Sulcata Hatchling Problem

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Okay, so I've had my hatchling for about 3 or 4 months now and he's very young, he's around 45 grams. His eyes are puffy, and they have been for about a month now. He's on his second respiratory infection and he's stopped eating. Someone suggested here that I should try baby food soaks for about half an hour. I am doing that now. My set up:
40gallon critter cage
UVB tube lighting
Zoo-med red night light 100w
Zoo-med daylight Blue 100w
2 hides, one artificial half-log and one corner hide with a hermit crab heater on the side (that one is on the cooler side).
bedding: alfalfa pellets
2 sets of temperature and humidity gages halfway down the tank (1 set on the warm side and the other on the cool side).
1 decorative plant from the reptile aisle in Petco
his warm side averages 85F and his cool side is like 75-80F
It is hard for us to keep his humidity high unless we turn off the lights...
He has cuttlebone in his habitat
I treat his water with reptisafe (it has added calcium)
he doesn't like it when I put calcium powder on his food
his favorite foods are cactus and romaine lettuce
he also eats dandelion greens, kale, mustard greens, and I bought some collard greens today for him to try that
I soak him at least 30 minutes once per day and I have since I got him.

His appetite was very good until a week ago and his shell has been getting softer. I've scheduled 3 actual vet appointments but I have taken him in to get shots to help with his respiratory issues (we've taken him in a total of 6 or 7 times) and he has another shot scheduled on Saturday. I will do anything to get my little guy better! He's on alfalfa pellets because when I had him on bark he tried to eat it. He isn't impacted, our vet X-rayed him on the 10th when I took him to see her. When I ask for advice (and oh, I have) on his care she's vague and kind of dodges the question... The most comforting thing I've gotten from her is "People have a lot of problems with tortoise hatchlings, this is normal." %^$* This shouldn't be normal! I live in Arkansas, and she's had experience with sulcatas before... there really aren't many exotic vets in Arkansas... I am so lost, I don't know what to do, he isn't eating and it's breaking my heart.

-Jessica
 
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keepergale

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Does your tortoise ever get real sunshine? Some UVB bulbs lose their effectiveness rapidly. Some bulbs are better than others too.
Another thought is some kind of mineral/vitamin supplement may be needed.
Sometimes it just takes a while for hatchlings to "harden up". Is your tortoise actually getting softer than before?
 
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His belly is, but I'm not 100% sure about his top shell. Because of this time of year, I only take him outside or near a window if I have to. It's winter out and I'm afraid he'll get too cold. My bulb is about 2 months old but no more than 3 (It's a Zilla fluorescent strip, Desert series 50).
 

Yvonne G

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Hi Jessica, and welcome to the forum!

Have you measured the temperature on the floor of the habitat? It sounds to me as if your baby isn't warm enough. Once they stop eating, the eyes swell shut. You also MUST have a good UVB light to make the calcium work inside the body.

Yes, soak in carrot baby food and water daily for at least 30 minutes each time, but warm up that habitat, maybe even covering it to keep the warm, moist air inside.

If he won't eat calcium covered food, then you're using too much. Just take a pinch of the powder between your thumb and index finger and sprinkle that over the food.

Pellet substrate is another reason your baby is showing illness. You have to keep him in a warm, humid environment. You can't moisten the pellets or they mold. You need a substrate you can moisten.

Your gauges aren't doing any good halfway up from the floor of the habitat. The baby isn't up there, he's on the floor.

Please read the threads pinned at the top of the sulcata section. Your questions will be answered and then some. Two in particular to pay attention are Beginner Mistakes, and How to Raise a Healthy Sulcata.
 

Smile

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Can you get us a few pictures? Doesn't sound too good to me. Mine showed similar signs minus the soft shell and ended up passing away a month ago. Hopefully you can save yours so you don't have to go through the heartbreak that I had to.
 

wellington

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I think you really need to read Toms threads at the bottom of myost for proper housing for your little one. Sounds like you ha e a lot of changing to do, temps and humidity to get corrected. Good luck, hope you make the changes soon and all works out good.
 

