White Patches in Shell

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Lily28
Posts: 4
Joined: 24 May 2020, 13:55

White Patches in Shell

Post by Lily28 » 24 May 2020, 14:10

Hello,

I have a Spur Thighed Tortoise who will be 2 in September. I noticed a few days ago that there are little white patches all over his shell, that can't seem to be wiped off. He lives in an indoor enclosure and is otherwise eating, drinking and acting normally. I'd really appreciate any advice as I'm worrying that he perhaps has a fungal infection or deficiency of some sort.

Thank you!
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Nina
Posts: 1117
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: White Patches in Shell

Post by Nina » 24 May 2020, 15:12

Hi Lily and welcome to The Tortoise Table!

Those marks look like keratin stress marks to me, and in general they are nothing to worry about, but they do indicate that a tortoise is growing too quickly (it also sometimes is seen in tortoises in the wild if there is a glut of food and they eat too much).

I can also see that your tortoise has some pyramiding of his shell (each of the individual scutes is a little 'bump' like a small pyramid), and this can also indicate that he is either growing too quickly or is having too much protein in his diet (tortoises need a low protein/high fibre diet), or needs some other small adjustment in his set-up.

Can you tell me what sort of food you are giving him and roughly how much each day? Also does he have a good UVB lamp and a good calcium supplement? If you could send us some photos of his set-up, that would be great, as sometimes only a small adjustment can make a world of difference. And if you can let us know the temperature in his enclosure, directly under the heat source, at the height of his shell, and also at the cooler end of the enclosure, that would be a great help too, as all of these factors contribute to healthy growth.

Cheers,
Nina

Lily28
Posts: 4
Joined: 24 May 2020, 13:55

Re: White Patches in Shell

Post by Lily28 » 24 May 2020, 22:40

Hi Nina,

Thank too so much for getting back to me. I’m glad you don’t think they’re anything serious.

He usually eats a mixture of kale, lamb’s lettuce, dandelion leaves, honeysuckle, watercress, coriander and rocket (depending on what we can get at the time). He also loves fruit so we give him little bits of strawberry, pear or cucumber as the odd treat. I’d say he has about a handful of food in total each day. I weigh him each week and he’s gone from 82g to 197g in the past 9 months, although I’m not sure how fast he should be growing!

In terms of his set-up, I’ll attach a picture below. He has a 10% UVB light and heat lamp on for 12 hours a day set at 29 degrees over at one end of the vivarium. There’s another thermometer in the middle of the vivarium which usually reads about 27 degrees. For calcium, I sprinkle Acadia CalciumPro powder on his food 4/5 days a week and Arcadia EarthPro-A powder once a week. He also has a cuttlefish bone, which he seems to nibble on and off.

I really appreciate you taking the time to help!
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Nina
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Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: White Patches in Shell

Post by Nina » 25 May 2020, 12:34

Hi Lily,
Thanks so much for sending the photo. You've put some nice things in that vivarium (rocks and other things to walk round and climb over), so that will provide him with interest. But there are a couple of things I would change.

First of all,and sadly, vivariums are not good environments for tortoises at all, because it is really hard to get a good temperature gradient in the viv, which is important for them (it should be about 30C directly under the lamp, and then about 20C at the cooler end -- so that is about 10C difference between the warm and the cool ends). When you are measuring the temperature, are you measuring it directly under the light at the height of the tortoise's shell? That is essential because a thermometer on a nearby wall will be giving a much lower reading than it actually is. Also vivs tend to be high, but not so much floorspace, so they are great for lizards and snakes who climb, but not so great for tortoises. We get lots of people who have been sold vivariums by pet shops and it is a great shame because they can cause damage to tortoises. But as long as you have it, there is a fairly simple way that you can adapt it. As a minimum measure, take the doors off and put a board up across the front of the viv (or open one door fully and do the same. The board should be just high enough that your tortoise can't climb out, and that will allow air circulation and a good variation in temperature. Better yet, many people adapt them by taking the doors off and sitting the viv in a large 'tortoise table' which allows the tortoise to come and go. Here's a photo of what I mean:
[attachment=0]Viv conversion.jpeg[/attachment]

