leopardmom

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Hi! I'm new here and this is my first post. I've had a south african leopard tortoise for almost 15 years and this is the first time she might be sick. She recently came out of hibernation/brumation in mid/late March (kept indoors, I haven't always lived with her but from what I remember she just goes to sleep every winter for at least the past few years) and I noticed her eyes were looking a bit swollen/puffy. (I'll try to post pics later.) Took her to an exotic vet for the first time a couple weeks ago. (Her eyes looked a bit odd before hibernation in late Oct/early Nov but we just thought they were irritated from taking her outside during the last few warm days of the fall. I cleaned them and then the issues seemed to subside. Fast forward post hibernation and her eyes looked a bit odd again...)

The vet said the inside of her mouth looked nice and pink, nose looked clear/no bubbles, her weight was good, her eyes were clear but her third eyelids were elevated/swollen, and they were concerned about how her breathing sounded and thought it might be a RI. I asked what the breathing sounded like bc my tort has been "whistling/squeaking" for years. I asked if the breathing sounded more whistle-y or gurgle-y and the vet said they think it sounded gurgle-y. This was a couple of weeks ago. I've been trying to listen to her breathing since then and it's really hard to tell if it sounds different than usual. At the time the vet gave me a couple of options: do some testing or start her up on antibiotics. I think the tests would check other secondary issues rather than confirm whether or not she has an RI, but I can't remember. One of those tests included looking at a oral swab, I think. So at the time, I agreed to take the antibiotics for her and no testing. When I was given the meds I was told two people should administer them bc it can be difficult to do it alone for someone of her size. I am currently alone right now waiting for my family member to come back and the vet said it was likely okay to wait a couple weeks to give the medicine but in the meantime take extra care of her and increase temps in her husbandry. They gave some good general advice about tortoise diet as well. Currently, she eats lots and lots of grass/weeds as long as it's warm outside, arugula, bok choy, dandelions, and belgian endives in her diet. A couple slices of tomato and few carrot shreddings 1-2x a week. The vet said it could be vitamin A deficiency as well which I also thought of. Any advice on how to carefully supplement/improve her diet to make sure she is getting her vitamin A? I want to be really careful about what I feed her. I already supplement her diet w dusting of a plant calcium complex and D3 about 2x week, esp as we are still transitioning into summer months before she can get plenty of sun. Also, my tort unfortunately does have pyramiding from when she was younger. But over the years her growth has seemed to improve with changes in husbandry and diet. We did change homes a couple years ago and she was with a pet sitter in another home for a couple weeks early in the fall, so I'm not sure if these changes in environment could have been factors or if she just got exposed to something somehow.

The vet had excellent advice on husbandry and their practice was highly rated so I trust their advice and protocols. They didn't have vets that specialized in tortoises specifically but did have general reptile vets who had seen torts before. But I'm still really anxious about administering these antibiotics and I'm wondering if I should just bring her back and ask to run some tests before I start her on the medications.

***Does anyone have any experience with giving their torts (especially leopards) celtiofur (naxcel), amikacin, and meloxicam all at once?***
They are injections to be done at the front arms where there is loose skin is what the vet tech told me. I'm not sure if they are all subcutaneous but I'm going to call and double check just to be sure. My family member is coming back in a couple days and I wanted to start the antibiotics as soon as they get home but now I'm really nervous about it. I trust this vet but I'm wondering if I should just go back and run some tests and/or get an x-ray -- or if these antibiotics will probably do the trick. I want her to get better ASAP, but I also don't want to make it worse. Good news is right now my tort is happily eating everyday, gets daily warm soaks for 20-30 minutes, drinks water daily, gets at least 1.5 hours of direct sun daily if it is above 70 outside. Weather was a bit too cool this past week to take her out but she has just been warming herself next to her heater inside. Still transitioning into the warmer months but as it gets warmer we let her sunbathe outside early in the morning for at least a couple of hours as long as she feels comfortable in the sun/heat, after which she usually rests or walks around indoors. And then we take her out again in the afternoon if she wants to sunbathe more and/or graze.

