My baby has passed but questions remain

Lesa

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I have read almost every thread on here from the care sheets, beginners mistakes, enclosures etc. I have done more research on care than I did when pregnant with my son. I have three beautiful healthy torts so I believe I have been a good caretaker. That being said I had a little leopard who just didn't grow. He was a really good eater and very active just small. When a friend lost a tort due to parasites I thought I would go ahead and have mine checked. His fecal was negative and the vet wasn't as concerned about his small size (46 grams at a year old) as she was his density. She said he felt light and airy if that makes sense. Possibly his organs were just not developing. He was too small to get blood for a blood panel so no answers that way.

She gave him three injections (vitamin D, B12 and calcium) to try to jump start his growth. Well after the injections he completely stopped eating. I tried the soaks recommended on here to hydrate him and stimulate his appetite. The vet pretty much said they were useless and all they would do is give me a sticky tort. She started force feeding him and showed me how to do feedings at home. I brought him back to the vet almost everyday for three weeks for her to tube feed and she kept giving him more injections. I also did feedings several times a day which were a nightmare. I cried so much and felt as if I were torturing him. Into the fourth week with no response I decided not to continue with the force feedings. For a week he maintained his weight and seemed to rally. I couldn't catch him eating but he was pooping well. The vet said poop out meant something was going in. But this week he took a drastic turn and faded fast. He just passed away today. I am broken hearted of course and want answers.

I know something was probably wrong from the start and maybe his little organs would have given out eventually. But those injections seemed to shock his system. Has anyone had anything similar happen? I thought once he passed a year old he was just going to be small but okay. Did I make a huge mistake taking him to the vet? Does anyone know the survival rates of hatchlings? Is there a certain percentage who just have defects from the start? No matter what you do they aren't going to survive? Any answers or opinions please. As a tortoise keeper do you just have to accept the fact that they are fragile and there are just risks? I need something to help me through this grief. Thank you for listening.
 

Jodie

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I am so sorry for your loss. I have suffered this as well. Do you know how the breeder started the baby? Babies started dry have a high mortality rate. Dehydration causes organ damage and exactly what you described happens. Babies started correctly rarely suffer this end. 50 grams seems to be the magic number. All of the failures I know of, the baby never gets over 50 grams.
 

Lesa

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I am so sorry for your loss. I have suffered this as well. Do you know how the breeder started the baby? Babies started dry have a high mortality rate. Dehydration causes organ damage and exactly what you described happens. Babies started correctly rarely suffer this end. 50 grams seems to be the magic number. All of the failures I know of, the baby never gets over 50 grams.
Thank you. I did get him from a breeder with an excellent reputation. High humidity, daily soaks and all the same recommendations from care sheets here. I got him around two months and was so cautious because of everything I have read about starting dry and the dreaded failure to thrive. When he didn't grow in the first few months I did get a fecal on him that was negative. Once he hit a year old is when I wanted him to be checked again. He was such a good eater. The morning I did take him to the vet he was up at 7 am waiting for breakfast. I'm not trying to blame the vet but I just wonder if the injections were too much. She also told me to separate him from my other leopard and take away his hides. Force him to get as much sunshine as possible. Was this all too much or would he have died eventually? I think I can accept it if I knew this was just the risk you take and a certain percent don't make it to adulthood. Throw some numbers at me or some science and I can stop second guessing every choice I've made.
 

crimson_lotus

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The injections seem a bit weird to me, just because unlike mammals reptiles cannot simply defecate the excess and can overdose. I've never spoken with my vet about vitamin d injections, but vitamin a (he is a reptile vet) he has never injected except this one time it was highly likely the lizard would not make it.
 

Lesa

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The injections seem a bit weird to me, just because unlike mammals reptiles cannot simply defecate the excess and can overdose. I've never spoken with my vet about vitamin d injections, but vitamin a (he is a reptile vet) he has never injected except this one time it was highly likely the lizard would not make it.
I didn't see the injections so I don't know how much was given just that they would be injected into the legs. The other thing that seem to happen over the last few weeks is his plastron seemed to get softer. She had specifically said on his first visit it was nice and firm. Her only concern was how light he felt. The best way to describe is hollow. I know I am just scrambling for any answer. He was not sick or weakly the past year. Tiny but mighty.
 