Secondly, I would change those pellets for a soil/sand mixture, which is more natural and better for the tortoise. Those look like alfalfa pellets, and they are edible, and very high in protein, so if he is eating them then that could be the cause of him growing too quickly. The best substrate for tortoises is one that closely resembles what they live in in the wild, which is a sandy soi, so we mix together sterilised topsoil and children's play sand (bags of both can be bought at garden centres, Homebase, etc.). Most people mix it 50/50, but my tortoises prefer more soil, so I mix mine about 60% soil and 40% sand. And then you give it a light spray every couple of days to keep it from getting dusty. And make it as deep as you can because they do like to dig into it.

The things you are feeding him are fine, but do you have access to a garden? He could do with more weeds, like plantain, sowthistle, or garden plants like campanula, pansies, etc. You can always look up a plant on our database to see if it is good to feed, and you can use our filter tool to make list of good plants.

He does seem to be growing a bit fast. What you want to aim for is slow growth, so we aim for between 1g - 4g per month. That is just an average, and some months he will grow more and some less, but if he is growing faster than that, then you need to cut down on his food. Because he is indoors all the time in the vivarium, he isn't getting as much exercise as he would if he had an outdoor area, so probably less food is better.

Tortoise love fruit, and in the wild they will occasionally encounter fruit that has fallen on the ground, but it really isn't good for them because their digestive systems don't cope will with the natural sugars in fruit (and tomatoes count as a fruit). The odd treat won't hurt him, but it isn't necessary. Cucumber, however is good for hydration because it has a lot of water in it, so on hot days that is a good thing to feed (but I would peel it because many supermarket cucumbers have been sprayed with insecticide. That's great that you are providing him with a cuttlefish bone, as that will provide extra calcium.

Your UVB strip light is fine, but you should really put a reflector in it, as the light can damage your eyes if you look into it. Reflectors don't cost a lot and just clip right onto the light, so easy to fix, an they also reflect more of the light down towards the tortoise, which is good. Looking at the light through the glass on the front of the viv won't hurt your eyes, because UVB doesn't pass through glass, but when you open the top and look down at it then it isn't good for you. Also, those lights are only good for a year or two years at most and then need to be replaced, because even though they still produce light, the UVB isn't coming through any more. Without UVB the tortoise can't absorb and utilise the calcium in its diet, so it's really important to change the bulb regularly. UVB reacts with the skin to produce vitamin D3, and although the Arcadia supplements you are giving him are fine, neither had vitamin D3 in it, so it might be good to get a supplement that does, like Nutrobal (most pet shops stock it and you can buy it online). The best UVB is from the sun, so if you have access to an outdoor area, I'm sure he would love being outdoors during the daytime if possible, but if not then your 10% light should be fine as long as it isn't too old.

I'm so sorry to have gone on for such a long time here! I hope you aren't bored out of your mind. I can see that you really love your tortoise and have cared for him well, but I think in the beginning you weren't given good advice about housing or substrate, which is very common! I know I have written a lot here, but aside from altering the vivarium I hope it doesn't mean too much effort on your part to get his husbandry just right.

I don't know if you already have a care sheet for Spur Thighs, but if not here is a link to one (there are several species of SpurThighs but this sheet should be fine): https://www.tortoise-protection-group.o ... 014New.pdf

Finally, to make up for my long and boring post, would you like a free copy of our Tortoise Observation Records booklet? It's just a way to keep all your records in one place -- growth (weight and length), change of equipment like lights, details of vets, etc. Just send me an email with your address to nina@thetortoisetable.org.uk and i'll pop one in the post to you.

