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Bubbly eye.

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#1 Guest_Ziggystar_*

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 04:01 PM

Hi, About 4 days ago I noticed that one of Ziggy`s eyes seems to have bubbles coming from it.... I bathed it with water and it didn't seem to hurt her..... She is her normal self, eating, drinking, out all day and bathing but I was just wondering what this could be?

Any help would be gratefully appreciated.


#2 Guest_wilsonathome_*

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 05:49 PM

what substrate are you using? sometimes substrates (especially hemp/auboise) will get into the eyes causing damage or infection

#3 Guest_Dawn_*

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 07:57 PM

It could be an eye infection or it could possibly be the start of RNS. Might be worth getting a vet to check Ziggy over. You say that was 4 days ago, has she had any more of these bubbles since? Or was it just the once? Was it definatly from the eyes or could it have been from the nose?

#4 Guest_Ziggystar_*

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 09:08 PM

Hi all,
Thanks everyone for your quick replies.

Ziggy has had this happen for the last four days and several occasions. Her eye doesn't really look as bright as normal.... I have her on wood (Not shavings or chips) but I can't remember what its called but its big chunks of solid wood.

As I said she really doesn't seem ill but I think I will take her to the vets just in case.

Thanks again all.

#5 Guest_Ziggystar_*

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 09:11 PM

Forgot to say, definately from her eye...... and also was wondering what RNS is?

#6 Guest_cyberangel_*

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 09:23 PM

RNS is runny nose syndrone.
Can be an upper respiritory infection. Better to be safe than sorry, so visit to the vets as Dawn has said would be good.

#7 Guest_Ziggystar_*

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 10:25 PM

Just wonder what causes RNS?

#8 Guest_Dawn_*

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 10:29 PM

Just found this article on the NET: Taken from http://home.earthlin...ednine/RNS.html
Hope it helps.....?

Understanding and Coping with Runny Nose Syndrome (RNS) M.Corton


RNS is not a disease, but rather a term used to describe a bacterial/fungal/viral infection with one or more of a wide variety of organisms. It can occur in any species, but seems to be prevalent in Geochelone Pardalis, the Leopard tortoise. It can occur at any time of the year, can be fairly difficult to spot in the early stages, and has a nasty habit of recurring. Any animal that has been infected can, and often does, become a carrier. He may not display any symptoms, but can infect any tortoise that comes into contact with him. Leopard tortoises are the worst affected, perhaps because of their size, nutritional state and a general inability to cope with our humidity and dampness. Those that recover often relapse, especially if treatment is stopped because "he seems much better now".
RNS is more common in large and mixed collections, and can spread alarmingly quickly if prompt action is not taken. Never ignore a runny nose in the hope that it will clear "when the weather improves". If no treatment is obtained, RNS can develop into chronic or acute pneumonia which can be extremely difficult to cure. Quite often stomatitis accompanies RNS which can complicate matters even further. Obviously you have no control over airborne germs, however, you can control other factors that may predispose your tortoise to infection:

There are several factors that can increase the chances of your tortoise getting RNS - dusty conditions, foreign bodies lodging in the nostrils, inappropriate humidity or temperature, lack of sunlight and the accompanying dampness, confinement in damp grassed areas with no access to sand, overcrowding, malnutrition, stress, and a deficiency of vitamin A.


Ensure that your animal has a healthy diet rich in vitamin A - foods that are high in this vitamin include dandelion, all the pumpkin/butternut family and carrots. If you are unable to supply the food he needs, a good supplement containing this vitamin will be needed. A slow conversion to a "natural" diet will go a long way in keeping your tortoise healthy. Tortoises love "junk" food in the same way that humans are addicted to hamburgers and hot-dogs. In supplying him with a pile of readily accessible kitchen food you are doing a lot of harm.

Think about it for a moment, in the wild he has to sometimes walk several miles in a day to obtain all the food he needs, but the food he does get is geared to supplying his system with all it needs. When he has this pile of "easy" food put in front of him, naturally he will eat it. But, he will lack the exercise he used to get searching for food and his metabolism will slow down. Nutrients (the few that there are in the
usual "kitchen" food) will be poorly utilized, and will not supply all the minerals and vitamins he needs to stay healthy. Malnutrition is insidious, you cannot easily detect it from the outside, it does not kill overnight, your tortoise seems okay. You go to bed at night feeling good - "My tortoise ate a good meal today!". Over the years the damage creeps on, undetected, and the problem ignored. Your tortoise lies around all day sunbathing, eating, sleeping - seemingly healthy, when in reality his body is slowly deteriorating to a point where things start going radically wrong. If, or more likely when disease strikes, your tortoise has more chance of dying than one who is active all day seeking out natural food.