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Hello Lesa,

I am so sorry for your loss.
But please don`t punish yourself. It is not your fault that your little tort died. You took him to the VET because you were worried about his health. You tried to help that little one.
If the VET gave him too much injections or the wrong ones was not your decision. We ( the tort owners ) must trust that a VET knows what to do.
There was always hope that the little tort would be getting better with the treatment.
I repeat again: The death of your little one was not your fault !
Some tort babies hatch with health problems we don`t know and they don`t thrive and grow. It is possible that your little one could have died some day without the VET treatment.
Please don`t be too sad. Nature is something we sometimes can`t comprehend.
 

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I'm so sorry to hear this. I am dealing with a similar situation where I lost my 11 year old tort, so I understand the need for answers. Im trying to learn how to grieve, but also turn this into a learning experience so I hopefully won't have to go through this again. I hope you can as well. Please take care.
 

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So very sorry. I too think it was not helpful to give a small baby that much injection at once. Too easy to OD the tort. The fact the vet told you the baby food soaks were useless was my first clue they might not know as much as they want too think. We have seen lots of success with the soaks.
That said, I'm not sure the little one would have made it anyway. Just one of those things we can't really explain without an expensive necropsy.
Again, so very sorry. You did all you could do for the little one.
 

Lesa

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Thank you to everyone who has responded. This is all so fresh and I am doing the what if thing. It is just disheartening after trying so hard to save the little guy. I was so hopeful after the first visit and thought great these injections will give him a boost. The vet wasn't overly concerned and he didn't have any parasites or any overt sign of illness. When he didn't eat the next day I thought well he just had the shots and his body is working on the meds. By day two when he wouldn't touch his favorite cactus pads I rushed him back to the vet. The nightmare started. I even took a week off work to give him round the clock care. Dammit none of it helped. It's tough to accept.
 

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We are constantly telling people not to let vets do "vitamin" shots. They do more harm than good and are often fatal. Same with calcium injections.

When a baby is failing to thrive there is something wrong. Injections into a little baby aren't going to fix the cause of the problem and usually make things worse.

Everything you describe sounds like a dry started baby. Where did you get it? Classic renal failure symptoms due to early dehydration. They eat well, they are active, and all seems good, except they don't grow for weeks or months. Then they stop eating, get lethargic, the plastron gets soft and they die. I've never seen this happen in a baby that was soaked daily, kept on damp substrate and kept mostly indoors. It is physically possible that something else caused some kidney damage and the symptoms are the same as kidney damage from early dehydration, but its unlikely.

I've hatched 100's of leopards and sulcatas. I've only had a a few that were not quite right from day one, and I never expected them to make it. These few cases were obvious and there was no mistaking that there was an issue from birth. All of the others survived and thrived. People who don't start babies correctly say things like "Some of them just aren't meant to survive…" or " These things happen…". Non-sense. If you start them right these things don't happen. Sure. A very small fraction of one percentage can have internal defects and fail to thrive. I read some of Jodie's thread and I suspect that might have been the case with her one baby that failed to thrive, but how many others has she hatched that did great? She had a problem with one baby. I'm not sure of the details in her case, but I hope she'll fill us in to help demonstrate my point.

Without a necropsy, we can only guess. Based on what you describe, this sounds like the classic dehydrated baby example.
 

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In addition to what Tom said, I'd like to add that some vets don't know much about tortoise care. Those injections, I believe, are what made the situation worse or deadly. Like Tom said, if the baby was started out dry, it may have been the beginning of the end for this poor baby. Having said that, it's possible that even with a dry beginning, a tort can survive for a good number of years. I mean, it's possible that after all your efforts, the tort may eventually die of renal failure; and while alive, it may have periodic bouts of "illness." Yet, it's possible that your baby could've lived if not taken to that vet for injections. Providing the proper diet, exposure to direct sunlight, and leaving it up to nature to correct, if possible, what's wrong, would be what I would do now. I have had experience with such vets, and everything that made my torts better were what I just wrote about. I never let the vet give vitamin injections, and she was never able to tell me more than I learned myself from this forum. In short, she did nothing for my torts except charged me thousands for x-rays and consulting other vets on expensive blood work. When I made a breakthrough with my "special needs" tort (Baby Runt), I realized that I was in a better position to treat and care for her than any vet I've taken her to. You did what I would have done with the exception of letting the vet do what he thought was best. I'm such a pain in the butt, that I would have the vet question what he was doing. So, I feel for you, but now trust yourself and learn from the best here. Then, do what you know is best for your torts in the future.
 
