Baby Tort Passed Away

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caymaria

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Hello, I am hoping someone can help me. I purchased a baby tortoise approx. a month and a half ago. I owned a happy sulcata with no problem for years (who remains in Texas healthy), but this time purchased a Hermanns baby when I moved to NJ.

A few days ago, upon taking her to the vet, they called me and told me she was dead. It has made me question whether I should even bother obtaining a new tort, and after the death of this one, my boyfriend and I are both leery and devastated. We question what exactly we did wrong. I don't want this to happen again and need some more advice on what could have caused this so we do not make the same mistake in the future. I suspect she died of a respiratory infection or pneumonia. Here is the history and housing....

24" x 22" x 14" Vision Cage
Red Mercury Heat Bulb 75 watt
PowerSun Zoo Med 100 Watt Bulb
Zoo Med Reptile Bark Substrate
Hideaway Box & some fake plants in enclosure.
Diet: once a day sprinkled with fluker's calcium and vit. D. mostly romaine, spinach, kale (once in awhile), fruit once in awhile as a treat, parsley. When it was warm (few days) took her outside to graze on grass (cold here still in NJ outside)

Air temp. was approx 80-85 during the day with the powersun left on 13 hours. Temp. read 90-95 directly below the powersun but she seemed to avoid being directly under it. At night, the temp. dropped to about 70-75 in enclosure.

Soaked her 2-3x week in warm bath. We also left access to a shallow bowl of fresh water.

Sprayed enclosure with water bottle for humidity within cage 1x per day.

3-4 days ago she was lethargic and her eyes seemed slightly puffy. She also did not open them much. No mucus or bubbles from her nostrils. Her appetite was still great, but we were concerned and planned on taking her to the vet the next morning immediately when they opened.

The next morning I was shocked as she was back to her normal self, great appetite, active and her eyes were swelling down. You would never suspect anything was wrong with her. One day after that (day she died), she became severely lethargic, stopped eating and at times was moving around erratically in her enclosure. I don't know how to explain it, but it was not normal movement for a tortoise. She was running around bumping into things and constantly flipping over on her back. Her mouth would open and close constantly. We immediately took her to the vet where they said they could monitor her until the reptile vet was available on Mon.

Before they could examine her, she died (almost immediately after we dropped her off to the vet).

I would appreciate any advice on what could be done next time to prevent this. (if we even decide to ever get another tort). Also, would it be a wiser decision to consider adopting an older tortoise? Is the death rate in babies higher? Could the water we sprayed in enclosure for humidity have killed her or the soaks?

Also, I know this may seem silly, but my boyfriend and I have been sick with a cough and cold for over a week. Is it possible that we could have transferred our sickness to her? I didn't think this was possible, but thought I would ask.

Sorry for so many questions. I just keep going over this in my mind.

Thanks so much for your input.
 

Angi

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I am very sorry for your loss. I don't have any advice for you, but I have heard babies are delicate.
 

yagyujubei

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That's a tough one. Seems like you did everything right. There's a lot of conjecture on this, but babies die, and no one really knows why. Don't let this dissuade you from getting another. If you buy a yearling, I think chances are much better for survival. Good Luck.
 

dmarcus

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I am sorry about the loss of your tort. I had a young Sulcata hatchling die on me and found out later that he was sick when I purchased him from the pet store. If you do decided to get another one, I would suggest getting it from a reputable breeder and avoid the pet store if possible. the babies need a lot of care and if they are sick or have problems when you get it, sometimes there is nothing you can do. Good luck if you decide to get another one.
 

Jacqui

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First off, very sorry you lost this little one. *hugs*

Yes, certainly babies have a much higher rate of death, simply because if anything goes wrong they have such a tiny amount of body mass to use to try to overcome or wait out the issue be it wrong temps, too much or too little moisture, wrong diets, ect..,

The thing that sorta jumped out the most at me from what your saying is the diet. Romaine doesn't have a great food value and then spinach and kale are both greens that should be in my opinion a limited food item as they can cause issues, but from what I am reading spinach was a high percentage of the diet.

I tend to not go along with it being an URI (upper respiratory infection) because her symptoms don't fit that as the cause in my mind.

You mentioned questioning the water, is there some kind of problems with the quality of your water supply?

You didn't mention it, but was the shell firm?
 

Becki

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I'm sorry to hear about your baby. At any time was she under a coil-type bulb?
 

