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Tips for encouraging Horsfield to eat?
Posted: 24/01/2015 by GeordieTerrier

My tortoise is being incredibly fussy as she has a tendency to be. 2 weeks ago the shop we were getting her food from has stopped getting it any more. They still have some stock but no more will be coming in and they have already run out of the cucumber flavour pellets (she is on pellets for a good reason and hopefully we'll one day get her off them) she is used to. She has plenty of dandelion pellets there now but barely touches them. As I say, she does tend to do this and normally I wouldn't worry about it but she has visibly lost weight and vigour. Also her conjunctivitis seems to be becoming a problem as she doesn't eat. Everything else is the same as it has been for 2/3 years, not sure how long I've had her now XD So it is just needing help with her being fussy.

Re: Tips for encouraging Horsfield to eat?
Posted: 24/01/2015 by wicklejo

We have just bought a horse field. its our first tortoise. Im worried as he isn't eating anything I offer. rocket, kale, carrot, watercress. Getting a bit worried now. Only picked him up yesterday, tried not to handle him much until he settles

Re: Tips for encouraging Horsfield to eat?
Posted: 24/01/2015 by GeordieTerrier

Erm you need to give more info and preferably in your own post. No offense. Just will get better results for both of us.

Re: Tips for encouraging Horsfield to eat?
Posted: 26/01/2015 by Tom


Can you post some photos of your tortoise please & can you explain "her conjunctivitis" in detail.

Some pics of her set-up would also be good please.

After receiving the above, I'll offer some dietary advice.


Re: Tips for encouraging Horsfield to eat?
Posted: 26/01/2015 by GeordieTerrier

I shall provide the full information tomorrow but she finally appears to be conceding. She isn't eating nearly as much as she should be as evident by her bowel movements but it is nice to see something is moving through her system. I must forewarn you on dietary advice though since it is quick and easy to do. She is on pellets because she cannot physically eat leaves at this moment. A year ago we took her to a tortoise expert, the vets employs 2 specialists, to have her beak trim. Our usual specialist had left to continue research in the field and I made the mistake of trusting the replacement. Her beak was trimmed to bleeding, jagged edges left and gouges were out in places. So even now she has a large hole where the front of her beak should be. Pellets are the only thing she can pick up and eat unless finely chopped leaves are on top. She cannot grip and she cannot pick leaves up off surfaces. We are aware of the downsides of the pellets but unfortunately it is our best option until she regrows enough beak. There is no risk of her beak overgrowing right now as she is getting trims every 4 months to gradually allow the bottom to grow back in. The expert also gave us some tortoise safe antibiotic to apply to the mouth if she gets mouth rot since it is soft.

Below is the picture of this, please click to view full size to see the severity.

Her conjunctivitis is characterised by puffy eyes with some discharge, occasionally redness though it isn't that bad at the moment. On mornings it can be so swollen she has difficulty opening it. After the previously described incident we naturally sought out another tortoise expert in the area, recommended by everyone we meet. At the time it was very slight, to the point I was unaware it was still there, but he noticed and did a thorough examination including asking about her diet. Through that he determined it is in fact due to a vitamin A deficiency. We had eliminated it but it returns when she refuses to eat for week or longer. We are heading back to the vet soon for corrective trimming and will seek additional treatment then. It is also mildly evident in the picture and whenever she refuses food we keep a close eye on her and act quickly to avoid it ever getting worse than that.

Sorry to only answer in part but to give the full information is very lengthy and it is late, I have much to do before bed and must wake at 6am.

Re: Tips for encouraging Horsfield to eat?
Posted: 27/01/2015 by Tom

Thank you for the reply.

The beak 'trimming' is a disgrace & justifies County Court action. I trust that you were refunded, at least, and that any related work will be F.O.C..

Have you tried liquidating weeds, so as to get some quality food into the system, if necessary with a bit of help.

I asked about your setup, as poor lighting, could be another cause of the eye problem. As you are obviously diligent, so I guess you have a quality UVB lamp. 