This active tortoise will have muscles that are firm and strong, his metabolism will be functioning in top gear, and his vitamin/mineral intake sufficient to ensure that his immune system gives him sound protection against invasion of disease causing organisms. A tortoise suffering from malnutrition has no such protection against disease, he has no defenses left to fight invaders, and will often succumb to a minor infection.

Do not add any new tortoise to your existing collection without a quarantine period - 6 months is recommended. Your new tortoise may have had RNS and may now be a carrier. There is no way of identifying a carrier with any certainty.

Avoid stress - dogs or other animals worrying your tortoise, overcrowding, competition/aggression from other tortoises, children allowed to "play" with the animal - even inadequate feeding is stressful. Stress causes a number of biochemical changes in the animal, among them the production of steroids which in turn suppresses the immune system - such animals are more likely to succumb to an infection than a healthy non stressed tortoise exposed to the same infectious agent. Stress is almost impossible to detect until it is too late, and can have serious long term effects on the general health and resistance of the animal.

Avoid sleeping quarters that are in a damp area. Provide a dry, snug bed at night. I felt stupid adding this, but I have seen a lot of tortoises allowed to sleep in areas that are totally unsuitable and almost certain to cause eventual respiratory problems.


The worst has happened, your tortoise has a runny nose - what should you do?

First check that there is no foreign body lodged in the nostril - grass seed, grass etc. If one is found it should be removed without delay and drops used as outlined below to clear up any infection it may have caused. Next, correct any vitamin A deficiency. Supplements can be purchased from your vet or pharmacy. Be careful not to overdose - 1000-5000 iu is the recommended weekly dose, 10,000-20,000iu if a single dose is used. (iu - international units)

If a foreign body is not the culprit, ask your vet (or your normal doctor or pharmacy) for a sterile swab. Take a smear of mucous from his nose and get this sample in to your vet or doctor for immediate testing. The results of this test will tell you which organisms are causing the infection and which antibiotics will work effectively against them. This is most important, it is unrealistic to expect a single antibiotic to
work against all "bugs". Most infections in reptiles are caused by what are known as "gram-negative" organisms, and this knowledge enables a vet to hazard a pretty good guess as to what will work. Thus, if testing is out of the question, and/or while you are waiting for the results of the testing, treatment is commenced with an antibiotic effective against gram-negative organisms.

In mild and short standing infections, treatment consists of antibiotic drops given into the nasal chambers once daily. Those most often used are Oxytetracycline (Terramycin), Tylosin, Enrofloxacin (Baytril). First wipe the animal's nose with a disposable paper towel to remove as much mucous as possible. Then a syringe with a short rigid tube is used to instill one drop of antibiotic into each nostril once daily whilst holding the animal in an upright position (to ensure the drug goes well into the nasal cavity). This is best done toward late afternoon before the animal beds down for the night. If the weather is damp or cold it is preferable to place the tortoise in a box indoors at night in a warm area. Beware of using clip-on lamps as these can be dislodged, causing a fire hazard. Severe cases will need to be kept under heat for the duration of treatment. This simple treatment is continued for a week or two after symptoms have disappeared to prevent relapse. Whilst on the subject of antibiotics, bear in mind that some tortoises (Leopard tortoises in particular) are allergic to Baytril. If, of course, the results of the test come back indicating that a different antibiotic is required, you should switch over immediately. Cortisone should never be used as it suppresses the immune system of an already compromised animal.

While this treatment usually works, remember also that the conditions that initially caused the infection may still prevail (stress, malnutrition, dampness etc.) and that this should be rectified if you wish to avoid relapse.


This isn't working!
You have tried the drops, and they don't seem to be working. Now what? Some infections are complicated. More than one organism could be involved, necrotic stomatitis could be complicating the infection, acute or chronic pneumonia could be setting in. There are any number of reasons, and whatever the cause prompt action must be taken. Veterinary advice must be obtained without delay as a course of injectable antibiotic will usually be necessary. These injections are usually given every 48-72 hours because metabolic take-up is slow and the drug could build up in the tortoise's system and reach toxic levels.