Tom

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Hello and welcome Jessica. You are making a lot of mistakes. I don't want to come across as mean, but if I don't tell you what the mistakes are you can't fix them. You need to know what is going wrong, so you can make it go right. This is all constructive criticism intended to help you understand what your baby needs. Let's get started.

1. Respiratory infections are typically caused by low temps. The whole enclosure should never drop below 80 day or night, and I like ambient to creep up to the upper 80s or low 90s during the day, PLUS a 100 degree basking spot. What are your four temps at tortoise level? Warm side, cool side, basking area and over night low?
2. What type of UV tube? How long? Is it on top of a screen? What is the distance from bulb to tortoise? Sunshine through glass provides no UV. Sounds like your tortoise is not getting enough UV.
3. Colored bulbs are no good. Tortoises see better than we do, so if you can see with that light, so can they. It need to be bright and sunny during the day, and dark at night, not blue and red. Colored bulbs mess with their day/night cycles, and it often causes them to eat their substrate. Sound familiar.
4. You need a humid hide, no hermit crab heater, and the correct substrate. I will post links for you later.
5. Petco stick on gauges are notoriously unreliable and inaccurate.
6. Your humidity issues are the result of your open top.
7. You don't need Reptisafe if your water is safe for you to drink.
8. You might be using too much calcium powder. A tiny amount mixed in with a big pile of greens is all you need twice a week.
9. Grocery store foods are not the best. See link at the end of this post.


Sounds like your vet is lacking in tortoise experience...

People only have problems with baby sulcatas when they set them up wrong. There is little margin for error with a baby, but they are super easy if just two things are observed. 1. Get one that was started correctly. (Wet routine). 2. Set them up right. I suspect you have not satisfied either requirement, even though you have really tried to do your best. You just did not get good advice I am sorry to say. But that is in the past. You have found us now, and we'll do our best to help you.

Please read these:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/how-to-raise-a-healthy-sulcata-or-leopard-version-2-0.78361/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/for-those-who-have-a-young-sulcata.76744/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/closed-chambers.32333/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
 
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Hello and welcome Jessica. You are making a lot of mistakes. I don't want to come across as mean, but if I don't tell you what the mistakes are you can't fix them. You need to know what is going wrong, so you can make it go right. This is all constructive criticism intended to help you understand what your baby needs. Let's get started.

1. Respiratory infections are typically caused by low temps. The whole enclosure should never drop below 80 day or night, and I like ambient to creep up to the upper 80s or low 90s during the day, PLUS a 100 degree basking spot. What are your four temps at tortoise level? Warm side, cool side, basking area and over night low?
2. What type of UV tube? How long? Is it on top of a screen? What is the distance from bulb to tortoise? Sunshine through glass provides no UV. Sounds like your tortoise is not getting enough UV.
3. Colored bulbs are no good. Tortoises see better than we do, so if you can see with that light, so can they. It need to be bright and sunny during the day, and dark at night, not blue and red. Colored bulbs mess with their day/night cycles, and it often causes them to eat their substrate. Sound familiar.
4. You need a humid hide, no hermit crab heater, and the correct substrate. I will post links for you later.
5. Petco stick on gauges are notoriously unreliable and inaccurate.
6. Your humidity issues are the result of your open top.
7. You don't need Reptisafe if your water is safe for you to drink.
8. You might be using too much calcium powder. A tiny amount mixed in with a big pile of greens is all you need twice a week.
9. Grocery store foods are not the best. See link at the end of this post.


Sounds like your vet is lacking in tortoise experience...

People only have problems with baby sulcatas when they set them up wrong. There is little margin for error with a baby, but they are super easy if just two things are observed. 1. Get one that was started correctly. (Wet routine). 2. Set them up right. I suspect you have not satisfied either requirement, even though you have really tried to do your best. You just did not get good advice I am sorry to say. But that is in the past. You have found us now, and we'll do our best to help you.

