Russian tortoise seems off - small breathing noises

mk21

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Our russian tortoise typically breaths out air whenever he pulls his head back into his shell. Lately, he has been doing this more often and the sounds are shorter and higher pitched, almost like a little sneeze. He will also pull his head in as usual but then make another little sneezing sound and move his head even when he's mostly pulled it back in. He has also been rubbing his head lately like he's bothered by something. Today when he did his little sneeze I believe I saw a small bubble come out of his nose. Is this cause for concern? What do I do?

Edit: he is an indoor tortoise. He is eating and will be fairly active, although he has been sleeping more lately as it's getting cold here.

Thank you!!
 

Ink

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Can you attach pictures of the enclosure and bulbs? Also, what are the temperatures?
 

mk21

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Can you attach pictures of the enclosure and bulbs? Also, what are the temperatures?
Here's his enclosure. We'd like a bigger one in the future but its what we can manage right now. Heat is mid 70s on the cool side, 96 degrees under the heat lamp. I ordered a new UVB bulb to get here in a few days as this one is almost a year old I believe.
IMG_8795.JPG
 

KarenSoCal

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Nose bubbles and weird sounds are a sign of a possible respiratory infection. Many times a tortoise will get over this on his own with a little help from you.

Respiratory infections are frequently caused by temps that are too cold. Have you been measuring the temp down at tortoise height? Mid 70's sounds too cold to me. I would raise the nighttime low to at least 80°F, or a bit higher. Daytime ambient should be 85°-90°. Humidity should be kept fairly high, with 80% as a minimum, day and night. Keep these temps until 2 weeks of no symptoms have elapsed. It would be easier to maintain these temps and humidity if he was in a completely enclosed habitat. Maybe you could lay a shower curtain or aluminum foil over the top of his tank. Cover lights and all...just be sure there's no fire hazard.

Additionally, the UVB bulb you are using is not good for tortoise use. It would be much better if you switched to a T5 HO fluorescent tube type light. And please...clamp lights are very dangerous. The clamps fail and the light falls into the substrate, starting a fire. Houses have burned to the ground. We had a member a while back that it landed on her hatchling, killing it. Have a securement system that prevents the light from falling.

The only other thing I see...it looks to me like his beak needs some trimming. Let's ask @Yvonne G to take a look at that.
 

mk21

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Nose bubbles and weird sounds are a sign of a possible respiratory infection. Many times a tortoise will get over this on his own with a little help from you.

Respiratory infections are frequently caused by temps that are too cold. Have you been measuring the temp down at tortoise height? Mid 70's sounds too cold to me. I would raise the nighttime low to at least 80°F, or a bit higher. Daytime ambient should be 85°-90°. Humidity should be kept fairly high, with 80% as a minimum, day and night. Keep these temps until 2 weeks of no symptoms have elapsed. It would be easier to maintain these temps and humidity if he was in a completely enclosed habitat. Maybe you could lay a shower curtain or aluminum foil over the top of his tank. Cover lights and all...just be sure there's no fire hazard.

Additionally, the UVB bulb you are using is not good for tortoise use. It would be much better if you switched to a T5 HO fluorescent tube type light. And please...clamp lights are very dangerous. The clamps fail and the light falls into the substrate, starting a fire. Houses have burned to the ground. We had a member a while back that it landed on her hatchling, killing it. Have a securement system that prevents the light from falling.

The only other thing I see...it looks to me like his beak needs some trimming. Let's ask @Yvonne G to take a look at that.
Down at tortoise height it would be low 70s-mids 70s in the day. In order to keep the nighttime low higher is it acceptable to keep the basking light on? I'm not sure how else to keep him warm. I'll try keeping his substrate more wet and we're getting a new UVB light in the next couple days.

What would you suggest as an alternative to the clamp system given our tank setup? Also, when should we know to take him to vet? What symptoms or behaviors to watch for?
 

KarenSoCal

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Down at tortoise height it would be low 70s-mids 70s in the day. In order to keep the nighttime low higher is it acceptable to keep the basking light on? I'm not sure how else to keep him warm. I'll try keeping his substrate more wet and we're getting a new UVB light in the next couple days.

What would you suggest as an alternative to the clamp system given our tank setup? Also, when should we know to take him to vet? What symptoms or behaviors to watch for?
To increase his heat during both day and night, you need a bulb called a CHE (ceramic heating element). It produces heat, but no light, since at night it should be dark. You can buy CHE's at Petco or Petsmart, and I have occasionally seen them at Walmart. They look like this...


They get very hot, so they must be in a ceramic socket. You can get one for a couple dollars at Home Depot or Lowe's. Since they get so hot, you can't just turn them on and leave them, or you'll find a cooked tortoise. You need to get a reptile thermostat, like this...


Make sure you get the 1000 watt. The thermostat gets set to 85° (while he's sick) and it will turn on the CHE any time the ambient temp falls below 85°.

Low to mid 70's is too cold, at least while he's trying to fight an infection. Daytime ambient 85°, basking 95-100°, nighttime low 85°.

Instead of the clamp, you need to hang the lights, and CHE, from something above the tank. You could use the ceiling, but if you don't want to do that, you could make something like this...

IMG_1511635956.495114.jpg

The overhead bar goes over your tank, and you hang lights from the bar.

Better yet is this...

20200524_162330.jpg

Search "portable greenhouse" on google.

As far as when to go to the vet, if he gets worse with these measures in place. Get the temp up ASAP, even if you have to use the basking light for a couple nights. Switch to a bigger bulb, adjust the height of the bulb...whatever you need to do to raise his temp.
 
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