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A Scary Experience With My Tortoise - Be Careful


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#1 Hermie

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Posted 10 April 2015 - 08:38 AM

He's only five years old and I've only owned him since September - my first ever pet tortoise.

I let him outside yesterday under supervision (so that he wouldn't eat things he shouldn't/get lost/other animals not eat him Ect). I let him out under some shrubbery where the soil is nice and dusty and there ate some naturally growing dandelion weeds.

I noticed immediately that he liked to pick up small stones with his beak. I looked a little closer and I wondered if he was trying to sharpen his beak (as he used to like picking them up then dropping them). I have used a cuttlefish before So I thought as long as he wasn't swallowing them he'd be fine.

Well he picked up one big one and and he got it stuck in his mouth! It was wedging his beak right open. I jumped in to get it out but the tortoise was frantically flailing his arms about and his head had popped in really deep in his shell. He was in a lot of pain I could tell, as he was choking, squealing, and blood starting dripping down his beak where the stone was perhaps cutting inside his mouth or tongue. I ran with him indoors and luckily my mother was around to help. We fetched some pliers and we managed to get the stone out. We also cleaned him up, and I managed to move him back in his little vivarium indoors. He had a complete change of water in his bowl and food bowl were also wiped over after using reptile friendly disinfectant.

I've observed him and he seems okay. He did retreat to his log cave, but from what I've seen from him he's showing no sign of sneezing, coughing, wheezing, breathing difficulty. I hadn't yet since him drink water but he did immediately tuck in to some kale that I put in, so that I could see inside his mouth for more debris or damage. All seems okay, he's appetite hasn't changed, I soaked the kale in supermarket water so he is at least getting something to wash it away/down?

Anyway, I'm going to keep an eye on him Over a few days. It seems more of a lesson to be learned than anything more serious, but yet still I'm worried about the risk of infection. As it's inside his mouth that got a little cut up I don't really know what more I can do to avoid infection than to keep him indoors, change water and food regularly, clean vivarium regularly ect. I'm open to suggestions. Maybe a nice tasty plant with anti-bacterial or healing qualities? I don't know, but anyhow at the moment he seems to be fine.

Just thought I'd pass on the experience to warn and educate others. I knew they'd eat things they shouldn't, but I certainly didn't read or expect my tortoise to get a stone wedged inside his mouth. Maybe I'd only keep him on the grass in future.

#2 Guest_Barney_*

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Posted 10 April 2015 - 11:45 AM

Some tortoises will eat stones if they get the chance and I think yours was unlucky in that it caused harm, mostly it doesn't. I'm not saying it's a good idea of course. I've not seen an explanation for this behaviour that fully convinced me as to why they do it.

 

I'm not sure if you should take him to a vet or not, hopfully someone else will be able to guide you on that. If there is blood from the mouth I think I might.



#3 Guest_SueBoyle (was wizzasmum)_*

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Posted 10 April 2015 - 02:30 PM

I gave one that used to eat stones to the state it pooped little necklaces of stones. It had been kept in a viv for a few years and had no idea what normal substrate was. After its first hibernation and subsequently back to a permanent outdoor enclosure, it stopped the habit. They will always test new substrate by taste, so best to use a more natural one all the time ;)

#4 Graham

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Posted 10 April 2015 - 04:19 PM

I had this happen when I first had Harry; he, too, got a stone stuck in his mouth and I had to remove it; thankfully no harm was done. What I realised was that stone chippings are to avoided, they are sharp and irregular because of the way they're produced, whereas natural stones are usually more rounded and smoother due to geological erosion over the millennia.

#5 Hermie

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Posted 11 April 2015 - 01:44 PM

Thanks for the replies. He seems to be doing well. I actually let him back out today (only on the grass, not the soil). I didn't want him to gain some kind of phobia of the outdoors. As he was probably hatched indoors in some shop vivarium and too young to be hibernated I presume he may have never seen sunlight, smelt the air, been outside in general before I owned him.