Nina
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Lily28
Posts: 4
Joined: 24 May 2020, 13:55

Re: White Patches in Shell

Post by Lily28 » 27 May 2020, 10:47

Hi Nina,

Thank you so much for your advice, I really appreciate it!

I’ve removed the doors and put up a barrier for now,
and will plan to convert the vivarium into a tortoise table. Is this still ok to use in the winter? I was concerned last winter that the vivarium was getting too cold at nighttime as the thermometer often showed the temperature has dropped to around 17-18 degrees by the morning.

Yes I’m growing some weeds although I’ve found that I have to feed him more supermarket bought food in the winter. I’ve also just bought him an outside pen so he’ll hopefully get a little more exercise and spend some time sunbathing. That’s great to know about the UV reflector, I’ll definitely buy one of those!

I can’t thank you enough for your advice, I wish I’d found this website sooner! A Tortoise observations book would be wonderful, I’ll email you my address.

Hope you’re enjoying the lovely weather!

Lily

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Nina
Posts: 1117
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: White Patches in Shell

Post by Nina » 27 May 2020, 14:37

Hi Lily,

I'm so glad that you are making some changes to his home (what's his name by the way?), and it's really obvious that you want the best for him.

No need to worry about that temperatrue drop at night in the winter -- in their native habitat the temperature drops at night too. 17C or 18C is absolutely fine, and in fact the temperature can drop to 13C or 14C with no problems at all.

That is great that you are growing weeds. Try to plant them in a soil that doesn't have a lot of fertiliser in it -- John Innes no. 1 or ordinary topsoil will do. One tip is to grow the weeds in a series of small trays. That way you can put a small tray in his enclosure and he can eat to his heart's content, and meanwhile you have already sowed more seeds in the next tray, and so on. That way you won't run out as quickly.

The outside will be super for him. What sort of pen have you bought? It's actually easy to make a pen from bricks or breezeblocks, just sitting on the ground -- and it's probably best if it isn't on grass (which can get a bit too wet (although it's going to be dry for the next couple of weeks at least). Some bare earth, a bit of grass, some rocks and a little shelter (just a flower pot turned on its side will do), and he'll be happy as anything. If what you bought is see through at ground level (like chicken wire or something), it's sometiems good to put a little barrier up around the bottom so that he can't see out, because for many tortoises if they can see out then they try to get out, which can be frustrating.

Re the reflector -- they just clip directly onto the tube, but if you can't fine one easily you can make one out of aluminium foil -- just make a little curved length out of it and sit it on top of the tube. Here's a link to one (upside down), so you can see what they look like.
https://www.reptiles.swelluk.com/komodo ... gJjYvD_BwE

I haven't had your email yet (send to nina@thetortoisetable.org.uk), but as soon as I get it I'll send you the booklet.

Best,
Nina

Lily28
Posts: 4
Joined: 24 May 2020, 13:55

Re: White Patches in Shell

Post by Lily28 » 30 May 2020, 23:42

Hi Nina,

Well he doesn't really have an official name yet! Given that we're not sure whether he's male or female, we were having trouble agreeing on a name, and somehow along the way he became known as "Tort". It seems to have stuck for now, but it'll perhaps change.

That's great to know about the temperature as I always felt bad when he looked so groggy on cold winter mornings!

The outdoor enclosure is a run that's meant to be used for rabbits/guinea pigs. It's got an open space and an enclosed area. It's not properly set up yet but he had a little outing and spent most of the time trying to get out through the rungs, so I'll definitely add a barrier around the bottom so he can't see out.

Thank you very much for the link to the reflector! Sorry for the delay, I've emailed you over my address now.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Lily

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Nina
Posts: 1117
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: White Patches in Shell

Post by Nina » 31 May 2020, 12:36

Hi Lily,
Thanks for your email with the address and the booklet will go out to you tomorrow.
I think Tort is a perfectly good name and, as you say, it's not gender specific.

The barrier should help a lot -- just a 1" x 6" board or something that he can't see over should do it -- he'll be happy as anything.

Nina

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