Re: Tips for encouraging Horsfield to eat?
Posted: 28/01/2015 by GeordieTerrier

Oh right, thank you. I have had her for 3 years and have a degree in animal management so I learnt the basics already. She hasn't been the easiest due to her start in life. She came to me with MBD and has permanent problems from it including a deformed beak at the back though the front WAS good, thanks to the vet she's now bulldogging. She lives in a viv (I know it's not ideal but even in summer a strong heat lamp was struggling to give a hot end of 30), we will be building an indoor pen around the viv so during summer and late spring she can get out in a safe environment. At the moment she does not have an outdoor enclosure because she is so scared outside she didn't eat for 3 weeks until we had to bring her in for the cold. Her viv is 6ft x 4ft, takes 2 long UV bulbs but worth it. UVB 6% desert bulb and the temperatures are 30 at the hot and 24.2 at the cold. Has tortoise bath filled at least once a day and still has her 2 slates in for food when she regrows enough beak. Also plants, rocks and a log for hiding and climbing, climbing seems to be her favourite pastime for some strange reason. She doesn't get soil everywhere, just in a container in her favourite sleeping spot as she eats it in dangerous quantities if everywhere. Very sad I know but we were warned at the rate she was going she'd have months to go before needing treatment to prevent impaction. Thus far I haven't even had an opportunity to hibernate her and I wouldn't be comfortable with that yet as I want to be sure how to do it safely. First winter I got her, second she was still weakened by vitamin A deficiency and this winter it's too dangerous thanks to the pellets.

I had considered liquidating food but since she has been terrified of attention to her head. Normally not such a problem but she is a quick learner and even the specialist struggles to get her head out to the point he has recommended light sedation to make her dopey for her next trimming. She has learnt all the tricks and risks the problems breathing to avoid us getting near. Entirely understandable, she was in pretty bad pain for a few days after until a scab formed.

I considered court action and looked into it. Found out that unless it died and we had solid proof it was their fault we had no chance, and even then it would have been slim. Especially since unfortunately my carer was a bit rash and mentioned suing so they quickly spoke to each other and worked out an excuse, that it was remedial trimming to reshape it how it should be. That part was wonderful and the part that isn't it's the jaw itself that is mishapen. Unfortunately we needed before pictures to go to court to sue or even to get them struck off. We suspect from the Eastern European accent but their statement to me that they were Italian that they weren't practicing legally anyway. Despite us being treat like crap when they tried defending themselves that vet was gone quickly.

Re: Tips for encouraging Horsfield to eat?
Posted: 04/02/2015 by Tom

I regret the delay,

24C at the cool end is a bit high, 18-20C is plenty. No additional heat or light at night, of course.
6% UVB is rather low. You would best make a large tort. 'table' & use a "Megaray" UVB bulb.

In Summer, a smallish wooden sided pen, to start with, may help it to settle.

I suggest that you experiment by part liquidising suitable plants, then roll them into the same size as the pellets. You may need to let them partly dry, to hold together.

Best wishes,

Re: Tips for encouraging Horsfield to eat?
Posted: 04/02/2015 by GeordieTerrier

Delays are fine. She is finally eating better, still not as well as I'd like her to but we're getting there. She went for her corrective trim yesterday and they think it will take another 3 years to grow back. While there the vet commented on her low weight but it is promising that she is becoming a lot more active and alert again. She absolutely refuses to eat the dandelion pellets but they are making it possible for her to eat finely chopped 'salad' placed on top which she is gladly eating so have begun reducing the pellets and increasing the salad. Sorry I saw the home made pellets suggestion too late but it's a great idea to keep noted for future. Hopefully I won't need to use it on my own tortoise but you never know what they'll bring you next.

I checked today and it was about 18 at the cold end, it seems to vary a bit with the changeable weather at the moment. Hopefully the viv is a temporary worry while she needs to be overwintered. In spring/summer it will be converted into a large hide as part of her pen. Right now perhaps I ought to experiment with opening the door a little to keep the gradient right. It's too cold in our house in winter to overwinter them in tables, especially this year since the logs were too wet to burn.

I also just had a panic when you said the UV wasn't strong enough and went to look at the bulb itself to double check (ow, it's still on, that was stupid). The bulb says 10%. I presume the boxes are off someone else's light (there are 3 other species with UV that are not my own). Sorry about the confusion there. The viv is about 18 inches high so that the UV bulb can be put at optimum height.

I've also been trying to come up with a means of providing soil for her indoors. So I know she's not kept ideally but it has been a gradual and difficult process to get her this close. Unfortunately she nearly impacted herself last time on soil so I'm cautious of how I give it to her at first.


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