Change of behaviour 18 month old Hermanns

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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PeterH
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Joined: 30 Jun 2022, 13:17

Change of behaviour 18 month old Hermanns

Post by PeterH » 30 Jun 2022, 13:33

Hi I am a little concerned with my Hermanns tortoise. During the colder winter months I expected him/her (not sure yet) to be less active due to the temperature drops. But now that warm weather is here he spends the whole time sleeping or sitting in his “bed” and watching out the door all day. He will get up in the morning most days and warm up under the uva & uvb combined lamp, eat his weeds then back to bed for the day. He used to be very active walking around the enclosure climbing etc. but no more, if he goes outside he will just hide. This has been going on since March when we upgraded the enclosure. I know the my can take time to settle in but I thought it would be styled by now. He has a healthy appetite, pee is all clear and regular some urates, appears to struggle to poop sometimes not always, poops when soaking. Seems to perk up after a poop, might be imagining it. Thanks.

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lin
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Re: Change of behaviour 18 month old Hermanns

Post by lin » 30 Jun 2022, 15:05

Hi Peter and welcome.
Before I give some thoughts can I ask what type of thermometer you use to take the temps with. We usually advise these types (photo below) because they are more accurate than the little round ones stuck on the back wall and the temps can be taken at the height of the tortoise I get the basking area.

The weather has cooled a bit this week so that could possibly be one reason, and the other could be that it has been to hot so that’s where the correct temps come in handy. The fluctuations in the enclosure really do depend on the ambient temperature too, so for example if the ambient temperature your house is 28deg C near the enclosure and the light is on a thermostat set to go off at 30, then the temp under the light is going to be much higher than the 30deg C.

So if you have a photo of your setup we maybe able to point out a tweak or two that will help him become more active.

Most tortoises do love a bath and take the opportunity to eliminate their bowels and urinate because there is the facility to replenish. You can give him a bath or two daily but do be sure to make a shallow water dish available for him to drink from during the day.

I look forward to seeing a photo or two and seeing what help we can offer.

Lin
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Nina
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Re: Change of behaviour 18 month old Hermanns

Post by Nina » 30 Jun 2022, 16:01

Hi Peter,
You seem to have posted your question twice, and I answered one of them, and my colleague Lin answered the other. So to avoid confusion, I'm cut and pasting my response in this thread and deleting the duplicate thread (lol, we'll get there in the end!).
Here's what I posted earlier today (and sorry if there is some duplication with what Lin wrote and I wrote, as we weren't aware that the other was responding):

Hi Peter,

Many thanks for contacting us, and I'm sorry that your little tortoise seems to be having problems. .

The most common factor contributing to lethargy is temperature -- either too warm or too cold. Can you tell us how you are measuring the temperature in his enclosure? It needs to be measured directly below the heat source and at the height of his shell (a thermometer mounted on a nearby wall will give a reading that is lower than the temperature under his light). You want to aim for a temperature of around 30C under the light and 20C at the far end of his enclosure. Are you in the UK (if not and you prefer temperatures in Fahrenheit I can give you those).

If his lack of interest/energy has coincided exactly with when you upgraded his enclosure then if you could upload a photo it would be a great help, as sometimes only a small tweak is needed to put things right.

Nina

PeterH
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Re: Change of behaviour 18 month old Hermanns

Post by PeterH » 01 Jul 2022, 10:46

Hi thanks both for your replies.

I have attached 3 pictures below. We were using a stick on thermometer until unstuck itself recently.
I also changed the heat lamp when the enclosure was upgraded from the standard heat lamp to a mercury vapour dual light output lamp, I took this out yesterday a re fitted the original heat lamp on a thermostat dimmer to keep the temps from going to high, set at 30-32 degrees. Thanks for your time.
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Nina
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Re: Change of behaviour 18 month old Hermanns

Post by Nina » 01 Jul 2022, 12:06

Hi Peter,
Thanks so much for the photos. It's a nice table you've got there, so well done for upgrading it, and I have just a few questions.

