Coconut substrate/moss stuck in leg cavity?

newboxiemama

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Hi everyone! Quick question for you...my boxie Spike was doing some bizarre leg lifts the other day. Upon further investigation, I realized that he had a ton of coconut substrate and moss wedged around his back leg. I was able to remove SOME of it and now he is walking/running/moving normally. He rarely closes his shell up all the way, but his legs can now tuck in again without issue.

Unfortunately, there is still a SIGNIFICANT pile of the substrate still neatly tucked in the leg cavity. I have soaked him a few times, let him run around (he will chase me if I am wearing boots...I think they look like turtles) and really done everything else imaginable to dislodge this clump.

He loves to drink water and dunk himself in his dish - he gets pretty damp a few times a day. I am now wondering if the water is causing the substrate to EXPAND...part of me feels like it will crummble up and fall out if I dry him out a little for a couple of days. But I don't want him to get dehydrated!

The leg itself and all surrounding tissue looks normal and healthy (from what I can see). Does this warrant a vet visit? Am I being a paranoid crazy person? any advice is appreciated -- thank you SO much.
 

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PJay

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Many years ago I used "coconut husk", the bigger chunks of coconut instead of the ground up version, and a piece got lodged in a box turtles leg cavity. It had to be removed with tweezers by one person while another held the leg out exposing the cavity. If you are using the ground up coco coir and moss you may be able to remove it by holding the turtle under running water directed into the cavity. You might need to hold the leg out so the water stream can fully irrigate the area.
 

newboxiemama

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Many years ago I used "coconut husk", the bigger chunks of coconut instead of the ground up version, and a piece got lodged in a box turtles leg cavity. It had to be removed with tweezers by one person while another held the leg out exposing the cavity. If you are using the ground up coco coir and moss you may be able to remove it by holding the turtle under running water directed into the cavity. You might need to hold the leg out so the water stream can fully irrigate the area.
Thank you for your reply! I DID try tweezers, but I didn't want to pinch his skin so I tried gently pulling it out with a bobby pin. But he is so...kicky. I also tried running water but it didn't do much. I think you are definitely right about this being a two-person job 😥
 

ZenHerper

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A boxie can be in water for quite a while...I'd let him have a good long swim a couple times a day. Sit nearby and read a book, but let him paddle and keep the mass moving. Drying him out may bond the coco fiber harder to the skin.

Mix his substrate well together and with water...you want it to feel the texture and moisture of the forest floor (loamy leaves decaying into the soil). Turtles have a natural swimmy-kicking motion with their legs, so leaving big clumps of moss runs the risk of twisting it around the limbs. It should be damp enough for him to make a burrow that stays "set" when he leaves it. Both coco coir and moss are acidic when wet, so there should not be any mold issues when properly dampened. Making a more uniform consistency will also make it easier to find and remove BMs.

Do a couple of hour-long swim sessions tomorrow and see what that does.

He's a beauty!
 

wellington

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I would also either get rid of the moss stop using it. It can get tangled around limbs and cause problems. Also can cause problems if they eat it.
If you want to keep using it then cut it up in small pieces so it can't wrap around anything.
Long soaks as suggested should help remove the coir. I doubt it's that big a problem with the way boxies dig and borrow into the ground.
Love the pic, so darn cute.
 
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ZenHerper

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Moss is more common for turtle set ups (and esp. for hatchlings). Turtles don't graze the way that tortoises do, so their intake is passive/accidental versus a stomach-full of those twiggy stems munched down all day long.

But it is safest and most effective when pre-soaked, ripped into bits, then mixed in with the "soil" component of substrate.

Plain coir is a known impaction risk for turtles since it swells up when wet (it is very hydrophillic, which explains why it sticks to skin), even in small accidental mouthfuls, and is pretty impervious to digestive enzymes. Turtles living on coir should be fed in a separate container. (Turtles are so messy and eat messy foods that my personal preference is to keep all live/meat and sugary foods out of the primary habitat.)

Keepers alternatively use peat or cypress or fine orchid bark mixed with moss.
 

newboxiemama

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A boxie can be in water for quite a while...I'd let him have a good long swim a couple times a day. Sit nearby and read a book, but let him paddle and keep the mass moving. Drying him out may bond the coco fiber harder to the skin.

Mix his substrate well together and with water...you want it to feel the texture and moisture of the forest floor (loamy leaves decaying into the soil). Turtles have a natural swimmy-kicking motion with their legs, so leaving big clumps of moss runs the risk of twisting it around the limbs. It should be damp enough for him to make a burrow that stays "set" when he leaves it. Both coco coir and moss are acidic when wet, so there should not be any mold issues when properly dampened. Making a more uniform consistency will also make it easier to find and remove BMs.

Do a couple of hour-long swim sessions tomorrow and see what that does.

He's a beauty!
Thank you so much!! All of this is so helpful. I will give him a lengthy bath in the morning - it definitely seems like it is mostly a ball of moss tangled up so this makes total sense. I had no idea I could leave him in the water for so long!!
 

ZenHerper

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Thank you so much!! All of this is so helpful. I will give him a lengthy bath in the morning - it definitely seems like it is mostly a ball of moss tangled up so this makes total sense. I had no idea I could leave him in the water for so long!!
Box turtles are great swimmers. lol They prefer to live near water and will swim, dive, hunt, etc. in water. Totally safe. You just want to supervise swims in case of an enthusiastic tip over. =))

So he does not get too exhausted with the exercise, keep the water to just covering the legs, so he can stand.
 

newboxiemama

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Moss is more common for turtle set ups (and esp. for hatchlings). Turtles don't graze the way that tortoises do, so their intake is passive/accidental versus a stomach-full of those twiggy stems munched down all day long.

