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Help: sick / weak tortoise (no worms, parasite or RI)

Discussion in 'Tortoise Health' started by Geng, Aug 7, 2017.

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  1. Geng

    Geng Member

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    Dear tortoiseforum members,

    I'm dealing with a sick / weak Russian tortoise, 3 years old and female. I'm really stressing and feeling really awful that I can't take good care for my tort. I really could use some help of the experts. It is a bit of a story, so please keep up:

    A month ago my tortoise used to be very active (breaking down her whole enclosure that even my parents could hear her in the other room). 4 weeks ago I left my tortoise in the care of my parents and little brother when I was away for 1 week. The only thing I they had to do was give her food (spring mix) and soak her for 30 min during my absent. I came back 2 weeks ago, and my tortoise hasn't been the same...

    She doesn't come out her hide anymore, and doesn't touch her food on her plate. She only eats a bit of her favorite snack (dandelion and sow thistle), but goes back to her hide after few bites. I took her to the vet last friday for a medical check. No worms or parasite were found in her stool. Neither does she have a runny nose or puffy eyes. The vet gave her anti biotic by injection. The vet told me to give her a x dose daily, and she should feel better after a week. I put my hopes in the vet, because I heard he is specialized in reptiles and tortoises.

    For the next 3 days after the vet visit, her daily routine was sleeping in her hide and getting anti biotic injections. She doesn't come out her hide nor eat. I have to wake her up, give her a soak, give her the injection and put her back into soak to calm her down. After that she would go to hide/sleep. I'm afraid this is the routine till the end of the week. If there's no improvement and I've run out of anti biotic I have to contact the vet again.

    Guys, I'm completely stressed out, and that is for few reasons:

    - Although she gets her anti biotic, I really hate to give her injections knowing it hurts.
    - She vomited the day after the vet visit. The reason for her to vomit is probably caused by eating too much banana. I gave her some banana as a treat, because she was looking alive and kicking after the vet visit.
    - She hasn't eaten in a long time (a week)? Yesterday she ate some dandelions when I hand fed her, but that is about it. She still only sleeps, and doesn't come out her hide when the lamps go on.
    - Normally my tort would pull her limbs back when I touch her. Today after her anti biotic I let her soak for 30 min. She looked really relaxed, and to know sure she's consious (her eyes were still open btw) I pulled her arm. To my shock, she didn't pull back and doesn't really seem to bother. Is it because of the anti biotic?
    - My vet doens't know why she is sick. My vet told me there were no worms or parasite in her stool. Even sending her stool to the lab there was no results. He advised me to give her the daily dose anti biotic, and have patient.
    - I'm just really stressed that I see no improvement, although it is just the 4th day.

    Few facts about my tortoise keeping:

    - Russian, 3 years old, female, got her from a reptile keeper
    - MVB 80W and 50W heat bulb
    - 100F basking, 80-90 F warm, 70F cool and night
    - Coco coir substrate (moist it every sunday to keep the humidity a bit going)
    - Open top cage
    - Diet is mainly different spring mix from grocery, with every weekend lots of dandelions and sow thistle.
    - Warm soaks on wednesday and weekend for 30 min or longer
    - Had 3 vet visit in her life time: 1st was to treat her runny nose (cured), 2nd to examine her lethargic behaviour (hibernation behaviour and got dewormed), and 3rd the current case.
    - When the temps are fine and sunny I let her play outside.
    - She got a new big hide and new MVB (same brand and watt) before I went on vacation, which was 3-4 weeks ago. During my absent she was in care of my parents, and that is when the problems started. I don't suspect my parents for bad things aside feeding her spring mix and soaking her.

    The 2 pic of my tortoise that I've attached were made yesterday.

    I hope someone could give my any tips and feedback to help my tortoise recover...

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Aug 7, 2017
  2. Maitaimommy

    Maitaimommy Active Member

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    Sorry, I can't offer alot of advice but it seems you're doing everything right. Sounds like taking her to the vet was a wise decision:)
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  3. Geng

    Geng Member

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    Thanks a lot, it ease me to hear something positive after these stressfull days...
  4. Maitaimommy

    Maitaimommy Active Member

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    I understand and agree. You appear to be a caring and knowledgeable tort keeper:)
    My guy gets stressed alot and this week is no exception. We have been all over the east coast and both of us are exhausted! Hang in there and keep doing what you're doing:)
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  5. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    What size enclosure?

    How do you know she is 3 years old? Did they raise her foam hatchling? Are you sure its a female. Its not easy to tell at 3 years old.

    Sounds like something happened while you were gone. Maybe they fed her something they shouldn't have?

    What antibiotic did the vet prescribe?

    I would not give a tortoise antibiotic injection without some sort of diagnosis. It can do more harm than good. Sounds like its doing harm.

    You should never feed banana to a russian. It can make them sick. What do you normally feed?

    At this point I would soak for an hour every day. Keep soaking like this until you see improvement. Bumping up the temperatures a little bit can sometimes help too. Make sure lights are on for 13-14 hours.
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  6. Geng

    Geng Member

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    Hi Tom, thanks a lot for your reply.