I guess maybe he just wasn't used to being in an environment where there were stones, rocks etc, and it's kind of sad. I would like him to be a happy natural tortoise but for his safety in future it may be best to build a tortoise pen upon some grass so I can be sure he picks no more up whilst he's outside. Heck, I guess it might to be a good idea to put some very large boulder stones in his vivarium (that are too big for him to even attempt to pick up and chew) and then maybe he will get used to smell and taste if he tries to knaw at it. Indoor spaces are just not natural enough it seems to prepare them for outdoors. My opinion anyway, but then I am new to tortoise ownership.

#6 Guest_Stella_*

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Posted 11 April 2015 - 06:31 PM

Hello Hermie, I haven't had the horrible experience you have described and I am glad your tort is ok. From my experience I have found that my younger torts do tend to test the substrate they are on. Mine also seem to hunt out the lighter coloured pebbles and stones. I have also found that once a particular tortoise shows an interest in stones it continues to do so for a short while. I have had torts pass small stones in their bath water........ I have also had torts x-rayed to show stones..

What I have done in my outdoor enclosure is to make sure there are no small stones around. I wouldn't go as far as a boulder ......lol..... But large stones and pebbles sorted my stone eater out!! It is a case of knowing your tort and doing things that help you both.

I think you have had a bad experience that has probably knocked your confidence and made you worry more. But outdoors is the best place for your tortoise and once you have made an enclosure you feel happy with, your tort will reap the benefits. X x x hugs x x

#7 Guest_SueBoyle (was wizzasmum)_*

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Posted 11 April 2015 - 06:48 PM

Just be aware that he will get used to the change, your experience was just a one off and very unlikely to happen again. Grass is quite a bad substrate in that it can contribute to shell rot, so soil would be much better for him, where he can dig down. He won't have been hatched in a shop, but more likely in wild conditions, so he will have met soil before, just not in between on the pet trade journey. All torts taste new substrate, so you would do best to get him out of the via ASAP and into an open topped enclosure, where you can add soil, rocks and lumps of wood for him to climb on. He will thank you for it long term ;)

#8 Guest_Stella_*

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Posted 11 April 2015 - 06:57 PM

Just be aware that he will get used to the change, your experience was just a one off and very unlikely to happen again. Grass is quite a bad substrate in that it can contribute to shell rot, so soil would be much better for him, where he can dig down. He won't have been hatched in a shop, but more likely in wild conditions, so he will have met soil before, just not in between on the pet trade journey. All torts taste new substrate, so you would do best to get him out of the via ASAP and into an open topped enclosure, where you can add soil, rocks and lumps of wood for him to climb on. He will thank you for it long term ;)


And you will be able to enjoy him more x x ss hugs x x

#9 Hermie

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Posted 12 April 2015 - 04:42 PM

Thanks for all the replies. He seems quite undeterred since so he's confidence hasn't taken too much of a knock. I'll make a note to leave him on some soil as opposed to grass - although the trouble with my property is that the soil outside naturally has a high percentage of small pebbles and stones. It will be difficult to sieve them out entirely so unless the accident has deterred him from doing it again, I'm not sure I'll feel confident in letting him roam to his own devices. Maybe, build a wide slabbed pen with compost maybe? - I'm still deciding. But yes, maybe I'll place some larger stones and some other natural things so he can sniff/nibble, get used to the taste/scent ect.

 

Anyway, that's all to report for now. I'm just happy to past my mishap on to others. It seems from replies here stone swallowing is a common occurrence, and unlucky or not; there is a danger to consider. If that means there are less tortoise choking stories posted here then maybe my scare story wouldn't be in vain.



#10 Guest_SueBoyle (was wizzasmum)_*

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Posted 12 April 2015 - 05:04 PM

Hi there
All soil has some stones in it. Mine are outdoors most of the time and so it impossible to screen the whole garden. Once they get used to the big outdoors they don't do this, but if continually changed from in to outside, they will always have a little taste. Try top dressing his area with coir or similar, which will lessen the amount of stones. If he has his own designated area until he is bigger, it will be easier to screen the substrate. Remember that in the wild there are lots of stones and tortoise habitat is particularly stony, so it's consistency that is the key here. Good luck.




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