Rescue help!

TommyTrout

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Jun 19, 2021
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Hi guys we need your help. We just rescued a tortoise from an elderly gentleman who told us it's a him. We've never kept one before so no idea what todo. His shell is flat and he doesnt seem to stand in his back legs although he does retract them and uses them to push itself along. His claws/nails seem very long to me too. We've been putting it outside on the grass daily and been feeding him a mix of tomatoes, red peppers and tortoise diet pellets and it eats the grass and leaves when outside. It hisses when I pick it up to move it to the garden area and the underneath of its shell feels soft to me as i can feel it moving inside. Any help would be grateful. Thanks 20210619_093737.jpg 20210619_093814.jpg
 

Lyn W

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H and welcome,
That poor tortoise has survived years of incorrect care.
It wouldn't surprise me if he has MBD (meatbollic bone disease) because of it. Others with more knowledge of that will be able to help you there. I'll tag few @zovik @Tom @Yvonne G @ZenHerper
I'm not completely sure but he could be a hermanns.
This is the caresheet you need.
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/the-best-way-to-raise-any-temperate-species-of-tortoise.183131/ It's mainly for raising a tort but will gve you a good idea of the conditions he needs.

Have you soaked him yet? Torts love a luke warm soak, water depth just under chin. They will absorb water through their vent area, and also make sure he has fresh water daily.

Yes his nails do need clippng and he wil be much more comfortable for that - probably best to let a vet do it ( a tort specialist if possible). You could also take a faeces sample to check for parasites too, I doubt he's ever been checked for those. Don't let them give a vitamin shot unless they've done bloodwork and know for sure he needs them - they can do more than good if unnecessary.

He needs a more varied diet, peppers and pellets are not a good regular food. Goodness knows what he's been fed in the past. Thankfully there are lots of leafy weeds like dandelions, sow thistle, clover, ribwort and broadleaf plantains etc. about at the moment.
www.thetortoisetable.org.uk is a good guide to tort safe foods.
You could add calcium powder to his diet usually just a pinch a couple of times a week but see if the other members suggest more. If you give him a cuttlefishbone (as sold for birds but with cage clips removed) he may nibble that when he wants or you could scrape some on his food. I also use Nutrabal the same way just a small pinch a couple of times a week

Torts don't like change even of it is for the better so he may take some time to get used to you and his new surroundings. Do you have a secure outside enclosure for him and a heat source for colder days? If you want to post pics you'll get good advice on how to make sure he stays safe.

Thank you for rescuing him hopefully the rest of his life will be happier.
 

TommyTrout

New Member
Joined
Jun 19, 2021
Messages
2
Location (City and/or State)
North yorkshire uk
H and welcome,
That poor tortoise has survived years of incorrect care.
It wouldn't surprise me if he has MBD (meatbollic bone disease) because of it. Others with more knowledge of that will be able to help you there. I'll tag few @zovik @Tom @Yvonne G @ZenHerper
I'm not completely sure but he could be a hermanns.
This is the caresheet you need.
https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/the-best-way-to-raise-any-temperate-species-of-tortoise.183131/ It's mainly for raising a tort but will gve you a good idea of the conditions he needs.

Have you soaked him yet? Torts love a luke warm soak, water depth just under chin. They will absorb water through their vent area, and also make sure he has fresh water daily.

Yes his nails do need clippng and he wil be much more comfortable for that - probably best to let a vet do it ( a tort specialist if possible). You could also take a faeces sample to check for parasites too, I doubt he's ever been checked for those. Don't let them give a vitamin shot unless they've done bloodwork and know for sure he needs them - they can do more than good if unnecessary.

He needs a more varied diet, peppers and pellets are not a good regular food. Goodness knows what he's been fed in the past. Thankfully there are lots of leafy weeds like dandelions, sow thistle, clover, ribwort and broadleaf plantains etc. about at the moment.
www.thetortoisetable.org.uk is a good guide to tort safe foods.
You could add calcium powder to his diet usually just a pinch a couple of times a week but see if the other members suggest more. If you give him a cuttlefishbone (as sold for birds but with cage clips removed) he may nibble that when he wants or you could scrape some on his food. I also use Nutrabal the same way just a small pinch a couple of times a week

Torts don't like change even of it is for the better so he may take some time to get used to you and his new surroundings. Do you have a secure outside enclosure for him and a heat source for colder days? If you want to post pics you'll get good advice on how to make sure he stays safe.

