Little dark brown spots

--chele

New Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2015
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Location (City and/or State)
Fallbrook, Southern CA
Hi everyone! This is my first post :)

Something very curious is happening on my tortoise's shell. There are little, very tiny, dark brown spots appearing all over. I cannot scratch them off (I was worried they were bug eggs). Anyone know what they are?

Some information I believe may be relevant to the situation:
He resides in Southern California and I would say the weather right now is ideal, though it's getting dry and everyone's lawns are dying. Some changes I have recently made to his outdoor enclosure are:

heating lamp in dog house - If it dropped below 60 degrees, we used to bring him indoors. Now we let him stay out. The weather is getting a lot hotter now though, so I might take it away. I bring this up because maybe he is too hot at night? We do not have a thermometer, but at the same setting indoors, he is fine.

a place to soak - Usually I was giving him a bath once every week to week in a half. Now I refill a floor tray that came with his dog house everyday with fresh water. I know he soaks in it (I caught him once, for all those out there that think their tortoise doesn't appreciate water in their pen :p) and extra proof is his droppings have improved dramatically in frequency and consistency. I'm actually pretty proud of this, though it could also be...

new weeds - Okay, here is where I'm a bad caretaker now that I have to evaluate the situation and type it out. There are two weeds I've never seen before growing on everyone's lawns (the neighbors let me pull all their weeds) that I have added to his diet. I base what I pick on research and what my tortoise goes back to eat again and again when I walk him, but these two I haven't tried to hard to find on the internet yet until Just Now. I usually take a bite out of what he eats too, but these two are based on trial and that they have a milky inside (though now I know not to rely on that....)​

Weed 1: This weed grows upward and has changed it's appearance drastically since February. They used to be like light salad greens. Now they have spikes on the main stem and running up the spine of the leaves. I don't really pick them anymore out of uncertainty. I'd argue they've become an entirely different plant, if they aren't.
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Weed 2: This one spreads out and is dying as summer heat is rolling around. The flowers are yellow but I haven't seen them open for a week now, even in the morning. I think it is strictly a spring weed that needs a damp environment. This is the one for the past two weeks that I have pulled and placed in his pen, a replacement for lack of those "salad greens". He does not eat it as much, but I don't know if this is because he really doesn't like it (as in maybe it's non-tortoise-edible) or he is just sick of it--which happens a lot because he's a spoiled brat. Please tell me it is not buttercup!! When I look up it's descriptions, buttercup seems to be the closest though the leaves and flowers are different.

20150416_184246.jpg 20150416_184350.jpg
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Sorry for the blur in this one, it's just to show how it grows and I was losing the sun.
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These new additions to his livelihood are recent, within the last 2 months, which is why I suspect one of them to be the possible culprit. Earlier I stated that I thought they were bug eggs, this is because the water and his dog house are cool spots for bugs, and his new cow patties attract flies.

Besides the tiny brown spots though, he is showing no other signs of health deterioration. In fact, I would say his situation is the best it's ever been with the new installments and his poop (except the flies, I hate them!). He is 12 years old.

He has already retired, but I snuck of photo :)
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I don't know why, but now I feel like I've seen them before, which means they go away. But I'm not certain. They are spread out all over, so I am a bit alarmed.
 
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Tom

The Dog Trainer
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Hello and welcome.

First your questions:
The spots are fly poop. Could also be roach poop, but its insect poop none the less.

The first weed is fine. I can't remember the name, but I've checked it, verified it and been feeding it to mine for years.

I don't recognize the second weed and until you ID it and verify that it is safe, I would not let him eat it. Or any other unknown plant for that matter. Tortoises DO NOT always know what is okay to eat and what is not. Some seem to make good choices some of the time, but others end up dead. I recently did a thread about a Galapagos tortoise and and Aldabra dying from eating jasmine. Another member had a close call with tulips recently. Not worth the risk.

About the dog house and heat lamp: NOT a good idea. Dog house are not suitable for tortoises. The door is too big, the air volume is too large, the ceilings are too high and they are not well insulated enough. Further, a heat lamp in a dog house is going to "slow burn" the top of your tortoises carapace. I see it all the time. Did a thread on that too. Here is what I suggest instead:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/another-night-box-thread.88966/
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/my-best-night-box-design-yet.66867/

Last thing is those temperatures. In my experience 60 is too cold for a sulcata. Can they survive it? Yes. Absolutely. They can survive even colder than that. Is it "good" for them? No. It does not get that cold down in their burrows even in their "winter" in the wild. I used to let mine get cooler at night, and they lived that way for years. Inspired by what I saw at another keepers facility, I decided to make a better night enclosure for mine and the difference in health and vitality was obvious. Within a short time of warmer night temps, I saw them just come alive. You won't regret making the change. I would hate to see yet another gorgeous tortoise with a damaged carapace top from a lightbulb-in-a-dog-house set up.
 

Yvonne G

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Hi, and welcome to the forum!
 

--chele

New Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2015
Messages
8
Location (City and/or State)
Fallbrook, Southern CA
Thank you Yvonne :)

And thank you for my answer Tom. So a good scrub will get them off?
I will bring the second weed to a store to identify it tomorrow (I'm not home so he won't be eating it today).

And thank you for the links! Those boxes look awesome and cozy. I also understand that the doghouse with heat lamp set-up is not the best, but it is all my family can do right now. There is a cardboard box inside of it to make it "smaller". The heat lamp is not a light, but ceramic. Will that burn his carapace too? It is also not directly above him either but is clipped to the top of the door facing inward. It's all I could do for now. His condition in the mornings have greatly improved and given your advice about 60 degrees, though this set-up isn't great, I have decided not to turn the lamp off at night when it gets warmer. Even with the heat lamp indoors, the house is always cooler so I want to kick him outside permanently so he always gets those first rays.

We have a heating mat but warnings of him burning himself and how much he pees scared us away from it. It is also our (my) first time setting up anything to be plugged in outside. I used to check on him throughout the night to make sure nothing had started to "burn" :(

Improving his situation is an ongoing project. I should rename this thread Evaluate my tortoise and his environment! We do need someone to come take a look.
 
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