Also, I've been putting Vetericyn eye wash in her eyes daily. She doesn't love it but it definitely helps keep her eyes clean and reduces a bit of inflammation. Anyone have additional advice on that? Does anyone have experience using Zoo Med Repti Turtle eye drops on a tortoise? I was wondering if I should try that to address possible vitamin A deficiency.

Thank you!
 

Yossarian

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Definately dont supplement Vit A, almost all the food torts eat is high in vitamin A, unless your tort is malnourished it is highly unlikely to be that, and vitamin A overdose comes with its own problems, this is actually a good indication in my opinion, that this vet doesnt have a good understanding of Torts.

How do you know the vets gave you good husbandry advice? If they are not tort specialists or owners themselves I bet it wasnt. I have some concerns tbh, I dont believe leopard torts should ever brumate in captivity, they need temps in excess of 80 degrees with a hot basking spot year round.

This is the correct hubandry advice for your species.

The Best Way To Raise A Sulcata, Leopard, Or Star Tortoise | Tortoise Forum

As for all that medication, why have they prescribed the Meloxicam out of curiosity? Im sure some others can provide more info about the anti-biotics they have prescribed.

I have injected my tort, hes smaller than an adult leopard and it was doable by myself but easier with two. The injection is subcutaneous, your are just slipping under the loose skin, not sticking the needle straight in, The skin feels thin but it actually pretty thick and tough, if you dont pierce it all the way the fluid will come back out of the hole.
 
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wellington

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As stated, leopards do not brumate/hibernate. They sometimes will slow down if the temps you are suppose to provide is not provided.
Read the links provided and change the way you care for him asap.
In the mean time raise his enclosure temp to 85F day and night while he is not feeling good. Also give daily soaks. If you left him to truly brumate, You left a tort for quite some time with no food or water that is not suppose to be left that way. If he didn't truly brumate and had food and water available daily then daily soaks are probably not needed
@Yvonne G can possibly help more with meds and tort.
 

Tom

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Hi! I'm new here and this is my first post. I've had a south african leopard tortoise for almost 15 years and this is the first time she might be sick. She recently came out of hibernation/brumation in mid/late March (kept indoors, I haven't always lived with her but from what I remember she just goes to sleep every winter for at least the past few years) and I noticed her eyes were looking a bit swollen/puffy. (I'll try to post pics later.) Took her to an exotic vet for the first time a couple weeks ago. (Her eyes looked a bit odd before hibernation in late Oct/early Nov but we just thought they were irritated from taking her outside during the last few warm days of the fall. I cleaned them and then the issues seemed to subside. Fast forward post hibernation and her eyes looked a bit odd again...)

The vet said the inside of her mouth looked nice and pink, nose looked clear/no bubbles, her weight was good, her eyes were clear but her third eyelids were elevated/swollen, and they were concerned about how her breathing sounded and thought it might be a RI. I asked what the breathing sounded like bc my tort has been "whistling/squeaking" for years. I asked if the breathing sounded more whistle-y or gurgle-y and the vet said they think it sounded gurgle-y. This was a couple of weeks ago. I've been trying to listen to her breathing since then and it's really hard to tell if it sounds different than usual. At the time the vet gave me a couple of options: do some testing or start her up on antibiotics. I think the tests would check other secondary issues rather than confirm whether or not she has an RI, but I can't remember. One of those tests included looking at a oral swab, I think. So at the time, I agreed to take the antibiotics for her and no testing. When I was given the meds I was told two people should administer them bc it can be difficult to do it alone for someone of her size. I am currently alone right now waiting for my family member to come back and the vet said it was likely okay to wait a couple weeks to give the medicine but in the meantime take extra care of her and increase temps in her husbandry. They gave some good general advice about tortoise diet as well. Currently, she eats lots and lots of grass/weeds as long as it's warm outside, arugula, bok choy, dandelions, and belgian endives in her diet. A couple slices of tomato and few carrot shreddings 1-2x a week. The vet said it could be vitamin A deficiency as well which I also thought of. Any advice on how to carefully supplement/improve her diet to make sure she is getting her vitamin A? I want to be really careful about what I feed her. I already supplement her diet w dusting of a plant calcium complex and D3 about 2x week, esp as we are still transitioning into summer months before she can get plenty of sun. Also, my tort unfortunately does have pyramiding from when she was younger. But over the years her growth has seemed to improve with changes in husbandry and diet. We did change homes a couple years ago and she was with a pet sitter in another home for a couple weeks early in the fall, so I'm not sure if these changes in environment could have been factors or if she just got exposed to something somehow.

