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Desert Tortoise Quick Hibernation Guidelines

  • Desert Tortoises begin to hibernate in late September and October.
  • As soon as ground temperatures drop to 60 degrees this is appropriate
  • Your tortoises should be examined by our veterinarians and have bloodwork and an x-ray taken before hibernation
  • Your tortoise will slow down their activity in late August and September.
  • Only feed hay/grass no greens after Oct 1
  • Soak your tortoise daily in a shallow bowl for 10 minutes daily after Oct 1
  • Once the ground temp reaches 60 degrees (use a kitchen thermometer pushed into the ground) it is time for hibernation.
  • Temperature must stay between 50-60 degrees.
  • Check your tortoise weight monthly using a gram scale. It should never lose more than 1% bodyweight. For a 500-gram tortoise 5 grams weight loss is a problem
  • The tortoise should not urinate. If it does, then slowly warm them to room temp and soak in shallow water room temp for 10-15 minutes
  • If hibernating indoors use an insulated box lined with care fresh, shredded paper or newspaper.
  • Soak tortoise every 4-6 weeks in room temp water for 10-15 minutes

Hibernation should last 4-6 months

When the temperatures rise above 65 degrees consistently it is time to have your tortoise come out of hibernation.

If you have problems, please call us at 714-899-1100.

Posted in: Desert Tortoise, turtle, turtle health

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How to tell if your turtle is ill

by Lisa Mori

Both terrestrial and aquatic turtles are commonly kept as pets. Providing proper nutrition and appropriate housing for your shelled friend is important to maintaining their health. However, despite your best efforts, your pet may become ill. While there are a variety of conditions that can affect turtles, here are a few common diseases and clinical signs you may see.

Vitamin A deficiency (hypovitaminosis A) is a disease commonly seen as result of an inadequate diet (iceberg lettuce, poor quality commercial diet). A lack of vitamin A causes changes in the epidermis (outer layer of skin) with signs including puffy eyelids with eyes swollen shut, nasal discharge, or tympanic (ear) abscesses.

Shell fractures are common and are frequently due to trauma. Traumatic fractures can occur from dog attack, being run over by a car, stepped on, or dropped. Additionally, fractures or shell deformities can also occur due to an underlying nutritional deficiency.

Egg binding occurs when a female is unable to pass eggs and needs intervention to clear the obstruction. This can occur due to malnutrition, underlying disease, or large egg size. Signs include straining, restlessness, or a profound decrease in energy.

Respiratory tract disease is most commonly caused by a bacterial infection, but also occurs with vitamin A deficiency. Signs include clear to milky white nasal discharge, increased oral secretions (bubbles in mouth), stretching the neck, noisy breathing, and decreased energy or appetite. Since turtles use limb movement to aid in respiration, you may see increased “pumping” movements with each breath. An aquatic turtle may float off-balanced as buoyancy will be affected.

Remember, you don’t have to wait until your turtle becomes sick to see your veterinarian. Just like cats and dogs, yearly wellness exams for turtles can help address husbandry or other issues before they become serious problems!


Posted in: Blog, exotic animal health, Exotic Pet Health, Pet Health, turtle, Westminster Veterinary Group

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