yes, I do soak him regularly but I can definitely do it more often. I will try those suggestions.

    He has no symptoms of respiratory infections, but since I've had him his poop has always been a little watery. I always assumed this was due to him not getting enough fiber in his diet.
  6. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Hi and welcome!

    Since he's wild caught, his body clock is still tuned in to the seasons. They sense the shorter days and cooler nights, even though you have his lights on for 13 hours. You may have to trick him into thinking he's brumated. Start turning the light off earlier and earlier, and stop feeding him. Then allow him to think he's brumating for a couple weeks. Slowly wake him up, pester him daily with soaks and picking him up. Place him in front of the food, and most of all, make sure his whole enclosure is warm, even at night.

    Once he's back eating try feeding more edible weeds. That firms up the poop pretty good.
  7. Okapizebra

    Okapizebra Member

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    Thanks!

    My apartment stays at a pretty consistent 78. Is this a safe temperature to do this? I don't want him to run out of energy.

    Would it be worth trying to pester him with soaks and such without allowing him to brumate first? Or do you think this will not work?
  8. Okapizebra

    Okapizebra Member

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    So far I have added a clip on lamp to give him extra light and I have been soaking him daily. I also ordered a scale online so I can keep track of his weight.

    I'm going to give the lamp and extra soaks a few days to see if that will snap him out of it. If not, then I will do a mini-brumation. So far they have seemed to do nothing. I moved him to his food dish today and he simply fell back asleep right there.
  9. LaLaP

    LaLaP Well-Known Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    Just a warning about the clip on lights.. if it's the clamp that you squeeze to open they have been known to fail and fall into the enclosure either injuring your tort or even causing fires. It's best to find a better way to suspend it from above.

    I think your plan sounds good!
  10. Okapizebra

    Okapizebra Member

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    Good to know!! Thank you!
  11. TammyJ

    TammyJ Well-Known Member

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    I don't know anything about hibernation. What I noticed is that you said his substrate is dry and that the humidity level in your home hardly drops below 50%. I would check what is the required humidity level for these tortoises.
  12. Okapizebra

    Okapizebra Member

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    I honestly don't know what is preferred. I have heard anywhere between 30-70%. I know these torts are from dry areas so that is why I have not moistened his substrate, considering humidity levels are already high where I live.
  13. Okapizebra

    Okapizebra Member

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    After his soak today he ate!
  14. Okapizebra

    Okapizebra Member

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    So here is an update. I ended up taking him to the vet today because he has not been improving and something was just telling me that he's not trying to hibernate and it's a health issue. The vet agrees with me that there is something going on. Apparently he has lost a lot of weight because he is very shrunken in to his shell. And the inside of his mouth was pale and he is anemic.

    I'm pretty upset with the amount of money spent on that vet visit with no answers. But I am still waiting on results from his fecal test so we will see if there is anything conclusive about that.

    If his poop comes back good then the next test is blood work. I really don't want to have to go that route.

    She suggested moving his UV light next to his basking spot so he's getting both at the same time. And to increase his humidity to see if this improves his condition.

    Would love to hear opinions of you all. I'm so stressed out. :(
  15. KarenSoCal

    KarenSoCal Well-Known Member

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    Again, I have no advice to offer, nor an opinion on what your vet advised.

    But I do want to offer you support and encouragement. I know how expensive the appointments and tests are, and I hope you will be able to manage them.

    We are pulling for your shelled friend...BTW, what is his name?
  16. Okapizebra

    Okapizebra Member

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    Thank you.

    His name is Tortilla. :)
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  17. Geng

    Geng Member

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    Does your vet have experience with reptiles / tortoises? Because I also had a tortoise that was trying to brumate, but my vet though he was sick.

    In August 2017 I went for a short holiday and left my tortoise in the care of my parents. Told them to put down his greens, warm soak him and keep his lamps on for 13 hours a day for a week. My parents let the lamps run for 6-7 hours a day to shorten the electricity cost. This, ofcourse, made my tortoise think it was time to brumate. So when I came back, my tortoise had slowed down and slept most of the days. By then I didn't know that my tortoise want to brumate because of the 'shorter days'. So I took him to this new vet, which was a big mistake.

    This new vet seems to be specialised in reptiles, so I had high hopes. They took a stool sample with no result and couldn't see what was wrong with him. Without knowing the problem the vet gave him a baytrill injection, because 'baytrill cures all diseases'. He told me to give him a daily dose. The day after the vet visit, I gave my tortoise an injection and soaked him afterwards. After 10 min he pucked... I looked up this baytrill thing on TF, and turned out a baytrill via injection is lethal. My tortoise looked worse than ever, and I was dead worried he was gonna die. I took up the tips to daily warm soak him and bump up his temperature. Also I had sunny days so I gave him some outside time for some sunshine. He still looked weak, but looked a bit better. After a month taking care of my tortoise he looked alive again and started to get active: roaming around his enclosure and eating. I think the longer and warmer days and warm soaks made him get out of his brumate. Last summer he was super active when he was outside, he ran away from home two times. Giving him baytrill was irrelevant and a big mistake, could've killed my tort.

    I hope everything goes well with your tortoise. Keep up updated.
  18. Geng

    Geng Member

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    It is the time of the year that tortoises are brumating. Mine at least does this every year. I try to keep him awake by warm soaking him and let the lamps run longer. Sadly he still wants to brumate, but I make sure he get soaks and gets to eat at least. Also, you need to bump up the basking temp to around 100F. 75-80F is just too low.
  19. Okapizebra

    Okapizebra Member

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    Yes, I have been to multiple exotic vets in my area and this lady really knows her stuff. You see, his lights are on 13 hours a day, he gets frequent soaks, has lots of light. This is what is making me worried- that despite all this, he's still sooo sleepy and hardly eats. And losing weight.

    His basking temperature is around 100.

    Woke up this morning to him eating and looking more alert this morning. I am hopeful he was just wanting to brumate after all.
  20. Geng

    Geng Member

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    Oh, my bad. My second post was for an another thread I was commenting on. Yes, that sounds like a good sign, lets hope he just wanted to brumate. How long has it already been that your tort wants to brumate? What about the vet, got any update about that?
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2019
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