Loss of appetite and vitamin D3

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GeoTerraTestudo

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Until recently, my Russians have had a diminished appetite. At first I thought it was because their basking spot wasn't hot enough, and changing the bulbs did help. But they still didn't seem to be as hungry as I remembered. I thought it could just be that they were well fed, but then I looked into vitamin D3 overdose.

In humans, vitamin D3 overdose (or toxicity) can lead to excessively high levels of calcium in the blood. This condition is known as hypercalcemia, and its symptoms include:

- Feeling sick
- Low appetite
- Extreme thirst
- Frequent urination
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle weakness or pain
- Confusion
- Fatigue

See: http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/am-i-getting-too-much-vitamin-d/

My Russians live indoors, so I supplement their diet with a calcium + vitamin D3 powder. I had been using it about 3x per week, which supposed to be a good frequency. But what if this was causing their low appetite (along with constipation and possible fatigue, all bolded above). Now that it's summer, and my torts are outside a lot, I felt it was safe to stop providing the supplement, since they have cuttlebones in their pens for calcium, and sunshine for vitamin D3. Lo and behold, their appetites seem to have recently returned! Could this be because they were suffering from vitamin D3 toxicity? Hard to say, since just being outside does wonders anyway. But it's possible. So, for those of you whose tortoises seem to exhibit some of the above symptoms, perhaps cutting back on the vitamin D3 supplementation would help. :tort:
 

sibi

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Come to think of it, one of my torts is kind of sluggish, and doesn't eat as much as the others do. Point taken. I think I will try cutting back and see if things change. Thanks for that observation.
 

wellington

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I have read many times here and other reptile forums, that vitamin D3 can be dangerous. I only give mine D3 about 2-3 times a month. I wouldn't give more then once a week at the most. Some will not give it at all. More important in hatchlings then juniors and older.
 

Millerlite

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You can over do the d3 and it is toxic, I would cut back on the d3 a little and calcium. If you have UVB bulbs or outdoors they don't really even need extra supplements. Also veggies have vitamins in them as well so you can very well be over doing it. Cut back on it and see what happens. In the mean time tell us a little about your temps. And enclosure
 

Madkins007

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Vitamin D3 toxicity is real, but rare. It is absolutely more likely if you are over-supplementing, but it usually takes more than 3xweekly of the small amount in calcium supplements. Almost no plants have vitamin D in them (mushrooms are an exception, but they have to be exposed to real sunlight and farmed 'shrooms are often not, and it is D2, which is a weaker form of the vitamin.)

The thing is- do you have any idea what the real dose you are providing is? Here is a chart for the right dosage- https://sites.google.com/site/tortoiselibrary/nutrition/guidelines-and-dosages. Overdose generally occurs at 5x the recommended dose over time.

So, a 1 pound/500 gram tortoise would need about 2.5-5IU's of D3 a day, so the overdose level would be about 25IUs a day over a period of time. That is a heck of a lot of supplements. (Note- these are guesses based on clinical studies. The exact dosages are not known for most reptiles.)

Dr. Mader's book "Reptile Medicine and Surgery" does not list loss of appetite for D3, but does list it for a hundred other things, ranging from environmental issues (too hot, too cold, too dry, too wet, etc.), diseases, diet problems (foods offered, amounts of foods, food balance, quality of food, etc.), dehydration, etc., etc., etc.

Based on sheer odds, something else is the problem.
 

GeoTerraTestudo

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I see. Okay, so maybe it wasn't the vitamin D3 supplements. Well, here's a description of the set up.

We live in a second-story condo, so each of my Russians has lived in its own 55-gallon tub for the past 2 years. They're getting bigger now (male ~4.5", female ~5.5"), and we're moving to a new house with a backyard later this summer, so they should be getting an upgrade soon. Anyway, at our current residence, and weather permitting, I put them outside all day long on our porch, which gets both sun and shade. I enclosed it with fencing and converted into a tortoise run with AstroTurf and leaves for substrate. It's divided into two parts so they don't fight. One side has dimensions 5' x 11', and the other 8' x 11'. I trade putting them in one partition or the other on any given day.

