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A sad report and request for help...

Discussion in 'Tortoise Health' started by aechols83, Jun 21, 2017.

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  1. aechols83

    aechols83 New Member

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    Hi All,

    First time tortoise owner here and this is my first real post on the forum beyond an introduction. Unfortunately, this post is a sad one. Almost exactly 2 months ago we purchased Tuga, our little Eastern Hermann’s hatchling from Tyler Stewart at Tortoise Supply. For most of the time we had him, his behavior seemed healthy and normal for a hatchling. He seemed to grow a bit and also weighed-in just the other day at 15 grams, a gram more than we he came to us. Unfortunately and despite my best efforts, Tuga passed away yesterday after about a week of not appearing well.

    Prior to receiving Tuga I had carefully read through Chris Leone’s care sheet, forum member Tom’s “Beginner Mistakes” and several other articles & Youtube videos really trying to get it right from the outset. When things started to become concerning about a week ago, I began searching for and reading through nearly every thread here on the forum and elsewhere dealing with what I was experiencing. I very much appreciated all the advice that was out there from veteran forum members as to what to try. Yesterday was my 2nd attempt at a baby food soak. If symptoms were persisting I was going to do my own posting here today and probably would have sought out a herp vet. When I took him out of his supervised soak yesterday, however, I noticed he wasn’t just not moving but had actually passed away.

    We loved having this little tortoise as part of our family and the experience has been upsetting for me and sad for all of us. I am trying not to blame myself too much but I cannot help feeling guilty about the fate of our little baby. I want to honor Tuga by giving a full account and learning as much as possible about what might have gone wrong and what, if anything, I could have done differently. We are planning to try again with another Eastern Hermann’s from Chris at Garden State. My hope is that some of you great people will be able to take the time to read through all of this and offer any thoughts so as to help our next baby thrive.



    Enclosure:
    36” x 24” concrete mixing tub shown in photos. Humid hides with moistened sphagnum moss


    Substrate:
    Organic potting soil mixed with equal parts reptibark and coconut coir (2 inches deep) + top 1 inch layer of cypress mulch, spritzed down at least twice a day when indoors, heavier misting with hose attachment when outside.


    Lighting:
    -Reptisun 10.0 flourescent tube
    -ZooMed 50 watt MVB for recent therapeutic soaks


    Heat:
    -100 watt CHE inside Flukers 8” dome with dimmer, basking area adjusted to be between 95-110 degrees


    Temps:
    INDOORS:
    Basking – 95-110
    Cool side – 73-77
    Ambient – 73-82
    Night – 68-73 degrees. Heat removed at night and top covered directly thereafter with heavy press board to trap humidity

    Tuga was taken outside for between 4-8 hours a day depending on weather/temperature (when above 65 degrees and withsunshine) Basically we were trying to help him get used to our natural climate so that he could eventually live in an outdoor enclosure a year or so down the road. Temps in Santa Cruz this past week have topped out at around 75-80F. I have been home much of the past 2 months and so closely monitored when Tuga was outside to ensure he had about half the enclosure in deep shade. Shaded areas were usually anywhere from 65-85 and areas with full sun ranged from 105 degrees up to 125 degrees surface temp.

    *All surface temps checked with IR temp gun
    *Heavy misting with hose attachment 3-4 times a day when outside and hot & with full sun hitting ½ of enclosure. This was to keep it from being too scorching and to keep the humidity high.


    Humidity:
    Ambient humidity shown on the hygrometer always hovered somewhere in the range of 45-55% and would raise anywhere from 60-80% when covered overnight. I’m sure the humidity in his hides was much higher. When outside during the day, the humidity here has ranged anywhere from the 40s to high 70s. Again, I used the hose attachment to mist during the day, especially when it got hotter this past week.


    Soaking:
    Daily soaks for 15-30 minutes. VitaSol bird vitamins (3-4 drops) added to bath water once or twice a week regardless of his behavior. Water temp for baths started at 95-100 degrees, dropping to 75-80. Water coming up to his bridge and not above the nostrils. Soaks usually done inside, sometimes with 5-10 minutes in the sun or mixed.


    Diet:
    -Mazuri LS & ZooMed Grassland (soaked/moistened) and often mixed with other diced greens listed below. Dusted/mixed with calcium + D3 & Herptavite.
    -Weeds: Dandelion, clover, thistle, English & broadleaf plantain
    -Radicchio, Arugula, curly endive, escarole, chicory
    -Grazing mix shown here: http://www.carolinapetsupply.com/catalog/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=41&products_id=179

    Basically I was trying to offer him a really varied diet and sample things to see what he liked. He always had access to a cuttle bone but never touched it. I also twice let him eat a very small amount of watermelon…once just to try and for “metabolic moisture” and then again when I had not seen him poop for a while to try to help with that. He had constant access to water in a sunken terracotta saucer but I only ever saw him drink from it once or twice.


