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How to prevent him from flipping over?

Discussion in 'General Tortoise Discussion' started by scuseme, Jan 7, 2011.

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  1. scuseme

    scuseme New Member

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    My husband came home from work tonight to find our poor little guy almost all the way on his back and totally stressed out. He said it appeared he had been there for awhile as it looked like he was really struggling and in pain. My husband said he had a tiny bit of blood on on his neck where it appeared the skin had repeatedly rubbed on his shell as he fought to turn over.

    When he told me what had happened I was so upset! Poor guy! I know tortoises can suffocate if they are on their backs for too long, luckily Pickles seems ok now, but what if it happens again and we don't get home in time?

    There is nothing he could have fallen off of in his enclosure. The water dish is very shallow, and there's a rock in it so he can't tip it over. He could potentially try to climb and fall off his hide, but he was completely on the other side of the cage. It appears from the position he was in that perhaps he was trying to climb the walls. I have seen him do that before, but never to the point where he did more than kinds of scrape and push his front leg on the wall while attempting to push himself up. If he is climbing the wall and flipping over when I am not home, how can I prevent it? I have tried to make his cage the safest and best place possible for him--I even returned the glass aquarium I bought at Petco and purchased a beautiful custom tortoise enclosure from a local reptile dealer who has been breeding Redfoots for 30 years. I thought he would be totally safe and happy now! The enclosure is made of wood, with a glass front, so he was not climbing the back wall because of something he saw outside the glass.

    Any ideas? Advice? I am so stressed, I am afraid to go to work tomorrow and leave him alone! Also, any ideas on how I can lessen his stress after what was surely a traumatic incident and make him feel better?
  2. armandoarturo

    armandoarturo Member

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    hey
    Im not quite 100% sure... but as far as I know, they dont really suffocate when they lay on their back..
    The big problem of a tortoise being on its back, its that if they are under the sun, and if they stay long time in there, they can overheat and die or cause serious injuries..
    like I said... as far as I know, thats the big deal with the flipping...
    In my case, my tortoises sometimes do get stressed.... but they usually know how to turn back again in couple of minutes.
    (mines are outside in my backyard) ... And when I see they are on their back or something.. I let them work it out...
    I just help them If they are taking too too long, or if they are under the hot summer sun.

    I would definitely say that your tortoise actually tried to climb the wall...
    What kind of substrate do you have in there? ... mines are in 100% solid dirt, and its really helpful for them to flip back to normal...
    Maybe your substrate aint firm enough...

    I hope someone will answer the suffocating question... =)
  3. Terry Allan Hall

    Terry Allan Hall Active Member

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    Post a pic of Pickle's enclosure, and we can make suggestions that'll solve the problem.
  4. scuseme

    scuseme New Member

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    Ok, some pics attached!

    The corner is where we found him...

    [hr]
    Also, as an update on his condition. He was acting pretty normal today eating as usual and let me pet his head as he seems to like it. I noticed his left eye is closed though. Right eye is open an fine, but the left is closed. No blood or fluid or swelling apparent on or around the eye--he's just keeping it closed. Should I worry about that? His neck looks ok too, I didn't see a scab or any blood. I think if he doesn't open his eye by tomorrow, I will take him to the vet.

    Attached Files:

  5. moswen

    moswen New Member

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    hmmm, a lot of people post about putting a piece of wood in each corner that turns a sharp corner into 2 separate angles. the corners seem to be a hot spot for tortoise climbing. ...not trying to assume too much, but that enclosure looks rather small for him, don't you think? maybe if you give him a bit more space and stimulation he may climb less too?
  6. scuseme

    scuseme New Member

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    I think it may look smaller than it is. It's actually pretty big! Plus, we take him out every day and let him explore for at least an hour. He also gets a nice warm soak out side of his enclosure every day too. I think I am going to get a different hide though, one that is not so long and takes up less space.

    Thanks for the suggestion on the corners. I'll see if I can rig something like that.
  7. Jermosh

    Jermosh New Member

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    I find that some torts learn how to right themselves, also they need some topography to help them with the process as well. He could have tried to climb on his hide and wiggled himself to the other side. Also, some torts are rock climbers, or enjoy higher elevations.

    It looks like he needs more room though for sure.
  8. maggie3fan

    maggie3fan Well-Known Member

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    I agree with Rebekah, the enclosure looks to be too small for the size of your tort. I also was going to suggest putting a piece of wood across the corners making 2 (or 4) angles. Then they can't climb up them. Even tho you didn't ask, your tort looks like he's slightly pyramiding and your substrate doesn't look very good. If he had cypress mulch it would give him some sticks to help him turn back over. And, yes, they can suffocate from being on their backs too long as their lungs are in the top of their carapace and when on their backs they have the weight of their bodies on them, so don't ever thing they can't or won't suffocate. You need to make some changes in his living situation...
    Box turtles turn over very well but I think tortoises seem to have a hard time at it and most get stressed and don't seem to do very well...
  9. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer Staff Member

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    In my opinion, your tortoise is tipping over because he's not happy in his habitat. Its too small for him and he wants out. You need something with more floor space, not higher sides. Also, a redfoot requires a moist substrate and I don't think the substrate you're using can be moistened.
  10. scuseme

    scuseme New Member

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    We have only had him for two weeks. He was pyramided when I got him from Petco.