The vet had excellent advice on husbandry and their practice was highly rated so I trust their advice and protocols. They didn't have vets that specialized in tortoises specifically but did have general reptile vets who had seen torts before. But I'm still really anxious about administering these antibiotics and I'm wondering if I should just bring her back and ask to run some tests before I start her on the medications.

***Does anyone have any experience with giving their torts (especially leopards) celtiofur (naxcel), amikacin, and meloxicam all at once?***
They are injections to be done at the front arms where there is loose skin is what the vet tech told me. I'm not sure if they are all subcutaneous but I'm going to call and double check just to be sure. My family member is coming back in a couple days and I wanted to start the antibiotics as soon as they get home but now I'm really nervous about it. I trust this vet but I'm wondering if I should just go back and run some tests and/or get an x-ray -- or if these antibiotics will probably do the trick. I want her to get better ASAP, but I also don't want to make it worse. Good news is right now my tort is happily eating everyday, gets daily warm soaks for 20-30 minutes, drinks water daily, gets at least 1.5 hours of direct sun daily if it is above 70 outside. Weather was a bit too cool this past week to take her out but she has just been warming herself next to her heater inside. Still transitioning into the warmer months but as it gets warmer we let her sunbathe outside early in the morning for at least a couple of hours as long as she feels comfortable in the sun/heat, after which she usually rests or walks around indoors. And then we take her out again in the afternoon if she wants to sunbathe more and/or graze.

Also, I've been putting Vetericyn eye wash in her eyes daily. She doesn't love it but it definitely helps keep her eyes clean and reduces a bit of inflammation. Anyone have additional advice on that? Does anyone have experience using Zoo Med Repti Turtle eye drops on a tortoise? I was wondering if I should try that to address possible vitamin A deficiency.

Thank you!
Hello and welcome.

FIrst, vets don't know tortoise care, and yours clearly don't. Despite this, the advice to warm up the temps is correct.

I can't say whether or not you should use the meds. It depends on how bad it is. If the tortoise is still active, eating and drinking, pooping, etc... I would not use the medications. RIs are caused by temps that are too cold. The cure is warmer temps.

While it is true that this species does hibernate in some parts of its range, the ones we have here do not, and regardless of arguments about what does or doesn't happen in the wild, in practice, in the USA, attempting to hibernate this variety of this species usually results in fatal sickness. Your tortoise needs to be kept warm day and night, all year long. I don't know who told you it was okay to hibernate a leopard tortoise, but its not, and you are seeing first hand why. You've been lucky that your tortoise has survived up to this point. My SA leopards sleep in heated night boxes.

What to do? Get the tortoise warm. Don't let it drop below 85 degrees day or night, and get day time temps up into the low 90s. You are now going to ask: "How do I do that while its still cold outside?" I don't know how to do it in your climate. In my climate, I'd simply turn the thermostat on the night box up. I don't know how you are housing your tortoise there. If you share some pics and descriptions, we might have some ideas for you.

With all the extra electric heat comes dehydration and desiccation. Soak the tortoise for an hour in warm water, warm for the entire hour, every day or every other day. Keep up the heat and soaking for at least two weeks AFTER symptoms disappear. Not two weeks. Two weeks after you no longer see any signs of sickness.

