Russian Tortoise Not Eating

engelhlywd

New Member
Joined
May 2, 2021
Messages
3
Location (City and/or State)
Binghamton
Hello All-

I’ll try to keep this brief. My Russian Tortoise, Tolstoy, has stopped eating.

About Tolstoy: I’ve had him since 2012- purchased from a pet store. Relocated temporarily in 2020 from Nashville to NY. Took him to the vet last week, got his beak trimmed. Vet suspected vit A deficiency, sent us home with instructions to increase temps and gave me an anise flavored supplement to give him if he doesn’t eat.

Specs: His set up is a 50 gallon Rubbermaid tub. Substrate is combination of Fir bark on one side, cool side is Reptisoil w/Coconut Coil. I changed out lighting yesterday - bought all new lights/fixtures. Hanging Zoomed Double Deep Dome -17” above - 1 Solarpro 125w UVB/UVA, Zoomed Power Sun UVA/UVB 160w plus 150 w basking light in wire clamp cage lamp on side. Temp is 95-100 degrees, tapers off to about 80 on “cool side.” At night with lights off - 65-68.

i mist his substrate consistently and he receives warm water soak every other day.
Note: I had a custom built Tortoise table 6ftx3ft but usually don’t move him into it until the weather warms up considerably.


Diet: lactino kale, mustard and turnip greens, dandelion greens, occasional bell pepper, squash, spring mix, baby kale mix, radicchio, Belgian endive, escarole. Recently introduced apples into his diet , trying to wean him bc i just found out not the best.

He absolutely refused to take the supplement. He hadn’t eaten in a week before I took him to the vet this past Thursday. His last meal was watercress and bites of apple with the peel.

He doesn’t hibernate. I feel like I’ve gone through this a million times before - usually, oddly around Spring, but each time it feels new and is worrisome. This is the longest he’s gone without eating. I did manage to get him to take a few bites of apple this Friday (4/30). I tried wrapping it in dandelion leaf w/ the supplement but he was having NONE of it.

He seems fairly alert. If I bring him out, he’ll sit under the light, head out (or sometimes, rarely in shell). He eventually moves to the cooler end and burrows himself. I have literally tried everything. The vet suggested warn water soak with pedialyte. He pooped a minuscule amount on Friday before his “meal.”

I’m at my wits end. Love my vet but not really much help other than to say he needs to eat. The vet is 1.5 hours away.....

I guess I’m wondering if there’s any tips or tricks. I can’t get Tolstoy’s mouth to pry open to force feed him the supplement. Wondering how long he can reasonably go without food safely if he’s bromating (in Soring?!). It was a harsh winter and the house we moved into does not have central air/heat. The vet said his vitals were good- no wheezing, nasal discharge etc. Because of Covid, I wasn’t allowed to accompany Tolstoy so I really don’t know what “tests” they ran.....

I love Tolstoy with all my heart. Help, please!
thanks in advance. Signed, worried tort
 

MarginatedMooney

Active Member
Joined
Jan 25, 2021
Messages
64
Location (City and/or State)
Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina USA
Hi there, welcome to the forum!

I imagine vitamin A deficiency is possible if he's not eating, but to me that seems to be a symptom of him not eating, not the cause.

One thing I see is that you're using mercury vapor combo UVA/UVB bulbs. Those aren't recommended anymore because they give off a small, intense area of heat, and have unreliable UVB. It's better to use a 65w incandescent flood bulb along with a T5 10.0 UVB fluorescent tube.

But, I don't know what's causing your tortoise to not eat. From what I've seen on the forum more often than not, the reason why a tortoise isn't eating is because they're too cold. But that doesn't seem to be what's going on here.

Could a beak trimming cause a tort to not eat for awhile? I don't know. Hopefully an expert will help you out soon.
 

engelhlywd

New Member
Joined
May 2, 2021
Messages
3
Location (City and/or State)
Binghamton
Hi there, welcome to the forum!

