Horsefield tortoise weight gain!

Post your pictures and any questions here of European tortoises e.g. Ibera Spur Thigh, Ibera Graeca, Marginated, Hermanns, Kleinmanni and we include the Horsfield tortoise. Also, do add pictures of Mediterranean tortoises you have seen in the wild.
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Sam1990
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Joined: 31 Jan 2019, 20:20

Horsefield tortoise weight gain!

Post by Sam1990 » 04 Feb 2019, 21:21

Hi! I’m after some advise, I’ve recently adopted a tortoise from a friend! Fred had a really bad start in life with bad nutrition and basically he had been in hibernation for 7 months when I took him on! I took him straight to the vets had him wormed and they diagnosed him with mbd and also said he was anaemic!! So a very poorly tortoise. So my worry is he’s gone from no appetite and not wanted weeds to being a very hungry tort he’s gained 7grams in a month, should I be worried about such a big gain or will this settle down over time?! I don’t want to cause him more harm than good and his little body isn’t used to eating well! I think he’s around 2.5 years old but he’s super tiny. Thanks Sam x

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Nina
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Re: Horsefield tortoise weight gain!

Post by Nina » 04 Feb 2019, 22:18

Hi Sam,

First of all, many congratulations on taking on this poorly tortoise, and getting him seen to by a vet also.
It does sound like he had a terrible start in life, and he is lucky to have found a home with you. 7g is a lot to gain in a month, but then he was almost certainly underweight after such a long time in hibernation. Can you tell me what he weighed a month ago (that will tell me how big a percentage he has gained in the last month, as 7g on a large tortoise isn't so worrying as on a small tortoise). Also, if you can let us know his weight now, and his SCL (that is his length, measured in the prescribed way, which you can see how to do here https://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk/tor ... Fi5VM3gq9s we can give you an idea of how his weight measures up to what we would expect.

We always say that we aim for an average weight gain of between 1g - 3 or 4g per month -- but that is just an average, and some months a tortoise will gain more than that an some months he will gain less. So 7g in one month isn't something to be too worried about, but if he consistently gains 7g or more each month, then you will have to monitor the quantity of food you give him.

Horsfields also present another problem in that they are incredibly greedy eaters. In the wild they live in areas where it is very cold in the winter (and they hibernate for a long time), and very hot in the summer (and they aestivate during the hottest periods). It's estimated that in the wild they are actually only awake for around three months a year, and during that time they eat for a very short period. So they are sort of programmed to eat as much as possible in a short time. That's fine in the wild, but in captivity where the temperatures are good and they are presented with lovely food every day, they can easily overeat, and they do need to be monitored. By the way, just because they are asleep for along time in the wild does not mean that they should be hibernated for 7 months in captivity! That is a terribly long time and I'm surprised that he survived it (three months is usually what we recommend).

I do think that your priority now should be to get this little fellow back to full health, and I don't think that gaining a bit over the average in the short term will do any lasting damage. Also, the type of food he eats is as important as the quantity. What are you feeding him, and is he getting a good calcium/vitamin D3 supplement (like Nutrobal) most days?

I think it was great of you to rescue this tortoise, and he is lucky to have found a home with you. You might already have one, but in case you don't, here is a link to a good care sheet for Horsfields:
https://www.tortoise-protection-group.o ... 014New.pdf

Nina

Sam1990
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Joined: 31 Jan 2019, 20:20

Re: Horsefield tortoise weight gain!