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Lesa

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He was a gift and supposedly from an experienced breeder with a good reputation. Someone I believe in Indiana and kind of a friend of a friend deal. The person who knew the breeder has had reptiles for 20 plus years so we trusted his judgement. My baby was around 2 months old when I got him. Would those first weeks have been that damaging? I know I kept my humidity at 80% until last winter (he would have been about 7 mnths) when I had a little trouble maintaining it consistantly. I doubled the height of my enclosure and that fixed the problem. I soaked him everyday. He had a shallow water dish and was a good drinker. He loved mazuri soaked and I was able to hide tiny grass clippings in there. He wasn't a big fan of grasses but ate everything else.

I wish now I hadn't brought him to the vet. A friend recently was going through the same growth issues with her desert tort. He had parasites and even with vet care passed away. It really worried me. I had my torts going outside in a large enclosed garden and thought maybe he picked up something there. I really just wanted the fecal test. I told the vet my story. She didn't believe in closed chambers and said soaks were useless. Kind of made a remark about did I think they got moisture through osmosis. This is the exotic vet recommended by my normal vet. The only one I've been told who deals with torts. She tube fed him in the back and some days didn't even charge me. She seemed to really care but I just couldn't keep force feeding into a fourth week. If he was going to go he was going to have some sunshine and peace.
 

Tom

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He was a gift and supposedly from an experienced breeder with a good reputation. Someone I believe in Indiana and kind of a friend of a friend deal. The person who knew the breeder has had reptiles for 20 plus years so we trusted his judgement. My baby was around 2 months old when I got him. Would those first weeks have been that damaging? I know I kept my humidity at 80% until last winter (he would have been about 7 mnths) when I had a little trouble maintaining it consistantly. I doubled the height of my enclosure and that fixed the problem. I soaked him everyday. He had a shallow water dish and was a good drinker. He loved mazuri soaked and I was able to hide tiny grass clippings in there. He wasn't a big fan of grasses but ate everything else.

I wish now I hadn't brought him to the vet. A friend recently was going through the same growth issues with her desert tort. He had parasites and even with vet care passed away. It really worried me. I had my torts going outside in a large enclosed garden and thought maybe he picked up something there. I really just wanted the fecal test. I told the vet my story. She didn't believe in closed chambers and said soaks were useless. Kind of made a remark about did I think they got moisture through osmosis. This is the exotic vet recommended by my normal vet. The only one I've been told who deals with torts. She tube fed him in the back and some days didn't even charge me. She seemed to really care but I just couldn't keep force feeding into a fourth week. If he was going to go he was going to have some sunshine and peace.

It sounds to me like you've run into a very common problem. Its a problem that I, and many others, have been trying to bring to a halt. Only in the last few years have we learned why 50-90% of CB hatchlings of some species don't live for more than a few months. Only in the last few years have we learned that hatchlings need humidity and hydration and that starting them in dry conditions, even though it seems like the areas they come from are dry, will kill them. Many "reputable" and "experienced" breeders, maybe most of them, still don't know this new info and remain skeptical. They don't realize the what they do in the first few weeks will kill the baby weeks or months down the road, and they don't know what happens to most of their babies after the sale. I keep tabs on less than 1% of the babies I sell. These people have been keeping and breeding tortoise for decades in some cases. They seem like experts, but they don't realize what they don't know. They learned the old care info from the same books, experts and breeders as everyone else did, including me, 30 years ago. We were wrong. Most them are still wrong and just don't know it. Contact the breeder and let them know what you've learned. Begin the process of introducing this new info. You may be ignored or dismissed. Who cares? Eventually, if enough people tell them the same thing, they will begin to listen and eventually understand.

Your vet is ignorant. Frankly she sounds snotty too. Man would she have gotten a lecture and an education if she'd dropped those quips on me… Both on tortoise husbandry and its recent advancements, and on bedside manner too. Everyone was ignorant of this new info at one time. Not just including me, but especially me. But to scoff at what her paying customer has discovered in her research, and what you've learned by reading about my experiments and the experiments of others is just bad form. Its dismissive. Does she think she is the only person capable of learning something new, or discovering a long term flaw in our tortoise husbandry practices? Send me her name and number in a private message. I'd like to answer her questions and explain a few things to her about tortoises that she clearly doesn't know.