But it is safest and most effective when pre-soaked, ripped into bits, then mixed in with the "soil" component of substrate.

Plain coir is a known impaction risk for turtles since it swells up when wet (it is very hydrophillic, which explains why it sticks to skin), even in small accidental mouthfuls, and is pretty impervious to digestive enzymes. Turtles living on coir should be fed in a separate container. (Turtles are so messy and eat messy foods that my personal preference is to keep all live/meat and sugary foods out of the primary habitat.)

Keepers alternatively use peat or cypress or fine orchid bark mixed with moss.
Thank you!! I will look into cypress and fine orchid bark. The coir has been a struggle - he will rarely eat outside of his enclosure and he ALWAYS swats his food out of his dish/rolls it around. A substrate change is a great idea - I find myself constantly running over to rinse his food off in a cup of water.
 

Jan A

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Thank you!! I will look into cypress and fine orchid bark. The coir has been a struggle - he will rarely eat outside of his enclosure and he ALWAYS swats his food out of his dish/rolls it around. A substrate change is a great idea - I find myself constantly running over to rinse his food off in a cup of water.
I think he's got your number!!
 

newboxiemama

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Box turtles are great swimmers. lol They prefer to live near water and will swim, dive, hunt, etc. in water. Totally safe. You just want to supervise swims in case of an enthusiastic tip over. =))

So he does not get too exhausted with the exercise, keep the water to just covering the legs, so he can stand.
Wow!! In your experience, are boxies that know nothing of life in the wild supposed to enjoy the bath experience, or just tolerate it? I don't think his previous owners exposed him to water a single time. He LOVES his water dish but cowers when he sees me coming with the big tub.

I have always cut bathtime short because all of the flailing (he can always stand very comfortably but insists on flailing anyway) and death glares makes me feel so guilty! Now that I know it's safe, he's gonna have to suck it up! I literally have an assortment of small bath toys that completely distract him for about 3 minutes at a time. Once the flailing starts again, I change the toy and that buys a little more time. Can you tell who runs the show here?? Haha.

One more question - what is the ideal temperature? He seems to be happiest with lukewarm water, but I want to make sure that is okay.

Sorry, this is long-winded...just excited to be talking turtles with someone that is actually interested for once 🤪
 

newboxiemama

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I would also either get rid of the moss stop using it. It can get tangled around limbs and cause problems. Also can cause problems if they eat it.
If you want to keep using it then cut it up in small pieces so it can't wrap around anything.
Long soaks as suggested should help remove the coir. I doubt it's that big a problem with the way boxies dig and borrow into the ground.
Love the pic, so darn cute.
Thank you so much! I will make some changes - the moss does seem to be making up the bulk of the tangle. He really is such a cutie (and he knows it!)
 

ZenHerper

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Wow!! In your experience, are boxies that know nothing of life in the wild supposed to enjoy the bath experience, or just tolerate it? I don't think his previous owners exposed him to water a single time. He LOVES his water dish but cowers when he sees me coming with the big tub.

I have always cut bathtime short because all of the flailing (he can always stand very comfortably but insists on flailing anyway) and death glares makes me feel so guilty! Now that I know it's safe, he's gonna have to suck it up! I literally have an assortment of small bath toys that completely distract him for about 3 minutes at a time. Once the flailing starts again, I change the toy and that buys a little more time. Can you tell who runs the show here?? Haha.

One more question - what is the ideal temperature? He seems to be happiest with lukewarm water, but I want to make sure that is okay.

Sorry, this is long-winded...just excited to be talking turtles with someone that is actually interested for once 🤪
We're a wacky bunch! =))

Lukewarm is fine - box turtles are temperate, so too much heat is uncomfortable.

Let him flap around...try a bit deeper and see if that gives him more resistance to work with. The genes are there. (Ornates "generally" choose to swim less, but certainly can. Some love to.) If you can find a pan with a textured bottom, he might feel more confident that on a slippery smooth surface.

Try offering a live worm - that will help distract and focus him at the same time.
 

newboxiemama

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We're a wacky bunch! =))

Lukewarm is fine - box turtles are temperate, so too much heat is uncomfortable.

Let him flap around...try a bit deeper and see if that gives him more resistance to work with. The genes are there. (Ornates "generally" choose to swim less, but certainly can. Some love to.) If you can find a pan with a textured bottom, he might feel more confident that on a slippery smooth surface.

Try offering a live worm - that will help distract and focus him at the same time.
Thank you so much - you have been so helpful 🐢😊
 

SoCalGreek

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Thank you for your reply! I DID try tweezers, but I didn't want to pinch his skin so I tried gently pulling it out with a bobby pin. But he is so...kicky. I also tried running water but it didn't do much. I think you are definitely right about this being a two-person job 😥
Could you use one hand to hold him tightly against yourself and hold the leg out? Then, the other leg could be dealt with using your free hand.
My guy will let all of his limbs hang down if I hold him under a stream of water (like a shower). You might be able to pick it out in that situation.
Good luck!
 

newboxiemama

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UPDATE! After an hour-long soak on Wednesday, Thursday, AND today I have FINALLY entirely dislodged the giant clump of moss/coir that was stuck in his leg. I got large chunks out on Weds/Thurs but the rest all came out at once today. Leg looks totally normal...he probably has no idea why I have been freaking out over this. Some damage may have been temporarily done to our relationship due to the forced swimming and incessant prodding, but I am relieved! Thank you all for your help.
 
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