Their indoor pens have a 4" thick layer of moist coco coir for substrate. For illumination and artificial UVA/UVB, they share a 48"-long ZooMed ReptiSun 10.0 fluorescent bulb. For basking they each have a 150-Watt CHE. Nighttime temperatures are 65-70*F. During the day, ambient temperatures are 70-78*F, and basking temperatures are 95-100*F.

As for diet, they get a mix of grocery greens, as well as outdoor weeds whenever possible (that is, whenever the management here doesn't destroy them by yanking them out of the ground or spraying them with herbicide). The grocery greens I give them are a rotating parade of Romaine lettuce, endive, escarole, chicory, radicchio, dandelion, arugula, collard, kale, turnip, mustard, and spring mix. The wild weeds they get are dandelion and prickly lettuce, and when foraging outside on their own, they sometimes like to eat spotted spurge and the occasional grass, too. As for commercial foods, they get Mazuri Tortoise Diet or ZooMed Grassland Tortoise Food a couple times a week. Their monthly treat of fruits may consist of cucumber, tomato, strawberry, raspberry, or grape.

In other words, I thought they were getting great care, so I was kind of surprised when they didn't want to eat for a while there. They used to pig-out the way Russians are famous for doing, but maybe now they've reached a healthy weight and just don't really feel like eating as much anymore??
 

lMorphine

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I had the same issue with a chameleon of mine. I was taught to dust his crickets everyday with Vitamin D3. However, further research showed that you should dust ALL reptiles food once a month with Vitamin D3 and every meal with Vitamins without D3. Im not certain, but im almost certain the same applies to a tortoise
 

Madkins007

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lMorphine said:
I had the same issue with a chameleon of mine. I was taught to dust his crickets everyday with Vitamin D3. However, further research showed that you should dust ALL reptiles food once a month with Vitamin D3 and every meal with Vitamins without D3. Im not certain, but im almost certain the same applies to a tortoise

Chameleons are an interesting and unique challenge, and their D3 needs can drive someone crazy since they get almost none if it from their usual captive diet. For that matter, the conflicting opinions and research about D3 can drive you crazy too.

Yes, most animals, including humans, need an on-going amount of D3. For most animals, the dosage is 10-20IU/kilogram/day. Dr. Mader halves this for the slower metabolism of reptiles- 5-10IU/kg/day.

Most animals get it from the sun. Adult humans can generate a whooping 10,000-20,000IU just from 20-30 minutes of exposure to the sun! (Also note- solar exposure cannot lead to an overdose- there is a regulation mechanism in the process.) If you do a halfway decent amount of UVB exposure, your animals do not need any additional amounts.

Geo- this might be just due to the changes they are going through- being moved daily, getting bigger in the old tub, etc. My red-footeds always went through a settling in period when they went outside.
 

GeoTerraTestudo

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Madkins007 said:
Geo- this might be just due to the changes they are going through- being moved daily, getting bigger in the old tub, etc. My red-footeds always went through a settling in period when they went outside.

Good point. I try to handle them as little as possible, but during the summer, I do pick them up every morning to take them outside, and then again in the evening to bring them in. If the weather is not so nice (too hot on the porch, too cold, windy, or if there's precipitation), then I can't take them outside. The female seems content to stay in her pen, but the male tries to climb up the walls. His scratching drives me nuts, so I just block off a safe part of the house for him to walk around in. It seems to satisfy his wanderlust okay. But of course, that's indoors, so no natural UVB. Anyway, as you can see, I do have to handle them from time to time, so I hope stress is not behind their diminished appetite lately.

As I said, we hope to have a backyard for them in the next couple months, so that should help them feel more comfortable soon. :)
 

GeoTerraTestudo

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So I think I just hit upon another factor affecting their appetite. My guys are eating a lot again, which is great. They are spending lots of time outdoors now, and even spent the night outside last night for the first time with us, woo-hoo! So I'm sure all that helps. But I've made one other change: I've stopped rinsing their greens. I had been rinsing them for two reasons: 1) to warm them up from the refrigerator, and 2) to add some more moisture. However, I think this might make everything taste kind of the same, and make them feel like they're not getting the variety they actually are. Now that I'm just giving them greens straight out of the fridge, they are just gobbling them right up! Pretty sweet.
 
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