Testudo not eating

HBright

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Dec 18, 2020
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Bellevue, WA
Hello! I am a very worried first-time Testudo Tortoise owner. Our tortoise has not eaten since we brought him home 1 month ago. I have read throughout this forum extensively. I have read about their environment being a factor in their eating habits and I have read about new owner mistakes. We have made changes to his habitat based on what I've read and still no luck. I will try to share all the information I have about him in hopes that someone can help save our tortoise. I will also include photos.

1. We got him at PetSmart (I realize this may not have been the best place but now we have him and we need to save him)
2. We were told he is a baby, less than a year old. He is approximately 4 1/2 in. in length. And so cute.
3. He lives in a 40 gallon tank (3x the size he was in at the pet store).
4. We started him out on the reptile bark the pet store recommended but after reading on here, I have switched his substrate out to coconut coir which has increased the humidity greatly. He also comes out of hiding a bit more now that we have this new substrate.
5. He has a log to hide in where he goes sometimes but most of the time, he just finds a corner, digs and burrows into the substrate and will stay there all day/night unless we move him. If we move him, he just goes to another corner and burrows again. He spends most the time sleeping in his burrowed substrate.
6. His tank is about 80 degrees F and between 60-80% humidity.
7. We have a basking light (also a red one for night) and a UV light which all sit on top of the mesh metal top of the tank.
8. He has a water dish which he is able to climb into and likes to soak in. He also appears to be drinking daily while in there. He will sit in there for 10-30 min and get out on his own.
9. We have been trying to feed him the pellets the pet store was feeding him. I included a picture but they are ZooMed Natural Forest Tortoise Food. We get it wet, mash it up and fill his dish but he won't touch it. He won't go to it on his own and if we place him by it, he crawls right over it. I have tried offering him kale, red bell pepper, romaine (none of which he ever had at the pet store) and he shows no interest. We try hand feeding him (while holding him, place the food by his nose, let him smell it and try to feed him). He rarely opens his mouth when we do this and never goes for the food.

I am heartbroken about all of this and don't know where else to turn. I am scared he won't survive and losing sleep over it. If anyone can help, we would greatly appreciate it!
We live in Washington State, US where our natural humidity is relatively high (85% today)

Thanks in advance,
Heidi
 

Sarah2020

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Try fresh green leaves and add some small low rocks for climbing to add interest. Water bowl should be switched for shallow round terracotta that they can crawl and soak and drink, read the care sheets for food ideas .
 

Yossarian

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Welcome to the forum. Nice looking little russian tort you have there. looks older than a year to me but I dont know russians that well. There is a lot to unpack here and your going to have to reconsider a lot of your setup.

Ill just offer a couple thoughts that stand out immediately. FIrst the red light has to go, they are not suitable for torts, if you need night heat you should use a Ceramic Heat Emitter. Second, that tank, while bigger than the pet stores, is not really suitable, the minimum reccomendation typically for your species if 4ft x 8ft. FInally put the hide against the wall at least and put up some sight barrier around the tank so the tort cant see out.

As for why its not eating, it may be stressed, or it may be unwell, it may not find what your feeding appetising. If you want to get some nutrition into it asap, you can do the strained carrot baby food soak routine. basically mix the baby food into the soak water.

I have never fed pellets unfortunately so cant help much there sorry. If thats all it has eaten then it can take work getting it eating other things, focus on what it is familiar with to start.
 

HBright

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Thank you so much. This is very helpful. Is there a recommended wattage for the ceramic heat emitter?
Welcome to the forum. Nice looking little russian tort you have there. looks older than a year to me but I dont know russians that well. There is a lot to unpack here and your going to have to reconsider a lot of your setup.

Ill just offer a couple thoughts that stand out immediately. FIrst the red light has to go, they are not suitable for torts, if you need night heat you should use a Ceramic Heat Emitter. Second, that tank, while bigger than the pet stores, is not really suitable, the minimum reccomendation typically for your species if 4ft x 8ft. FInally put the hide against the wall at least and put up some sight barrier around the tank so the tort cant see out.

As for why its not eating, it may be stressed, or it may be unwell, it may not find what your feeding appetising. If you want to get some nutrition into it asap, you can do the strained carrot baby food soak routine. basically mix the baby food into the soak water.