    I got my tort 2 years ago from a reptile keeper. Back then he told me she was 1 year old. She has a short tail with a nail on it, so I think it is a female.

    Her diet is mostly grocery greens like endive and different bags of spring mix (expect the ones with spinach and iceberg lettuce):

    https://www.ah.nl.kpnis.nl/static/product/AHI_434d50323038303633_1_LowRes_JPG.JPG

    In the weekend I'll be sure to give her some good amount of dandelions and sow thistles. I never give her bananas or fruit, but I've read on these forums that banana is a nice treat for russians (I've learnt the hard way it isn't).

    During my absent I told my parents to feed her spring mix and soak her. They did what I told them, but it is really weird that my tortoise has a big change in behaviour after I came back from holiday. I do know that her lamps weren't on +12 hours. They let the lamps burn for like 6 hours and then turn it off.

    Her enclosure is L 119 x W 59 x H 47 cm (I attached a pic of her enclosure on her topic).

    About this whole medication proces:

    The vet told me it is a common medicine to cure all kind of diseases for tortoises. I was uneasy when he gave my tort an injection, not knowing what the exact problem was. However, my vet is specialized in exotic animals, and has treated many turtles and tortoises. Also, when I soaked my tort after the vet visit my tortoise looked alive and kicking for a moment. I had high hopes the anti biotic was working.

    Completely stressed I called my vet today about the anti biotic. Turns out it is called Baytrill, a common medicine they use to treat all kind of diseases for tortoises. Hearing good and bad things on these forums. Hopefully you can inform me more about this anti biotic (what does it do, effectiveness, side effects, stingy etc.).

    My vet told me to give the mediaction, and have patient because the anti biotic needs time to work.

    Is it okay to wake up my tortoise for a soak (and injection) session? Because of my work I'm very late at home (around 10 pm). I have a CHE, so I could use that during night time to bump up her temp?
  7. stevenf625

    stevenf625 Active Member

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    What season is it where you live?
    Could this be hibernation (slowing down in prep of hibernation) related?
  8. Geng

    Geng Member

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    It's summer here in the Netherlands, although I must say the temps have dropped since I came back from holiday. The temps here are around 20C. But I doubt it could be hibernation. Last year she also wanted to hibernate, but it was around november that she started showing those signs.
  9. stevenf625

    stevenf625 Active Member

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    I've only had my hermann tortoise for about a year now.
    Initially I kept him indoors, blasting him with MVB light, letting him out for supervised walks in the yard on weekends.
    At some point during the spring his behavior changed, he began sleeping all day, staying in his hide, he was no way near as active as normal, I began to worry that he was sick.

    What brought him back to normal was putting him outside all day.
    I made a cage enclosure 107cm x 214 cm with an inner wood frame at the base to prevent climbing, and began leaving him outdoors for 13+ hours a day.
    The change had a transformative effect. He's now very active, and although it may be my imagination, he looks healthier to me, his eyes are fuller and less sunken.
    I take him in at night.
    Heres a pic of the enclosure made with wire cube shelving (tiewrap reinforced). A Russian tort would probably require some provision to prevent digging out from under the perimeter.
    simplecage.jpg
  10. Geng

    Geng Member

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    How long was your tortoise inactive? My tortoise didn't get out his hide and didn't eat when I put food down for her. Even when I took her out her hide, she would go back hiding after 2 min.

    Did you take your tortoise to the vet before you let him live outside? Great outdoor enclosure btw.,
  11. stevenf625

    stevenf625 Active Member

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    Rhialto (the marvellous) was inactive for at least 2 months before I tried doing the outdoor move. He would hide most of the day, eat very little. I did not take him to a vet before moving him outside.
    He's not outdoors 100% of the time. I keep him indoors if the weather forecast is bad, and I always take him in at night.

    The cage I made from shelving grids was cheap and easy to do. The cage portion is actually 2 halves butted together, light enough to be picked up and carried individually.
    The behavior change from being outside all day was almost immediate. He seemed to be a totally new tort the next day.
    Cube shelving looks like this when used for shelving.
    [​IMG]
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
  12. Geng

    Geng Member

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    My tortoise doesn't come out her hide at all. Neither does she eat when I place food for her. She could stay in her hide the whole day if it weren't for me. I had to take her to the vet for a medical check up, and the vet gave me anti biotic, although there were no worms or parasite to be seen...

    Anyway, thanks for the tip. When I'm gonna build an outdoor enclosure I'll be sure to keep this in mind.
  13. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    I think your issue is two fold.

    I think the shortened days that happened while you were gone may have started to trigger hibernation behavior. They stop eating and tend to get more lethargic in preparation for hibernation. This would explain your tortoises behavior upon your return. I think warm temps, daily soaks and longer days again would have solved this problem after a week or two.

    Second and bigger problem is an ignorant vet that has now done harm. Baytril is very painful and caustic and should not be used on tortoises in its injectable form. It is very basic (Meaning high on the pH scale, which is opposite of acidic which would be low on the pH scale.) It is a really harsh drug and in the old days our phrase about using Baytril was: "It will either cure them or kill them." Many times it killed them. That type of antibiotic can help some tortoises in some cases, but it is also very hard on their systems. This medicine is likely what is causing the current issues.