Thank you for rescuing him hopefully the rest of his life will be happier.
Thank you so much for this. At the moment as its warma and sunny hes just been put out (alone) in the pyramid run we use for our rabbits. He has fresh food and water every day and has been outside most days we have had him (just the rainy/cloudy days hes not been out). I will get some of the calcium things soon.
Do you think his shell will ever bowl out and not be as flat and soft anymore or even start to stand on his back legs?
 

KarenSoCal

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Hello, and welcome to the forum!

Your tortoise is very pyramided (the bumpiness of his carapace). This was caused by being kept too dry. It is severe, and the slope of his back and leg weakness are definitive signs of metabolic bone disease (MBD). The MBD was caused by a lack of UVB light, which is supplied by sunshine and/or a light inside his enclosure/house.

So first, stop feeding him tomatoes and peppers. Torts are not able to properly digest anything that is sweet. Let the pellets soak for a few minutes to soften, then he can eat some. His natural diet is weeds, flowers, grass, and many plants that are tortoise safe.

Get some calcium supplement and a vitamin supplement. You can buy both in a pet store. Sprinkle a pinch of each on his greens 3x/week for now. Eventually you can cut back to 2x/week.

I'm not good at ID'ing species of torts...did the previous owner say what species he is?

The sad condition of his shell can never be fixed...he will always look like this. But with lots of TLC, you will be able to help him be more comfortable, and strengthen his hind legs.

For right now, get the supplements, feed him well, and get him outside with access to unfiltered sun every day. By unfiltered, I mean no glass, plexiglass, plastic, or screening blocking the sun from him.

Get a terra cotta plant saucer big enough for him to get into. Use that for his water dish. He needs to be soaked daily in warm water (33-35°C) up to just above where his upper shell (carapace) connects to his bottom shell (plastron). Don't let the water cool off; keep it at that temp.

These are emergency instructions. I'm going to link a care sheet for you that goes into much more detail. A lot of it is for hatchlings, but it also gives instruction for adults.

I'll also link a very long list of foods for torts. If you aren't familiar with the weeds and plants in your area, it tells you what grocery store foods you can buy. Any plant you gather for him, you must know without a doubt that no bug killer or weed killer or any other chemical has been used on them.

Until you can get a proper enclosure, you can use a big storage bin. Make sure the temp at night stays above 24-27°C. You can cut a door out of the side of a plastic tub to use for his hide to sleep in.


Compiled by Tom:
Good foods for tortoises are "chicories," types of lettuce that are likely to be on the far side of the more common floppy green heads of lettuce most people buy. Anything labeled as simply "chicory" is good, as are radiccio, frisee, escarole, and endive; you might even find something labeled as dandelions. You may find a bag of "Spring" or "Spicy" mix that is good, just check the label to be sure it has some of the chicories I just mentioned. The leaves (just the leaves) of turnips and radishes are also good, as are carrot tops. Collards, mustard greens, bok choy, and other dark, leafy greens are okay as well. If you have any kind of Mexican/hispanic market near you, they will sell cactus, labeled "nopales." Cactus is a great food to rotate in the diet, as it is high in calcium.

You don't need to feed all of these at one time, just make sure your tortoise is getting access to different types of food. As you get more experienced, you can find the better types of food listed on the care sheets.

Here are a whole bunch of non-grocery store suggestions.

