6 Month old Sulcata, Sick

Zehla

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Just to preface:

Yes, she's been to a vet!

The background:

I'll try to make this story short, but there is a lot of background to how I got this cute little thing:

I'm an exotic pet hobbyist with two Leos and a Giant African Bullfrog. Never had a tort before, but I've always liked them. My neighbors just so happened to have a baby Sulcata that they bought for their daughter "So she can ride it around when its older". If that alone isn't enough to make you cringe, I apologize, for it gets worse. After a series of unfortunate events (they are, in honesty, good people) they had to move out of the complex and for reasons they didn't really explain, they couldn't take the Sulcata with them.

I knew the tort was in bad shape, so I volunteered to take her so I could nurse her back to health.

This is the setup they had for her:
Glass 20 gallon aquarium
Aspen shavings
Nocturnal red bulb (no UV, no Heat)

Diet:
Spinach with blueberries and grapes, Alfalfa hay and iceberg lettuce

In anticipation of getting her I went and got some wood boards and built her a proper tortoise box. She now has UV, Heat, ample sources of water, and high quality food as advised by the vet and the dude I go to at the exotic pet shop.

The vet trip was today and the news wasn't stellar.

The good:
At 54 grams, she's the right weight.
She is very well hydrated!
She is very active, not lethargic, and is likely to pull through.

The bad:
Since she's had no UV light for her entire life until now, she is literally squishy all over. I have her on baby food (organic of course) as per recommended by the vet - pureed sweet potatoes. I also have a whole mess of collard greens I plan to blend up myself because her beak is so weak I don't think she can chew solids at the moment.

She has MBD and an Upper Respiratory Infection. On an injection regimen and high calcium diet + lots of outside time for real sunlight to help her.

My Question:

My concern is (and I will bring this up to the vet when they do the follow up call, but I'd like peace of mind!):

She's not really eating. I assume it's the sudden scenery change (I have had her for about 4 days) and the fact that she's sick - but I am very concerned with making sure she gets enough calcium to reverse the damage her neglectful owners did. I have put liquid calcium into her water supplies and I have seen her drink, but I don't know...I'm just a worry-wart and I am not sure if that's enough.

I am hoping that once her antibiotics start kicking her infection, her appetite will start up again. I have yet to see her eat outside of the one time today I kind of smeared the potatoes on her face and she scraped it off and ate it...but I'd rather not make that a habit, I'm sure she doesn't appreciate it. As you can see her eyelids have swollen and she just plain doesn't look like she feels all that great. When I brought her home she just kept on patrolling in her box, though, so I have hope! I just wish she would eat :(
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Zehla

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This is her new setup. I plan to have it on a coffee table once I can find a reasonably priced one. For my first carpentry project, I think it looks pretty good!

PS: I have not set up her thermometer yet because it won't stick to the wood. For some reason up until now I've never needed tape, so now that I have some I will set it up now, but I won't know her basking temp until tomorrow as I've already shut off her lights for the day. She loves sitting under it, so it must be nice and toasty, but knowing that it is the right amount of toasty is a good thing. I'll post more info on that when I get it!
 

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ascott

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This is her new setup. I plan to have it on a coffee table once I can find a reasonably priced one. For my first carpentry project, I think it looks pretty good!

PS: I have not set up her thermometer yet because it won't stick to the wood. For some reason up until now I've never needed tape, so now that I have some I will set it up now, but I won't know her basking temp until tomorrow as I've already shut off her lights for the day. She loves sitting under it, so it must be nice and toasty, but knowing that it is the right amount of toasty is a good thing. I'll post more info on that when I get it!

Awesome your neighbor had to run off or the tort would have been done in for sure..great handy work for sure..in a pinch you can use a a couple decks of cards on the substrate and set the thermometer directly on the deck of cards and see what your basking spot is in general..the decks of card simulates a bit higher spot for the height of the tort..now you will not get an exact reading but an idea...if the tort has RI I would set up night warmth source as well..black heat lamp, red heat lamb, ceramic heat emitter...I also would gently moisten the substrate under the day/night source and I would hand pack all of the substrate down firmly so the tort has a firming footing and not so much fluffy...if you are using antibiotics, please be certain to offer warm water soaks as antibiotics are very hard on the torts kidneys..may also have affect on appetite...I would also cover part of the top to help keep some warmth and a bit of humidity in as well..if the tort is dealing with a RI I would not have super high humidity...while the tort is dealing with RI especially...what type of uvb source are you using?
 

Big Charlie

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this makes me so sad. She is very lucky to have you in her life. I agree the antibiotics could be messing with her appetite, plus the change in environment will take her some time to get used to.
 

Alaskamike

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As long as they are alive there is some hope.
I'm a sucker for rescues myself - though my GF says I have to stop. Lol.

Picked up a little red foot with MBD , can't walk on back legs , had an RI , pine one shell. Underbite. Even paid the gal $20 for her.

I elected to not use a vet , as she was so small ( supposed to be 3 yo and a little over 200 grams ). And truthfully , didn't think she would last a week.

The only thing she had going for her was she likes to eat.

2 months later she's still kickin '

Some improve - some do not no matter how you try. Just give it your best shot and know it's not all in your hands. I've lost a few. Just had to let it go.

Bubbles shell hardened with sunlight and calcium supplement - good varied food. Still scoots and not walking. She may never regain full use of back legs. I held her vertical several times a day and let her lungs & throat drain fluid. The RI eventually cleared up. ! I was shocked.

She still gets to swim - hydrotherapy - daily. Strengthens her legs.