Post by Sam1990 » 04 Feb 2019, 22:53

Thankyou for your reply so I woke him up around 7 weeks ago while he was still at my friends but we didn’t weigh him till the 5/1/19 I never owned a tortoise by the way and really wasn’t on my pet list but I knew something wasn’t right so just took him on and I’m glad I did! So his weight on 5/1/19 was 64g at60mm length and he weighs 71g at 63mm length if we’ve got the measurements correct! We where bathing him 2x daily but I’ve cut it to once a day and he’s happily bathing and drinking on his own now! He’s passing the white stuff and poos regularly! He’s under a Arcadia 100w combi lamp and has a uv strip as well, as I tried to change to separates but had less heat with the ceramic so changed the bulb back to the combi after the long task or wiring the thermostat! I’m still struggling to get his basking spot up to 30! Any ideas on that would be great?!
I asked around like crazy and read everything I could on horsefields the day I bought him home and luckily a friend told me about the tortoise table and the vet did also so I’ve been doing everything I can by you guys! I’ve been feeding him sow thistle, plantain, dead nettle, lambs lettuce, kale and a few other weeds etc! I give him limestone flour daily as that was on my care sheet?! Then he has nutrabal 2x week. I’m just worried his body will go into shock or something as he’s only every been fed iceberg lettuce! He didn’t touch his food to start with but he’s super keen to try everything I put infront of him now!
Thankyou for you kind words

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Nina
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Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Horsefield tortoise weight gain!

Post by Nina » 05 Feb 2019, 08:03

Hi Sam,

Well, I must say that this little tortoise has been very lucky to find a home with you, and I think you are going to be a great tortoise keeper!
He is really young, isn't he (what's his name by the way?), and I think that he does sound a bit light for his length (are you measuring it according to the instructions in the link I sent you -- i.e. his straight length along the bottom of his shell and not over the top)?

The fact that he is drinking and is eating and energetic is a great sign, and the care you are giving him sounds perfect to me. The heat in the table will be greatly affected by the heat in the room, so when we have colder weather like this, and the room is cooler, you can increase the temperature under the lamp by just lowering it, so that it is a bit closer to the table (and you probably won''t need to lower it much. When warmer weather comes you will probably have to raise the lamp to lower the temperature in the table. What you are aiming for is about 30C directly under the lamp, at the height of the tortoise's shell, and about 20C at the cooler end. Measuring the temperature by a thermometer mounted on a nearby wall will not give you an accurate reading, so you do need to hold the thermometer under the light at the right height. Many of us use a fridge thermometer (with a digital display unit that can be outside the table and a long cord with a probe on the end that you can hang down into the table below the light) -- someting like this
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Fridge-Freez ... rk:13:pf:0
You can get them cheaper, but it's good to have a Max/Min facility like this one does, which will tell you how hot or how cool it got since you last re-set it.

The diet you are giving him is very good, as is the calcium supplement you are giving. It is absolutely amazing that he has survived on a diet of iceberg lettuce and such a long hibernation -- it just shows you what resilient animals they are! That is great that you are finding such a variety of weeds at this time a year, and he will really benefit from that. Because he has a combi lamp as well as a UV strip, it means he is getting lots of Vitamin D3, which will help him absorb the calcium in his diet, so that is great, and you can try him with a small pinch of Nutrobal on his food on alternate days with the limestone flour (but he is probably fine as he is).

So keep on with what you are doing, and don't worry too much about excessive weight gain at this point. He is building up his strength again now, but just keep an eye on that weight gain and if you feel that it is too much then cut down a little on the portions, but other than that, just keep continue the way you have started and you will have a very happy and healthy little tortoise.

Nina

Powells
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Joined: 23 Mar 2019, 09:46

Re: Horsefield tortoise weight gain!

Post by Powells » 25 Mar 2019, 15:35

Is there a general rule on how much weight gain is too much in a period of time, Nina?

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Nina
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Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Horsefield tortoise weight gain!

Post by Nina » 25 Mar 2019, 19:09

No there isn't really a rule and it's something that we all struggle with. What you need to aim for is slow growth. There is a sort of general rule that you aim for an average weight gain of between 1g - 4g per month, but that is just an average, and some months they will gain more and some less (and of course female tortoises gain a lot of weight when they are producing eggs). Also when they are hibernating they aren't gaining any weight at all. It would be wrong to stick to the 1g - 4g guideline too strictly as it can vary so much, and different species of tortoise gain weight at different rates too (for example, sulcatas grow really quickly at particular stages in their lives). Mainly just aim for slow and steady. Horsfields are a particular problem because they are such greedy species (see my post from 4th of Feb above that explains why).

Nina

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