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1 24th May 22:35
carrie hoover
External User
Posts: 1
Default Closed eyes and lethargy (tortoise)

Hello All,

Just want to start off by saying that I'm planning on taking Man'ka to
the vet as soon as I can get an appointment, but wanted to ask you
guys what you think might be wrong with him as well.

He has been somewhat lethargic over the past few days, and even though
he appears to be eating and all, just isn't moving around the
enclosure as much and seemingly sleeping a lot. I took him and Sasha
out this afternoon for some excercise and a bath, and noticed that he
was keeping his eyes closed all the time. I cut his walk short and
started soaking him to see if maybe he had something stuck in there
that I could wash out. He perked up a bit after spending some time in
the water, and finally did open his eyes, but didn't keep them open
for a large amount of time. While they were open they looked bright
and clear, but he just didn't seem to want to keep them open that much
- it reminded me of when you first wake up with the sun shining in
your eyes and you blink a lot and try to block the light out. I kept
him soaking for about 20-25 minutes and during that time he opened his
eyes more and more but never really kept them open.

I looked up closed eyes, lethargy, and tortoises on the net and found
a couple of articles that talked about respiratory infections, but he
doesn't seem to have any of the other things they mentioned as
symptoms (nose bubbles, mucus, neck stretching and gasping).

Does anyone have any ideas, and if you think it could be a respiratory
infection, what should the vet be doing to treat it properly?


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2 24th May 22:36
debbie zajchowski
External User
Posts: 1
Default Closed eyes and lethargy (tortoise)

Hi Carrie,

How long have you had Man'ka? Has he been checked/treated for parasites?
(worms, and protozoa). Symptoms you describe can be related to high
parasite load, including any of the mentioned respiratory symptoms you
found on your journey of reading.

It could also be a dry environment and often eye problems and sluggish
behavior are noted here. Can you describe how you keep your tortoises,
including substrate, type of enclosure, lighting, and if moisture is
provided within the substrate or if its dry?

Also worth noting is that newly imported tortoises nowadays are
chronically dehydrated and starved for long periods of time, with
exposure to an array of disease. This can wreak havoc on the tortoise
and often other elements may be involved.

First though, it would be very helpful for us if you could describe
diet, environment, and any other history you have on your tortoise.
Please give as much detail as possible. Sometimes symptoms are mere
environmental problems, while other times; serious disease is involved.
Of late and with newly imported Russians I'm seeing, some huge surprises
are occurring.
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3 24th May 22:36
External User
Posts: 1
Default Closed eyes and lethargy

Take him to the vet immediately

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4 24th May 22:37
carrie hoover
External User
Posts: 1
Default Closed eyes and lethargy (tortoise)

Hi Debbie,

Man'ka has been a family pet for 15+ yrs and was actually brought to
the States from Russia with his family when they immigrated here in
1992. I call him "my" tort, but I guess that technically isn't true;
he's just in my long-term care while my friend (his "actual" owner) is
out in the field. We are both fisheries biologists and I was the one
who was lucky enough to get an "in-town" job while my friend has to
travel around (for now) to various parts of Alaska for his work. I
have been co-taking care of Man'ka with my friend for almost 5 yrs now
though, so no worries about me just getting handed him to watch over
out of the blue.

In answer to your other questions:

I'm not sure the last time he was to the vet, but I know that it has
been awhile I'm going to call the vet first thing in the morning
though to make an appointment. The current enclosure (which I will be
changing around here shortly as I've ordered a 175 gal reptarium from
Joe) is a 48"x24"x30" wooden tank that we built ourselves. There is a
hot end on the right and a cool end on the left, and for substrate I
use a 50/50 mixture of EcoEarth and play sand. The substrate is misted
regularly although I don't have anything to actually monitor humidity
levels. I can't pour lots of water in there, however, as the tank is
wooden (we now realize this was a poor choice for materials), but I do
try to keep the substrate somewhat damp. There is a 75 watt heat lamp
shining on the basking rocks on the hot end and a darker area and
hidey house on the cool one, and along the back wall and the right
side of the tank are two UVA/UVB fluorescent-type bulbs (these heat
and UV lamps will also be changing here soon, however, as I just got
the T-Rex Active UV bulb from Joe and just need to get a fixture that
it will fit into). Food and water dishes are kept under the UV lights,
but are closer to the cool end of the tank. Vents for air circulation
are located along all sides of the lid and on the left side of the
tank (the side that isn't along the wall). The lid is also
occasionally propped opened during the day when someone is at the
house to make sure the cats don't hop inside. The front of the tank is
removal Plexiglas so that we can look inside and enjoy watching them.
I don't think they can see out of it, however, as they've never tried
to go through it, and it doesn't seem to cause them any stress.

Since I came across it, I've tried to follow the suggested diet listed
on the website. Since I live in Alaska, however,
some items listed are not as readily available here as they might be
in other areas, so a variety of store-bought greens and such are used
often. I do add the Grassland Tortoise Nutritional Supplement to all
of their food, however, and have recently purchased the Grazing
Tortoise Seed Mix, as well as Dandelion and Plantain plantago seeds,
to provide a more varied and weed-rich diet. Rather than using a
powder, I also have a cuttlebone in the tank with the torts so they
can regulate their own calcium intake.

Since I live in Alaska, the torts are kept inside all year long. They
are taken outside occasionally for foraging trips around the yard, but
this doesn't happen very often (and not so far this year). Inside the
house, however, they spend most of their time in the tank, but come
out almost every day for "exercise time". During this period they're
free to roam around and explore wherever/however they want, but are
supervised to insure that no unpleasant interactions with the cats
occur (although this has never happened anyway). 1-2 times a week,
usually following exercise time, the torts are soaked in lukewarm
water for 15-20 minutes or so; they also have a large water dish
available to them in their enclosure for this as well, although they
never seem to use this.

That's about as much detail as I can think of sorry it is so long. I
guess I should also mention, however, that lately my house has seemed
warmer/drier than usual (like everywhere else we're having strange
weather here lately), and so maybe I'm not soaking him enough to
counteract this and that's what's causing the problem??? As I said in
my original post, however, I've just noticed this behavior over the
past couple of days and nothing else about the set-up and their
conditions has changed, so ???

Even though I am hoping to get him in to the vet ASAP, any ideas or
suggestions you might have about what's wrong based on what I've

respiratory infection, I'd appreciate that too.

Thanks so much for any/all help.

~ Carrie

p.s. I did collect a fecal sample while he was out wandering today
and will take it in when I go to the vet just in case he has somehow
gotten parasites.

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5 24th May 22:39
External User
Posts: 1
Default Closed eyes and lethargy (tortoise turtle)

Hi Carrie, first thing I would have the vet check for is parasites. Lethargy is usually always accompanied by them along with loss of appetite. Most times respiratory infection will present itself with a runny nose and the gaping. With any luck your tort will provide a fresh stool sample on the way to the vet. Most do when they get a car ride.

Julie Maguire
Director, Turtle Rescue of Long Island
NYS Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator

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Disclaimer: Any information given is not to be taken as medical advice and veterinary care should be obtained for any sick/injured turtle.

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