HELP! My Desert Tortoise Won't Eat :-(

AZ Jenn

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Oct 13, 2016
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Hi all! I'm new to the forum and just don't know what to do. Sheldon is a 2 year old desert tortoise and he was bit on his head by our bearded dragon. Prior to being bit he was a voracious eater and very active. It has been 5 months since he was bit and he is still fairly active but will not eat. I took him to the vet right after he was bit and the vet said he had good strength, his mouth head and eyes looked good and he was responding to stimuli so he should be fine. He also gave me a liquid calcium supplement and a dropper that was absolutely impossible to use. However, he is still not eating and now his shell has started to get soft. He loves to soak and when we mess with his little feet he will urinate so I know that he is taking in water. We feed him spring mix and he gets a little piece of strawberry on occasion as well as his calcium supplement. He walks all over it but will not eat it. So finally about 4 weeks ago I started making him "Sheldon Shakes" with blended kale, spring mix, calcium and water. I put the shake in a separate bowl from the water bowl and put him in it to soak daily thinking that he will take that in like he takes the water in. After 3 weeks I'm still not sure this is working but I'm continuing to do it anyway. We live in Arizona and keep our house between 75 - 78 degrees. He has a 40 gallon tank with a mesh top and the lighting all sits on top of the mesh screen. One side of his tank is around 100 degrees and the other side hovers around 80 degrees. He has 4-5 inches of alfalfa substrate to burrow into and 3 separate shade caves. 3 days ago we also put our friends new tortoise in with him to see if he can pick up some eating habits from the baby (6 weeks old). They like to cuddle but that's the only progress so far. Any and all advice is welcome... We love our little Sheldon and want him to get better soon!
 

dmmj

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I Would advise separating immediately. they don't like to cuddle that's intimidation they don't like tank mates they're loners. Separate as soon as possible that's my advice
 

Gillian M

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A very warm welcome to the forum!

Please read the "Beginners Mistakes" Thread and the care sheets.

Any pics of torts and enclosure would enable us to help you/give you advise much more easily.
 

Gillian M

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Also, please note that torts do not like change. Therefore they need quite some time to adapt.
 

JoesMum

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Separate them now. Cuddling up is not cosiness. It's jostling for position

Torts are solitary and don't want, need or like company. Having your tort with another is likely to make matters worse not better.

If your tort isn't eating then the problem will be with temperatures or habitat, though you have to keep in mind a natural activity dip as the days shorten.

What are the 4 important temperatureS : warm side, cool side, directly under the basking lamp and overnight minimum?

Pictures of the enclosure and lighting will help us to spot anything else that may be amiss.
 

AZ Jenn

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Oct 13, 2016
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Separate them now. Cuddling up is not cosiness. It's jostling for position

Torts are solitary and don't want, need or like company. Having your tort with another is likely to make matters worse not better.

If your tort isn't eating then the problem will be with temperatures or habitat, though you have to keep in mind a natural activity dip as the days shorten.

What are the 4 important temperatureS : warm side, cool side, directly under the basking lamp and overnight minimum?

Pictures of the enclosure and lighting will help us to spot anything else that may be amiss.


The vet said the same thing but temps are good, habitat is good and he still isn't eating after 5 months. I can take the baby out but they havn't been jostling for position. I used the word cuddle because it's my personality lol. The closest they have been has been in the same cave for overnight sleeping but they are not touching. Picture attached.

IMG_6315.JPG

IMG_6316.JPG
 

AZ Jenn

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Oct 13, 2016
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A very warm welcome to the forum!

Please read the "Beginners Mistakes" Thread and the care sheets.

Any pics of torts and enclosure would enable us to help you/give you advise much more easily.


I'll read the thread now... Thank you. I've also posted pics at the bottom of this discussion. I appreciate your help :)
 

Yvonne G

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Hi Jenn, and welcome to the Forum!

I'm going to address some problems I see with your enclosure, and then offer suggestions on the soft shell. It all works together, there is no ONE fix for the problem.

First an explanation, just in case you're not aware of how it works (if you already know, just skip over this part):

In order for ingested calcium to work inside the tortoise (by 'work' I mean make shell and bones strong), it has to be coupled with UVB either from the sun or from an expensive UVB light. The tortoise synthesises the vitamin D3 from the UV component of sunlight or an expensive light. Vitamin D3 is essential for the effective metabolism of dietary calcium in reptiles. Certain wavelengths in the UV spectrum (290 - 320 nm) react with sterols in the skin to produce pre-vitamin D3. This is in turn converted into vitamin D3 itself, using a process which also depends upon heat. The calcium doesn't work without that vitamin D3, and the shell gets soft and the bones weak. It looks like your light sits on a screen. Small screen effectively filter sout the UVB rays and its very weak by the time it reaches your tortoise.