Please read these:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/how-to-raise-a-healthy-sulcata-or-leopard-version-2-0.78361/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/for-those-who-have-a-young-sulcata.76744/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/closed-chambers.32333/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/

I do have a lot of changing to do, I'm not going to take that harshly. :)

1. I have two temperature readings with the petco stick ons, the cool side is usually about 75, the warm side would be around 80-85. (since this post, I have been leaving both lights on in order to keep the habitat HOT. We've been running the heat in the house a little hotter too. so the warm side is 90 and the cool side is 80.
2. It's a tube, Zilla Fluorescent desert series 50. during the day 8-12 hours, we've been leaving it on longer.
3. Which ones do you recommend? What about an under-tank heater?
4. Got it! I've already corrected the substrate and the humidity stays so much higher! Right now its 70-80
5. digital is better right? Which brand do you find the most reliable? (also, that really sucks. I used to work for petco and that's what EVERY reptile habitat MUST have and sometimes temperature and humidity is the cause to some of their reptile problems.)
6. I think the substrate was the problem also.
7. Got it!
8. Yeah, I can see that now..
9. That I know, we go to places like Whole Foods or the Fresh Food Market for our food, like dandelion greens and kale, and stuff like that.

She is, she told me to feed him a lot of leafy greens... I know these babies are supposed to eat a lot of grasses and that too many dark leafy greens can be bad.

Get one what that was started correctly? Wet routine?

below is a picture of what it is NOW. 9:30pm 12/15/14 We have changed a few things. He was out walking around today.
 

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Tom

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Get one what that was started correctly? Wet routine?

The threads linked above will give you a good start toward understand "the wet routine". Basically, sulcatas hatch at the start of the rainy season. Its hot, humid, and there are puddles and marshes all over the place. These are not desert animals. Starting them dry in desert like conditions with only weekly soaks is often fatal weeks or months down the road. I don't want to freak you out but symptoms of this are: lack of growth, puffy eyes, softening plastron, picky eaters (probably due to lack of appetite), and lethargy. I think you better read this one too: http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/hatchling-failure-syndrome.23493/
 

Hermes

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http://m.homedepot.com/p/AcuRite-Di...perature-Comfort-Monitor-00619HDSB/202260980/

This thermometer/humidity gauge is very accurate and a lot cheaper than anything you will find at any pet store, also
http://m.homedepot.com/p/Garden-Supply-Coco-Peat-Brick-3-Set-300coco/203463756/

That is probably 1/4 of the price that Petco sells it for, and it's most people's here favorite bedding.

And all I can say is try to follow tom's guide as much as you can and hopefully your tortoise will be ok. But if somehow she/he isn't, don't get discouraged just set up an enclosure with the right stuff and buy a hatching from one of the breeders here on the for sale section, I won't recommend anybody specifically but most of them have a great reputation and they will sell you nothing but the best babies. Good luck and happy holidays.
 

Hermes

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Oh also asides from all the temperatures and other changes that were already pointed out to you, you should make the terrain uneven make like hills and valleys so that the little guy isn't bored, maybe you could bury the hide and make the entrance like a ramp or just things like that. Of course that is all secondary to having the right temperatures and humidity.
 

Tom

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Oh also asides from all the temperatures and other changes that were already pointed out to you, you should make the terrain uneven make like hills and valleys so that the little guy isn't bored, maybe you could bury the hide and make the entrance like a ramp or just things like that. Of course that is all secondary to having the right temperatures and humidity.

These are good tips, and I frequently forget to mention things like this. Good call Hermes.
 
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What about the lights? Would either of you recommend an under tank heater to help with the heat problem? I don't understand what the guide meant by 'ceramic'. Is it referring to a ceramic infared heat emitter bulb? My vet isn't offering any advice on alternatives.... She recommended an under tank heater but I read that too much belly heat on a tortoise can be bad for them.