To answer your question about this damage happening in two weeks: YES! This damage can happen in 24 hours with a tiny hatchling. Some leopards hatch at 20-25 grams. Imagine how easy it would be to lose water at that size in a dry desiccating enclosure on dry substrate under a hot desiccating bulb. I call these baby killing enclosures "beef jerky makers". If an earthworm can't survive in your baby's enclosure, neither can a baby tortoise. It sounds like you did everything right. But if the baby's kidneys were fried because the reputable breeder kept it on rabbit pellets under a hot bulb, or outside in the hot sun for two weeks before you got it, yes, the damage could have been already done. This is where the big disconnect happens. The babies live for weeks or months like this. In some cases, with excellent care like what you offered, they can live a year. But the tell tale sign is lack of growth. Some of them pull through, survive and eventually begin to grow. Some of them die. Someone calls the breeder 2 months or 6 months later and says: "Hey. My baby died." The breeder invariably answers: "Well they were all fine while I had them, and I've been doing it this way for years…". These breeders assume the new keeper must have done something wrong because of all the time that has gone by. I can understand why they think this, but I also understand why they are wrong.

Have you read this one:
http://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/hatchling-failure-syndrome.23493/
 

Lesa

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Thank you so much Tom. Yes I have read the hatchling failure syndrome thread. I've been reading all the threads especially the ones concerned with size and growth. I've suspected this was the problem when he didn't grow at a normal rate but honestly was hoping I was wrong and he was just a runt. He was at least 2 months when I got him so that was even more time damaging his organs. Once he reached the year mark I told myself it would be okay. So many times I wanted to ask you guys but I was afraid of the answer. I thought if I did everything perfect he would be fine. Plus he ate and he was active I kept telling myself. Then my friends tort died and I was so worried.

I tried to bring it up with the vet. I think I called if beef jerky syndrome but she told me to get off the internet. She is the only exotic vet in my area. She had recently saved a large sulcata who was hit by a car. It made the papers and I thought she was the expert. She was not worried that first visit but when I brought him back panicked he had stopped eating things changed. Then it was you're going to have to force feed him 4 to 5 times a day or he isn't going to make it. Getting him to her and having her feed him too was a three hour ordeal each time. I missed so much work and used alot of vacation days. I'll PM you the vet's info. But I don't want to make her the scape goat. The guys in the office said she works 7 days a week and spents most nights sleeping at the clinic. I think she is just old school but her heart was in the right place. She wasn't trying to make money off me. Charges were like $3 or $7 a visit. But the stress of the visits, the force feedings and more injections must have done more harm than good. It's a hard lesson but I am so thankful for this site and because of you folks my other torts are healthy and thriving.
 

Tom

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Thank you so much Tom. Yes I have read the hatchling failure syndrome thread. I've been reading all the threads especially the ones concerned with size and growth. I've suspected this was the problem when he didn't grow at a normal rate but honestly was hoping I was wrong and he was just a runt. He was at least 2 months when I got him so that was even more time damaging his organs. Once he reached the year mark I told myself it would be okay. So many times I wanted to ask you guys but I was afraid of the answer. I thought if I did everything perfect he would be fine. Plus he ate and he was active I kept telling myself. Then my friends tort died and I was so worried.

I tried to bring it up with the vet. I think I called if beef jerky syndrome but she told me to get off the internet. She is the only exotic vet in my area. She had recently saved a large sulcata who was hit by a car. It made the papers and I thought she was the expert. She was not worried that first visit but when I brought him back panicked he had stopped eating things changed. Then it was you're going to have to force feed him 4 to 5 times a day or he isn't going to make it. Getting him to her and having her feed him too was a three hour ordeal each time. I missed so much work and used alot of vacation days. I'll PM you the vet's info. But I don't want to make her the scape goat. The guys in the office said she works 7 days a week and spents most nights sleeping at the clinic. I think she is just old school but her heart was in the right place. She wasn't trying to make money off me. Charges were like $3 or $7 a visit. But the stress of the visits, the force feedings and more injections must have done more harm than good. It's a hard lesson but I am so thankful for this site and because of you folks my other torts are healthy and thriving.

I feel better knowing what is or has gone on, even if its not good news. I hope that knowing you did everything humanly possible and that this wasn't your fault will bring some solace.