I have never fed pellets unfortunately so cant help much there sorry. If thats all it has eaten then it can take work getting it eating other things, focus on what it is familiar with to start.
Thank you so much. This is very helpful. Is there a recommended wattage for the ceramic heat emitter?
 

HBright

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Well, we are going on 3 months, no eating, no pooping. We’ve been doing baby food soaks in Carrots for the past month. He’ll soak for 20min to an hour each day. He rarely comes out of his shelter on his own. We have a terracotta water dish now which he easily climbs in and out of. He is very lethargic and I’m terrified we’re losing him. We are looking for a local vet and are considering syringe feeding. Any suggestions on what to feed? We were told Repti-boost. Any help for our little Kamo is much appreciated.
 

SoCalGreek

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I am definitely not an expert, but that seems pretty abnormal. Did you contact the store to verify what they were feeding it and that he was eating and active there? I think he’s too young to go that long without food. Find a reptile vet asap. He might need a vitamin boost and a few tube feedings to give him enough energy to eat on his own.
 

Armadillogroomer

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I just saw this thread and something that immediately stuck out to me was that they gave you the forest diet instead of the grassland diet. Along with the other wrong info they gave you, I don't think this store knows what it's doing.

I agree that it might be time for a tummy tube. I've used Reptiboost with other reptiles in the past. It's a good supplement, but at this point, it won't do much. Syringe feeding can also be dangerous because of aspiration.

A vet is also a good idea because Russians from the Petco/Petsmart vendors sometimes have parasites that cause complications. Fecal checks are not part of the "vet check" that pet stores promise.

What a tough little guy, though!
 

Jan A

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I just saw this thread and something that immediately stuck out to me was that they gave you the forest diet instead of the grassland diet. Along with the other wrong info they gave you, I don't think this store knows what it's doing.

I agree that it might be time for a tummy tube. I've used Reptiboost with other reptiles in the past. It's a good supplement, but at this point, it won't do much. Syringe feeding can also be dangerous because of aspiration.

A vet is also a good idea because Russians from the Petco/Petsmart vendors sometimes have parasites that cause complications. Fecal checks are not part of the "vet check" that pet stores promise.

What a tough little guy, though!
View attachment 313329

Thank you very much! Going to pick up a new water dish tomorrow.
Definitely find a vet with experience in treating torts. Also, look at discussions here on the forum about the good & bad about vets prescribing vitamins.

Good luck. Do not panic. People on here have a LOT of experience.
 

Yvonne G

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Hey, Heidi: I'm gonna' say some things that may sound mean or like I'm picking on you, but please believe me, I only have your tortoise's best interest at heart. So read my post with an open mind, I'm not meaning to hurt your feelings. Pet stores are in business to sell stuff and make a profit. Most of the clerks have no idea what a tortoise needs to thrive. They sold you the wrong stuff - not your fault. But you've come to the right place to make it right.

First of all, that's an ALMOST full grown Russian tortoise. They don't get much bigger than that. He may be 10 years old or so.

Next, your aquarium is way too small. Russian tortoises need a lot of room to wander. They are hard wired to wander great distance looking for food because it's scarce in their native area. You can buy a very large plastic tub a whole lot cheaper than a glass aquarium. Look for the Christmas Tree Storage Bin mfg'd by Iris. They're about $35 and almost 4' long.

It's very hard for a creature living in a hard, non-bendable shell, to navigate the water dish you've chosen. He needs a plant saucer that's sunk down into the substrate.

Tortoises suffer from "Relocation Stress" when moved from a place they're used to living to a new territory. It takes some time for them to get used to the new territory, but in the meantime, they'll usually dig at the corners trying to escape, glass surf, or hide all the time. But I'd get a bigger enclosure before I worry about relocation stress.

The food the pet store sold you is for tortoises that eat fruit and animal protein, which your new Russian tortoise does NOT. If you want to feed manufactured diet ALONG WITH FRESH GREENS, Zoo Med makes one called Natural Grassland Tortoise food that doesn't have fruit and animal protein in it. He may not eat that either, though, because they really don't eat too much grass. Broad leaf weeds and plants is what they eat.

