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Tortoise Death Advice

Discussion in 'General Tortoise Discussion' started by Larada337, Feb 23, 2018.

  1. Larada337

    Larada337 New Member

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    I am new here and please forgive the depressing post. I was a first time Sulcata owner. I also have a 13 year old child, 11 year old Tibetan Mastiff, 6 year old Shih Tzu, a cat, as well as spent years caring for a disabled parent and grandparent. So, for me to lose a baby tortoise is nothing short of a devastating blow. I once thought highly of my care giving skills.

    I got the tortoise in December and he was about 60-90 days old. He just passed away a few days ago- I had him for 2 months. He was healthy and thriving, I followed everything I read here to a T. Lights, lamps, heating pads, temperature gauges,daily warm soaks, variety of grass, greens, calcium etc etc but I couldn't control mother nature. He even had his own baby blanket that I still sleep with. My husband called him strange because of the way he popped out of his shell and moved towards my voice when he heard me.

    There was a sudden cold front where I live in the desert mountains. It was such a bad wind storm that at some point on Monday it had blown the back door open and dropped the temperature in the home drastically for around 30 minutes with wind and sleet coming in as well. That is the gap of time between when my husband leaves for work at 6:30 and I wake at 7am. The tortoise enclosure was 10-15 ft from the backdoor.
    I believe that he caught a chill from that because he went from playing to dead 48 hours later. I saw no warning signs other than him being a little lazy that day but still snuggling, eating, drinking, pooping etc until that night around 9 pm he suddenly had trouble breathing, a runny nose, and walking funny. There was a moment I am literally having nightmares about where he stretched his neck out and stared at me and made a silent cry kinda like, 'help me mom.' I immediately started warming him and tried to suction his nose. I tried to give water also in a dropper. I also gave him a dose recommended of antibiotic a breeder advised saying it sounded like URI until we could figure out a vet the next day. (We live rurally hours from a city and always have most antibiotics on hand for humans and animals in case of ER to buy time) I did everything I read and was told to try and make it through the night. I fell asleep on the hardwood floor next to his enclosure and he was dead when I woke up hours later. I should not have fallen asleep. Maybe I should have sat in a warm shower with him to help fluids drain- I had done that before with my mother when her lungs filled w fluids and with my Shih Tzu once to drain an infection in his eye. I just don't know what I could have done differently other than taken him to a vet when I knew he had been exposed to cold. I know this probably sounds crazy and dramatic but if anyone has been through this before and can help me wrap my mind around the guilt and grief, it would be appreciated. His name was Walker (Walking Dead reference) and I buried him on my favorite mountain spot.

    My husband immediately got another one without asking me- he was actually trying to find one that looked like him to swap them out so I didn't 'freak out' like maybe Walker was in a coma and is suddenly okay lol. Bless his heart. I would have noticed the difference. Needless to say I stayed awake Dale's (new baby/another TWD character) first two nights and watched him to make sure he didn't get cold. I am also having trouble wanting to bond with it. I guess I would also like to know what to look for/ what I missed in case the new baby catches a chill. Do I immediately take him to a vet or what to keep it from progressing? He is next to my bed nowhere near a door just in case.

    Thanks for reading. IMG_20180217_101131_741.jpg IMG_20180222_194832_806.jpg IMG_20180217_101131_741.jpg IMG_20180222_194832_806.jpg
  2. Maro2Bear

    Maro2Bear Well-Known Member

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    Sorry to hear your very sad story.

    Can you post some pix of your enclosure and describe your heating and lighting. A drop in temps for 30 mins like you describe surely could not be what caused the issue. Some pix of your enclosure, temps, etc will help everyone help you diagnose the root cause of the issue.

    Good luck with your new baby!
  3. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member

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    Welcome. So very sorry. Please don't beat yourself up. You didn't do anything on purpose to harm your little shelled friend. You did the opposite and tried to help him. It's so very hard to say what it could have been. Possibly got too cold, maybe a uri, but to go so fast, I would guess there might have been more. Then again, being so little, maybe that's all it took. Guessing is really all that can be done.
    Btw, was he in a closed chamber? If not, be sure to house your next one if you do get another, in a closed chamber. Easier to control temps and humidity and unless you lose power, it wouldn't get too cold. Use a thermostat and it doesn't get too hot either.
    Rob99 likes this.
  4. Larada337

    Larada337 New Member

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    I do not have a picture of his enclosure and we are since redoing the whole thing so I can't take a pic now. I can only say it had the dual lamps I measured with a ruler to proper distance, a heat emitting rock, heating pad under his cave that was also insulated. I forgot to mention the power also kept getting knocked out during the week of the storm so his enclosure probably also got cold each time we lost power and it was not just the door I don't think.
    Winter is pretty much over I hope but what about next winter, are they stronger when they are older? I should have had a generator close by to plug his things in immediately. For us humans it was easy to just throw a hoodie on and wait for it to click back on.