    Symptoms:
    -Not appearing to poop (1st symptom I noticed) Usually he would do this during his soaks but it became less frequent and then stopped all together about a week ago.
    -Lethargy, little movement within his thermal gradient, staying mostly in his humid hides. In the last 2-3 days he was sleeping in more or less one spot where I put him down in the middle of his enclosure in the evening.
    -About a week ago, I noticed when picking him up that his sides felt softer and a bit squishy, same with his plastron. He was not eating anything that I had prepared with his calcium supplement but I was making sure that he was getting 15-30 minutes of direct outdoor sunlight every day (as I had done every day from day one) Usually this was done after his soaks by putting him in the deck planter where we grew his grazing mix and supervising while he nibbled.

    As for his eyes, they were never really swollen shut or closed much beyond when he was sleeping/basking, etc

    There was a very similar case just last month with another Eastern Hermann’s hatchling as discussed in this thread: http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/hatchling-hermans-stopped-eating-red-spots-on-shell.156781/


    Therapeutic:
    15-30 min soaks upped to twice a day when not appearing to poop and upped to 45 mins to 1 hour 2x/day when he started also appearing very lethargic. One of the 2 daily soaks was with 3-4 drops of VitaSol. Water temp for baths again started at approximately 95-100 degrees, placed under a MVB and dome, dropping to 84-88. Also, he appeared to bubble at the nostrils just a little bit during and right after these more recent warm soaks but otherwise not at all that I noticed. During one soak a couple days ago, I did hear a crackling noise, but again this appeared to subside completely once he was out of his longer, warm soak.

    On the 4th day of no observed eating/pooping and lethargy, I began carrot baby food soaks as outlined here on the forum. Yesterday, on the 2nd day and during the baby food soak just before he passed away I noticed his mouth opening and closing under the water. Again, I made sure the level was not too deep and not covering his nostrils. I also noticed him abruptly and very sharply draw his head in for no apparent reason. It’s upsetting for me to think now that this was him in his death throes and I do hope he didn’t suffer too much.


    I realize I have been a bit clinical and long-winded here but in memory of Tuga I really wanted to be comprehensive and give as much information as possible. Again, this has been pretty heartbreaking for my family and I so writing this all out has also been helpful. Thank you again for taking the time to read this. We greatly look forward to and appreciate any support.
    IMG_20170425_201731882.jpg IMG_20170521_195149778.jpg IMG_20170522_111421541.jpg IMG_20170621_152549186_HDR.jpg
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2017
    Karrahi likes this.
  2. aechols83

    aechols83 New Member

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    One more photo showing Tuga's indoor set-up...

    DSC01627.JPG
  3. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member Tortoise Club

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    So very sorry for your loss. The only thing I noticed that needs improving for your next guy, is the temp. For a baby the over all temp should not be below 80 with humidity. Higher humidity that they need and lower temps make babies sick. By the symptoms though, I would guess more that he wasn't healthy when you got him.
    Prepare a closed chamber for your next little one. Follow the caresheet on this forum. Be sure the breeder starts them out correctly. Not too dry and removes them from the hatching substrate when hatched and that they provide humidity from incubation to the day they are shipped out.
  4. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    All of your care, soaking routine and diet sound great to me. Your temperatures, including the night drop, sound ideal for a baby of a temperate species like hermanni. Your basking temp is a little higher than it needs to be, but it sounds like the baby could move away from it.

    There are a few things I see that I don't like:
    1. You don't have a basking light. CHEs are good for maintaining ambient, but they are not a good basking source because they give off no light. I would run the CHE over the middle of the enclosure on a thermostat and a timer for this species. It will make sure the days are warm, but allow for the ever important night temp drop that Mediterranean and North American species need. Your UV bulb is great and should be effective at that distance. I think you should also have had a basking lamp with a basking area directly under it around 95-100. I set these on a timer for about 12-13 hours a day. Outside, if a tortoise wants to warm up, they can find a bright sunny spot and go warm up in the sun. I think they should have something similar in an indoor set up. A CHE and UV tube doesn't simulate this very well in my experience. A regular old incandescent flood bulb does. These bulbs should all be hung over the enclosure so that you can get the correct temps and distances under them. To change the basking temp you can either raise or lower the bulb, change the wattage of the bulb, or run a rheostat so you can dial in the correct temp.

    2. Your substrate is way to busy for my liking. Pick one thing. No need for mixes. Also, I don't like soil because you cannot know what composted material it is made of. Could be perfectly fine, or it could be composted oleander. No way to know. Many people use soil without issue, so I will grant that this is not likely to be your issue, but it is within the realm of possibility. Your symptoms sound like kidney failure. Something toxic in the soil could certainly cause that. I prefer coco coir for baby Testudo, or orchid bark for adults.

