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Anna, Teacher, writer, biologist
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A Mediterranean tortoise I 'inherited last year and who, I

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A Mediterranean tortoise I 'inherited last year and who, I believe, is 3 - 4 years old, stopped eating completely about a week ago and is moving very little - as though he was getting ready for hibernation, which is way too early. Up until then he was eating well and was very active.
I would beg restful for any advice.
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I apologize that no one has responded to your question sooner. Different experts come online at various times. I just came online and saw your question. My name is ***** ***** I’m a biologist with a special interest in reptiles. I'm sorry to hear of this problem. Some additional information will be useful.

Has Crunch been opening his mouth often as if yawning?

Is there any discharge from his eyes or nose? Any bubbles from his nose?

Does Crunch live indoors or outside? If outside, what has your weather been like recently?

If inside, what temperatures do you maintain under the basking light and on the cool side of the enclosure? What types of heating and lighting equipment do you use?

Thank you.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thanksp for responding; unfortunately the problem is not resolved, Crunch is still not eating or moving, so further advice is urgent and would be really appreciated.
Thanks very much
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Hi Anna, thanks for the response. Crunch doesn't appear to be yawning a great deal, although I have seen him do it occasionally.
No discharge from his eyes or nose, no bubbles from his nose.
He lives inside, difficult to say what the temperature is the under his basking light, but the thermometer fitted to the back of his home reads 80 - 85% F. Fitted on the basking side is an EXO TERRA Reptile Glo 10UVB lamp and a 40v energy saver light bulb. He has a hide in the centre; the door on the cool side is kept open during the day. Until recently, he enjoyed going in and out and wandered around the house at will.
Help is still needed.
Thank you for getting back to me. Will you tell me a bit more about two things:

How old is the EXO TERRA bulb?

What type of thermometer is on the back of the cage - stick on, digital, etc.?

What do you normally feed Crunch?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Hi Anna,
As the The EXO TERRA bulb was there when I inherited Crunch it has to be over a year old, similarly the the thermometer, which I is think is stuck on but not digital (difficult for me to see precisely as I'm disabled and can't get down there to really scrutinise it!).
His food is a mixture of fresh leaves - dandelion , lettuce, plantain, nasturtium, hardy geranium etc. he also has cucumber, tomatoes and seasonal flowers - nasturtium, pansy, mallow, marigold etc, and is especially fond of evening primrose. I Occasionally grate cuttlefish onto his food as I was told this would provide calcium; I tried him with a calcium block but he wouldn't entertain that.
Thank you. You made a good decision to bathe Crunch, but since it didn't help, we have to look a bit further for the problem. Pet stores and outdated books are often the sources people turn to for information on care, and while we should be able to trust such information, it is often wrong.

It may be necessary to take Crunch to a reptile vet, but the first thing we do when a tortoise stops eating is make sure all conditions are correct. Sometimes all it takes is a bit higher temperature, or a longer exposure to light each day. You may already know much of what I'm going to tell you, and if so, just ignore it. I want to cover everything to make sure we can rule out any potential problems. If the thermometer you use is the stick on type, it isn't reliable. That type can be off by as much as 20*. A digital probe thermometer is best. You want to measure the temps right under the basking light and on the cool side.

The gradient in the enclosure should be 75*F to 85*F, with the basking area warmer yet, at 95*F. Night temperatures can go down to 70* to 75*F. The night time temeprature drop is important for good health. Since your UVB light bulb is more than 6 months old, it should be replaced. They are ineffective after 6 months, even though they may look fine. UVB rays are invisible to our eyes. The lights give off visible light as well as UVB, so they look like they are still good for years after they have stopped emitting UVB rays. I recommend the Reptisun 10.0 in the straight tube style. Both the basking light and the UVB light should be on for 12 to 14 hours per day. The first thing to do for Crunch is make any adjustments to temperature and lighting that are needed.

Crunch may be in the beginning stages of Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) sinc ehe ha sbeen without an effective UVB light and has been getting inadequate calcium. He needs calcium at least 5 days a week. He also needs a calcium source. You might try placing a cuttlebone in his enclosure. Don't use the metal or plastic holder that often comes with them, just place the bone in the cage. If he won't consume it, you may have to continue with the shavings, but more often.

Next, we can improve on the bathing. Buy an electrolyte solution. In the UK, it would be a product called Lectaid, which is sold in pet stores. Prepare a shallow bath consisting of 1/2 water and 1/2 electrolyte solution. Soak Crunch for about 20 to 30 minutes twice a day. Reptiles can absorb the electrolytes and fluids through their vents (where droppings pass out), so make the water deep enough to cover the vent. Be sure to supervise closely.

It is also important to make sure the proper diet is fed. It can take years for problems to develop with an inadequate diet. Tortoises need a high fiber diet. Greens are important, but greens alone don't contain enough fiber. Hay and grasses should be a big part of the diet. If you don't spray your lawn, and can supervise well, take him outside to graze. He may like to eat grass, weeds, and flowers. Letting him sample such a buffet may encourage him to eat. If going outdoors isn't an option, buy some tasty varieties of hay. The one available at this site is put together especially for tortoises. On the left side of that page, more varieties are listed. All would be good.

Of course, greens such as dandelion, collards, and turnip greens are also good, but your tortoise really needs the fiber found in hays and grasses. The commercial food sold for tortoises is not good for him. You can read more about diet at the following site:

If you make all the corrections needed (or if none are needed at all), it is likley that Crunch is actually sick. You don't want him to hibernate if he is not perfectly healthy. Tortoises often die during hibernation when they are abit under the weather. It woudl eb best to have him examined by a reptile vet. This link will take you to a directory of such vets in the UK:

A vet can check Crunch's breathing and heart, examine him from head to toe, and do blood work and/or radiographs if necessary.

If you have more questions, let me know in a REPLY. I hope Crunch will be fine.


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Anna, Teacher, writer, biologist
Category: General
Satisfied Customers: 11769
Experience: Great research skills, variety of work experiences, teaching experience.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thanks Very much Anna,
I will try all your advice, should all else fail I will look look for a reptile vet and will let you know if Crunch begins eating again.
Thanks again,
You're welcome, Sandra. I hope Crunch will soon develop a hearty appetite agains.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Anna,

I would love to give you a rating but can't find how to do this (probably because I'm old!!).

Crunch is eating again now, so the new basking and UVB lamps seem to have done the trick. However, as he has missed out on about three weeks eating, could you advise if I should delay hibernating him?

Last year he hibernated from end of November until mid-march.

Your advice is very much appreciated.

Kind regards,


Hi Sandra,
At some point, you did give me a rating. Thank you. Any emails you get are automatic, computer generated, and not actually from me.
It's always risky to hibernate a tortoise that has been ill. The best thing to do would be to have a vet evaluate Crunch to see if he is fit to hibernate. If that's not possible, I would delay hibernation until he is in the normal condition in which he goes into hibernation.