What lights/heat did the pet store sell you? Tortoises, being cold blooded, cannot digest their food unless they can get their inner core temperature up to 80-85F degrees. If they can't get that warm inside, they just don't eat because the food will sit in their stomach/digestive tract and rot.

It may look like I haven't addressed your 'not eating' problem, however all of these things add up to a tortoise not eating. They all contribute to it. Once you get the husbandry correct, he'll start eating.

Please read this care sheet and make some changes to your husbandry accordingly:

 

HBright

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Bellevue, WA
I am definitely not an expert, but that seems pretty abnormal. Did you contact the store to verify what they were feeding it and that he was eating and active there? I think he’s too young to go that long without food. Find a reptile vet asap. He might need a vitamin boost and a few tube feedings to give him enough energy to eat on his own.
Thank you so much for taking time to respond. We have been syringe feeding him Reptiboost for a week and have seen not only a weight increase but also a increase in activity and energy. He has also pooped twice. Will likely be looking for a vet as well but this has been great progress in the meantime.
 

HBright

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Bellevue, WA
I just saw this thread and something that immediately stuck out to me was that they gave you the forest diet instead of the grassland diet. Along with the other wrong info they gave you, I don't think this store knows what it's doing.

I agree that it might be time for a tummy tube. I've used Reptiboost with other reptiles in the past. It's a good supplement, but at this point, it won't do much. Syringe feeding can also be dangerous because of aspiration.

A vet is also a good idea because Russians from the Petco/Petsmart vendors sometimes have parasites that cause complications. Fecal checks are not part of the "vet check" that pet stores promise.

What a tough little guy, though!
 

HBright

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Location (City and/or State)
Bellevue, WA
Thank you so much! That is really good to know.
I just saw this thread and something that immediately stuck out to me was that they gave you the forest diet instead of the grassland diet. Along with the other wrong info they gave you, I don't think this store knows what it's doing.

I agree that it might be time for a tummy tube. I've used Reptiboost with other reptiles in the past. It's a good supplement, but at this point, it won't do much. Syringe feeding can also be dangerous because of aspiration.

A vet is also a good idea because Russians from the Petco/Petsmart vendors sometimes have parasites that cause complications. Fecal checks are not part of the "vet check" that pet stores promise.

What a tough little guy, though!
Thank you so much! That is really good to know. I don't really plan on continuing with the manufactured food. We just bought that out of ignorance. We now know better. Since my last post, we have been syringe feeding him reptiboost for about a week. He is gaining weight, energy and becoming more active. He has also pooped twice (first time in the three months we've had him). Still going to look into a local vet and possibly do fecal checks. Thanks again.
 

HBright

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Joined
Dec 18, 2020
Messages
10
Location (City and/or State)
Bellevue, WA
Hey, Heidi: I'm gonna' say some things that may sound mean or like I'm picking on you, but please believe me, I only have your tortoise's best interest at heart. So read my post with an open mind, I'm not meaning to hurt your feelings. Pet stores are in business to sell stuff and make a profit. Most of the clerks have no idea what a tortoise needs to thrive. They sold you the wrong stuff - not your fault. But you've come to the right place to make it right.

First of all, that's an ALMOST full grown Russian tortoise. They don't get much bigger than that. He may be 10 years old or so.

Next, your aquarium is way too small. Russian tortoises need a lot of room to wander. They are hard wired to wander great distance looking for food because it's scarce in their native area. You can buy a very large plastic tub a whole lot cheaper than a glass aquarium. Look for the Christmas Tree Storage Bin mfg'd by Iris. They're about $35 and almost 4' long.

It's very hard for a creature living in a hard, non-bendable shell, to navigate the water dish you've chosen. He needs a plant saucer that's sunk down into the substrate.

Tortoises suffer from "Relocation Stress" when moved from a place they're used to living to a new territory. It takes some time for them to get used to the new territory, but in the meantime, they'll usually dig at the corners trying to escape, glass surf, or hide all the time. But I'd get a bigger enclosure before I worry about relocation stress.

