Very sick Indian star tortoise

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Jul 16, 2020
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Texas
My one year old Indian star tortoise is very sick. She’s had swelling for about a month and been to multiple vets during that time - one ER vet, one that I had to leave because she seemed to be very misinformed about tortoises, and then the last one said he thought she was just overweight. But then last night she suddenly got much worse - the swelling practically doubled, her eyelids got very swollen, her bottom shell was protruding because of the swelling, and worst of all her back leg was red and raw and the scales look like they’re sloughing off. I rushed her back to the ER vet and they said they thought she wouldn’t make it but didn’t tell me what was wrong. They did give her an antibiotic shot and she’s doing a little better today. I’m wondering if it might be a vitamin a issue from looking at her? The last vet gave her a small injection so maybe an overdose? The kicker is that her sister has received the same care but is doing well. Can anyone think of anything I can do to increase her odds or even just what might be wrong with her? I’ll do anything. I’ll include pictures of her enclosure and her condition last night

edit - her temps are about 95 in the hottest spot and mid 80s in the cool, humidity 60 in the hot and 80 in the cool. Her UVB was changed this month and she just has one ceramic heat emitter in the light fixture. Her sister uses everything the same in her cage. Her cloaca also seems to have gotten raw and scabbed over today which is concerning.
 

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TeamZissou

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It does look like a Vitamin A overdose based on the skin. The Reptivite has a LOT of extra vitamin A in it. Tortoises do not need extra vitamin A because they get tons of it from the greens that they eat. There was another tort with a similar issue that had been fed Reptivite a while back. It may be formulated for other reptiles that need extra vitamin A. I would avoid it and use Rep Cal Herptivite, which has no added vitamin A.

It sounds like in addition to using the supplement high in Vitamin A, you are probably over supplementing in general. I believe the recommendations are calcium twice a week and vitamins once a week. The shot the vet gave probably didn't help things. We usually recommend people don't get the shot as it's usually a waste of money and almost never helpful. It's important to find a vet with tortoise specific experience. Otherwise, it's vitamin shots and out the door.

I would discontinue all supplements for several weeks at least and see if things improve. It looks like you have the correct humidity and other care info, so stick with that. The scales should grow back over time.

I don't know why one tort has the problem while the other does not. Perhaps the other one didn't eat as much of the supplement, or maybe this one absorbs nutrients differently. Either way, don't use Reptivite.
 
Joined
Jul 16, 2020
Messages
35
Location (City and/or State)
Texas
It does look like a Vitamin A overdose based on the skin. The Reptivite has a LOT of extra vitamin A in it. Tortoises do not need extra vitamin A because they get tons of it from the greens that they eat. There was another tort with a similar issue that had been fed Reptivite a while back. It may be formulated for other reptiles that need extra vitamin A. I would avoid it and use Rep Cal Herptivite, which has no added vitamin A.

It sounds like in addition to using the supplement high in Vitamin A, you are probably over supplementing in general. I believe the recommendations are calcium twice a week and vitamins once a week. The shot the vet gave probably didn't help things. We usually recommend people don't get the shot as it's usually a waste of money and almost never helpful. It's important to find a vet with tortoise specific experience. Otherwise, it's vitamin shots and out the door.

I would discontinue all supplements for several weeks at least and see if things improve. It looks like you have the correct humidity and other care info, so stick with that. The scales should grow back over time.

I don't know why one tort has the problem while the other does not. Perhaps the other one didn't eat as much of the supplement, or maybe this one absorbs nutrients differently. Either way, don't use Reptivite.
Ok, thank you very much for all of the input. I had previously to last month been giving her the calcium only about 3 times a week and no vitamin supplements, but the vets I went to were very adamant that her vitamin A and calcium must be too low to be causing her issues and recommended that I up both. I’m horrified at the thought that this could’ve caused this. I thought I could trust the vet since my breeder had recommended them, but I’ll definitely be looking for a new more qualified one as soon as they’re open on Monday and following this in the meantime. Thank you so much for the help. If I can ask one quick question - I’ve been giving her lots of extra soaks today kind of as my go to for when she’s not feeling well and was planning on getting a pipette to try to feed her water directly after some reading, is this safe to try or should I stick to the one or two normal daily soaks? Thank you so much again.
 
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Yossarian

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Extra soaks wont hurt, but balance that with giving her time to hideout in a nice warm hide, unmolested, if it is going to recover it will take time. Handling can be stressfull too. Best of luck, and be wary of Vets that want to give your tort vitamin injections. Torts have a simple diet, and it is high in vitamin A. Unless you just flat out dont feed the animal enough, it is very unlikely that they would be deficient.

I dont know whats causing this, TZ's comment sounds plausible to me, I have read about vit A toxicity, and it does cause skin lesions where the skin sloughs off and leaves the new skin looking red and raw and scabbed in some cases.
 

TeamZissou

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I agree, extra soaks can't hurt but it would probably be better to leave it alone. Is she continuing to eat? If so, there's probably not much need to force feed. I'm not sure if forcing water would help or hurt.

Low Vitamin A is more of a problem in aquatic turtles. Vets who think torts have low Vitamin A might not know much tort specific stuff.
 
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Texas
I agree, extra soaks can't hurt but it would probably be better to leave it alone. Is she continuing to eat? If so, there's probably not much need to force feed. I'm not sure if forcing water would help or hurt.

Low Vitamin A is more of a problem in aquatic turtles. Vets who think torts have low Vitamin A might not know much tort specific stuff.
She is still eating, a bit less than usual last night but not enough to be worrying. It was probably just the commotion of the vet visit and such. I’ll definitely keep that in mind for the next vet and refuse any vitamin shots. I’ll keep extra soaks to a minimum and just watch her carefully for the mean time then. Thanks so much for all of the advice, it’s helped me feel much better about this situation
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jul 16, 2020
Messages
35
Location (City and/or State)
Texas
Extra soaks wont hurt, but balance that with giving her time to hideout in a nice warm hide, unmolested, if it is going to recover it will take time. Handling can be stressfull too. Best of luck, and be wary of Vets that want to give your tort vitamin injections. Torts have a simple diet, and it is high in vitamin A. Unless you just flat out dont feed the animal enough, it is very unlikely that they would be deficient.

I dont know whats causing this, TZ's comment sounds plausible to me, I have read about vit A toxicity, and it does cause skin lesions where the skin sloughs off and leaves the new skin looking red and raw and scabbed in some cases.
The vitamin A definitely seems like the most plausible cause to me, so I’ll follow all of this advice until I get to the vet. I’ll definitely refuse any other vitamin shots and am going to try to find a good reputable vet to get her to. Thank you so much for your help, I’m feeling much better about all of this now
 
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