What is the substrate you are using? It looks like aubiose or perhaps some sort of hay or straw. I doubt that this has had any effect on your tortoise's behaviour, but it really isn't the best substrate for a couple of reasons.
1. It is not the natural substrate for a tortoise, as they tend to live on sandy soil substrates in the wild. For this reason we recommend a substrate that is a mixture of ordinary screened topsoil and children's play sand (and you can buy bags of both of those at DIY shops, garden centres, etc.). Some people mix them 50/50 but others prefer more topsoil to sand (say 60% or 70% topsoil to 30% or 40% sand). Mix them thoroughly and spray every day or two to keep it from getting dusty.
2. A soil based substrate is much easier to spot clean as it clumps together and is darker after a wee, and you can also see the poo better.
3. Dried plant material can be a fire hazard. It only happens rarely, but we know of one or two cases where a lightbulb has blown and the hot pieces of glass fell onto the 'dried hay' type substrate and set fire to it.

Now that you've taken out the Mercury vapour heat/light/UVB bulb, how are you providing UVB for the tortoise? The UVB is super important, because that enables the tortoise to produce vitamin D3 in its skin, which enables it to absorb and utilize the calcium in its diet, and without that it can't take up the calcium to produce healthy bone and shell. If your new bulb doesn't provide UVB (UVA isn't the same as UVB), you can supplement it with a UVB fluorescent tube (I can give details if necessary).

Regarding your thermostat dimmer that will keep the temperature at 30C - 32C, where is the probe that registers the temperature sited? It really needs to be directly under the lamp and at the height of the tortoise's shell, and if it is somewhere else (say at the far end or taped to a nearby wall), then the temperature under the lamp will be much higher.
Here is a link to the sort of thermometer that Lin showed the photo of. It's got a probe on the end of a long cord that you can hang down so that it is almost directly under the bulb itself, and you can put that display unit on top of the arm that holds the light or outside the table: https://www.pharmacy-equipment.co.uk/pr ... er-tmm105/ You can get them in lots of places, but do try and get one with a max/min facility, as it enables you to see how hot or how cold it got in the table since you last looked, which is very useful.

Sorry for such a long post. I do think you've provided a nice space for the tortoise, and hopefully we can get things just right for him so that he is happy and thrives.

Nina

PeterH
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Re: Change of behaviour 18 month old Hermanns

Post by PeterH » 02 Jul 2022, 13:42

Hi again Nina,

So the substrate is hemp with dried grass/flowers mixed in with it. I was assured by the reptile pet shop that this was suitable substrate to use, as my tortoise would forage for the dried flowers etc. I have to admit I’ve never seen him eat any of it. It certainly had a picture of a tortoise on the bags (I know it’s means nothing really).

The enclosure does have a UVB strip light on the bar, and I believe the heat lamp provides some UVA.

I have a laser thermometer to measure the temp under the lamp and have the thermostat set slightly lower to adjust for the fact that the sensor is slightly to one side of the lamp on the side wall.

Like I said he almost runs when I come in to give his food, and will eat from my hand. But just seems to go back to bed after warming up and eating. I do feel he may have been constipated also but I’m only feeding a variety of weeds and occasionally romain lettuce if the weeds are not as available.

Thank you for taking the time to help. ☺️

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Nina
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Re: Change of behaviour 18 month old Hermanns

Post by Nina » 02 Jul 2022, 16:27

Hi Peter,

Hemp is frequently sold as a substrate for tortoises, but even though pet shops recommend it, it is not good for the reasons I gave (unfortunately pet shop staff are very often relatively ignorant of tortoise husbandry). The other thing I forgot to mention in the reasons I gave for not using it, is that pieces of hemp sometimes have sharp edges, and they have been known to cause eye injuries or internal problems when eaten (tortoises don't often intentionally eat it, but pieces of hemp can cling to pieces of food and be accidentally eaten). They live on a sandy soil in the wild and they really do prefer that in captivity as well.

