Horsfield Eating Problems

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incendium

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Ok, so we got our first tortoise 2 weeks ago today. We did loads of research but we are having problems feeding him.

So here is the deal. We don't know how old he is but he is about 4-5 inches from head to tail, and currently weighs about 75g. We keep him in a purpose built tortoise table, using a sand and top soil 70/30 mix and some straw in his bed area. He has a shallow dish for drinking (or trampling soil in as he seems to prefer) and we use a mercury vapour bulb for heat and uv etc. The area under the lamp is 30c and it goes down to about 23 at the cooler end. At night, the temperature doesn't drop below 15c.

When we first got him, he ate very little, mostly just a couple of small baby red leaf bits. Over the last week, he has stopped eating entirely. We put fresh food out in the morning and in the evening but he ignores it. (Not strictly true, he likes climbing on it and covering it in dirt).

He is very active once up and about. We have to take him out of his bed area in the morning and shut the entrance, otherwise he makes a beeline straight back in, but once he is out he is actively walking around, basking and sometimes digging in the substrate. He just doesn't eat though. We use a calcium powder on his food and he also has a cuttlefish bone thing. We bathe him every other day at the moment, and he drinks normally. He has passed urates a few times but nothing else, presumably because he doesn't eat. We fed him with mixed leaf stuff from supermarkets, and more recently a selection of fresh weeds, dandilion, clover and grass etc. None of them seem to get any interest.

So this lunchtime I am going to get some bird vitamins to bathe him in, and buy some squash as suggested on other posts, but does anyone have any other suggestions? If he is trying to hibernate, what else can I do to stop him?
 

Yvonne G

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My first thought was that what you are offering him doesn't look like food to him. Can you ask his previous owner what they fed him? If that's not possible, then get some iceburg lettuce. This is NOT the correct diet for a Russian, but it is something they love. You cut up some good greens really, really small and sprinkle it on a couple leafs of iceburg lettuce. He'll eat that. Then next time you feed him put more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff, gradually increasing/decreasing over time until you have cut out the iceburg altogether. If you don't want him to hibernate, you have to have long days, that is, keep the lights on for 14 hours a day. Also, it has to be very warm, like summer. I love the home made tort tables. They offer plenty of room for exercise, however, they are sometimes pretty hard to heat. You might try partially covering the table to keep the heat in.

Yvonne
 

tortoisenerd

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Are you sure that's his weight? Sounds way too low for me if he's really 4-5 inches. Do you know how to measure SCL? It's from the front of the shell to the back, in a straight line (not following the carpace curve). How old is the tort? Sounds like a juvenile to me, but I think you either measured the tort as too long, or as too low in weight, so I can't tell.

I agree you should try to find out what he was eating before you got him. Start with anything you can get him to eat, within reason, and work towards a better diet from there.

Have you taken him to the vet to rule out a medical reason? Parasites, etc.

I would up the temperatures, as 30 C is in the mid 80s F. You want the basking temperature in the 90s F, so about 35 C. They need to be warm to properly digest their food. If your tort is up and moving around every day hibernation is not as big of a risk/concern right now as long as you keep the temps and light up. It's more of a worry if the tort is sleeping, not eating, and inactive all together. You say the tort is active. What temperature range is it spending time in? If it's not in the basking area it's probably just plain too cold to want to eat. Especially for a younger tort, they need in the 80s and 90s F to want to eat much.

Everything else sounds good from what I can ascertain from your post. Sounds like you've created a great home for him. There are a few things to tweak with any new pet so please don't feel bad about it. I sure had a hard time getting my tort set up properly! Best wishes.
 

Crazy1

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Hi, Welcome to the forum. You have already gotten some sound advice above.
Here is a site that is really great for Russians
The first shows how to measure them:
http://russiantortoise.org/measure.htm

these temperatures I got from the second address I posted.
http://russiantortoise.org/care_sheet.htm
cool end in the 70’s / 24 C
basking spot 90-95 / 33 to 35C
night temps in the 60’s / around 18C

Sounds as if your temps may be just off a bit for your little one. I might hold off on the calcium powder until he begins eating. Calcium does not smell good so he may be turned off and not recognize the greens as food. Is there a chance he might be eating a little and then eating his poo? They do that sometimes. But if you know he is not eating try tweaking a few things like temps and lack of calcium just until he is eating again. Please keep us updated.
 