If you do these things, you might get away with not having to use the meds, which sometimes do more harm than good.
 

leopardmom

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Hi every one! Thank you all for replying so quickly. I appreciate it.

The vet gave the same advice as a lot of you said about raising temps/basking area. They also had general advice about specific species, and gave me a general care sheet with a diagram specifically on tortoise husbandry and preventative care which reflects a lot of what I've researched. (Yes, I am also aware there is plenty of incorrect info out there on tortoise husbandry/diet.) I don't have too many options for reptile vets so I guess to clarify I trust this vet more in terms of the options I have. I sought out a reptile/exotic vet bc I wanted to make sure I exhaust all my options and resources, especially if she really does need medication. The vet did not want to inject her or anything w Vitamin A nor add Vitamin A alone to her diet. I know you can easily overdo vitamin A and I think my vet knew that as well based on their advice. Their exact advice was: Calcium supplement w D3 2x weekly for adults (I already do something similar as mentioned in my first post) and multivitamin every other week to every three weeks in adults "containing Vit A, not beta-carotene and no D3." For the "multivitamin," vet suggested supplementing with pellets (served crushed into powder on food or softening w water) (they recommended very specific brands, I just can't remember which ones atm). They said by using pellets further supplementation may not be necessary bc the pellets can serve as supplements/multivitamins themselves. I was wondering if the diet I have for her now still needs improvement with regard to Vitamin A or just in general. I also thought Vitamin A was pretty naturally occurring in her diet but thought I'd ask anyway to see if there's something I could adjust.

100% agree, Leopard torts in captivity shouldn't hibernate/brumate. That was not my decision. I was not originally as involved/had much say in her care as I do now bc I was really little when she came into the family and just followed what I was told. As I've gotten older I've tried really hard to advocate for changes in her care, and I wasn't always living with her for the past few years to be able to do so.

I've been asking for the past few years to create a more ideal winter/indoor set up for her so she doesn't have to sleep during the winter months. I had a long phone call w my family member about this when my tort first woke up in March and they agreed to let me make more changes. My post was getting long so I just wanted to wait until I saw some replies to ask a couple more questions/give more context.

At night right now I keep the heater and heat mat near her and keep her shell covered with a blanket. She also has a a cozy soft hide that she likes to crawl into. If she doesn't go into there I just cover her shell with the small blanket. At night sometimes she'll move closer to the heat and sometimes away, just depends on how she feels. It's been around 73-80F in the area where she sleeps, the closer to the heating areas the warmer it is. I like @Tom 's idea on the heating night box areas and I'll look into that more. I know she needs better access to humidity as well.

I want to help set up a proper new indoor basking area for her.
The heating area she has is helpful but it's open and not really a basking area, and I know it needs improvement. I've been lurking on this forum for years but I only just now made an account. I've previously read @Tom 's post on sulcata/leopard/star tort husbandry and some of the other links. Thank you for providing those links here, I will def reference them again. I'm not too concerned with getting her artificial UV right now (for winter, yes, but not now bc she will get plenty of UV exposure. we had a cloudy/cool spell this week but otherwise I've been taking her out daily for sunshine). I was wondering what additional advice yall have on this for building a new space. I'm starting completely from scratch. She used to have a somewhat more proper basking area but my family member got rid of it years ago bc there was some issues. I think it was potentially too warm or harming her skin. I'm pretty sure they didn't use the right set up or the bulb was not ideal for the set up they had from what I can remember. Since then, they've added some heating elements to her space but I know what she needs is a more proper basking area in a closed space with a cooler side, warmer side, availability of shade, and some level of humidity. I've looked around this forum/researched a lot but could still use some help.