Floof

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The only thing that occurs to me is maybe it was too hot in the enclosure. What kind of thermometers were you using? The dial and stick-on thermometers tend to be fairly inaccurate. The thermometer could also have been in the wrong place. Either way, it could simply have been much hotter than you thought, and in such a small cage, the tort wouldn't have had a great deal of room to escape that heat no matter how small she was... Really, unless the room she was in was extremely cold, it seems to me that 175 watts of heat should have been way too much for such a small, enclosed space... The symptoms seem to fit, too. Lethargy and refusal to bask can both be a symptom of things being too hot. Neurological symptoms, too--and the erratic movement and frantic behavior both sound like they could have been neurological. Even the one occasion of her seeming to "get better" overnight makes sense, since she would've had the overnight cool down to recover a little from overheating.

The other possibility would be that she was ill when you got her. Baby tortoises can be incredibly delicate animals, and very good at hiding illness until it's too late. It's all too common for hatchling torts to die in the new owner's care because of something the breeder did.

Anyway, that's all I can think of... I'm so sorry for your loss! It's never easy to lose a beloved pet... :(
 

Yvonne G

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Besides what Jacqui said about the diet, I'm going to go with a respiratory infection. You may not know it, but tortoises don't understand that they can open their mouth to breathe. They HAVE to breathe through their nose. The way your tortoise was running around frantically made me think it couldn't get air and was frantic to breathe. Most tortoises will eventually gasp and take a breath.

The fact that you are sick has nothing to do with your baby getting sick. And unless the baby was cold when you sprayed the habitat, I don't think that had anything to do with it either.

I'm so sorry that you lost your little Hermanns tortoise. That's never an easy thing to have to go through.

We usually send welcoming wishes to our new members, and I'm certainly sending you a welcome...I'm just sad that its under these circumstances.

May we know your name?
 

Jacqui

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Floof said:
The only thing that occurs to me is maybe it was too hot in the enclosure. What kind of thermometers were you using? The dial and stick-on thermometers tend to be fairly inaccurate. The thermometer could also have been in the wrong place. Either way, it could simply have been much hotter than you thought, and in such a small cage, the tort wouldn't have had a great deal of room to escape that heat no matter how small she was... Really, unless the room she was in was extremely cold, it seems to me that 175 watts of heat should have been way too much for such a small, enclosed space... The symptoms seem to fit, too. Lethargy and refusal to bask can both be a symptom of things being too hot. Neurological symptoms, too--and the erratic movement and frantic behavior both sound like they could have been neurological. Even the one occasion of her seeming to "get better" overnight makes sense, since she would've had the overnight cool down to recover a little from overheating.

Good points. I was thinking the red light was only on at night, but it was never stated as such.
 

GBtortoises

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First, I completely disagree with the notion that baby tortoises are harder to care for and more delicate. That is simply not true. Baby tortoises are not like baby mammals that are helpless without a mothers care. They are evolved to survive from day one completely on their own and they do so very well. The only distinctive difference between a very young tortoise and an adult is body mass. Because of this, it is imperative that very young tortoises be kept that much more well hydrated and have a more moist substrate indoors. Outdoors and in the wild, they simply spend more time resting in cooler, more moist places when it is too hot and dry. The reason that they do this is because of their lower body mass which makes for quicker dehydration under dryer, hotter conditions. Other than more constant hydration and environmental moisture, hatchling, yearling, young and adult tortoises can be kept the same way in relation to diet, habitat and other requirements. Care requirements only vary from species to species based on the environmental conditions that a species has evolved to survive in. Even that can be altered slightly for some species.

It doesn't sound like there was much variety in your tortoise's diet. A larger variety of foods ensures that your tortoise is exposed to several different vitamins and minerals found naturally in foods. Additional vitamins are just that, additional vitamins, they shouldn't be "in place of" quality, varied foods.

Puffy eyes can be a sign of vitamin A deficiency, bacterial infection or upper respiratory problems (even without wheezing or mucus). At this point there is no way of telling what your tortoise had for sure. Normally a vitamin A deficiency takes place much more slowly over a longer period of time and can actually go undetected until it's too late. Vitamin A deficiency has many "side effects" in tortoises including poor bone development, poor internal organ function and a weakened immune system. So it's not always obvious until it's too late.

