tortoise not eating, closed eyes

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Amber
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Joined: 24 Feb 2020, 21:33

tortoise not eating, closed eyes

Post by Amber » 24 Feb 2020, 21:50

Hi, our tortoise "Sheldon"managed to escape in mid October 2019 out of the house (long story) and we searched and searched for weeks for him. After the wet winter we've had here in the UK we gave up hope that he would have survived as he was not prepared for hibernation. He's a horsefield tortoise who is 7 years old and we'd had him a year and a half when he disappeared.
Yesterday we found him sitting out on the driveway by the garden wall. It seemed like a miracle, he wasn't moving but he was sitting in the sun and his eyes were open and looked bright and well. He felt very cold. We brought him in and let him warm up over the day - our farmhouse is old and not very warm. We gave him a luke warm bath and after a few hours got out his old lamp which he used to bathe under to help warm him. He didn't seem interested in food.
This morning gave him another bath and he had a tiny wander but then just settled under the lamp all day and I realised his eyes were locked shut. The haven't opened since I realised this and look like they have sunken. I took him to the vet this afternoon and they x-rayed him to discover that he's empty which we knew as he's not eaten a thing and took some blood for testing but couldn't help me any more until the blood tests come back they said.
Have you any ideas what I could do. The vets sold me some reptoboost (electrolyte/probiotic/energy drink) to put in his water and so I bathed him again with some of this dissolving infront of his nose which hopefully he has taken in but he's still got his eyes tight shut and isn't moving much now. He needs to eat something surely but definitely isn't too well.
I'd be grateful for any advice as to what to do now!

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Nina
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Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: tortoise not eating, closed eyes

Post by Nina » 24 Feb 2020, 22:37

Hi Amber,

First of all, Sheldon is one very lucky tortoise to have survived this winter and to have surfaced in an area where you found him! Horsfields can withstand very low temperatures, but they really don't do well in wet and cold conditions, so it is amazing that he did survive. Can I just ask if there is someone at your vet practice who has reptile or exotics expertise? I'm very surprised that they needed to X-ray him. The blood tests might indicate whether he has a respiratory infection.

Anyway, what you need now is to get him going. What he will need first of all is the right temperature to get going. What temperature is it directly under his lamp at the height of his shell? You are aiming for a temperature of 30C, and then areas that are about 20 C that he can wander over to. In this way he will be able to move from warm to cool temperatures to thermoregulate. I would try bathing his eyes gently with warm water, and you could also get some artificial tears (containing hypromellose) from the chemist and use those as well. That might help him to open his eyes and will do no harm. Make sure that the temperature doesn't drop below about 14C at night for the time being, just to get him going. And do keep the warm baths going (about the temperature that you would bathe a baby in). Tortoises can go a long time without food, but they need to be hydrated and sometimes sunken eyes can indicate dehydration.

Try offering him some thin slices of peeled cucumber, by holding them just in front of his nose. He ought to be able to smell cucumber and most tortoises love it. That might get him eating, and you could also try him with a little lamb's lettuce or kale, or even better yet if you can find any plantain or dandelion in the garden try that. Some tortoises do wake up from hibernation with something called post-hibernation anorexia, and if you can't get him eating within the next three or four days you might need to have him tube fed to get him going, but again this should be administered by a reptile vet, and if your practice doesn't have a reptile expert you can maybe find on our list of recommended vets here: https://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk/tor ... lRPW0rgq9s

It is still early days since he has woken up, and the main thing now is to keep him warm and get him eating again. Please let us know how he does and we'll keep our fingers crossed that he comes out of this ordeal raring to go and back to his old self.

Nina

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lin
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Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:27

Re: tortoise not eating, closed eyes

Post by lin » 24 Feb 2020, 23:38

And like you are doing Amber, keep up the bathing. Hydration is also important.
Lin

Amber
Posts: 9
Joined: 24 Feb 2020, 21:33

Re: tortoise not eating, closed eyes

Post by Amber » 25 Feb 2020, 08:10

Thank you so much for advice - I did question the x-ray myself but vet was adamant! I am not convinced that the vet I saw really knew what she was talking about but I was desperate for something to be done!
So far we've never really taken the temperature under Sheldon's light but I will now get a thermometer and make sure its right - I've ordered a new bulb in case the old one has passed it's best. I will have a go with the foods you recommend and bathe his eyes. Thanks and I'll keep you posted.

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Nina
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Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: tortoise not eating, closed eyes

Post by Nina » 25 Feb 2020, 08:26

Hi Ammber,

Your vet is probably fine, but it's always good to look at her profile on their website and see if she has qualifications in 'exotics' , or has a special interest in 'exotics' (this includes birds, reptiles, etc.). Veterinary courses traditionally provide only around a month or so of training in exotics, so unless a person specifically requests that training they will be very knowledgeable about medicine for mammals, etc. but not always expert in what is necessary for reptiles, and there are cases where a vet has prescribed medicine for worming (like Ivermectin, for example) that is absolutely fine for mammals but lethal for tortoises.

Let us know how you get on, and fingers crossed that all goes well with Sheldon. Temperature is really important, and I find that the digital thermometers (the sort with a display unit and then a probe at the end of a wire) are really good, because you can hang the probe down so that it is just at the height of the tortoise's shell. Something like this: https://tinyurl.com/tgwd2b7 but you can get them lots of places (just Google Digital Fridge Thermometer). Get one with a Max/Min function so that you can see hot or cold it got since you last re-set the function.

Nina

Amber
Posts: 9
Joined: 24 Feb 2020, 21:33

Re: tortoise not eating, closed eyes

Post by Amber » 26 Feb 2020, 08:14

Hi Nina and Lin,

I'm afraid Sheldon has not got going yet - He still hasn't taken any food but is having frequent baths and I'm dissolving the reptoboost in the water to help him. I have the tear drops and I hope to hear back about his blood test today or in the next day or so. I have also discovered that one of the vets on your list is in Ross on Wye so I will try and contact him today if there's no improvement. Thanks for all the advice!

Amber
Posts: 9
Joined: 24 Feb 2020, 21:33

Re: tortoise not eating, closed eyes

Post by Amber » 26 Feb 2020, 11:44

update - mid morning and he's very much more mobile - looking much livelier - looking like he had a good drink in his last bath - still eyes closed- rubbing them lots on his legs and inside his shell - but much brighter! Not eating yet but I have seen his mouth open a few times. fingers crossed!

Amber
Posts: 9
Joined: 24 Feb 2020, 21:33

Re: tortoise not eating, closed eyes

Post by Amber » 26 Feb 2020, 13:06

update! He's eating!! He's had a bite of cucmber, lettuce and a few baby dandelion leaves!! Hurrah!!
Eyes still look sore and shut.

Teddy28
Posts: 126
Joined: 06 May 2017, 10:57

Re: tortoise not eating, closed eyes

Post by Teddy28 » 01 Mar 2020, 15:34

Excuse me for jumping in but so pleased you got him eating. Hope he continues to improve
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Teddy28
Posts: 126
Joined: 06 May 2017, 10:57

Re: tortoise not eating, closed eyes

Post by Teddy28 » 01 Mar 2020, 15:35

Excuse me for jumping in but so pleased you got him eating. Hope he continues to improve
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