1,000'ds of baby tortoises are sold and then treated poorly. It is a shame.

We do what we can. The tortoises' body must do the rest.
Good fortune with the baby.
 

Careym13

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Zehla

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Awesome your neighbor had to run off or the tort would have been done in for sure..great handy work for sure..in a pinch you can use a a couple decks of cards on the substrate and set the thermometer directly on the deck of cards and see what your basking spot is in general..the decks of card simulates a bit higher spot for the height of the tort..now you will not get an exact reading but an idea...if the tort has RI I would set up night warmth source as well..black heat lamp, red heat lamb, ceramic heat emitter...I also would gently moisten the substrate under the day/night source and I would hand pack all of the substrate down firmly so the tort has a firming footing and not so much fluffy...if you are using antibiotics, please be certain to offer warm water soaks as antibiotics are very hard on the torts kidneys..may also have affect on appetite...I would also cover part of the top to help keep some warmth and a bit of humidity in as well..if the tort is dealing with a RI I would not have super high humidity...while the tort is dealing with RI especially...what type of uvb source are you using?

Sorry, work made me lose track of time!

That card idea sounds great. As of now, I have a desert dome kit (the double dome one) with duo UV light and the basking light. I also have my ceramic heat emitter bulb sitting on an old 20 gallon top I have set across her box because I don't have anything to hang it with and I didn't like how my lamp clamp was working. I keep getting weirdly varying readings - her warm spot was at 101 at one point which is great, but tonight I read the thermometer at 83. I'm not sure what else I can do to keep the heat at Sulcata levels; the issue with the wooden box is that I can't use an under tank heater. I will try out covering more of her wood box though, or adding more covered shelters so heat can get trapped in them maybe?

Alaskamike:

Yeah, she drags her back legs just like yours does. I am not sure if she'll ever be able to walk normally again, but my boyfriend thinks her legs are getting stronger.

Careym13:

Thanks for the link! That will help a ton. She ate on her own finally too! I made some collard green mush food with my blender and topped it with the sweet potato baby food and she LOVED it. I was so happy to see her eat without my help! Then she walked through it and I had to clean her up, haha.
 

SunnySideUp

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Sorry, work made me lose track of time!

That card idea sounds great. As of now, I have a desert dome kit (the double dome one) with duo UV light and the basking light. I also have my ceramic heat emitter bulb sitting on an old 20 gallon top I have set across her box because I don't have anything to hang it with and I didn't like how my lamp clamp was working. I keep getting weirdly varying readings - her warm spot was at 101 at one point which is great, but tonight I read the thermometer at 83. I'm not sure what else I can do to keep the heat at Sulcata levels; the issue with the wooden box is that I can't use an under tank heater. I will try out covering more of her wood box though, or adding more covered shelters so heat can get trapped in them maybe?

Alaskamike:

Yeah, she drags her back legs just like yours does. I am not sure if she'll ever be able to walk normally again, but my boyfriend thinks her legs are getting stronger.

Careym13:

Thanks for the link! That will help a ton. She ate on her own finally too! I made some collard green mush food with my blender and topped it with the sweet potato baby food and she LOVED it. I was so happy to see her eat without my help! Then she walked through it and I had to clean her up, haha.

One thing you might want to try is covering the enclosure with an acrylic or plexiglass sheet. Those are pretty inexpensive but hold heat and humidity in well. If your enclosure walls are tall enough you can either mount your lights inside, beneath the acrylic sheet, or cut out holes in the plastic so it can be seated on top. I would cover the edges of the hole with tin foil in that case, though, to prevent any overheating.

Might I ask what type of thermometer you're using? The ones that seem to get the best basking spot temperatures are laser thermometers, also called non-contact infrared thermometers. You can get a cheap one from your local hardware store for around 15 bucks, or at least I was able to in my case. Place a tortoise-sized stone or any other object beneath the light, let it heat up for an hour or two, and then take a reading from that point.

You also mentioned you have a UV bulb in your dual light fixture? Would this be a mercury vapor bulb or a coil type UVB bulb (where they bulb itself actually looks coiled)?

Like this:

upload_2015-9-26_22-6-37.jpeg

These types of bulbs have been found to cause eye problems in reptiles. If this is the type you are using, I'd return it in exchange for a UVB strip light or a mercury vapor bulb (though those are a bit more pricey, so the choice is up to you). Otherwise your set-up looks very tortoise friendly. I'm so glad this little one has found you, and that you're the type of person to be willing to do all of this great research. Sulcata hatchlings are unfortunately very prevalent in the exotic pet trade, and their cuteness makes them irresistible to people who have no real understanding of the expert care they require. Thank you so much for giving this hatchling the proper love, and I sincerely hope that everything works out well for the both of you!
 

Zehla

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I don't have a coil bulb, it's a weird looking one though that has two U shaped prongs. I will pick up an acrylic sheet!

I'm actually thinking of clearing out her entire enclosure and water sealing it REALLY well by just coating it with rubber and then getting her some kind of top-soil type dirt. The coco fiber is only packable if it's really wet, and I've found that there seems to be a leak...haha. This way she'll have nice rich soil that she can actually dig in and hopefully it will hold humidity better. Thanks so much for the help guys!
 

Alaskamike

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There is a product called Dryloc. I bought it at Home Depot. Goes on like a thick paint , but seals well and is water proof. If you have a wood box you can seal the edges with silicone first and paint right over it

If you use it , I would allow a day to let it completely cure before adding dirt and moisture back.

Good fortune
:)
 
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