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Whistling & other Qs

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#1 Guest_Flash Herman_*

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Posted 05 February 2007 - 02:40 AM

Hi all,
This is a great forum and website. I have learned loads! I am a new torty keeper, having rehomed a 4 year old Herman yesterday! I would be really grateful for some expert advice on a few things.
I am a bit worried about his breathing, as he whistles through his nose. His previous owner did not say anything about it, and I thought it was normal. Is it? I have read about respiratory problems, but he seems well otherwise (eyes and nose bright and clear, eating well, active).
He has been housed in a vivarium (yes I know, we will be converting it into a table asap), and has been on wood shavings for the last few days, the owner having run out of pet shop reptile bark. We will be getting some sand/soil in a few days. She also kept the temp at 33 degrees, but it seemed like a bit of a sauna in there, as there is not much ventilation. The slate under the light got so hot I could not hold my hand on it. I thought this might be a bit hot for him, so I turned it down to 27 and he slept most of today, so it may be too cold. I have now put it at 30. She kept the heat on all night, is this right as well? I want to give him as natural an environment as possible, replicating cooler winter and night times, for example and then put him out in the summer, whereas he has had a completely constant environment so far.
We will be changing his diet from green veg and tomatoes to weeds and plants. I read that they need fibre, so is it good to give them a bit of hay as well?
2 more things- he has a bit of a beak, how long should it get before I try and file it down? Also, his shell at the back above his tail curls under so that he cannot stretch his tail out, and it only goes to the side is this normal?
Please forgive me, but I am learning as much as I can at the moment, and having no experience, I do not know what to look for to see if things are wrong!
Many thanks.

#2 Guest_Jo_1984_*

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Posted 05 February 2007 - 11:24 PM

Hiya, congratulations on your new hermann :-) :-)
I think you mite need to get him checked out by a vet... I just read on the tortoise trust foundation course that "An abraded area just below the nares or whistling sound may indicate an upper respiratory tract infection". Check the list of vets on the top of this page to see if there is a vet that specialises in tortoises near you.
It sounds like you have learnt lots already from reading posts :-)
Have a read of this site:
http://www.tlady.cla...t.htm#plantlist. Your tort can not be fed hay, the best thing to feed is weeds :-) High in fibre and low protein the perfect food for your tort :-)
Heat should be switched off at night, aim for 30c hot end and 20c cool end, well done for planning on getting him out of the viv!!
As for the tail curling to the side, its perfectly normal, it means you have a boy torty :-) Females have much shorter tales.
Also try to get him off the woodshavings, the sooner you get the sand soil the better :-)
Jo x

#3 Guest_Flash Herman_*

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 12:34 AM

Thanks Jo for the advice.

I got home from work today and converted the viv into a table top house in a couple of hours! It was so easy just to turn it upside down and take the glass out. I bit of sawing and screwing and it is done! I used a bit of spare lino flooring to line it inside which is waterproof and nice and insulated.

We got him some florette and he went mad for it! Good job since the weeds we picked went limp and dry within an hour and he was not interested in them. We'll persevere though. I went to pick some fresh this morning and they were frozen in the garden (it was -5), so looks like we'll be relying on the florette until the frosts finish.

After his bath, which seemed to really invigorate him, he had a mad stomping attack yesterday, and for ages kept headbutting the glass and climbing right up onto his hind legs trying to get out. When I got him out he was perfectly calm, and continued stomping when I put him back in. Is this attention-seeking behaviour? It was like having a toddler in the house!

I have checked out the vets recommended on this site. We have a vet's appointment on Friday to look at the breathing. We were lucky that nine-lives surgery in St Albans could fit us in. I did also contact the surgery in Welwyn Garden City (which is nearer to me) but the tortoise vet is semi-retired and only works 1 hour a day and I could not make the available times. He also charges 42 for a consultation as he is an "expert". Does anyone know what a reasonable rate to pay is? I only pay 18 for a consultation for my dog. I know this is more specialised. If anyone has any experiences to share about suitable vets in Herts I would be grateful, esp if there are any nearer to Ware, as St Albans is miles.

Many thanks

#4 Guest_Ozric_*

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 01:54 PM

Hi there

just two small points about food - fresh watercress from the greengrocer is a suitable food, aslo if you see any of those carrots with the greenery on the top they can eat the greens. Some sources say that a little grated carrot is also suitable.

You can grow some seeddlings indoors in trays for the tort as well, rather than relying on shop stuff. Its easy to sow some of the T-Lady mix into trays and they soon come up.

Most of us have a few dandellions and plantains in our gardens and as soon as the frost is away you can pick the leaves. Hope it goes well!