TKCARDANDCOIN

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A couple of months ago i had the same problem.My female russian stopped eating.I continued to leave her fresh food every day after a warm water soak.I increased the heat in the enclosure a few degrees.I also changed her uvb bulb(10.0) and kept it on a few more hours a day for a total of 10-12 hours(approx).With a little patience and persistance(sp?) she started to eat again.It was slow in the beginning but now she will not leave the food dish!!! She is back to her old self.

Also, when we first got her we had the same problem.She would not eat for weeks.We took her to the vet and after a stool sample she was positive for worms.I assume she was wild caught and after a few days of meds the worms cleared up and she finally started to eat.

Maybe a trip to the vet for a quick stool sample would be a good idea, you never know! Good luck,tom.
 

galvinkaos

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If vet bills are the initial issue, take a fresh stool and smash it in a clear plastic bag. Move it around and magnify it. If there are worms you should see them. obviously it would take a microscope to see parasites. but it is an inexpensive start, my vet suggested to monitor for worms.

Dawna

My vet suggested for an inexpensive stool sample in between visits. Take a fresh stool sample and smash it in a clear lunch bag or a plastic wrap. if it smashes easy and is slightly moist your hydration is good and you can look for worms etc. If you want to be that thorough at home you can use a magnifying glass and look for movement (very small worms/parasites). Keep in mind my stool samples are small (15 mos old DT). Good luck for a larger tort :D
It may take a roll of plastic wrap.

Dawna

That is how I discovered Fred was eating sand/soil and started soaking more to avoid impaction.
 

incendium

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Thanks for all the advice everyone. Now I think about it, I feel the temperature under the lamp may indeed be the cause of his not eating. When we first got him, we could only clip the lamp on the side of the table, and the basking spot was about 36c. We thought that was too hot, so I mocked up some more wood to clip the lamp higher up, and the more I think about it, the more I believe that was when he stopped eating. I will lower the lamp tonight, hopefully that will help.

It's nice to have an active forum of such helpful people, all the research we did online made us more and more confused. There is such a lot of conflicting information!
 

tortoisenerd

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You may have to keep an eye on his behavior with the change in temperatures. Some torts have higher or lower preferences. Also keep an eye on how the temperature of the enclosure changes with the room temperature. Sometimes my house temperature may be differing by up to 10 degrees F, and I need to raise and lower my tort's bulb to compensate, and not have it too hot or cold.

If your lamp is stuck in a certain position, and you want it slightly hotter, you can also add a tad more substrate to raise the ground up so to speak.

You may want to consider investing in a lamp stand such as this one:
http://www.kimbosreptileworld.co.uk/large-lamp-stand-p-135.html

It can adjust the bulb laterally and height-wise. Also very stable.
 

incendium

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I just wanted to say a quick thanks to everyone for the advice. Last night I lowered the lamp so the temperature was about 35, and after a warm bath and a bit of a sunbathe, he finally ate some food! Not a huge amount, but he chomped happily on various leaves and a bit of butternut squash. So it's looking good now!
 

Crazy1

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Icendium thats great news. Glad he is eating. Also if you are not using a MVB there is a Rheostat made for one and one made for two lights or heating devices. It will turn the bulb down but the ReptiTemp500 http://www.zoomed.com/db/products/E...o4OiJLZXl3b3JkcyI7czo4OiJyaGVvc3RhdCI7fQ==and off turns the bulb on and off to keep it at a specific temp you set. It's a great little device and I have it on the heat lamps and Ceramic heat emitters in all the enclosures. so if my house gets really hot the heat lamps turn off and stay off until the temp in their enclosure decreaces lower than the temp I have it set for.
 
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