I've read the hatchling failure syndrome before, and it scares the heck out of me.
 
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Hermes

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What about the lights? Would either of you recommend an under tank heater to help with the heat and if not red and blue then what type of light. My vet isn't offering any advice on alternatives.... She recommended an under tank heater but I read that too much belly heat on a tortoise can be bad for them.

I've read the hatchling failure syndrome before, and it scares the heck out of me.
I wouldn't use it, what I would recommend is a CHE hooked up to some kind of thermostat and set to 80 degrees day and night, it won't interfere with your basking or uv lights, it basically maintains a baseline temperature and only turns on if it goes below that. If you are handy with tools there are some very cheap options to build your own thermostat switch and it's not as complicated as it sounds, if not for about $60 you can buy one from LLLreptiles or some other vendor.
 

Hermes

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http://www.lllreptile.com/products/128-zoo-med-500r-thermostat-with-probe
Actually they are a lot cheaper than I thought. But this is what I meant, or anything else that works in the same way, also I guess a heat may can be technically used if you get a human grade one and hook it up to a thermostat, but don't use the ones sold at pet stores they are usually bad quality and temperatures can shift because they lack quality control and they fail a lot.
 
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photo (1).JPG Tonight I made some impromptu changes, and I'll show you. we SOAKED the substrate and the humidity is really high, the temperature is reaching 90-ish on the hot side and below from the others. We'll get the CHE tomorrow after we take him to the vet. While we're at the vet we're going to get his blood drawn (is that a good idea?) to check for kidney failure, of course, if he does have kidney failure we won't stop trying but we will prepare ourselves for the worst. Thank you for the link!! Attached is my impromptu lighting. I'm trying the closed enclosure the best I can at the moment.

doesn't the enclosure need to be above 80?

Side note: He is still moving around, that's a good sign, right?
 
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For those who are watching, We went to the vet today but our vet wasn't there so we couldn't ask about Hatchling Failure Syndrome (if she knows what that is) and he just got a shot for a R.I., This makes his 8th total, plus an appetite booster that didn't work. Is a ceftazidime shot a waste of money or can does it actually help with anything at all?

Also, since we've changed the substrate and made it hotter, he seems to feel a lot better. It's hotter and humid and we're going to have to wait until the lights and stuff ship. :/
 

Hermes

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doesn't the enclosure need to be above 80?

Side note: He is still moving around, that's a good sign, right?

Yeah, when they are sick you might be better off making it a bit higher than 80, Tom might be able to give you a better answer but I wouldn't let it drop below 85 day or night with the RI and after that is cleared I would set it back to 80, remember you still have to give him a basking light I keep mine at 100 for the basking spot and that makes the ambient temperature stay at a good range all day so my CHE only really turns on at night but my thermostat is always set just in case, you never know when the bulb might go out or something. Oh and also if your basking light doesn't provide UV make sure you give him enough with either a UV bulb or tube but never a coil bulb. Or if your area is warm enough you can take him outside daily
 
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I'm not sure if people with sick new babies actually do this but I'm going to keep you updated and ask questions here and there when I have them, I hope that's okay.

We went to a new vet today, she asked questions about heating, lighting, the humidity, the temperatures, the substrate, and all that jazz (everything y'all ask), which is what my old vet didn't ask. We told her about the forum, and what y'all recommended and what we've changed because of it. She said that "in the world of sick tortoises, Columbus is well off" because he can move on his own, he is alert, he can open his eyes and he is "spunky". Thank you guys for all of your help, I am so happy I found you. She also stressed the importance of sunlight. We're in Arkansas so it's cold out but on clear, sunny days to we are to take him out for about 15 minutes three times weekly to soak up those rays! (He is not to leave our warm hand, and only on those sunny days).She said that it should be around a month before he completely recovers but he's on his way! I cannot thank y'all enough!

Side note: There was a newspaper clipping in the lobby of our new vet helping and rehabilitating a tortoise with a cracked shell in the sherwood times a couple years ago.
 
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