Shell rot.

Anyfoot

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Hi all.
Can someone please explain to me what causes shell rot.
Does it have to be a scratch that gets infected?
I keep reading of numerous accounts of shell rot. Luckily up to now I have not had to deal with this.
What I can't understand is I hear redfoots are prone to shell rot. I've not had this problem at all. I have a homes hingeback that lays in the water for best part of 20hrs a day. Comes out to regulate heat and eat. She's been doing this for I would say about 4 months. I check her regular to make sure no rot is setting in. There is no rot.
Are the plastrons of different species composed of different types of material or different densities?
Is it the different substrates we keep them on that causes it with some species and not others?
Does shell rot always start at a scute joint?

Thank you.

Craig.
 

mike taylor

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It is caused by to damp of substrate , damage to shell , or both . In red foots its most likely caused by wet substrate . The key is to make the top of substrate dry and humidity up . Most of us will add water to the corners of substrate not spaying down the substrate .
 

Anyfoot

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It is caused by to damp of substrate , damage to shell , or both . In red foots its most likely caused by wet substrate . The key is to make the top of substrate dry and humidity up . Most of us will add water to the corners of substrate not spaying down the substrate .
Hi mike. So if i had a redfoot sitting in water like my homes does it wouldn't be a problem. What you are saying is that it is damp substrate that sticks to the plastron and causes the plastron to start decaying.
 

Alaskamike

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Shell Rot is a term that covers many possible problems as well as causes. It's kind of generic so does not tell you what is really going on.

It can start in many ways , but most commonly from an abrasion or intrusion into the outer keratin of the shell. It can happen on the caprice as well as the plastron.

The mechanism that intrudes is often bacteria, molds, fungus or algae. You may very well not know which one , and it could be several. It often appears as a red spot , hole or dark soft area. By the time you notice it , spreading under the shuts into soft tissue is possible.

Treatment
You can treat it by fist aggressively cleaning off the area with a toothbrush. Then applying povidone-iodine or chlorhexidine solution. This will attack the pathogens.

Then keep area clean and dry. Isolation from other tortoises , dirty bedding, and bacteria laden waste in needed.

There is a type that becomes blood born - or is caused by blood born pathogens. It is called Septicanemia cutaneous Ulcerative Disease
SCUD for short ) a very potentially fatal condition involving septicaemia - or growth of bacteria in the blood stream - can easily kill your tortoise. Has to be treated with anti-biotics.

As to causes just about anything that creates a puncture would or deep scratch in the shell , plastron or caprice can allow pathogens to enter. Mating , crawling over sharp rocks, even ticks can spread SCuD. I haven't referenced all this , since it's just a reply post. Some vets would certainly know more than I do.
But it's easy to look up latest info.

Plastrons can soften when wet over a long period. Making them more susceptible to injury. This coupled with the proliferation of pathogens in a damp area is the culprit.
 

Anyfoot

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Shell Rot is a term that covers many possible problems as well as causes. It's kind of generic so does not tell you what is really going on.

It can start in many ways , but most commonly from an abrasion or intrusion into the outer keratin of the shell. It can happen on the caprice as well as the plastron.

The mechanism that intrudes is often bacteria, molds, fungus or algae. You may very well not know which one , and it could be several. It often appears as a red spot , hole or dark soft area. By the time you notice it , spreading under the shuts into soft tissue is possible.

Treatment
You can treat it by fist aggressively cleaning off the area with a toothbrush. Then applying povidone-iodine or chlorhexidine solution. This will attack the pathogens.

Then keep area clean and dry. Isolation from other tortoises , dirty bedding, and bacteria laden waste in needed.

There is a type that becomes blood born - or is caused by blood born pathogens. It is called Septicanemia cutaneous Ulcerative Disease
SCUD for short ) a very potentially fatal condition involving septicaemia - or growth of bacteria in the blood stream - can easily kill your tortoise. Has to be treated with anti-biotics.

As to causes just about anything that creates a puncture would or deep scratch in the shell , plastron or caprice can allow pathogens to enter. Mating , crawling over sharp rocks, even ticks can spread SCuD. I haven't referenced all this , since it's just a reply post. Some vets would certainly know more than I do.
But it's easy to look up latest info.

Plastrons can soften when wet over a long period. Making them more susceptible to injury. This coupled with the proliferation of pathogens in a damp area is the culprit.
Very well wrote(as usual) :D

1 more question, and please correct me if I'm wrong.

The carapace is a layer of bone that forms the shell structure. This is covered with a layer of keratin. The keratin is the part that pyramids if not grown to the scute boarders correctly.

Is the plastron just bone or does it have a layer of keratin too?
 

mike taylor

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Its bone and keratin that makes up the shell . If you took an X-ray of the tortoise you would see the bones of the legs and the bones that make up the shell . The keratin cover the bone . As said above shell rot comes from fungus or say sitting in wet substrate that has fecal matter . Think of it as you would a cut . If you have a cut on your hand and go plant flowers in mulch what happens you get an infection . Same with a Tortoise for the most part . So as long as you keep the enclosure clean and the tortoise clean no problems . I also wash my tortoises with surgical soap monthly . To get rid of the shell rot there's a four step process . One clean the area with Surgical soap. Two apply betadine. Three clean the area with the soap . Four apply foot cream . Keep applying the cream and washing the shell until all is healed .
Only apply betadine one time the first day of treatment . I clean the shell with soap daily then apply foot cream . So if any substrate sticks to the shell its clean for the new application of foot cream.
I'm not a good writer so sorry if I was short with my first answer . Plus I wright these things on the fly with my little phone screen .
 
