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Cant walk & wont eat by himself for over a year
Posted: 29/04/2010 by dancer79

My tortoise is a male herman - I am unsure of his age as he was lost and after nobody claimed him we kept him (as we already have a tortoise) - this was over 20 years ago. About a year and a half ago he came out of hibernation and moved much slower than he ever had until after a couple of weeks he couldnt walk at all. His legs were weak and floppy compared to our other tortoise. He was taken to the vets who put him on a special diet & gave him intense vitamin injections. They though he had Metabolic Bone Desise. He did not improve and we took him to another vet who kept him for tests and over this time (for convenience) tube fed him directly into the stomach. His tests all came back fine, but then he wouldnt eat again on his own either. He then went to a third vet (a specialist) who carried out further tests and could find no reason for him not walking or eating. He confirmed he DID NOT infact have MBD as his levels were all healthy, he had nothing wrong with his liver, kidney or blood and they were happy as he expelled his waste regularly & normally and they discharged him.

He is now much happier & healthier and seems used to how he is, he can swivel about a little but his legs are no longer strong enough to lift his shell. He eats daily by being hand fed, but unless we use this process (opening his mouth and popping food in for him to chew) he wont touch the food by himself. He is bathed regularly, fed the right food, he has the correct UV lamp, environment, outdoor access etc and like I say has had so many tests which show nothing wrong with him, but we still have no answers!

Does anyone / the vet know why he is like this and how to possibly get him eating himself again? Is he simply old and has lost muscle tone. Is it true when a tortoise stops eating it is very hard to get them started again?

I'd be appreciative of any helpfull tips or info!

Re: Cant walk & wont eat by himself for over a year
Posted: 29/04/2010 by VivTPG

Hi, it certainly sounds as though you have explored all avenues, as you dont know his real age and you have had him 20 years it could be old age creeping on.  Make sure he gets the full supplements on his weeds that you hand feed him, and plenty of natural sunlight.  As you are probably aware torts can stop eating for a long time especially after stress which he has probably gone through, all I can say is persevere with the weeds and hopefully he will start feeding himself.

Please let us know how you get on, regards Vivienne

Re: Cant walk & wont eat by himself for over a year
Posted: 29/04/2010 by DavidWYork

This is a really worrying problem for any owner. I once had a tortoise that did not eat for 8 months (voluntarily). I fed her daily, with every type of tempting food. A vet ( well versed with chelonian problems) suggested I allowed her to become hungry, and create a sense of need. As advised, I administered very weak fruit juice via stomach tube for two weeks, but offered no food. I was advised to offer yellow food, as it is easily seen. I decided to try tinned sweetcorn...guess what ? She started eating voluntarily after an enforced 2 week fast! I do hope this helps your beastie! From David in York

Re: Cant walk & wont eat by himself for over a year
Posted: 01/06/2010 by dancer79

Hi Vivienne,

thank you for your reply. We did think it may be old age, but it does sound right also about not eating following stress, as he did undergo a lot at the vets and on his return that was when he stopped feeding. We shall keep on hoping one day he will be tempted to feed alone again however!

kind regards Sarah

Re: Cant walk & wont eat by himself for over a year
Posted: 01/06/2010 by dancer79

Hi David, thank you for your reply. We will definitely try to offer some yellow food - sweetcorn - and leave it infront of him each day and maybe not feed him until a little later and see if he becomes tempted. Unfortunately we can't use the tube feeding method (though thank you for your kind advice) as this was what caused his none eating/stress in the first place. He was at the vets some time and after being tube fed for a week he would not touch his own food again sadly. Thanks, Sarah

Re: Cant walk & wont eat by himself for over a year
Posted: 03/06/2010 by DavidWYork

Hello again. I am just  wondering if any signs of  improvement yet? ...I do hope so.Click and drag me down to the editor

Tortoise anorexia is really hard to understand, and distressing to witness. Do you hibernate your tort?. Is there a significant cooling at night...there should be.

How long have you left beastie without you feeding him? Are  the mouth and tongue regions a healthy pink and not yellow?

How does he rate on the Jackson's length/weight chart (google if uncertain)? If over weight, be patient...he is living off reserves.

By the way,  I must say now that I  certainly do not advocate feeding sweetcorn long term...merely in desperation when all else fails...thawed out frozen peas can also be tempting, but again only in dire circumstances and for a short period.

If the weight is good, leave feeding anything at all for a week or so, just bathing and offering water. Then try with tempting offerings. Do please keep us informed on progress or may help others with similar difficulties!

All the best from David in York, where weather conditions have been near perfect for 7 weeks now...natural feeding every day, and as yet no need for any supplementary heating. Long may conditions continue! Cheers!!


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