#5 Guest_Jo_1984_*

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 04:38 PM

Great to hear he is out of the viv :-) The reason he was scraping at the glass yesterday was probably one of the many reasons why vivs are not suitable homes for tortoises. If they can see out, they want to get there as they do not understand the concept of glass. So hopefully he will be much happier in his tort table.
Try mixing the weeds in with the florette... I have been doing this lately as I havn't been able to find enough weeds in the garden (can't pick local as they have weed sprayed }> )
Maybe someone will know of a closer vet on this forum: http://forums.shelle...59bf044cc41465c
Jo x

#6 Guest_Flash Herman_*

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 11:05 PM

Thanks for all your help. We took him to the vet today. Lovely lady vet at Nine Lives who keeps tortoises herself.

She explained that he was in pretty poor condition. His nasal whistling is the first step in Runny Nose Syndrome which can eventually end up in pneumonia. She is keeping him in for a week to administer antibiotics through a tube in his nose. His shell was pyramided due to poor diet, lack of adequate calcium and UV light, and he is underweight. It seems that his shell has grown abnormally while his body inside is scrawny and he does not have enough fat or muscle. His long beak is also a symptom of this. She explained that with the right care, he will be back to rights within 2 years. We have probably caught it early enough thank heaven.

We are so glad he is going to be OK, but worried at the same time! She also said that if he was kept in the same environment with the same food, he probably would only live 20 years, but if cared for correctly, he could live to 200! Apparently the science world is only just discovering how long tortoises can really live, as they did not keep good records 200 years ago!

It is amazing how quickly you can grow to really care about an animal. We have only had him a week, and I was so upset that he was poorly, especially since he must have been like this for a long time (probably 1-2 years said the vet). He is such a character we are totally smitten already!

Thanks for all the excellent info on this site, and the ongoing contributions from the "experts". A week ago I knew nothing and now I feel that I can really make an improvement in little Flash's life (yes that is his name!). Thanks everyone.

#7 Guest_lepinsky_*

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Posted 10 February 2007 - 09:46 PM

Well done for saving Flash's life! He sounds like he's very ill, with some long-term problems, but with your love and attention, he'll pull through and will reward you with happy and normal behaviour. Take the time while he's at the vets to read up on tortoise care. Here are some good sites:
http://www.thetortoisehouse.com/ (this doesn't specifically mention hermanns, but the care is pretty much the same as for spur thighs and russians)
http://www.tlady.cla...Guide/index.htm This is a downloadable booklet (I think you've already been pointed towards the plant list here.


#8 Guest_Flash Herman_*

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Posted 18 February 2007 - 12:02 AM

Thanks for all your help.

Flash came back today from the vet, still with a whistle but no more infection. I guess this little noisy foible is here to stay (scar tissue apparently) but is quite endearing!

He spent ages rummaging around his new table when he got back and wolfed down all his food! He seems to be on the mend - great!

He has a new UV light too and we will start planting up some weeds for him.

Funny thing, in the pet shop I went into today, there were 2 baby Hermanns for sale in a viv for 220 each. Shop lady said they were from a breeder, not imported (which is illegal she said). I mentioned about vivs being too humid and not enough temp variation, and she said they had to have a uniform temp, and did not agree they would be too humid. I even explained about all the health problems Flash has had because of this environment, to no avail. They had a water bowl, wood chippings and some dried up cabbage, and the UV light was too far away. It took all my strength not to try and kidnap them for their own good! I bet the shop will sell them with a viv. Shame.

#9 Guest_lepinsky_*

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 12:15 PM


So glad to hear that Flash is back and is much better!

Don't pet shops just make you want to scream?! There certainly isn't a temperature variation in the wild - in the daytime torts can thermoregulate by going from the sun to the shade, or burrowing down if it gets too hot, and of course at night the sun goes down and the temperature drops accordingly. If you're feeling brave you could print out this article and take it into your petshop:


#10 Guest_Flash Herman_*

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 02:54 PM

thanks Nina, I might just do that!

#11 Guest_rachel30b_*

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 07:00 PM

hi glad to you got your tort sorted out, another good substrate to use for torts is hemp which you can buy from a horse retailers for about 7.50 for an enormous bag

when you collect your weeds if you wash them and put them in a bag in the fridge you can keep them for a few days

you need perservere the weeds as you will probably find that he wont touch them when i got my tort i got him from a pet shop and it took me two weeks of perserving (cant spell that) to get him to touch the weeds obviously as he wasnt used to eating them but tucks into them straight away now.

have you got some limestone flour which is calcium powder which you sprinkle onto there food you can buy this on ebay

some photos would nice of your new chap and as mentioned before www.shelledwarriors.co.uk has good information and forum

#12 Guest_Flash Herman_*

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 09:48 PM

Yep - doing all that now!

Got limestone flour and nutrobal from shelled warriors, now just got to get some weed seeds. Went out to look for some on the weekend and there are loads of weeds in the hedgerows but not the right type! Will be going back to SW for those too.

Found a bit of chicory and sow's thistle but not a lot. Flash not currently very interested but will persevere though.

Have taken some pics but cannot find my USB cable to download. Will have a look for it and post pics later this week hopefully.

thanks for all your advice everyone!

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