Alfalfa pellets isn't a good substrate to keep desert tortoises one. He needs something that gives a firm footing, and something that can be slightly moistened to provide a bit of humidity.

The type of water and feed bowls you are using are really for lizards. Since tortoises' bodies don't bend, bowls with straight up-and-down sides are hard for them to navigate. Clay plant saucers are good for feed and water.

Measure your temperature all over the floor of the habitat. It should be around 85F except for directly under the light, where it can be around 100F. If a tortoise can't get his inner core up to at least 80F degrees, he won't eat because he knows he can't digest his food when his inner core isn't warm enough.

Make sure to keep his lights on for 14 hours a day. Any less than that and he's clueing in to the shorter days and thinking it may be time to stop eating in order to clean out his digestive tract preparatory to hibernation.

Until you can get his habitat changed and up and running, soak the baby in Gerber strained carrots mixed half and half with warm water. Soak him daily for at least a half hour. He will get a little bit of nourishment this way.
 

AZ Jenn

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Oct 13, 2016
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6
Hi Jenn, and welcome to the Forum!

I'm going to address some problems I see with your enclosure, and then offer suggestions on the soft shell. It all works together, there is no ONE fix for the problem.

First an explanation, just in case you're not aware of how it works (if you already know, just skip over this part):

In order for ingested calcium to work inside the tortoise (by 'work' I mean make shell and bones strong), it has to be coupled with UVB either from the sun or from an expensive UVB light. The tortoise synthesises the vitamin D3 from the UV component of sunlight or an expensive light. Vitamin D3 is essential for the effective metabolism of dietary calcium in reptiles. Certain wavelengths in the UV spectrum (290 - 320 nm) react with sterols in the skin to produce pre-vitamin D3. This is in turn converted into vitamin D3 itself, using a process which also depends upon heat. The calcium doesn't work without that vitamin D3, and the shell gets soft and the bones weak. It looks like your light sits on a screen. Small screen effectively filter sout the UVB rays and its very weak by the time it reaches your tortoise.

Alfalfa pellets isn't a good substrate to keep desert tortoises one. He needs something that gives a firm footing, and something that can be slightly moistened to provide a bit of humidity.

The type of water and feed bowls you are using are really for lizards. Since tortoises' bodies don't bend, bowls with straight up-and-down sides are hard for them to navigate. Clay plant saucers are good for feed and water.

Measure your temperature all over the floor of the habitat. It should be around 85F except for directly under the light, where it can be around 100F. If a tortoise can't get his inner core up to at least 80F degrees, he won't eat because he knows he can't digest his food when his inner core isn't warm enough.

Make sure to keep his lights on for 14 hours a day. Any less than that and he's clueing in to the shorter days and thinking it may be time to stop eating in order to clean out his digestive tract preparatory to hibernation.

Until you can get his habitat changed and up and running, soak the baby in Gerber strained carrots mixed half and half with warm water. Soak him daily for at least a half hour. He will get a little bit of nourishment this way.


Thank you so much! I will look into getting him a new UVB set up right away... or maybe my husband can cut a rectangle hole in the screen for the UVB light. The calcium that I give him has D3 in it as well. I will get the clay plant saucers right away also. What type of substrate do you recommend? There are so many....
 

Arnold_rules

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Thank you so much! I will look into getting him a new UVB set up right away... or maybe my husband can cut a rectangle hole in the screen for the UVB light. The calcium that I give him has D3 in it as well. I will get the clay plant saucers right away also. What type of substrate do you recommend? There are so many....
Hello Jenn -

Has there been any improvements on your tortoise?
 

AZ Jenn

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Oct 13, 2016
Messages
6
Hello Jenn -

Has there been any improvements on your tortoise?


Yes I think he has shown some improvement this week. I got him a new High Output 10 UVB light and he seems to be responding well. He's starting to seek out the shake that I make him on his own and today he even walked toward his food while opening his mouth. He hasn't done this in 5 months. Time will tell. Thank you so much for checking in on him :)
 
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