It is vital to keep the tortoise at a higher temperature for the duration of treatment, this speeds up metabolism and drug distribution and also boosts the animal's immune system. A temperature of around 28-33 degrees is usually recommended. It is most important that hydration be maintained, if the animal is not drinking water your vet can inject fluids subcutaneously (under the skin) or intracoelomically (into the
space between the intestinal canal and body wall). Some drugs affect the renal system and renal failure can result if hydration is not maintained. A course of five to ten injections are usually required, depending on the drug used. Where nephrotoxic drugs (damaging to the renal system) are used they should be injected into the forelimbs, otherwise severe kidney damage could result. With other drugs the rear limbs can be used. In severe cases nebulisation can be used to aid treatment, using the antibiotic recommended by your vet, mixed 1/2 ml antibiotic with 5 ml saline. This should be done 4 times daily if possible. Yes, a tortoise can stop breathing for a considerable time, but a sick animal usually hasn't the strength to do so and there for nebulising does work in a number of cases and certainly should be tried.

Finally, do not make the mistake of comparing RNS to the human common cold or flu, and think that it will clear by itself if given time. It won't. Treatment is essential, and as soon as possible. The longer RNS is left the more difficult it is to clear. RNS can and does kill, don't let your tortoise become a victim. Inspect nostrils daily if possible and get help fast if you spot any nasal discharge.

#9 Guest_Dawn_*

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 10:33 PM

Another one that may answer the substrate question....
Taken from http://uk.answers.ya...23033704AAIDgP5

Q - Can tortoise develop allergies to certain substrates?
I have a turkish spur thigh (TGI) who is 16 months old and in his enclosure he has sand/top soil mix, wood chips and in his hide he has redigrass.
Since putting in the redigrass hhis breathing seems to be heavier and he looked like he was struggling with it. I took the redigrass out and he has improved!
So, can they develop allergies like us?

A - OK it is not the grass that is causing the breathing problems it is more than likely the wood chips, things like small wood chips and sawdust shavings can give off a lot of dust, this then irritates the delicate lining of the tortoises lungs and caused lower respiratory infections (lower infections are lungs, upper are the sinus area also know as RNS)

the spur thigh tortoises need to have their environment set up correctly or they can be prone to respiratory infections, so you need to make sure you have the correct temp, it is not too dusty, and there is a good natural diet being fed, it could be a coincidence that you have change the environment and you tortoises is getting sick it could be that your tortoise was coming down with it anyway, but you do need to get your tortoise to a vet who specialises in reptile as a simple lower respiratory can turn into pneumonia and then it becomes really serious, your tortoise needs medical attention before this turns nasty, the redigrass could be too dusty you can not have a dusty area with these torotises or it causes problems

#10 Guest_Dawn_*

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 10:36 PM

Sorry one last one (its a long one!!)
Taken from: http://www.britishch.../v6n5chitty.htm



TestudoAuthors NotesFull IndexVolume 6Volume 5Volume 4Volume 3Volume 2Volume 1Home » Testudo » Volume 6 » You Are Here

John Chitty BVetMed CertZooMed MRCVS

Based on a presentation to the BCG Symposium at the Open University, Milton Keynes, on 12th May 2007

Respiratory disease is common in chelonia. A large part of this is due to husbandry practices and certain anatomical features of the reptile respiratory system. In chelonia gulping movements of the throat may be seen (gular pumping). It is thought that these are not linked to inspiration/expiration but are used to move air over the olfactory membranes in the oropharynx and nasal chambers respectively, except in freshwater turtles/terrapins and soft-shelled turtles where some degree of oxygen exchange may occur in the pharynx. Additionally the cloacal bursa and the skin may also be involved in respiration in these species.

Respiratory drive is principally by means of detection of low partial pressures of oxygen, unlike in mammals where it is raised carbon dioxide levels that drive respiration rates. This has implications in anaesthesia where use of pure oxygen may inhibit spontaneous breathing and slow recovery. However, it should also be noted that reptiles can withstand very low oxygen levels for extended periods. This may be due to their ability to switch from aerobic to anaerobic respiration.

In some species the respiratory system may have other functions. Certainly in aquatic chelonia the dorsally placed lungs may act as a buoyancy aid.

As mentioned earlier, certain features of the reptilian respiratory system predispose it to disease:

•Lack of a muscular diaphragm means that discharges cannot be coughed up.
•Many authors suggest that a poorly developed muco-ciliary escalator in the airways also reduces the ability of the reptile to clear discharges.
•Their ability to withstand long periods of hypoxia means that respiratory diseases are often well-advanced before signs are seen.

Clinical examination and history

In all cases it is essential to perform a full clinical examination and take a detailed clinical history. There are certain aspects of special importance in respiratory disease:

Table 1. History taking in chelonian respiratory disease
Disease history
(both of this problem and in the past) Species kept (mixed species?), mixing with new animals or owner contact with other reptiles, parasitic problems, treatments used by the owner, environmental disinfection.
Environment Temperature: too high may cause chronic dehydration and drying of mucous membranes; too low may result in lowered immunity and resistance to infection.

