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Bubbles is very poorly...
Posted: 02/05/2011 by slowonthe uptake

Click and drag me down to the editorHi,

Can someone please help? We brought our female Hermann's tortoise out of hibernation three weeks ago. She went into hibernation at the beginning of November 2010. She is extremely lethargic, isn't eating, bearly drinking, will not move, opens her mouth a lot. We took her to a reptile vet a week ago, who gave her a Vitamin A shot, antibiotics for a throat infection ( apparently it is a bit like the human form of thrush ) and he told us that she was dehydrated and needed tube feeding. This they did and then told us to take her hom e and keep her warm with a lamp... as it was a Bank Holiday weekend, they said to bring her back if she hadn't started to feed a few days later. She didn't feed herself, so we took her back.We were bathing her as well in warm water with a glucose solution in it twice a day as recommended by the vet.

They tube fed her for the day and a half that she was in there and we had to take her out of the vets because they were charging 30 - 40 a day to keep her in there. We inherited here a few years ago from my cousin, whose mother was ill and she hadn't the time to devote to her ( the tortoises care). Bubbles - she must be well over 40 years old, as they found her as a stray...

They were green about her care and so were we - until now. We are considering tube feeding her ourselves, with the help of the Tortoise Trust advisory sheets, I used to be a nurse and have tube fed humans! We have been in touch with the Proteus Reptile Trust who told us to keep her warm and make sure she drinks. She hasn't really bucked up that much, she just paddles her legs round when she is spoken to. Can anybody help ? We are desperate now.



Re: Bubbles is very poorly...
Posted: 02/05/2011 by DavidWYork

Hello there, a real issue here, which I would be referring urgently to a good tortoise vet. The most pressing   issue will be primarily one of rehydration. The vet you used may well be your best solution you know.

Tube feeding is difficult and potentially VERY dangerous. In humans a nasal tube is used, in tortoises a tube is fed orally directly to the stomach. Done wrongly this could end up filling the lungs. I was shown many times by a vet before I felt competent, and only then tried first time in vet's company. 

Have you checked the vets list of the group, and a list accessed from link above, I added recently?  I would not delay even 24 hours in your situation. The PDSA and RSPCA may be an option in your area, but a specialist reptile vet is the preferred option...and may not come cheap. Could you persuade the vet you have seen, to show you how he/she tube feeds?  If you post where you are, another  reader may be able to support you or suggest a specialist near where you are.

I do hope things work out for your tortoise.   Regards, David nr York.

Re: Bubbles is very poorly...
Posted: 02/05/2011 by VivTPG

Hi Sue, I have referred your query to vet Kevin Eatwell for his advice

regards Vivienne

Re: Bubbles is very poorly...
Posted: 03/05/2011 by slowonthe uptake

Hi ,

Thanks for replying so quickly. We managed to gently syringe some water into her mouth last night. We are taking her to our vet this evening, so we will know more then, but thanks for your advice.

Best wishes,


Re: Bubbles is very poorly...
Posted: 03/05/2011 by slowonthe uptake

Hi Viv,

Any information that Kevin your vet could give us would be great. We are taking her to our own vet this evening, and we were able to syringe some water into her last night. She remains about the same, and is under her heat lamp.

Best wishes,


Re: Bubbles is very poorly...
Posted: 04/05/2011 by VivTPG

Hi Sue, I have messaged you.

For other members who would like to know for future reference, Kevin suggested that she sounds like she needs to be hospitalised for intensive care.
A feeding (oesophagostomy) tube could be placed to help provide stress free supportive care.
And suggest checking out her blood counts etc to get an accurate diagnosis/prognosis and to allow for specific treatment to be given.

Please let us know how she is, regards Vivienne

Re: Bubbles is very poorly...
Posted: 05/05/2011 by slowonthe uptake

Hi Viv

Thanks for the information. Bubbles is looking a little better ( she opened her eyes for the first time in days last night)  and a bit stonger. We took her to our vet on Tuesday and he gave her a good exmination. He gave her an antibiotic injection, she has to go back tonight for another one and Saturday morning. He also advised us to give her 40ml water with 10 ml  nutrient powder mixed in, daily and give her pureed fruit/ veg that tortoises are allowed, through a syringe to make up the daily quotant of fluid once she is rehydrated.

She is under a heat lamp and we are bathing her in warm water twice daily, to encourage her to drink. He is keeping an eye on her weight as well, and wants regular checks. She seems to be tolerating the fluid, she hasn't vomited any back up ...

The injection really must have scared her though, as our vet said she would probably start passing urine in a couple of days, but 10 minutes after the appointment and into their carpark, she urinated a huge amount of wee! It was quite cloudy in appearence, but we are hoping that we are on the right track - she appears to be a little less weak.

He thinks she has had many years ( before we had her and because we were green about their care- when we had her ) of being in hibernation for far too long and just being given salad ingredients and left outside on the lawn in the summer with a bathing tray.  She is being given little trips outside to the lawn on hotter days, so that she can get some sunlight and she appears to like a warm bath on warmer days in the garden.

I am planning to make her a new tortoise table with a UV and heat lamp and I am reading up on their diet including dandelions ( which she doesn't appear to like very much) and hibiscus flowers. Do you have any tips for other food for her... Thank you for your kindness and concern- I will pass them on to Bubbles- we are all looking out for her now!     

Re: Bubbles is very poorly...
Posted: 06/05/2011 by VivTPG

Hi, I'm pleased to hear she is responding well to treatment.  Please see our care sheet (if not already done so!), here is the link . 

There is lots of other useful information, such as enclosure designs etc on this site, please browse through the various headings on the lefthand menu, there are lots photos of examples of enclosures under 'gallery'.

For plant and weeds suitable for torts, please see the following link, which I also help out on (in the background!)

Keep us posted, regards Vivienne


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