What do yall think about using something like this for indoors?
I would of course make it bigger bc I do have 14 y/o tort (I think about 9 x 5 inches (length x width)), but more so just wondering about using these types of parts to build something new so she can have a better closed space. Otherwise, I can do my best to build it from raw materials. Any suggestions on how to easily set up a nice basking lamp? Recommendations on getting screen/lamp materials? I have access to stores like Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe's. I'm thinking of using an incandescent flood bulb but any other recs? I wanna be really careful about what I pick and set up bc I don't wanna aggravate her eyes nor make similar mistakes as before. I know I do not want to use a mercury vapor bulb/cfl bulb. I want to make sure she has a nice humid hide as well. The links I've come across so far have been very helpful but if anyone has any further tips/experience about maintaining access to proper humidity in a closed indoor area for adult leopard torts, I would def appreciate it.

With regard to soaks, usually we do 20-30 minutes as I said but the past couple of weeks I've definitely been letting her sit there upwards 45-65 minutes. We've been doing daily soaks for years now and I do not plan on changing that even though she is an adult. She also just enjoys them. I'll definitely keep up the extended soaks for a while even after she gets better. Right now I let warm water constantly run down her shell (she moves around and adjusts herself as she pleases and usually takes a nap). I check periodically to make sure water still feels okay and she's comfy. I'm pretty sure I can leave her there all day (I won't!) bc every time I look at her she is napping in peace. I also give her lukewarm/warm water in a shallow dish to drink in the beginning (so that she doesn't immediately pee in the soak and then have to drink her pee water/so she can hydrate before she urinates).

The extended daily soaks, heat access, and eye wash are helping, but I do need help setting up a new basking area for her. I'll hold off on the antibiotics for just a bit longer then. I do not want to procrastinate medicine if it will help, but I also do not want to give them to her without ensuring her conditions are completely ideal nor do I want to worsen the issue by giving her antibiotics.

@Yossarian The meloxicam I believe is to address inflammation/pain/mitigate side effects from the amikicin and naxcel. If anyone else can share experience w giving their torts these combos of medicine, esp the amikicin and naxcel, I would appreciate it.

Thank you again.
 

Tom

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Your 14 year old SA leopard is 9x5 inches?

How do you know its a SA leopard? Can you post a pic or two?
 

leopardmom

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Your 14 year old SA leopard is 9x5 inches?

How do you know its a SA leopard? Can you post a pic or two?
I think she's more like 10.5 x 7 inches. But yeah.

That's what I've been told. :oops: For a while I couldn't remember if maybe her origins were SA or EA. My family member said they received from a breeder and the breeder said she's specifically a pardalis babcocki leopard tort/smaller species of leopard but even then she still might be small for her age, perhaps bc of the care she previously had in captivity/pyramiding. Although, I think even those subspecies maybe aren't recognized anymore? Correct me if I'm wrong. That's all I know tho, as far as I've been told about her. I know there's variability in leopard torts, maybe she's not technically South African? I was also told her mom was in California when she hatched from a clutch of about 150 eggs (from that entire year I think) and in open air bc it was warm in Cali. Not sure of her origins beyond that.
tortforum_leoptort1.jpg

screenshot_tortforum_leoptortbaby.jpg
 

Tom

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I think she's more like 10.5 x 7 inches. But yeah.

That's what I've been told. :oops: For a while I couldn't remember if maybe her origins were SA or EA. My family member said they received from a breeder and the breeder said she's specifically a pardalis babcocki leopard tort/smaller species of leopard but even then she still might be small for her age, perhaps bc of the care she previously had in captivity/pyramiding. Although, I think even those subspecies maybe aren't recognized anymore? Correct me if I'm wrong. That's all I know tho, as far as I've been told about her. I know there's variability in leopard torts, maybe she's not technically South African? I was also told her mom was in California when she hatched from a clutch of about 150 eggs (from that entire year I think) and in open air bc it was warm in Cali. Not sure of her origins beyond that.
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Its a beautiful tortoise, but that is the one we used to refer to as "babcocki", not the South African type. You are also correct that the subspecies are no longer recognized, so we call the former Gpp "South African Leopard" now.
 

Eryl Rayner

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What a lovely tortoise. Love the colour. I hope you are able to work out how to help her. Tbh sounds to me like you are doing really well !
 
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