Humidity: too high may promote excessive load of environmental micro-organisms; too low will lead to mucous membrane drying.

Sanitation: poorly sanitised vivaria have been associated with an increased incidence of respiratory disease.

Nutrition: although malnutrition is rarely a primary cause of respiratory disease, it may be a contributory factor in stress and immunosuppression. Specifically, hypovitaminosis A has been described as an underlying cause of LRTD and URTD (Lower/Upper Respiratory Tract Disease) in reptiles, especially chelonia.

The following may be indicative of respiratory disease and may be described by the owner or noted on clinical examination:

Table 2. Clinical signs of respiratory disease
Open-mouth breathing
Dyspnoea/tachypnoea Dyspnoea may take the form of an obviously exaggerated respiratory effort, increased gulping motions in the throat (although need to be careful to distinguish from gular pumping – see above) or an extended neck.
Respiratory noise
Cyanosis of mucous membranes
Nasal/ocular discharge
Altered buoyancy Aquatic species
Generalised signs •Weight loss, lethargy, dehydration.
•Altered behaviour – all species may seek cooler areas and become less active. This is designed to lower metabolic rate to enable the animal to cope better with hypoxia from respiratory disease.
•Stomatitis. A careful examination should be made of the mouth as stomatitis and respiratory disease often occur together. Poor environmental conditions can be a part of the cause of either condition. In chelonia upper respiratory disease and nasal discharge may be an extension of stomatitis owing to the incomplete palate.

It is important to distinguish upper respiratory tract infection from lower. The following provides a guide – it is always important to remember that no such list can be definitive and even more important to consider that some will have both URTD and LRTD!

Table 3. Distinguishing upper and lower respiratory disease signs
Upper Lower
Nasal discharge Yes Rare
Choanal discharge Yes No
Ocular discharge Sometimes No
Glottal discharge No Sometimes
Respiratory Noise Sometimes Sometimes
Lung noises on auscultation Rarely referred noise Sometimes
Unwell/systemic signs Often not Usually
Open-mouth breathing/dyspnoea Often Often
Cyanosis No Sometimes
Behavioural changes Rarely, unless secondary to systemic disease Often
Tachypnoea Rarely Often
Altered buoyancy No Yes

The clinical examination should include certain aspects. It is very important that, before handling (thereby increasing stress levels), the breathing should be observed for several minutes as to character and rate.

Table 4. Clinical examination
Cloacal temperature This will give an indication of the reptile’s environmental temperature and allows interpretation of the respiratory rate (as this will generally rise with increasing temperature).
Auscultation This can be very difficult as it is hard to hear sounds through the shell (especially as these may be very quiet). Placing the stethoscope on the skin may result in excessive scraping noises of skin on stethoscope as the animal breathes or moves.
Electronic stethoscopes may help as they are more sensitive and also have filters for certain frequency sounds.
Alternatively conventional stethoscopes can be used if a damp cloth is placed between diaphragm and shell. However, this will muffle the already quiet sounds.
8MHz Doppler devices can be used to auscultate the heart.
Mouth Look for cyanosis, inflammation and the presence of discharges from the internal choanae and the glottis.
Nares and eyes Look for discharges.
The nares should be checked for occlusion by pieces of retained skin or dried discharges.
Discharges These should be examined grossly for colour and viscosity.
Some should always be retained for cytology and culture/sensitivity.

Ancillary diagnostics are necessary to reach a definitive diagnosis:


This is one of the most useful diagnostic tools in lower respiratory tract disease. It is recommended that dorso-ventral, lateral and cranio-caudal views are obtained. The latter two views must be performed using horizontal beam radiography so the coelomic organs do not fall into the lung space thus allowing a clear view of the lung fields and a true indication of the organ positions in the animal. Organomegaly, including distension of hollow viscera, and ascites may be causes of dyspnoea in the absence of respiratory disease by compressing lung space. Sedation/anaesthesia are rarely needed for radiography of the lung fields.

In upper respiratory tract disease radiography is less useful owing to the many fine structures in this region and the lack of a well-developed sinus system.