The food the pet store sold you is for tortoises that eat fruit and animal protein, which your new Russian tortoise does NOT. If you want to feed manufactured diet ALONG WITH FRESH GREENS, Zoo Med makes one called Natural Grassland Tortoise food that doesn't have fruit and animal protein in it. He may not eat that either, though, because they really don't eat too much grass. Broad leaf weeds and plants is what they eat.

What lights/heat did the pet store sell you? Tortoises, being cold blooded, cannot digest their food unless they can get their inner core temperature up to 80-85F degrees. If they can't get that warm inside, they just don't eat because the food will sit in their stomach/digestive tract and rot.

It may look like I haven't addressed your 'not eating' problem, however all of these things add up to a tortoise not eating. They all contribute to it. Once you get the husbandry correct, he'll start eating.

Please read this care sheet and make some changes to your husbandry accordingly:

Thank you for taking the time to respond! And no hurt feelings here! We are desperate to save this little guy's life! And we definitely have learned that the pet store did not give us the correct information about him or his ideal living situation. That said, I have a few updates for you.

First, we changed his water dish out last month to a 10" terracotta plant saucer. He loves it and soaks in it all the time.

Regarding his enclosure, I will look for something larger. Ours is currently 3 ft in length.

We started syringe feeding him Reptiboost 1 week ago. He has gained about 0.01 oz per day, starting at 10.8oz and now 11.7 oz. He has also pooped twice this past week (the first time ever since we got him 3 months ago). His energy and activity has increased greatly, he moves around a lot quicker and comes out of hiding to bask more often.

His enclosure stays at about 80-82 consistently. We have three different bulbs. One basking light, one UV light and one ceramic heat emitter that we use at night.

I am now starting to think about how we will transition from Reptiboost to fresh greens. He mostly makes us open his mouth and rarely will open it for us on his own to try foods. Though he did go for something in my fingers for the first time yesterday which was great. I'm a little lost on that transition. Do we go straight to a spring green lettuce mix? Do I chop it small? How much? I will continue reading on here to see if anyone has specific recommendations.

Again, I really appreciate you taking time to respond and share your knowledge. We have learned so much here and so grateful for the community.

Heidi
 

Blastoise

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When I have a tortoise that wont eat i put a cherry tomato out with lettuce around it. My tortoise will eat the tomato, they are irresistible to a tortoise, and then continue eating the lettuce.
 

SoCalGreek

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I needed to change my tort’s diet after adopting him. He’s 10 and had been eating only romaine lettuce and blueberries his whole life. (So terribly neglected!) Yours is only eating liquids now, but I think the same principles apply.
I used https://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk/ and the care sheets here to find things that he was supposed to be eating and just offered him a few different things every couple days to a week until I had a decent selection of foods. I’m still working on growing different things from seeds, but he is no longer eating any berries or romaine lettuce. Some items, he never grew to like and others he grew to love.
Be super careful to only offer safe organic greens and flowers. I say safe AND organic because not all things organic are safe based on what organic products have been used to grow it or kill bugs.
At this point, I am growing all of his food as it’s much healthier and safer for him than anything store bought. Plus, it’s much easier to have what he needs right here and to make sure that what he gets is part of a balanced diet.
Check out these sites for safe seeds, soil, and plants. I’ve found lots of great products.

www.groworganic.com



 

HBright

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In what appears to be an absolute miracle, our guy started eating a couple days ago... lots and on his own! 3 month hunger strike is over! One day, we put a pile of greens in front of him and he went for it! This was after about 2 weeks of syringe feeding with Reptiboost. He now eats a few times a day and having regular bowel movements. He’s way more active and moves about his enclosure constantly throughout the day. We are so so so happy and so grateful for everyone who provided tips and encouragement. Thank you!
 

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Jan A

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In what appears to be an absolute miracle, our guy started eating a couple days ago... lots and on his own! 3 month hunger strike is over! One day, we put a pile of greens in front of him and he went for it! This was after about 2 weeks of syringe feeding with Reptiboost. He now eats a few times a day and having regular bowel movements. He’s way more active and moves about his enclosure constantly throughout the day. We are so so so happy and so grateful for everyone who provided tips and encouragement. Thank you!
Hallelujah!! Keep up the good work!!
 
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