The other thing is that in general it's not a great idea to have an edible substrate for tortoises. As you say, yours has never eaten it, so that is fine, but for tortoises that do eat it regularly, it can cause them to grow too quickly and develop deformed shells: the individual scutes become 'pyramided', i.e. bumpy, rather than completely smooth, and the texture of the scutes internally is more spongy than solid, and this can lead to metabolic bone disease. One of the main points to remember with tortoises is that they have evolved to grow very slowly (in the wild food is often very scarce, and there is competition from other animals). What you should be aiming for is growth of between 1g - 3g per month. That is just an average, and some months he will put on more weight and some less, but a consistent growth of a lot more than that each month will result in him growing too quickly.

That's great that you've got the UVB fluorescent light for him. I actually prefer those, as if it is too warm in the table you can raise his heat lamp higher, or if it is too cold you can lower his heat lamp, but the UVB source will stay at the same distance, which I think is better, and for that reason I use a separate UVB tube. I can't actually see the tube in your photos, but if it doesn't have one, do get a clip-on reflector for it. That will shield your eyes (the UVB can damage your eyesight, much like the UVB from the sun can do), plus it will direct up to 30% more of the UVB down into the table rather than up into the air. They aren't expensive and you can buy them at most pet shops that sell the strip lights.
http://tinyurl.com/4ysu33zd

It sounds like you are giving him a good diet. Have you been seeing his poos (just wondered why you think he might be constipated)? If he is constipated, you could try feeding him some succulents from the garden (sedum) or an opuntia cactus pad if you have one -- that often gets them going. Ha, ha, I'm probably pressing the point too much here, but having a soil-based substrate also makes it easier to see the poos and wees :)

Regarding his lack of interest/energy, there could be various reasons for this. It might sound odd, but tortoises do get bored fairly easily if they can see from one end of their enclosure to the other without interruption, and when they get bored they just take themselves off to hide away. Try re-arranging the 'furniture' in his enclosure-- a nice big rock that he has to walk around, one of those bendy log thingys (fiddlesticks, I think they are called) that he can walk through or climb up (they love to climb), and slide down the other side, a nice plant in a pot that breaks up the sight lines. Do you ever feed him on that little platform at the top of his ramp? If you entice him up there with a bit of food in your hand, and then put his food up there on a regular basis afterwards, then he will remember that and might well go up and down that ramp quite a lot to see if there is a treat up there for him. I always feed mine on the second level, as it gives them a lot of good exercise.

Also, if you can get him outdoors as much as possible, that is a great help and they love it outside. We can give you ideas on how to build a simple outdoor enclosure for him if you're interested.

Finally (lol, you must be nodding off at this stage in my long emai!), you probably already have one, but in case you don't, here is a care sheet for Hermann's tortoises: https://www.tortoise-protection-group.o ... 014New.pdf and here is a link to a great site about Hermann's (Chris Leone, who runs it is probably the world authority on Hermann's -- he's in the USA and so the advice can differ in small respects from what we do in the UK, but it's all good stuff) -- https://www.hermannihaven.com/

Nina

PeterH
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Joined: 30 Jun 2022, 13:17

Re: Change of behaviour 18 month old Hermanns

Post by PeterH » 05 Jul 2022, 08:31

Apologies for not responding sooner, really busy weekend. Thank you so much for your knowledge and time helping us.
I will change the substrate on the next clean out day, as I want it to be as natural as possible for him. We have led him up to the platform with food a couple of times but it’s so weird, it’s almost like he’s lazy and waits for us to put him under his heat lamp in the morning now, rather than get himself up. I did this for a few days when he went into the new enclosure, to make sure he knew where it was.
I thought/think he was constipated due to the effort it seemed to take to get “it” out. While soaking the other day he really seemed to struggle, almost on tip toes with his head tucked right in.
I also worry that I’ve been over feeding him now as he does have slight pyramiding on his back. I tried a day off feeding and he was almost rampant when I came to check on him, he seemed asleep and when he heard me he shot up to where I was, that’s what confuses me. Most of the time he seems so lethargic but now and again (always when food or the possibility of food is involved) he scrambles to find out.
So I’m summary, I’ve got into the habit of putting him under heat lamp, worrying that he’ll just stay in bed if I don’t, soaking everyday to make sure he poops. He’s outside everyday it’s warm and sunny but he generally finds a cold corner or hides after 5 minutes.
Thanks you again for your time.