    :-/
  5. Larada337

    Larada337 New Member

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    Is there a link for a proper closed chamber? We are in the rebuilding process now. We were told to change out everything just in case of bacteria etc. If there is a better way to house in case of storms and power loss I would like to be prepared.
  6. teresaf

    teresaf Well-Known Member

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    There are a lot of closed chamber threads on this forum. up in the search bar above you can type in closed chamber and read about them. There are different ways to do it. In my case I found a 200 gallon tank on Craigslist and bought plexiglass cut to size for the top. I was able to hang my light and ceramic heat emitter inside and used Coco coir for the dirt. If you get a bunch of the Coco coir and pour a bunch of water in it and mix it up until it's damp then close the top so it's almost airtight then you'll be trapping the heat and humidity in the enclosure. You need to make sure that the temperature does not get below 80 degrees at any time IN ANY CORNER OR HIDE of your enclosure. If you suspect a URI then make it 85 for a couple weeks. Electric basking rock is not necessary and can be dangerous since it might get their bellies too hot. A basking lamp aiming down on a piece of slate or tile making it 100 degrees is ideal for a basking spot. No coil bulbs. No dial thermometer hygrometers. High humidity causes them to give faulty readings. You can use a digital thermometer hygrometer off Amazon which is only $12. I used two or three of them. The ones I used had the probes on a wire that I hung inside the tank in different areas so that all I had to do was walk by and check the digital reading outside of the tank to verify the readings inside the tank look good. That way the mechanism was not inside the humid environment. You don't have to worry about it being airtight you going to open it and exchange the air every day to feed them. Most importantly... Don't take them out and hold them a lot. Don't take them out and let them walk around on the floor. The floor is colder than it is up where we are when we're walking around. heat rises. Good luck

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    Last edited: Feb 23, 2018
  7. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    How cold did it get in his enclosure? How cold was it outside? What are you using for night heat over him?

    Within your post I'm seeing all sorts of common mistakes. Most people house and care for this species all wrong, and those people along with pet stores, vets, breeders and other "experts" all teach new keepers how to do it all wrong. No heat pads or heat rocks. The double hood probably has a cfl type UV bulb. Those are not effective and sometimes burn their eyes.

    The tortoise in your pics there has had a very dry start. Not only is it pyramiding on the outside, the same dry conditions are not good for the inside.

    Here is the correct care info:
    https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/beginner-mistakes.45180/
    https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/how-to-raise-a-healthy-sulcata-or-leopard-version-2-0.79895/
    https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/for-those-who-have-a-young-sulcata.76744/

    In a proper closed chamber with the heating and lighting inside, with ambient controlled by a thermostat, this wouldn't be able to happen again. There is no way to maintain the correct heating and humidity for this species in an open topped tank.
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  8. Sticky Feets

    Sticky Feets Member

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    Definitely don't use the heat rock,,.theyre not good for any kind of reptile. notoriously known to cause burns
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  9. vladimir

    vladimir Well-Known Member

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    @Larada337 I'm so sorry for your loss :(

    Tom has great advice and I'm confident if you follow his guidance you'll be able to raise Dale to be a nice healthy tortoise :) Each animal is unique, and I'm sure in no time at all Dale will take over your heart :)
  10. kellygirl64

    kellygirl64 Well-Known Member

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    Hello, you seem to have an incredible amount of empathy and resiliency. You are like the ultimate caregiver !! You clearly accept challenges heartily, in a good attempt to avoid any pains or negative outcomes for those you care for. That's very wonderful !! You are already aware of the needs a tortoise has and that they do need quite a bit of care in these early years. I'm glad you're up for it !! Please read the threads the folks here are telling you about. As a baby, it is certainly more critical to have stable temps and humidity, as well as proper diet n soakings. I'm confident that you'll be able to find the best advice here for your little, new-addition. I get that you don't want the same outcome for the new tort and your heart is in the right place. Keep yourself informed and I hope for the best for your household and your spirits. It was a sad read, your post, but I can identify for I have a lot of empathy to living things myself. Best wishes and keep us posted on the good stuff too, I love a happy ending.
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  11. ohio

    ohio Active Member

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    Sorry for your loss don't give up. I loss my chloe this winter by a bad hibernation. I feel it was my fault but will correct my mistakes still have my others to look after. Give it some time and try again when you're ready. Tortoises are great.
  12. Reptilian Feline

    Reptilian Feline Active Member

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    I feel for you! Don't give up! Follow Tom's advice!
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  13. TammyJ

    TammyJ Well-Known Member

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    You are obviously a very caring pet owner! All the best, you deserve it!
  14. Greta16

    Greta16 Active Member

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    I believe it probably was the door. A total accident on your part. My house is very similar. We have a screened in porch prob 5 ft from my torts enclosure. My teens let the cats out and walk away. Well, the cats can push the door open to let themselves in. Living in Maine I know how cold it can get when the door is only open for 5 mins, especially if it's below freezing. I've walked int ok the room and found it about 40 degrees F. It scared the crap out of me. We have a new rule now, the kids are NOT allowed to let the cats out in winter, only I can. I'm so sorry for your loss. It was an honest mistake.
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