Based on the information that you listed, I think your tortoise was overexposed to excessive constant heat and light intensity in relation to the size of enclosure. I think that a constant 80-85 during the daytime is too hot also. Especially given the small size of the enclosure and the amount of light/heat that the tortoise was being exposed to daily. Your tortoise could have been avoiding basking directly under the light because in that small of an area the surrounding temperatures could have already been too hot or more likely, the light could have simply been too intense if the temperatures were as you listed. That's a lot of light for a small area. Around 80 degrees or slightly above is fine for an ambient temperature at the warmer end of the enclosure near the basking lamp. But the opposite end should be a good 10 cooler at least during the daytime. The temperature directly under the center of the basking lamp should be around 90-100 degrees for a small tortoise, even a little bit warmer is fine. At night for a Northern Mediterranean species (Hermann's and others) the temperature should be around 15-20 degrees cooler than during the daytime, in the low 60's, even high 50's as long as the daytime temperatures will be up to normal activity temperatures.
I wouldn't be taking tortoises that are accustomed to constant, stable conditions indoors out on a sunny day, not yet anyway, not even in New Jersey which is warmer than where I live. While it feels warm to us, our bodies are not in constant contact with the ground (unless you're barefoot). It may feel good in the sun, but this time of year the ground can still be cold (and damp). That cold ground is felt much more by a tortoise whose entire body is in contact with it and is having it's body heat drawn out by the colder ground. Keep in mind that they're body temperatures are regulated by their surroundings, whatever they may be. Different than our bodies that produce their own heat.
I doubt the water that you were using had anything to do with the tortoise's death, unless you got a higher than normal concentration of chlorine or something, which isn't likely or you'd know it.
 

Tim/Robin

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GBtortoises said:
First, I completely disagree with the notion that baby tortoises are harder to care for and more delicate. That is simply not true. Baby tortoises are not like baby mammals that are helpless without a mothers care.

I agree with Gary 100% here. I think he offers many other very valid points as well. He certainly knows how to raise hatchlings. I would suspect that your little one died of kidney failure induced by dehydration. Now this is purely speculative, but failing kidneys will produce "puffiness" often first noticed in the eyes.

I soak my hatchling Hermanns and Greeks every day. I see them all drink daily during those soaks. They require way more water than you would ever think. I have kept many hatchlings in the size set up you explain with no issues. But they need water daily. I have not seen many hatchlings, other than the Pyxis arachnoides that will readily go to water left in the habitat.

A loss is never easy. Learn from the event and try again. Raising a healthy happy tortoise is very rewarding. It can be done! Raising them in captivity in an artificial enviroment does require a great deal of effort.
 

Mean Guy

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So sorry for your loss, I know it is hard losing a pet, tort or otherwise. If you stick with the forum in the interim, you can learn as much as possible about care then decide if you want to try with another tort. My best wishes go with you.
 

jrholls

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My wife and I lost Silly Lily, our first russian tort, after only having her two months. We still miss her, but having another tort to dote on has helped. Shoot, when we go to the store we still refer to all greens and lettuces as "Lily Food." Feel better, we all know you did everything you could, and you know you gave her a much better life than many others would have.
 

caymaria

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Thanks so much everyone. This insight definitely offers some perspective and I feel much better. I was so concerned with keeping her warm that maybe I overdid it...I have a few specific questions regarding mostly the lighting to reiterate. I also attached some photos of the enclosure and lighting.

1. Should I stick with the 100 watt zoo med uvb/heat bulb during the day or go with a lower wattage or different version. Again, it is still in nineties and above directly below it. Around 70s-80s in other parts of the enclosure. The red heat bulb was left on at night. Get rid of the red one? None are coil.

2. Recommended greens to feed or places I can find a reasonable diet in NJ? With my sulcata in TX, she simply roamed the grass and had a variety. I am new to NJ and at a loss where to find a great diet for a tort. Continue sprinkling vit. d/calcium on food daily?

3. Leave access to fresh water daily? Should I continue the habit of spraying the enclosure 1 or more times/day for humidity?

4. Finally, what type of thermometer do you recommend/brand?

Thanks again :)
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Laura

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grocery stores are great places to buy tortoise food. Spring mix salad mix is a great staple with other things added.
sorry you lost one.. :-(
 

Balboa

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Sorry for your loss :( . I can't come close to the great advice already given. I can make some comments on the enclosure now that you've included pics.

The mesh of that top screen will block much of the UV from the lamp. That would pose a problem over the long term, but doesn't seem likely to have killed the little guy.

The placement seems fairly central, which really isn't going to allow for much of a gradient.

The design of your enclosure looks to me like it would have a tendancy to dry out quickly, which supports the dehydration hypothesis.

In the future I would cut a hole for the MVB in a corner and securely suspend it at recommended heights there. This will allow the UV through, allow for better temp regulation (through adjusting the height), and give you more distance to try to establish a gradient. I would also suggest you may need to wet and stir the substrate daily to maintain adequate humidity, probably 50% ambient for a Hermann's? I'm sure someone can correct me if that's off.

Best of luck and best wishes.
 
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