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Nina
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Re: Change of behaviour 18 month old Hermanns

Post by Nina » 05 Jul 2022, 09:57

Hi Peter,
Gosh, this is a bit of a difficult one. The fact that he is so eager to eat is really good, but it's not good that he isn't getting himself up in the morning and going to the lamp. And he shouldn't really be struggling to get the poo out. I wonder if there is a little bit of a blockage in there? It might be worth getting him checked out by a good reptile vet. We have a list of recommended vets, organised by area on our website here: https://www.thetortoisetable.org.uk/tor ... sP4poTMIZY

It's really important that a tortoise is seen by an 'exotics' vet (one who treats birds, reptiles, fish, etc.), and not an ordinary vet, as they have little training in reptiles and have been known to prescribe medicines that are fine for mammals but lethal for tortoises. If you can't find one on the list that is near, let us know and we'll try and find one for you. And always check with the vet first to see if they still have an exotics vet there, because often vets move practices and we aren't always notified.

If you do go, then bring a sample of poo with you, so that it can be tested for worms and other parasites. You can keep a sample fresh overnight in a sealed container in the fridge. Worms are very common in tortoises, and a light load of worms is not usually treated, as it is viewed as actually being beneficial because they aid in digestion, but a heavy load is not good and must be treated (but this is easily done). I doubt if your tortoise has worms, as the symptoms are loss of appetite, sometimes diarrhoea, and fatigue (and pretty much the same for protozoa infestations), and your tortoise seems to only have fatigue and certainly not a loss of appetite, but it's worth checking it out.

Regarding feeding. Some people do miss a day, in order to keep growth slower, but I think it's better to just feed less each day. As i mentioned earlier it's important to keep a record of is growth, and you want to aim for an average of between 1g - 3g per month. General guidelines are as much as he can eat in 15 - 20 minutes, once a day, or as many flowers/leaves etc. as it would take to make a little jacket to cover his shell :) . Would you like a complimentary copy of our Tortoise Observations Records booklet? It where you can keep details of vets, changes of equipment, growth, etc.. Just email your full name and address to me at nina@thetortoisetable.org.uk and I'll pop one in the post to you.

It's really good that he is going outside, and do keep it up. Young tortoises often hide away a lot, both indoors and outdoors, as a sort of protective mechanism against predators, but outdoors is good for him. Does he have an enclosure outdoors or is it generally in the garden.

Lol, and after all of this -- what is his name (It's alway nice to refer to them by their name)?

Nina

PeterH
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Joined: 30 Jun 2022, 13:17

Re: Change of behaviour 18 month old Hermanns

Post by PeterH » 08 Jul 2022, 08:19

Nina, thank you soo much for all your help and advice. I think we will pop him to the vets like you said just to be sure.
Thanks for the offer of the booklet, I’ll be sure to email my details over.
It’s rubbish just not being sure, you start worrying about irrational too. Anyway I’ll leave you in peace for now, and update you once we’ve been to the vets. He did get himself up this morning to warm up, had some food, warmed up some more, then went back to bed. I’m going shopping for some succulents this weekend and have some plans to give him some enrichment. He does have an outside enclosure albeit a pop up one but it’s quite nice too.
Thanks again, will be in touch soon with news on how “Scoot” is doing. He is my sons tortoise and he is called this because when we collected him he was Scooting around his tank a lot in the pet shop, and always has, until recently 🫤
Pete

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Nina
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Re: Change of behaviour 18 month old Hermanns

Post by Nina » 08 Jul 2022, 10:41

It's really good news that Scoot got himself up this morning, and let us know how he gets on at the vet. It is really important that you see an 'exotics'/reptile vet and not an ordinary vet, so just let us know if you need help finding one.

Cheers,
Nina

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