Unexpected storm in SoCal flooded my tortoise’s small hole

SpaceMonkey22

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So I’m a first time owner. Adopted from a friend moving out of state to Oregon. I’m in Southern California. 6 days ago, we had an unexpected downpour. I was at a Scout meeting with my son when it happened and we raced home. I found my Desert Tortoise head first in his small little hole he dug inside his hut and I thought for sure he was dead. Pulled him out and he just looked at me like, “took you long enough”. From what I’ve read, it seems like he’s okay. I’m reading he can hold his breath for a bit if needed. I’d say he was under water for 15 to 20 mins. We dried him off, took him inside, let him sleep in a makeshift den and the next morning let him roam the yard. He’s still very active, seems okay. But I just worry a little. Usually when he eats, a snot bubble come from his nose but I did just find a bubble when he hasn’t eaten. Breathing seems fine in general but when he was resting, around 5pm today, I could tell he was breathing because his skin around his legs was moving in and out like he was breathing but I’ve never seen that before. Again, only 4 months into ownership and maybe that’s just normal and something I’ve never noticed before. Just concerned maybe he inhaled some water and it’s in his lungs and he is having trouble breathing? Maybe, as a first time owner, I’m over thinking it since he seems very active even 6 days later. Curious to get everyone’s opinion.
 

Tom

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You've got a big problem there and he will not survive the winter if you don't do things the right way from this point forward.

Here is the current and correct care info for this species:


If you just leave him out in the yard to fend for himself, he will continue to get sicker, and likely not survive. Given the situation, you will need to keep him up and warm this winter. He may not want to cooperate with that idea, but you must persist. When the time come, maybe next year, scroll down to post #19 for the correct hibernation info:
 

SpaceMonkey22

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You've got a big problem there and he will not survive the winter if you don't do things the right way from this point forward.

Here is the current and correct care info for this species:


If you just leave him out in the yard to fend for himself, he will continue to get sicker, and likely not survive. Given the situation, you will need to keep him up and warm this winter. He may not want to cooperate with that idea, but you must persist. When the time come, maybe next year, scroll down to post #19 for the correct hibernation info:
I had planned to hibernate him in a box. I wasn’t going to leave him out all winter. I was told by others around me, who all have tortoises for 5 plus years, it’s end of October when they box them and put them in the garage. Can I not do this now? He seems okay, and I had planned one vet visit before we let him go into hibernation. The storm was a freak one and when we had a second round of rain the following day, I pulled him inside with us.
 

Tom

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I had planned to hibernate him in a box. I wasn’t going to leave him out all winter. I was told by others around me, who all have tortoises for 5 plus years, it’s end of October when they box them and put them in the garage. Can I not do this now? He seems okay, and I had planned one vet visit before we let him go into hibernation. The storm was a freak one and when we had a second round of rain the following day, I pulled him inside with us.
Hibernating in a box doesn't work. The temps are too warm and too unstable here in our region of the world. I realize that many people do it this way, but you should realize that many of them die that way, and then those people go on to say how risky and dangerous it is to allow them to hibernate/brumate. They need to go a month with warm temps and no food BEFORE the cooling process begins. If they are just living loose in the back yard and getting cold at night and rained on, this can't happen.

Where they live in the desert they are protected from the extremes of hot and cold by their deep burrows. Having them above ground exposes to temperatures that are not so good for them, even though they can survive them in some cases.

I would not hibernate him this year based on the nose bubbles and how long you've had him in this new environment. A temperature controlled shelter with a basking bulb like what is shown and described in the tread is your best bet at keeping him healthy.

Understand that most of what you are told and read about care for this species is wrong. Its been wrong for decades and people just keep repeating it. So many people do it the old wrong way and leave things to chance and then tell other to do out that way since their tortoise somehow survived it. I don't want them to just survive. I want them to thrive and be healthy.
 

RosemaryDW

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Welcome from another Southern Californian!

A snot bubble does not sound right. Do you have a reptile vet? If not you might have him checked out by Dr. Greek in Yorba Linda. He grew up with tortoises in Anaheim and has them now in Corona and can give you advice specific to your area. There are other reptile vets at his practice but it might be worth asking for him; I don’t know if the others have grown up here.

Burrows get flooded pretty easily so you’ll need to work out a safer model for him one way or the other. For now I would focus on his nose.

I think in one of your posts you describe his legs moving when he breathes? That’s normal. Tortoises little rib cages are all squoozed in under that shell and pumping the legs helps move air in and out of the lungs. Weird but normal.
 

mark1

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A snot bubble does not sound right.
often i get the impression folks think it's normal ..... i personally have never seen it in a well turtle or tortoise .......
 

Yvonne G

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How big/old is this tortoise? A very young tortoise should still be living indoors. A full grown tortoise can live outside all the time. I have a different opinion about brumation than has been posted above. If you have an area where the temperature is steady below 50F and above 40F I think boxing him (a full grown tortoise) up in a cardboard box full of shredded paper is ok. My weather isn't like yours, as I live in the San Joaquin Valley, and our winters are down into the 30s most nights, but I've used the cardboard box/shredded newspaper method for most of my over 50 years of keeping desert tortoises. You just have to be sure they're cool enough for their metabolism to be slow.

Also, the bubble you saw coming out his nose may not have been snot. The other end of the nostrils/nares doesn't go down into the lungs, it ends up in the roof of his mouth. So occasionally you may see fluid from the mouth come out the nose. Doesn't necessarily mean respiratory infection, but does bear watching.

Incidentally, seeing your tortoise head first in a puddle of water may not mean he was stuck and drowning. He may have been drinking. They submerge their faces, mouth and nostrils, in the water and drink through their nose. It's normal for desert tortoises to drink out of puddles when it rains.
 
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