Use of rigid endoscopy is extremely useful:

1.Upper Respiratory Tract: endoscopes can be inserted via the nares (a 1.2mm semi-rigid needle scope is extremely useful in chelonia) or the internal choanae (using a 30º rigid endoscope allows a wide field of view). This allows detection of foreign bodies as well as directed sample-taking, including biopsy.
2.Intra-pulmonic endoscopy: sedation or general anaesthesia is required. However, this technique allows for direct visualisation of the lung tissue and directed biopsy/sample collection. Radiography is required to direct to either the worst affected lung (in diffuse disease) or, where there are focal changes, towards the lesion. Two approaches are possible:
a.Prefemoral. After aseptic preparation an incision is made in the cranio-dorsal portion of the pre-femoral area. This must be close to the septum horizontale. This is grasped and stay sutures inserted before the septum is incised and the scope inserted. The septum can be repaired at the end of the procedure. It appears necessary to take care when opening the septum as, in the author’s experience, inadvertent breaching of the septum at coelioscopy may be accompanied by considerable intra-pulmonic haemorrhage which appears at the glottis.
b.Transcarapacial. This is the author’s method of choice and is particularly appropriate when investigating/treating focal masses. The carapace is prepared aseptically and a site selected. For focal lesions, radiography is used to locate the focus and a site directly above this is prepared. In diffuse disease the worst-affected lung is selected and a site selected lateral to the spine midway along the carapace. An orthopaedic drill is used to breach the carapace. Haemostats or a trocar are then used to enter the lung and an endoscope may then be inserted. Again lesions may be visualised and samples taken for histopathology, culture/sensitivity, etc. The great advantage of this approach is that the resulting hole may be left open (or a catheter inserted to allow treatment to be applied directly to the diseased tissue - see later).

Although unlikely to provide additional information about the respiratory disease, blood should be taken in all these cases. There is much information to be obtained about the presence of underlying disease, degrees of immunosuppression and the scale of the systemic white cell response to infection. The latter is very important in upper respiratory tract disease as in many of these cases the infection appears localised without a systemic response and so systemic therapies are not always necessary.


Where funds allow and where there is access to these facilities, these may be useful imaging techniques.

Faecal examination

May be useful in the overall assessment of underlying disease and assessing gut parasite loads.

Tracheal wash

A sterile catheter may be inserted via the glottis. A small volume of saline is syringed into the trachea and then re-collected. This can be submitted for bacteriology/mycology, cytology/parasitology and virology. However, it should be noted that where there are focal lung lesions this technique is unlikely to isolate significant organisms. In chelonia an alternative approach is to perform a lung wash by inserting a needle via the pre-femoral fossa. This is particularly appropriate in cases of unilateral pneumonia.


In addition to the methods described above, bacteriological swabs may be inserted into the nares or internal choanae (URTD) or through the glottis (LRTD). The latter technique is, like tracheal washing, comparatively insensitive in isolating lung pathogens. Similarly, in URTD it should be remembered that many of the organisms isolated in these non-sterile sites will be of secondary importance. Samples can be submitted for aerobic, anaerobic and fungal cultures.


Cytology is a very useful tool in these cases. Tracheal washes, swabs from any region as well as endoscopically-obtained lung biopsies may be submitted for cytology. This may give an idea of the type of organism present (e.g. yeast vs bacteria) and so give an idea of appropriate therapy while waiting for culture/sensitivity results. Cytology may also reveal the presence of parasitic ova/larvae. In chelonian URTD scrapings of tongue mucosa are extremely useful and may reveal intra-nuclear inclusion bodies typical of herpesvirus infections.

Virology/Mycoplasma investigation

Tissue biopsies and tracheal washes/swabs may be submitted for virological examination/culture. PCR tests are now available for detection of chelonid herpesviruses and Mycoplasmas. It is important that viral/mycoplasmal samples are taken and stored properly so the testing laboratory should always be asked how this should be done in order to reduce false negative results.


Upper Respiratory Tract Disease (URTD)

In some cases foreign bodies may be involved (e.g. pieces of hay or grass entering the nares. NB: this will result in a unilateral, rather than a bilateral discharge). However, typically it is an infectious disease often referred to as Runny Nose Syndrome (RNS).

Generally this involves inflammatory lesions of the nares, nasal cavity and, especially, the mouth and pharynx.

Symptoms vary from a simple discharge (clear to yellow-green) to an extremely unwell animal with swelling of the head and neck. In some cases there is extensive abscessation of the nasal cavity and destruction of surrounding bone. In very severe cases there may also be an associated pneumonia. The discharge from the nose is derived both from the nasal area and from the mouth (saliva).

Underlying (primary) factors include:

•Husbandry. Typically URTD is seen in the UK in the spring (post-hibernation) or in the autumn when temperatures drop. There will also be a rise in cases during periods of prolonged cool weather in the summer. Mechanical irritation by dust etc. may mimic, exacerbate or be an underlying cause of URTD in chelonia.
•Mixing of species. This is partly due to the different micro-organisms carried/tolerated by each species (see below) and partly due to the stress induced by mixing; hence the problems seen after individuals of the same species are mixed.
Anorexia is common though this may be an effect of the infection or a result of the underlying husbandry problems leading to the URTD.