I imagine vitamin A deficiency is possible if he's not eating, but to me that seems to be a symptom of him not eating, not the cause.

One thing I see is that you're using mercury vapor combo UVA/UVB bulbs. Those aren't recommended anymore because they give off a small, intense area of heat, and have unreliable UVB. It's better to use a 65w incandescent flood bulb along with a T5 10.0 UVB fluorescent tube.

But, I don't know what's causing your tortoise to not eat. From what I've seen on the forum more often than not, the reason why a tortoise isn't eating is because they're too cold. But that doesn't seem to be what's going on here.

Could a beak trimming cause a tort to not eat for awhile? I don't know. Hopefully an expert will help you out soon.
Hi there, welcome to the forum!

I imagine vitamin A deficiency is possible if he's not eating, but to me that seems to be a symptom of him not eating, not the cause.

One thing I see is that you're using mercury vapor combo UVA/UVB bulbs. Those aren't recommended anymore because they give off a small, intense area of heat, and have unreliable UVB. It's better to use a 65w incandescent flood bulb along with a T5 10.0 UVB fluorescent tube.

But, I don't know what's causing your tortoise to not eat. From what I've seen on the forum more often than not, the reason why a tortoise isn't eating is because they're too cold. But that doesn't seem to be what's going on here.

Could a beak trimming cause a tort to not eat for awhile? I don't know. Hopefully an expert will help you out soon.
Hello TMooney,

I really appreciate the reply. This whole thing has been terribly distressing. I just purchased the Power Sun bulb at a whopping $80....

I’ve tried a fluorescent tube previously but I’m not sure how to get max exposure in terms of placement over the tub, since there isn’t a hood apparatus. Also, is the incandescent flood bulb something I’d purchase at a pet store or general hardware? I’m so confused about all these different types of bulbs... Thank you !
 

MarginatedMooney

Active Member
Joined
Jan 25, 2021
Messages
64
Location (City and/or State)
Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina USA
Hello TMooney,

I really appreciate the reply. This whole thing has been terribly distressing. I just purchased the Power Sun bulb at a whopping $80....

I’ve tried a fluorescent tube previously but I’m not sure how to get max exposure in terms of placement over the tub, since there isn’t a hood apparatus. Also, is the incandescent flood bulb something I’d purchase at a pet store or general hardware? I’m so confused about all these different types of bulbs... Thank you !
😕 Poor little guy. I hope he starts eating again soon. It sounds like you would have to find a way to hang or mount the fluorescent tube light. There may be some examples of that in the enclosures section on this forum. Also, the incandescent bulb would come from a hardware store or home improvement store, not a pet store.
 

Lyn W

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jul 22, 2014
Messages
20,663
Location (City and/or State)
UK
Hi and welcome
Can you post pics of him and his enclosure and the lamps you are using so we can see if there's anything affecting his behaviour which you may not have spotted?

This is the most up to date caresheet for Russians in case you haven't found it
 

ZenHerper

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 27, 2020
Messages
1,703
Location (City and/or State)
New Jersey
Sometimes animals don't know when something is "good" for them. But in this instance, please respect your tort's wishes to not take the Vitamin A supplement. Veterinarians - even those who fancy exotic species - frequently confuse tortoises and turtles. Turtles that don't eat much vegetation can be Vitamin A deficient, but tortoises that have eaten well in the previous summer/fall season are not.

Fat soluble vitamins, like A, are stored in the liver and released as needed. When overdosed, the liver can be damaged and even fatally so. Tortoises also show a gruesome skin slough when given too much Vitamin A by injection or other supplemental means.

The uvb/uva bulb is too harsh a beam, and may be either not giving off any uvb radiation, or focusing the radiation in a narrow beam (like a laser) that is hurting your pet's eyes. I would switch back to your other heat set up asap, or replace it as advised above asap.