    3. I don't like the idea of covering the enclosure at night and having it open during the day. I think conditions should be more consistent.

    4. I think low sided cement tubs and sweater boxes are the worst possible way to start a baby. There is no way to maintain adequate humidity and stable temperatures for a baby with this sort of set up unless the entire room is heated and held at the correct humidity 24/7, like in a reptile room.

    Moving on: I think babies should be soaked daily, and only kept outdoors for an hour or so a day, weather permitting. Soaking them less often and keeping them outside for hours a day frequently causes kidney failure in my experience. Especially so on a 14-15 gram baby. This is the fate of many desert tortoise hatchlings around here. I save as many as I can. Keeping them overly dry indoors can also dehydrate them, cause kidney failure and lead to the symptoms you saw. I don't know this baby's history. Do you know how it was started and how often it was soaked before you got it? What substrate was it on? Humid hide?

    In summary, the symptoms you describe sound like classic kidney failure. Some of the things I mentioned are possible contributors to kidney failure, but I can only guess here. Feel free to eliminate or confirm any of these possibilities, and we can try to narrow it down.
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  5. deadheadvet

    deadheadvet Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Sounds like you were very meticulous with everything. Chalk this up to **** happens beyond your control. Tyler is a reputable breeder. Could be their was an underlying defect that wasn't identified through no ones fault. You could ask Tyler if he would replace the tortoise. Worst thing is he says no. He is one of the good guys. Chris Leone is an excellent breeder as well. Good luck.
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  6. Bee62

    Bee62 Well-Known Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    I am sorry for your loss.

    I don`t like cement tubes for animals. Why ? Because the plastic can contain toxic elements. When the plastic get`s hot in the sun or the warmth of the basking light these toxic things could diffuse and harm the animal.
  7. Shaif

    Shaif Well-Known Member

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    I'm so sorry for your loss. This baby was lucky to have you. You obviously care so much. Again, sorry for your loss.
  8. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Let's keep things straight...

    Cement tubs are made of polypropylene. That is probably the safest plastic made today. It is rated food safe and used to store food and used for hot beverage storage and reuse among its thousands of applications. One of it's main advantages is that it is very heat resistant and does not leach any chemicals.

    There has been concern over polycarbonates and the possible release of BPA. Unfortunately the concern for that makes some people simply label all plastics the same.

    Cement tubs - Rubbermaid tubs - "plastic" stock tanks - sweater boxes - plastic shoe boxes for our incubators - etc, etc. are all safe to use.

    But, not to get off track - for this post, a closed chamber is what would be best in my opinion. Cement tubs do not make good tortoise enclosures for the reasons @Tom outlined above.
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2017
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  9. TammyJ

    TammyJ Well-Known Member

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    Well, you certainly tried your best and obviously care very much. I am sorry that he could not make it, and wish you best of luck with another one that is healthy to begin with.
  10. Bee62

    Bee62 Well-Known Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    If cement tubs are made of polypropylene they are safe, but if they are made of recycling granulate the granulate and the black colour of the tub can contain impurities and toxid things. Tubs made in Asia or in East Europe are not safe. I would never use a cement tub for food and nor for an animal.
  11. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Since others read these posts for advice and to avoid possible confusion, let me offer this...

    The confusion may come from you saying "if they are made of recycling granulate..." That is actually like saying "if it is made out of something recycled..." Recycling granulate can be anything. It is the result of the recycling process that produces a basic form of a compound as a raw material to be easily shipped and then reused for something else. There is recycling granulate plastics of all kinds, plus recycling granulate rubber, glucose, glass, polyester, nylon, etc, etc.
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  12. Bee62

    Bee62 Well-Known Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    Thank you Mark.
    I`ve tried to explain it with my words, but sometimes it is difficult when you are no native english speaker like me.
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  13. aechols83

    aechols83 New Member

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    Hello everyone,


    I want to thank you all very much for the kind support and advice. It seems that kidney failure, likely starting from the very beginning, is what happened with Tuga. It’s been sad, but we had a nice little burial ceremony for him in the yard and I am learning from the experience. I have been speaking with Chris Leone as I will be getting one of his hatchlings due in September and he is going to walk me through everything so that our next baby may thrive. I very much appreciate all of your opinions and the points that were raised. I am going to be discussing them with Chris and then taking his trusted direction going forward.

    I am grateful that this forum exists and am hopeful my experience may help others here. You all will see more of me in the future and I'm sure my next post will be a much happier one.


    Thanks again and best wishes!

    -Adam Echols
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  14. Bee62

    Bee62 Well-Known Member Platinum Tortoise Club Tortoise Club

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    Thank you for your "Thank you".

    I wish the very best for your next baby tort. You haven`t done anything wrong with the one that passed away. Some babies are not born to survive. That`s sad but true. That`s why tortoises lay a lot of eggs.

    I hope to read soon a happier thread of your next baby tort.
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