Mulberry leaves
Grape vine leaves
Hibiscus leaves
African hibiscus leaves
Blue hibiscus leaves
Rose of Sharon leaves
Rose leaves
Geraniums
Gazanias
Nasturtium
Lavatera
Pansies
Petunias
Hostas
Honeysuckle
Cape honeysuckle
Leaves and blooms from any squash plant, like pumpkin, cucumber, summer squash, etc...
Young spineless opuntia cactus pads

Weeds:

There are soooooooo many...
Dandelion
Mallow
Filaree
Smooth Sow thistle
Prickly Sow thistle
Milk thistle
Goat head weed
Cats ear
Nettles
Trefoil
Wild onion
Wild mustard
Wild Garlic
Clovers
Broadleaf plantain
Narrow leaf plantain
Chick weed
Hawksbit
Hensbit
Hawksbeard

Other good stuff:


"Testudo Seed Mix" from http://www.tortoisesupply.com/SeedMixes

Pasture mixes or other seeds from http://www.groworganic.com/seeds.html

Homegrown alfalfa

Mazuri Tortoise Chow

ZooMed Grassland Tortoise Food

Ones that you can buy in every store:
Arugula
Lambs lettuce
Chicory
Kale
Mustard greens
Organic kohlrabi leafs
Organic carrot leafs
Organic radish leafs
Dandelions
Radiccio


Their main diet should be broad leaf weeds, succulents and grasses. Store bought foods are okay, but not the best. Collards and dandelions are a good food, but neither should be used every day. Check out the plant ID section for lots of ideas on weeds to feed. You can get spineless opuntia cactus pads from most Mexican grocery stores, or grow them yourself. You can also easily grow grape leaves, african hibiscus, regular hibiscus (if it will survive in your area), and mulberry leaves. You can try red apple, ice plant, and jade plant too. Also look into Gazania, pansies, nasturtiums, carnations, geraniums and many others. At the grocery store, favor endive and escarole, but also use cilantro, carrot tops, mustard and turnip greens, bok choy, radiccio, swiss chard, watercress, parsley, all the lettuces, etc. Lots of variety is best. There are also tortoise "weed" seed mixes that you can grow. I like the "Testudo Mix" from Tortoisesupply.com.
Buckwheat; cactus; vetch; Mohave aster; creosote bush; desert four o’clock; tacoma stans; bladderpod; globe mallow; goldenhead; burro weed; so many things!


Feeding:
So much contradictory info on this subject. Its simple. What do they eat in the wild. Grass, weeds, leaves, flowers, and succulents. Feed them a huge variety of these things, and you'll have a healthy tortoise. All of these species are very adaptable when it comes to diet and there is a very large margin of error, and many ways to do it right. What if you don't have this sort of "natural" tortoise food available for part of each year because you are in the snow? You will have no choice but to buy grocery store food. What's wrong with grocery store food? It tends to lack fiber, some items are low in calcium or have a poor calcium to phosphorous ratio, and some items have deleterious compounds in them. All of these short comings can be improved with some simple supplementation and amendments. A pinch of calcium two times per week will help fix that problem. You can also leave cuttle bone in the enclosure, so your tortoise can self-regulate its own calcium intake. What about fiber? Soaked horse hay pellets, soaked ZooMed Grassland pellets, Mazuri tortoise chow, "Salad style", "Herbal Hay" both from @TylerStewart and his lovely wife Sarah at Tortoisesupply.com, or many of the dried plants and leaves available from Will @Kapidolo Farms. If you must use grocery store foods, favor endive and escarole as your main staples. Add in arugula, cilantro, kale, collard, mustard and turnip greens, squash leaves, spring mix, romaine, green or red leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, water cress, carrot tops, celery tops, bok choy, and whatever other greens you can find. If you mix in some of the aforementioned amendments, these grocery store foods will offer plenty of variety and fiber and be able to meet your tortoises nutritional needs just fine. I find it preferable to grab a few grapevine or mulberry leaves, or a handful of mallow and clover, or some broadleaf plantain leaves and some grass, but with the right additions, grocery store stuff is fine too. Grow your own stuff, or find it around you when possible. Tyler and Sarah also sell a fantastic Testudo seed mix that is great for ALL tortoise species and also super easy to grow in pots, trays, raised garden beds, or in outdoor tortoise enclosures. When that isn't possible, add a wide variety of good stuff to your grocery store greens to make them better.