    I was using just Cypress mulch, but this was the substrate recommended by the tortoise breeder from whom I purchsed the custom enclosure. He has been breeding Redfoots for 30 years and swears by it. I mixed some Cypress in for added texture, but I must admit I really like it. I don't know what it is called, but it is not hard and it holds the moisture very well without getting damp at all. Plus it is very easy to clean. I think I am going to keep using it, I trust the breeder. I also trust his judgement on the size of the enclosure. He has seen my tort and the cage and this is the size he recommended. He could have tried to upsell me a bigger one if he felt it was necessary. I am going to see him tomorrow and ask about how to potentially adjust the corners to prevent flipping.
  11. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer Staff Member

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    Oh, I'm sorry...I thought you had asked for OUR help.
  12. scuseme

    scuseme New Member

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    I did, but frankly I was feeling a little attacked.

    I didn't ask about substrate, or pyramiding, or his enclosure. I thought maybe you could make me feel better--not worse.

    I am going to see the breeder tomorrow and get his help.

    Thanks anyway.
  13. Tracy Gould

    Tracy Gould New Member

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    Hi Scuseme. Please do not get offended people are not pulling u down they are trying to help u, I have had Shelby 9 mths now i got sold a Viv with her and was told it was idea for her i soon relised it was way to small and that was why she was always trying to climb the corners I have now put her in a 4 foot by 3 foot Table and she loves it she no longer tries climbing out and spend a lot of time marching around and climbing her hill hide when she is not basking on her slate bridge. these guys need a lot of room to be happy, she is only 9.5cm long but still needs a large area. The bigger the area the more u can add to help keep the Tort busy and if they do tip they have something to push against to correct them selfs
  14. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer Staff Member

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    We weren't attacking you. You wanted to know why your tortoise was tipping over and we told you it was because the habitat is too small and he's climbing the walls to escape. If you don't like that answer, I'm sorry. Four of us thought it was the correct one.
  15. John

    John New Member

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    Idon't get why you would buy a tortoise from petco and the enclousure from a breeder of redfoots is that in reverse or is it just me?
  16. Jermosh

    Jermosh New Member

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    Tortoises really need an exciting environment and enjoy exploring and learning little bits of their enclosure. Mine have a 10ksgft yard and still know each part and what each part has to offer, even the timing of my sprinklers or sunlight position.
  17. scuseme

    scuseme New Member

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    I bought him at Petco, then after I realzed they know next to nothing about proper tortoise care, I sought out advice from a local expert. I returned the aquarium enclosure I bought at Petco and bought a custom one from the breeder.
  18. John

    John New Member

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    I wouldn't take what was said here personally,the people that commented trying too help,have well over 30 years of experiece with several species of tortoise and are not trying too sell you anything.you asked a question and they answered.as far as the closed eye goes how long has that been going on? john
  19. ChiKat

    ChiKat Active Member

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    Hi scuseme! I had the same problem with my Russian tortoise when he was a hatchling. Several times I came home to find him stuck on his back or side- one time it took him a while to perk up after I flipped him back over, and I'm afraid if I hadn't found him when I did it might have been too late :( :(
    I "baby-proofed" his enclosure- put things in the corners, removed his half log and gave him a hide he couldn't climb, etc.
    I realized that the problem was that he was constantly trying to climb up the sides of his enclosure. And I would take him out to let him roam the house, which only encouraged him to try to get out even more!

    That's when I decided to upgrade him from this:
    [​IMG]

    To this 4x2 tortoise table. I built it out of wood from Home Depot- ended up around $80 but I used a nicer wood.
    [​IMG]

    He hasn't tried to climb out since!

    Obviously you should do what you can to prevent him from flipping- wood in the corners, etc. but the real issue is that his enclosure is too small and he's trying to get out! Tortoises are used to walking miles each day- imagine how they feel being trapped in a small area!

    Another option for a bigger enclosure is to use a bookcase flipped on it's back, with the shelves removed. You can usually find pretty inexpensive bookcases on Craigslist. Some people here have also purchased them from IKEA.

    I don't know a lot about Redfoots but I DO know that they require a lot of humidity to stay healthy. If his substrate is too dry he won't grow properly, he may become dehydrated, and he might develop eye problems from being kept too dry. Because of the substrate you are using you can't keep it moist and warm for him- which is what he really needs!
    I would recommend switching back to cypress mulch.

    Good luck with your tort!
  20. scuseme

    scuseme New Member

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    Thanks John. I went home to check on him and he seems fine. He was eating and active. His eye is open and there is no weeping or swelling or anything. It looks fine. I also couldn't see any area on his neck that looked injured. I gave him a nice soak and let him crawl around out of the cage for a while. Gave him a piece of mango and put him back. He seemed absolutely normal. Whew...

    Also, he has lived in this enclosure for almost two weeks (since I took the aquarium back to Petco) and he has never acted restless or tired to climb anything. He seems very content. He doesn't hang out in one spot, he moves around and I have never seen him try to climb the walls. That's part of the reason why I was so surprised about what happened. I really don't know how he got flipped. My husband came home and found him. This is the first time anything like this has happened.
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