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Anyfoot

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Its bone and keratin that makes up the shell . If you took an X-ray of the tortoise you would see the bones of the legs and the bones that make up the shell . The keratin cover the bone . As said above shell rot comes from fungus or say sitting in wet substrate that has fecal matter . Think of it as you would a cut . If you have a cut on your hand and go plant flowers in mulch what happens you get an infection . Same with a Tortoise for the most part . So as long as you keep the enclosure clean and the tortoise clean no problems . I also wash my tortoises with surgical soap monthly . To get rid of the shell rot there's a four step process . One clean the area with Surgical soap. Two apply betadine. Three clean the area with the soap . Four apply foot cream . Keep applying the cream and washing the shell until all is healed .
Only apply betadine one time the first day of treatment . I clean the shell with soap daily then apply foot cream . So if any substrate sticks to the shell its clean for the new application of foot cream.
Does this structure of bone and keratin apply to the plastron too?
 

mike taylor

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Yes it makes up the shell top and bottom . Think of it as your fingers nails . You have keratin then a fleshy layer then bone . The tortoise fleshy layer is much thinner . If you where to take a knife and cut off a scute it would bleed a little then you would see bone . The bone and the scutes grow together in growth plates between the scutes . Like a trees rings . So dryer conditions make the bone and keratin rise to form the pyramids you see in some Tortoises .
 

Alaskamike

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Without getting too scientific let me try to shed light here

Keratin is a family of fibrous structural proteins. There are 7 types in nature , the tortoise shell - caprice and plastron - are composed mainly of Beta Keratin. Very similar in structure to the Alpha Keratin in human fingernails & hair.

On a tortoise shell the " dead" layer of keratin is actually very thin , just beneath it is live bony formation full of blood and nerve cells producing the new " dead" outer layer as the tortoise grows. This is what we see appearing in the growth lines.

The Keratin looks like this magnified.
ImageUploadedByTortoise Forum1447794559.803963.jpg
And it is layered and structured together for strength. Interestingly , the length of the helix elongates 10-12% with hydration.

When a tortoise gets a breach in the outer dead layer , it exposes live tissue to invasion. Like a cut in our skin.
ImageUploadedByTortoise Forum1447794598.445912.jpg
That white you see on this Redfoot is live tissue , and if it were a live tortoise would be bleeding.
 

Anyfoot

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I understand thr principles how keratin grows and how to reduce pyramiding. What I wasn't sure about is why some species are more susceptible to shell rot than others. This led me to thinking do some species have a more dense keratin layer making it less porous and more waterproof, hence less shell rot through damp. This is not the case, its simply because we keep certain species on certain substrates at different degrees of humidity.
As all Tortoise subjects go, one thing leads to another, and its a never ending discussion. This is why I always end up off topic. Lol. The mind goes off on different tangents constantly.
So Alaskan Mike I lied earlier. 1 more question, to anyone.

Why doesn't the plastron ever pyramid? Is it a different grain structure than that of the carapace. Obviously there's more wear and tear.
Sorry, I'm like a dog with a bone some times.
 

Alaskamike

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I suppose for the same reason different parts of the body take unique and different forms according to function.

Not a good answer. But all I got. Lol.
 

mike taylor

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Man Mr . Mike you went all out on your answering . I try to keep it simple an fast .
 

ZEROPILOT

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My R/F live outdoors and get into the water and sometimes stay in the water for several minutes to an hour. But I only see shell issues in the Summer when everything else is saturated with water and there is no chance to ever get dry.
This issue has been resolved (SO FAR) by including two new exterior "houses" to the pen that are waterproof and packed with straw and dry mulch.
This whole summer I had no issues.
Also, it has been my observation that most if not all shell issues resume in the same areas as old injury.
Thanks. I enjoyed reading this information.
 

Anyfoot

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My R/F live outdoors and get into the water and sometimes stay in the water for several minutes to an hour. But I only see shell issues in the Summer when everything else is saturated with water and there is no chance to ever get dry.
This issue has been resolved (SO FAR) by including two new exterior "houses" to the pen that are waterproof and packed with straw and dry mulch.
This whole summer I had no issues.
Also, it has been my observation that most if not all shell issues resume in the same areas as old injury.
Thanks. I enjoyed reading this information.
Thanks Ed. In my new enclosure I think I'm now certain, although I want a mist system and high humidity, I also need to offer a dry area.
 

ZEROPILOT

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Thanks Ed. In my new enclosure I think I'm now certain, although I want a mist system and high humidity, I also need to offer a dry area.
Yep. I use misters during the dryer months. (Like winter) The humidity is about 50-60% out doors and they kick in three times per 24 hour cycle and spray for 20 minutes.
 

Anyfoot

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Yep. I use misters during the dryer months. (Like winter) The humidity is about 50-60% out doors and they kick in three times per 24 hour cycle and spray for 20 minutes.
Is your misting system plugged straight into the main water supply, or do you have a holding tank that it pulls from that you top up?
 

ZEROPILOT

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I made a system of my own and it's plumbed into a dedicated water line tapped into a fixture on the side of my house. It's all PVC pipe with flexible pipe at the sprayers and a gang valve to select what pen gets rained on.
 

ZEROPILOT

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I don't have many photos of the system or the new dry sleeping boxes
 

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