    I'm no vet, but I would not do anymore of those injections. I don't think your tortoise needed antibiotics in the first place, and if it did, something safer like Fortaz, should have been used. Watch the injection site for skin sloughing and necrotic tissue. Daily soaks will help to keep the tortoise hydrated and hopefully help flush the system while he recovers from all of this.
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  14. Geng

    Geng Member

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    Hi Tom, thanks again for your reply and feedback .

    First I have to say that she already got her Baytril injection today. I called the vet this morning, and he advised me to keep this up till the end of the week. He also told me to have patient and let the antibiotic work.

    Know that I'm reaaally uneasy with the prescription, mainly because the vet is advising baytril while my tort doesn't have worms, parasite or RI. Hell, there was nothing to be seen in her stool sample, so my vet doesn't know exactly what the problem is. Then again, I take my trust in him. The vet is well reviewed, specialized in reptiles, treats turtles and tortoises, and is recommed by the tortoise/turtle keeping center here in the Netherland. When I gave my tort the medication today, I couldn't hold back my tears seeing how it hurts my tort. I couldn't concentrate at work and skipped training session today, because I'm so stressed about the well being of my tortoise. She is sleeping now after the warm soak session by the way...

    Anyway, hibernation seems really off, it's summer here. My vacation only lasted 1 week (13 july - 21 july), but can this 'short' periode cause a big change in her behaviour? The outdoor temps during that period were around 25C or even 30C. During my vacation my little brother told me my tortoise wasn't eating much or even coming out her hide. At first I though that she had to get used to her new care takers, so I didn't worry.

    It is possible that 'hibernation' behaviour was caused by her shortened days. During my vacation my parents were away from home for 3 days. They probably left the lights out to prevent fire hazard when nobody was home. Or they left 1 lamp burning, which left half of her enclosure in darkness. Also, my parents have the habit to turn off the lamps after burning for 6 - 8 hours. Mainly because to save electricity and 'it's already hot outside, so no need for heat lamps'.

    Tom, know this is a big struggle for me to listen to a 'legit' vet (which I don't trust for 100%) or listen to someone who has years of tortoise experience. Today is her 5th day on medication, and there is no any sign of improvement. Hell, she even looks much weaker! Normally during soaks, she starts to climb out after 30 min. But since she is on this baytril medication, she falls asleep during her soak sessions. I even pulled her limbs, which doesn't bother her at all. I know Baytril injection can make a tortoise feel miserable, but I want to make sure that the medication does help her after a while, and not make it worser. She has lost weight the past 2 days, mainly because she isn't eating...

    I'm willing and want to stop with Baytril and follow your advice. What can I do to make her feel better? It is no problem to give her daily warm soaks and let the lamps burn longer. What about night temp, should I run a CHE? What can I do to make her eat? How do I coup up her care when I'm at work full time?

    I would really appreciate any help, tips, feedback that you can give.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
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  15. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    Going from a 14 hour days to 6-8 hours, half dark or all dark for an entire week can cause them to begin preparing for hibernation. That is basically what I do to get mine ready to hibernate. Shorter and cooler days. So yes, as I said, I think this was the initial problem and it would have self-corrected.

    Maybe I wasn't clear in the first post. That Baytril is like injecting bleach into your tortoise. It is burning and destroying what ever tissue it comes into contact with, and it might kill your tortoise if you keep doing it. It might kill your tortoise after five doses, even if you stop. We learned to stop using that stuff more than a decade ago. I see no reason for this tortoise to be on antibiotics in the first place, but if antibiotics are needed, then something safe should be used. Not injectable Baytril.
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  16. Geng

    Geng Member

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    Thanks for replying again.

    I know that baytril can have a heavy impact on tortoises, especially the leopards, but I never knew it could be fatal? Why is baytril a 'cure' in the first place? Even on these forums baytril still gets discussed about its great effectiveness to heal RI or other diseases. Baytril is like the most common antibiotic within tortoise care, so why is it fatal...

    So what can I do now? Give up on my tortoise? I basically lost my hope after reading 'It might kill your tortoise after five doses, even if you stop'...
  17. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member Platinum Tortoise Club

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    You see it talked about a lot because orally administered Baytril is still frequently used and can be helpful in situations where antibiotics are needed. It is still hard on their system, but not like the injectable which burns the injection site and sometimes cause the skin to die and slough off.
  18. Geng

    Geng Member

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    So the damage has been done... I suppose soaks and such want to do any good, does it?
  19. daniellenc

    daniellenc Well-Known Member

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    Try soaking twice a day for 30 minutes, add carrot baby food to the soak, stop the antibiotic, and cross your fingers. Antibiotics should only be used when there is an actual infection. Baytril is a horrible antibiotic and should only be used again when an infection is present. It also reduces appetite and activity so it's more than likely part of the problem.
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  20. Geng

    Geng Member

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    Thanks, ill do that. Let's hope she will get better.
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