I will attempt to contact the vet, and I will put on my best tact and diplomacy hats. Some people are receptive and some people are not. Some people get hostile. I'll not mention your case or your name. I'll attempt to keep it vague and reference "a customer of hers" when speaking of how I got her info.
 

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I would like to add something for all other people who may read this thread. Tortoise's metabolism is very slow. When force feeding, you CAN NOT put too much food into the tortoise's stomach. Maybe a very tiny amount of food would be ok 3 times a day, but in my opinion, a tiny amount once daily would be best.
 

Tom

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I would like to add something for all other people who may read this thread. Tortoise's metabolism is very slow. When force feeding, you CAN NOT put too much food into the tortoise's stomach. Maybe a very tiny amount of food would be ok 3 times a day, but in my opinion, a tiny amount once daily would be best.

Good comment.

I have a related question. Have you ever seen one single case of a baby that was force fed surviving? I have not. Not with any species.

As I see it, the lack of appetite is a symptom. Forcing food in to correct this symptom, without diagnosing and correcting the problem that is causing the symptom is pointless. I've never seen it work on a baby. For that matter, I can't think of a case where it helped an adult pull through either...
 

Lesa

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I would like to add something for all other people who may read this thread. Tortoise's metabolism is very slow. When force feeding, you CAN NOT put too much food into the tortoise's stomach. Maybe a very tiny amount of food would be ok 3 times a day, but in my opinion, a tiny amount once daily would be best.
She was getting 2 to 3cc's at one time with her tube feeding and then wanted me to try for 3cc's over a 24 hour period. I was really lucky to get maybe .5cc a couple of times a day. She said for example whatever he ate on Monday he should poop on Wednesday. I was to keep him on a clean towel to collect his poop. He would gain 2 grams with feeding and then lose 2 grams pooping. We never got ahead and he never regained his appetite. I have no clue how long she would have continued. I just couldn't do it anymore. I continued to soaked him and put him in his garden with fresh food and sunshine. Unfortunately he didn't recover but his last days were peaceful.
 

Lesa

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I feel better knowing what is or has gone on, even if its not good news. I hope that knowing you did everything humanly possible and that this wasn't your fault will bring some solace.

I will attempt to contact the vet, and I will put on my best tact and diplomacy hats. Some people are receptive and some people are not. Some people get hostile. I'll not mention your case or your name. I'll attempt to keep it vague and reference "a customer of hers" when speaking of how I got her info.
I do feel better with some answers. I've always thought I was on borrowed time but just didn't want to face it. Good luck trying to reach her. She said she had been doing this for decades. Kind of gruff and very old school. Not a snooty intellectual type but more of a raised on the farm no nonsense type. But I do want to stress I think they tried really hard to save him and the office staff was really kind. I started with bringing him in every other day but they called every single day to check on him. They only stopped when I said I thought it best not to continue. I haven't called to let them know he passed. Part of me feels guilty I stopped treatment. Mostly I'm just too sad to call.
 

Jodie

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Second guessing everything we did is human nature. I don't believe the outcome would have been different no matter what you did. Tom asked earlier for more info on my little one.
First I will say, I bought 3 hatchlings several years ago from Backwater. They all died. The first 2 I got, 1 passed shortly after I got them. I replaced it. That one passed within a few months. Pepe lived almost a year. He was active, ate great, and ridiculously cute, but never got over 50 grams. He stoped eating, got lethargic and died within a couple of weeks. His shell was thin, it got soft after he stopped eating, and kind of translucent. It sucked!
Narnia's story; I am a beginner breaded. I use the hot humid method to start my babies. I have hatched around 100 babies from 2 females. Narnia is the only one that failed to reach 50 grams within 3 months. Because of my experience, I will not sell a leopard baby until it is at least 50 grams. Narnia is about 8 months old. He is a great eater, but obviously not well. Hier shell is thick and hard. Weight About 44 grams. About 2 months ago, she swelled up, obviously retaining fluid. Went to the vet even though I knew there was nothing to be done. Vet agreed appears to be renal failure. The swelling has come and gone, but she continues to eat. Not very active. I remain hopeful that at some point she will grow and be ok, but know it is unlikely.
It is reasonable to expect that there will be one hatched wrong once in a while. 1 out of 100 is definitely better than 3 out of 3.
I hope you will not blame yourself, and try again some day.
 
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