Supplements:
I recommend you keep cuttle bone available all the time. Some never use it and some munch on it regularly. Some of mine will go months without touching it, and then suddenly eat the whole thing in a day or two. Sulcatas and leopards grow a lot. This requires a tremendous amount of calcium assimilation over time. A great diet is paramount, but it is still a good idea to give them some extra calcium regularly. I use a tiny pinch of RepCal or ZooMed plain old calcium carbonate twice a week. Much discussion has been given to whether or not they need D3 in their calcium supplement. Personally, I don't think it matters. Every tortoise should be getting adequate UV exposure one way or another, so they should be able to make their own D3. I also like to use a mineral supplement. "MinerAll" is my current brand of choice. It seems to help those tortoises that like to swallow pebbles and rocks. It is speculated that some tortoise eat rocks or substrate due to a mineral deficiency or imbalance. Whatever the reason, "MinerAll" seems to stop it or prevent it. Finally, I like to use a reptile vitamin supplement once a week, to round out any hidden deficiencies that may be in my diet over the course of a year.

Read over all of this, and come back with questions. We're here to help, and can guide you through the purchases you need to make so you don't get taken by pet store workers who don't know anything about caring for a tort.

Don't feel overwhelmed. We will get you through this a day at a time. Thank you for intervening in this tort's life. You are going to make him much healthier and happier!
 

Lyn W

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Thank you so much for this. At the moment as its warma and sunny hes just been put out (alone) in the pyramid run we use for our rabbits. He has fresh food and water every day and has been outside most days we have had him (just the rainy/cloudy days hes not been out). I will get some of the calcium things soon.
Do you think his shell will ever bowl out and not be as flat and soft anymore or even start to stand on his back legs?
I don't know enough about it but I think it's unlikely his shell will change - whether he can get some strength back in his legs I don't know. The people I've tagged can help you more.
Does he have a hide in the rabbit run to tuck himself in when he's out?
I'll find the thread for keeping a tort outside and post it here.
 

Lyn W

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This is the thread I mentioned above.
 

Sarah2020

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Hi and welcome. Thanks for taking in this tortoise and providing care. Initially you will need to set up what they need and then it us repeat and enjoy his character. Definatly get claws clipped suggestions is to see if there is a reptile shop in your area as they will do that for you and check the beak etc... if you can take a picture of his underneath and tail area then we can advise the sex. In the UK I use swell reptiles online for suppliers fyi orchid bark is a good substrate for the enclosure. Avoid sand and soil as that can get consumed and fill their stomach. Enjoy and feel free to ask questions and send pics as you proceed.
 

ZenHerper

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When nutritional needs are not met long-term, Metabolic Bone Disease develops. It is a complex problem involving incorrect ratios of minerals and Vitamin D3; the weight-bearing bones weaken, then subsequently collapse. It is quite painful. It can be reversed but the broken bones cannot realistically be reset.

In order to reverse an advanced case such as this, most people need a qualified and very experienced reptile veterinarian. Tortoise medicine is unique (and even different from turtle medicine), so make sure to find a practitioner who knows how to work with tortoise physiology and metabolism.

One problem of feeding fruit is that the sugars overwhelm the digestive flora, and they are not broken down by this species' kidneys. Another issue with feeding red fruits is that Vitamin A collects at too high a level in the liver. This in time will cause damage to the skin and liver. Follow Karen's dietary advice to correct his general hydration and nutritional status.
 

Yvonne G

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Welcome to the Forum! I hope with the good care you are now giving this tortoise, and the correct diet and calcium/UVB needs being met, your new tortoise will thrive under your care! Be sure to sit him in a bowl of warm water daily for about 15 minutes.
 

jwr0201

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Thanks for posting this! Even though I'm not ready for my tortoise yet, I copies this info and saved for reference. I'm still researching this to death, but want to be as informed as possible and have a proper enclosure and food stash ready when I take the plunge. This is great information! :tort:

Read over all of this, and come back with questions. We're here to help, and can guide you through the purchases you need to make so you don't get taken by pet store workers who don't know anything about caring for a tort.

Don't feel overwhelmed. We will get you through this a day at a time. Thank you for intervening in this tort's life. You are going to make him much healthier and happier!
 

TeamZissou

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This Russian could also have some sort of renal problems in addition to the MBD. Eye swelling can occur with renal insufficiency. I think it's unlikely to be related to a coil UVB bulb since it does not look like this tortoise has ever gotten any UVB.
 
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