Sudden death of spur thigh due to wasp sting

Hitchamite

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I've just done a Google search on the severity of stings on tortoises and your forum seemed the most logical place to post. Contrary to some previous replies you've had, stings can prove a very serious risk! On at least one occasion for the last three years one or other of my three spur thighed tortoises has exhibited symptoms of having been stung (primarily, extreme swelling around the neck - often biased to one side - and also affecting the front legs). On each occasion I've taken the victim straight to the vet and they've improved slowly over the next day or so. With no physical evidence an absolute diagnosis was impossible, but the two most likely causes were a sting or ingesting toxic material. Since all three are exercised within a large, manicured enclosure the latter was not likely.

I've always noticed wasps hanging around the tortoises' food - and consequently stopped feeding fruit when the wasps reached the 'veggie' stage in early July - but they still seem to hang around the greens, presumably after the moisture? This year we seem to be particularly affected by the smaller 'continental' variety.

Today matters took a much more serious turn. I placed all three in their pen for the afternoon (they're kept indoors overnight) all were fine - raring to go in fact, as it was already over 80 degrees. Tonight I returned - just 6 hours later - to discover my biggest/oldest female dead as dead can be. I don't want to be too graphic, but she was completely bloated with her limbs, tongue and eyes protruding, the latter almost looking as though pressure had caused some sort of haemorrhage. I can't believe that she succumbed as quickly as she obviously did.

I'll be setting wasp traps around the pen to take out as many as I can, but I'm not quite sure what one can do to further reduce the risk? Perhaps I was just unlucky and the old girl was particularly vulnerable? Sadly, I'll never know. What a sad and unnecessary loss of such a fine old specimen.
 

tortadise

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I've just done a Google search on the severity of stings on tortoises and your forum seemed the most logical place to post. Contrary to some previous replies you've had, stings can prove a very serious risk! On at least one occasion for the last three years one or other of my three spur thighed tortoises has exhibited symptoms of having been stung (primarily, extreme swelling around the neck - often biased to one side - and also affecting the front legs). On each occasion I've taken the victim straight to the vet and they've improved slowly over the next day or so. With no physical evidence an absolute diagnosis was impossible, but the two most likely causes were a sting or ingesting toxic material. Since all three are exercised within a large, manicured enclosure the latter was not likely.

I've always noticed wasps hanging around the tortoises' food - and consequently stopped feeding fruit when the wasps reached the 'veggie' stage in early July - but they still seem to hang around the greens, presumably after the moisture? This year we seem to be particularly affected by the smaller 'continental' variety.

Today matters took a much more serious turn. I placed all three in their pen for the afternoon (they're kept indoors overnight) all were fine - raring to go in fact, as it was already over 80 degrees. Tonight I returned - just 6 hours later - to discover my biggest/oldest female dead as dead can be. I don't want to be too graphic, but she was completely bloated with her limbs, tongue and eyes protruding, the latter almost looking as though pressure had caused some sort of haemorrhage. I can't believe that she succumbed as quickly as she obviously did.

I'll be setting wasp traps around the pen to take out as many as I can, but I'm not quite sure what one can do to further reduce the risk? Perhaps I was just unlucky and the old girl was particularly vulnerable? Sadly, I'll never know. What a sad and unnecessary loss of such a fine old specimen.


May I ask if you have personally witnessed a wasp sting one of the tortoises?

Swelling of the neck and limbs is very typical with acute renal failure. Were blood values done at the vet?
 

Hitchamite

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May I ask if you have personally witnessed a wasp sting one of the tortoises?

Swelling of the neck and limbs is very typical with acute renal failure. Were blood values done at the vet?

An interesting response, thank you.

No, I haven't actually seen the tortoises being stung (if I had I would have sought veterinary attention immediately), but, as I said, there are limited other possibilities as to the cause. Under the circumstances (having previously seen wasps actually on the food whilst they were eating) I think it's a bit of a smoking gun that the sting was either in the mouth or the soft flesh on the neck or 'armpit'?

Our vet is supposed to be an enthusiast and runs a club out of one of the group's veterinary surgeries. He didn't suggest or run tests, but (as I posted) on previous occasions the tortoise has recovered fully within a day or so. If the symptom was due to renal failure, wouldn't the bloating have persisted until the tortoise eventually died? Again, it was less than six hours from onset until death - probably considerably less. Isn't that rather quick for renal failure?

Thanks again for your input. I'll raise your thoughts next time I visit the vet.
 

Yvonne G

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If the tortoise died while sitting in the sun, in warm weather like you've described, it wouldn't take very long for the gases inside the body and decomposition to make the tortoise swell and break the seams between the scutes.

I have lots of wasps here on my property. It is my experience that they don't bother my animals or me either for that matter, unless I do something that bothers them - like getting too close to their nest. The kind of wasps I have here that go after food items are called yellow jackets. Even these don't bother the animals, as they're mainly interested in eating the food. They swarm around the cat food bowl when I feed the cats, but they don't sting the cats.

I have to wonder if it really was a wasp sting, as there's nothing more docile and non-aggressive than a tortoise. But, you are the one who was there to witness what was going on, so I take your word for it.

I'm so sorry you lost this old girl. It's never easy to lose a tortoise.
 

tortadise

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An interesting response, thank you.

No, I haven't actually seen the tortoises being stung (if I had I would have sought veterinary attention immediately), but, as I said, there are limited other possibilities as to the cause. Under the circumstances (having previously seen wasps actually on the food whilst they were eating) I think it's a bit of a smoking gun that the sting was either in the mouth or the soft flesh on the neck or 'armpit'?

Our vet is supposed to be an enthusiast and runs a club out of one of the group's veterinary surgeries. He didn't suggest or run tests, but (as I posted) on previous occasions the tortoise has recovered fully within a day or so. If the symptom was due to renal failure, wouldn't the bloating have persisted until the tortoise eventually died? Again, it was less than six hours from onset until death - probably considerably less. Isn't that rather quick for renal failure?

Thanks again for your input. I'll raise your thoughts next time I visit the vet.
The thing with renal failure is it's a very long extended issue. What happens is the kidneys fail and the body doesn't know what to do with the fluid. So they try and urinate/deficate, but the fluid in the body gets dispersed elsewhere. Typically when you see abscesses like on the neck or the leg. Kidney failure is typical of this. Liver failure usually just ends I'm death. But necropsy would be best bet. Have you had the tortoises since they were offspring? What has been there diet and complete husbandry their entire life
 

Yellow Turtle01

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I'm sorry about your tortoise. :(
I'm not sure a wasp would want to sting a tortoises, hard skin... non-threatening...?
 

Tom

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I also have several varieties of wasp around my tortoises enclosures and not once have I ever seen anything like what you describe over two decades and hundreds of tortoises. It is certainly possible, but it does not seem likely.

I'm sorry for your loss, but I wouldn't want you to overlook other possible causes that might still be present because you have assumed it was the wasps.

Welcome to the forum.
 
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