You can take Tolstoy outside in a pan for 20 minutes of natural sun exposure every day and this would be sufficient uvb radiation to meet his Vitamin D3 activation needs. Then you really only need a Ceramic Heat Emitter (CHE) and a soft LED bulb for day light during the day.

***********************

OK. Appetite.

Pet store Russians are usually wild-caught. Their age is a big question mark, and they may be carrying a large parasite load - the effects of which captive conditions amplify. Fenbendazole is a good deworming/antimicrobial treatment for reptiles, but Tolstoy has to be eating in order to get the paste into him.

Do a warm water soak every morning and afternoon for about 30-40 minutes. He may be dehydrated from the winter and cannot digest any new foods (and may be badly constipated)...so he takes a small interest in things he likes, but cannot fill his stomach if his intestines are inactive. Get some jars of baby food kale and mix that half-and-half with the water to get some fiber and nutrients into his system.

Offer flowers...dandelion and Viola/heartsease are pretty easy to find now. If you have food stores (ask the produce manager) or health food stores that carry edible flowers, you may be able to find some other choices close by. If you find dried (chamomile, hibiscus): steep them in water, let him soak in the flower tea once it has cooled to Tort Temp.

Offer a small salad pile every day (chopped very small so he doesn't have to work hard), but don't expect him to feel better from dehydration for a week or two. If there is no response, it is time to have some bloodwork done to check on the health of his metabolic organs (kidney, liver), blood quality, etc..

Some photos of him and his habitat would be helpful.

Let us know how you are doing.
 

engelhlywd

New Member
Joined
May 2, 2021
Messages
3
Location (City and/or State)
Binghamton
Sometimes animals don't know when something is "good" for them. But in this instance, please respect your tort's wishes to not take the Vitamin A supplement. Veterinarians - even those who fancy exotic species - frequently confuse tortoises and turtles. Turtles that don't eat much vegetation can be Vitamin A deficient, but tortoises that have eaten well in the previous summer/fall season are not.

Fat soluble vitamins, like A, are stored in the liver and released as needed. When overdosed, the liver can be damaged and even fatally so. Tortoises also show a gruesome skin slough when given too much Vitamin A by injection or other supplemental means.

The uvb/uva bulb is too harsh a beam, and may be either not giving off any uvb radiation, or focusing the radiation in a narrow beam (like a laser) that is hurting your pet's eyes. I would switch back to your other heat set up asap, or replace it as advised above asap.

You can take Tolstoy outside in a pan for 20 minutes of natural sun exposure every day and this would be sufficient uvb radiation to meet his Vitamin D3 activation needs. Then you really only need a Ceramic Heat Emitter (CHE) and a soft LED bulb for day light during the day.

***********************

OK. Appetite.

Pet store Russians are usually wild-caught. Their age is a big question mark, and they may be carrying a large parasite load - the effects of which captive conditions amplify. Fenbendazole is a good deworming/antimicrobial treatment for reptiles, but Tolstoy has to be eating in order to get the paste into him.

Do a warm water soak every morning and afternoon for about 30-40 minutes. He may be dehydrated from the winter and cannot digest any new foods (and may be badly constipated)...so he takes a small interest in things he likes, but cannot fill his stomach if his intestines are inactive. Get some jars of baby food kale and mix that half-and-half with the water to get some fiber and nutrients into his system.

Offer flowers...dandelion and Viola/heartsease are pretty easy to find now. If you have food stores (ask the produce manager) or health food stores that carry edible flowers, you may be able to find some other choices close by. If you find dried (chamomile, hibiscus): steep them in water, let him soak in the flower tea once it has cooled to Tort Temp.

Offer a small salad pile every day (chopped very small so he doesn't have to work hard), but don't expect him to feel better from dehydration for a week or two. If there is no response, it is time to have some bloodwork done to check on the health of his metabolic organs (kidney, liver), blood quality, etc..

Some photos of him and his habitat would be helpful.

Let us know how you are doing.
 
Top