There are many organisms associated with this syndrome:

Table 5. Organisms associated with URTD in chelonia
Bacteria and Yeast A variety of micro-organisms may be found in the mouth and pharynx. These are almost certainly secondary (or even tertiary) factors in URTD, but may exacerbate the condition so it is important to use an appropriate anti-microbial either topically or systemically. Choice of drug should be based on cytology initially prior to culture and sensitivity results.
Mycoplasma spp Mycoplasmosis has been extensively described as a cause of URTD in North American tortoises, especially gopher tortoises (Gopherus agassizii). Recently M. agassizii has been cultured from UK tortoises. Diagnosis is based on culture from oral cavity swabs (submitted in specialised transport medium to Mycoplasma Experience Ltd). Therapy is with fluoroquinolones or tetracyclines.
Viral Chelonid Herpesviruses (ChHV) have been described in tortoise URTD. From the author’s experiences with URTD it is likely that there are several viral strains associated with different tortoise species as mixing of species is frequently associated with development of URTD. Also, different viral strains may be associated with varying degrees of disease severity. Diagnosis of ChHV is by suggestive clinical signs (stomatitis with hyperaemic mucous membranes, especially ventro-lateral to the tongue; diphtheritic membranes may also form in the mouth and pharynx), identification of intra-nuclear inclusion bodies in cells obtained from the affected areas, or by electron microscopy/virus isolation/PCR from purulent material. Biopsies of mucous membranes may also be taken for histopathology to identify inclusion bodies. Therapy is unlikely to clear infection but regression of symptoms may be achieved using acyclovir. Mild infections appear to clear well by improving husbandry and application of F10 (Health and Hygiene Pty, SA) by nasal flush. However, all infected animals should be considered lifetime carriers and never mixed with naïve groups.

To date, all the organisms described above may be found in both clinically healthy and diseased tortoises. This therefore represents a carrier status and not only explains the frequent recrudescence in affected tortoises, but also suggests lack of causality between organism and disease. Although there are cases where infectious organisms appear to be primary causes (especially ChHV and Mycoplasma spp, and especially when there has been entry of organism into naïve colonies, or mixing of species), in most cases husbandry problems are the primary factors. In general this syndrome is seen in the traditional garden-kept tortoise where the British climate is simply not suitable for much of the year. Given the complexity of this syndrome a full investigation of clinical cases is vital.

Initial therapy should include the following:

Table 6. Initial therapy of URTD
Biological support The tortoise should be warmed to the species-specific preferred optimum temperature zone, and rehydrated (oral in mild cases; systemic in severe cases). Oral nutrition may also be used. It is important to note that when stomach tubing tortoises with stomatitis the mouth should be cleaned and the tube coated with iodine prior to passing through the mouth.
Antibiosis In unwell tortoises antibiotics may be used as ‘cover’ and to treat any secondary bacterial or mycoplasmal disease. Therefore fluoroquinolones or tetracyclines are the initial drugs of choice. These may be given systemically or orally (where there is often the advantage of getting some local effects). Anti-fungals may be used where large numbers of yeast are found on cytology along with a cellular inflammatory response.
'Topical' antimicrobials F10 (Health and Hygiene Pty, SA) is a broad-spectrum disinfectant and has shown a lot of promise in URTD when used as a nasal flush. 0.1ml of a 1:250 dilution is given into each nostril once daily.
Antivirals Where herpesvirus is suspected and the tortoise is unwell, acyclovir may be used.
Immunostimulants Both Propolis and Echinacea drops have been used in tortoises at the rate of one drop a day by mouth. In the author’s experience there have been some apparent benefits.

As ever, it is vital to attempt to prevent disease occurring, especially when there is such a complex range of underlying causes:

•Do not mix different species of tortoise.
•Quarantine new individuals before entering a new colony. This should be for at least six months and preferably for twelve.
•Screening tests for Mycoplasma and ChHV may also be used. However, as false negatives are certainly positive they should not be used to replace quarantine.
•Regard all recovered tortoises as being persistently infected and needing to be permanently isolated from non-affected tortoises.
•Good husbandry. Ideally hibernation should be carried out in controlled units and all tortoises should have access to a heat source throughout the summer
Lower Respiratory Tract Disease (LRTD)

There can be a variety of underlying causes:

Table 7. Causes of LRTD
Trauma Damage to the carapace may involve penetration of the pleural membranes and lungs. Chelonia can often maintain respiratory function in spite of extensive damage.
Shell deformity Deformed shells may compress the lung space.
Water inhalation It is not uncommon to see tortoises after they have fallen into garden ponds or swimming pools. In spite of being submerged for long periods of time it is rare for one to drown. However a secondary bacterial pneumonia is not uncommon. Presented cases should therefore receive supportive care (fluids, warmth, etc.) and antibiotics (e.g. ceftazidime).
Neoplasia Lung tumours have been reported in Testudo horsfieldi and a European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis) but are not a common finding. Multicentric fibropapillomas have been reported in marine turtles, believed to be caused by a herpesvirus.
Pneumonia This is common in chelonia and there are many aetiologies. In wild freshwater and marine turtles intra-cardiac/intra-arterial Spirorchid trematodes produce eggs that may induce a severe inflammatory response in the lungs if they become lodged there. In the UK this is likely to be very rare but may be seen in wild-caught specimens. Metazoan parasites and intra-nuclear coccidia have also been described as causes of pneumonia. Fungal pneumonias are seen occasionally. Aetiologies are likely to be the same as for bacterial pneumonia and these will be discussed below. Many species have been isolated including Aspergillus spp and Candida spp. Viral pneumonia is common especially in association with chelonid herpesviruses (ChHV). Also, iridovirus-associated pneumonia has been associated with fatalities in gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) and Hermann’s tortoises (Testudo hermanni).
Bacterial pneumonia is common. Like fungal pneumonia it is often a secondary disease (involving opportunistic infection by commensal species), however mycobacteria and Chlamydophila spp have been associated with primary disease. Primary causes are similar to those described for URTD though water inhalation and septicaemic spread of bacteria can also be causes.

Initial therapy should include the following:

Table 8. Initial therapy of LRTD
Biological support See above. NB. Aquatic chelonia should be kept out of water other than for a brief daily bath in shallow warm water.
Treatment of underlying disease
Antimicrobials Given the increased likelihood of fungal disease in chelonia compared with other reptiles it is vital that an attempt is made to confirm whether the disease is caused by fungi or bacteria before starting therapy as wrong therapy may worsen the situation. This is where cytology comes into its own.
Topical therapy Where transcarapacial endoscopy has been used the resultant hole can be utilised to apply therapy to any focal lesions. Similarly where endoscopy is not available the site of a focal lesion can be determined radiographically and a hole drilled over this site under sedation/anaesthesia. A catheter may be inserted as described earlier or the hole left intact but covered by moist chlorhexidine-soaked swabs. Therapy can then be applied daily to the affected lung. When recovered the stoma may be sealed using epoxy resin or fibre glass.
Nebulisation This may be used to provide ‘topical’ antimicrobials, as an expectorant, and to hydrate mucous membranes.

Respiratory disease is common and complex in chelonia. Failure to investigate cases fully or to restrict investigation solely to the respiratory system will reduce chances of success. Most cases are secondary to poor husbandry resulting in overgrowth of commensal or ‘carried’ organisms. Therefore, maintaining good husbandry is the single most important factor in the prevention of these diseases.

Further Reading

Chitty, J.R. (2004). Respiratory System. In: BSAVA Manual of Reptiles, 2nd Edition. Eds: Girling & Raiti, pp 230–242. BSAVA, Gloucester, UK.

Mader, D.R. (2006). Reptile Medicine and Surgery, 2nd edition. Saunders, St Louis, Missouri.

McArthur, S.D.J., Wilkinson, R. & Meyer, J. (2004). Medicine and Surgery of Tortoises and Turtles. Blackwell publishing, Oxford, UK.

Wyneken, J. (2001). Respiratory Anatomy – Form and Function in Reptiles. Exotic DVM 3(2): 17–22.

Testudo Volume Six Number Five 2008


#11 Guest_Ozric_*

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 11:39 PM

Getting back to the eye for a moment, one of mine had a dodgy eye for a few days. It was gummy and half shut. On someones' advice I bought a human eyedrop product from the chemists and this seemed to help. I believe the products for dry and tired human eyes (artificial tears) are worth a go if it is an eye problem, and although they are not designed for tortoises I understand they are not harmful.

#12 Guest_cyberangel_*

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Posted 04 February 2010 - 09:01 AM

I agree "aritifcial tears" can help gunky eyes and clear it up if its not an infection.

