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Posted: 18/04/2014 by matthew

Hi Tom, my  8yr old Horsfield has started to sleep more and more to the point where he is hardly stirring. He has a large indoor enclosure with all the correct conditions but recently he just seems to dig in and stay there where as before he would be up and marching around as regular as clockwork. 

He's about 430grammes and this has been pretty constant for a couple of years now although last year his weight dropped quote a bit which I put down to having been in his outdoor enclosure for too long during the rather cool summer months. As a result I've decided in future to only put him out on the warmest days and bring him in during the evenings. Due to the weight drop I didn't hibernate him this winter and he enjoyed a very active winter indoors and put all his lost weight back on and a bit extra. However during the last 2 months he's been getting lazier and lazier, not waking in the mornings and as a result his appetite has gone. I've tried tinkering with the temperatures but whatever I try he will just find a corner or dig in somewhere and stay there. 

My reptile vet did an x-ray to check for any abnormalities, his stool sample was parasite free and he gave him a vitamin shot. Physically he seems fine but I'm obviously worried to see him hardly eat anything.  I'm giving him warm baths approx every other day, sometimes more now in an attempt to stimulate him but it's not really providing much improvement, although he does at least pass some urates and sometimes some very small droppings and he  may sometimes nibble a bit of food before heading immediately back to sleep although more recently he's ignoring the food altogether. 

The vet did suggest that the next step may be to take some blood for tests but I feel that we're potentially clutching at straws and I'm not sure what else I can try. I'll continue with the warm baths much to his annoyance but apart from that I feel like I'm just watching him decline. 

Any advice greatly appreciated. 

Re: FAO Tom
Posted: 21/04/2014 by Tom

Hello Matthew,

You state that last summer his weight dropped "quite a bit." Can you provide dated monthly weight records for the last 2 years please? These are a basic part of tortoise husbandry.
Presumably he has waterproof housing outside to escape really bad weather. 
The latter part of last Summer was excellent right into October.
Prior to that you could have offered warmth & food in the evenings, given that you had noted some weight loss.
Don't hesitate to put him out unless the weather is really bad, he will benefit from it. 
What size is the enclosure?
It may be that he is fully grown & is below average size.
You state that he is 8, how do you know this?
Are you able to post some good photos of him please?

I look forward to your further info. & photos.


Re: FAO Tom
Posted: 21/04/2014 by matthew

HimTom, thanks for getting back to me.  I've had my tort for 6 years and his previous owner told me that he was 2 years old at the time I started to care for him. There's no reason to suggest that he's any other age. I've always used the fridge method for hibernation and I have maintained his growth records spanning the previous 6 years.  As I stated previously I didn't hibernate him last winter due to some weight loss, approximately 50 Grammes which I put down to him having spent the summer months outside. Whilst the temperature was quite good last summer this prompted me to allow him to stay out overnight for the first time but on reflection I think he was spending a great deal of his time burrowed down and not eating much. 

After overwintering indoors he put all his lost weight back on and some extra and reached 440 Grammes, which is the most he has weighed, his plastron measures 11cm which has been the same for the previous 3 years. 

It's his recent loss of appetite and decrease in energy that's now concerning me. His weight has gone down to 411 Grammes. Today he managed to make it to his basking area which was very pleasing to see as he hasn't managed to do this alone for a good few weeks now. I don't have any recent pics that I can upload but he has been seen by his vet who agrees with me that his physical appearance is not of concern. He sees the vet on an annual basis usually for a pre- hibernation check-up and there has never been a need for any treatment other than for worming medication which he received last October.  He's still parasite free. 

I've seen some other posts on the Facebook page recently where people have had similar queries and the responses were generally not to worry and a reminder that in the wild Horsfields do spend a great deal of time being doing very little, often remaining in their burrows for extended periods. I'm fine if this is 'normal' behaviour and it's just a case of monitoring him but I would hate to think that he was actually in need of some form of intervention and I wasn't acting appropriately. 

Re: FAO Tom
Posted: 22/04/2014 by Tom

Thanks for the info Matthew. Given his weight over 3 years, he appears to have been fully grown since the age of 5.

Assuming he has a large enclosure, I'd put him out on nice days to begin with & provide warmth & food in the evening, under observation. 
You imply that he doesn't like 'baths' in warm water, so perhaps try a little cooler temperature.
With the stimulus of being outside again whenever possible, he ought to liven up. If he doesn't then consult a specialist vet.
Let us know what happens.

Best wishes,


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