#13 Guest_wizzasmum_*

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Posted 04 February 2010 - 05:10 PM

QUOTE (Ozric @ Feb 3 2010, 11:39 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Getting back to the eye for a moment, one of mine had a dodgy eye for a few days. It was gummy and half shut. On someones' advice I bought a human eyedrop product from the chemists and this seemed to help. I believe the products for dry and tired human eyes (artificial tears) are worth a go if it is an eye problem, and although they are not designed for tortoises I understand they are not harmful.

Artificial tears are fine so long as you don't tell the chemeist they are for torts as they are not allowed to sell them for this purpose. Be very careful with some eye drops intended for dogs though as they have been known to cause severe allergies in torts. Maxitrol is one to avoid.

#14 Guest_Dawn_*

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Posted 04 February 2010 - 08:49 PM

QUOTE (wizzasmum @ Feb 4 2010, 05:10 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Artificial tears are fine so long as you don't tell the chemeist they are for torts as they are not allowed to sell them for this purpose. Be very careful with some eye drops intended for dogs though as they have been known to cause severe allergies in torts. Maxitrol is one to avoid.

Is Maxitrol in the white box with brown/blue pattern on top of it (I really should know this as used to be a vet nurse! blush.gif but I guess I've slept since then....)anyhew! If so then thats what the vet gave me for Ruby when she had her 'near drowning' accident. Also when I got artificial tears from the chemist I lied and said they were for my boy and they started asking me all kinds of questions!! SO I just said, ac tually I am a nurse, I think I know what I'm doing....! After looking me up & down she finally gave in and let me have some!!! rolleyes.gif

#15 Guest_wizzasmum_*

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Posted 04 February 2010 - 09:29 PM

[quote name='Dawn' date='Feb 4 2010, 08:49 PM' post='36770']
Is Maxitrol in the white box with brown/blue pattern on top of it (I really should know this as used to be a vet nurse! blush.gif but I guess I've slept since then....)

[/quoteI really wouldn't like to say, as the generic may come in a different packaging. The report below is from Tortsmad files though and was an observation from a vet. They did conclude that this was a bad idea for any immature animal due to the strength of the ingredients. I was given this information after rehabbing a tortoise treated with maxitrol by a vet. The little tortoise of about 18 months was suffering severe swollen eyes when put into any water other than rain water. It's eyes swelled to the proportion of a frogs eyes and stood out from the head like goggles. Another rehomer having been treated by the same vet also suffered similar problems which distressed the owner and tort alike. The only obvious line of thought was to check what both tortoises had been given in the past and this was the only conclusion. Both tortoises have now fully recovered after being treated with nothing more than rain water, gradually reducing over a period of 3 months or so, to be able to bathe in either rain or tap water. It did look really bad to begin with and was hard to believe there was such a simple cure. This is one of the reasons that I am anti rushing off to the vet at the first opportunity as many vets do medicate first and ask the more obvious questions later, especially target vets such as many large multi companies are. I think many woudl be worried if they saw the 'training' these vets are given before being allowed to practice at a particular company. One of my own vets will happily tell me that he is not treating one of my animals as his practice would like him to, as he feels that it would not be the approprate treatment for this particular case. Sad but true.


Maxitrol is quite a heavy duty med, the use of which I wonder about in treating a tortoise .

Active ingredients: Maxitrol Eye Drops contain the steroid, Dexamethasone 0.1%, which is used to reduce ocular inflammation. It also contains two antibiotics, Polymyxin B sulphate 6000units/g, and Neomycin sulphate 0.35%, which act against organisms causing infection.
Other ingredients are Benzalkonium chloride which is a preservative, Sodium chloride, Polysorbate 20 and Hypromellose which provide viscosity, and purified water. Hydrochloric acid and/or Sodium hydroxide may also be included in very small quantities to adjust the acidity or alkalinity of the product to ensure comfort in the eye. So, quite a cocktail!

Maxitrol should be a short term treatment for occular inflammation, where an antibiotic is also required to prevent an eye infection occurring. Prolonged use should be avoided as it may lead to skin reactions and organisms resistant to the antibiotics may develop which will make successful treatment difficult.

The medicine is unsuitable under some circumstances: If there is a herpes infection of the eye; amoebic infection of the eye; any other infection of the eye resulting in pus; if there is accompanying liver or kidney disease; certain allergies.

Possible side effects:
Allergic reaction, Burning sensation, Stinging sensation, Inflammation and itching of the skin around the eye. If steroids are used for a long time then there is a possibility of cataracts forming. Infections caused by viruses or fungi or herpes may be made worse by steroids.

As I say, I am not yet familiar with tortoise ailments or their treatment, so I don't know if this will be helpful in any way but thought I would offer what I know, in case.

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