How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site. Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • Go back-and-forth until satisfied
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask CarynP625 Your Own Question
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 735
Experience:  dasdasd
Type Your Vet Question Here...
CarynP625 is online now

Tortoise 15 years old Very lethargic, Not eating much,

Customer Question

Tortoise 15 years old Very lethargic
JA: I'll do all I can to help. Could be a lot of things that cause lethargy. The Expert will know how to help the tortoise. What is the tortoise's name?
Customer: Not eating much
JA: Is there anything else the Vet should know before I connect you? Rest assured that they'll be able to help you.
Customer: Tortoise 15 year old Lethargic not eating much
Submitted: 16 days ago.
Category: Vet
Customer: replied 16 days ago.
Expert:  CarynP625 replied 15 days ago.

I am sincerely ***** ***** there was a delay in someone responding to your question. (Experts are independent contractors and as such are online based on their own schedules.) However, I am available and can assist you if you still need veterinary advice.

Hello and thanks for posting your question on My name is***** and I have been a licensed and accredited veterinarian in the US for over 22 years, specializing in aquatics, reptiles, amphibians, avian and other exotic species. JustAnswer is a question and answer service, not a veterinary telemedicine or emergency service. On this platform veterinarians can provide insight and advice based on the information you provide, but as this is not considered a legal client-patient relationship and we cannot examine your pet, we are unable to provide definitive diagnoses, prescribe medications, provide medical records or sign documents for your specific pet. For any of those you would need to make an in person visit with a local veterinarian. If your pet has a serious illness or life-threatening emergency, I strongly recommend you obtain hands-on veterinary care with a local veterinarian or veterinary emergency service as soon as possible. I am happy to chat with you via the JustAnswer app via text. For US based clients, if you are interested in a phone call instead that is an option you can choose for an additional charge. In the meantime, I am putting together some questions and/or suggestions to help with your pet’s concern.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 15 days ago.

Thanks again for posting your question, I’m sorry that your 15 year old tortoise is not eating much and is very lethargic, that is concerning. I have some questions that will help me get a better idea of your pet’s environment and what may be going on with them:

-What type of tortoise is it? What is his name?

-When did you first notice this current problem?

-What is the current enclosure set-up, e.g.,

What is the enclosure temperature gradient (cool, warm and hottest basking spot)?

What is the humidity in the enclosure?

What type of substrate or bedding are you using?

-Do they receive any access to UV light? If indoors and using a UVB bulb, when was the UVB bulb last changed?

-What do you normally feed them? Do they receive any calcium or vitamin supplements?

-Have they been pooping regularly and has it looked normal?

-Any other signs such as weight loss, bloating, sunken eyes, wrinkled skin, lumps/bumps, increased yawning, neck stretching or open mouthed breathing, etc.?

Thanks very much for providing additional information, it is very helpful for me to try and figure out what is going on with your tortoise and the history information will help me to do that.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 15 days ago.

With any sick tortoise, it is always a good idea to start by checking that their environment and husbandry are proper for their species. Taking a physical measurement of the temperature gradient within the enclosure and measuring humidity with a hygrometer are a good idea. Making sure the UVB bulb is appropriate for the size of the space and has been changed regularly. Even if they are still producing visible light, UVB bulbs have a limited lifespan and need to be changed every 6-12 months, depending upon bulb type. Making sure diet is varied and appropriate for their species of tortoise and supplemented with calcium and multivitamin powder as recommended.

For example, if the environmental temperatures are too low, since tortoises are cold-blooded, this will negatively affect their metabolism, appetite, digestion and immune function. So start by checking the temperature gradient – cool, warm and basking and temperatures and, if it's too low, adjust your basking light to achieving the proper environmental temperatures. If housed outdoors, some tortoises will need supplement heating and off the ground housing to stay warm when temperatures drop.

In the meantime, I will give you some information about what may be causing these signs and some suggestions for home care and support of your ill tortoise or while you are awaiting a visit to the veterinarian.

I do have care sheets with recommendations about environment and diet since some common medical conditions are unintentionally caused by improper husbandry (such as too low temperatures, humidity, UVB lighting or calcium and vitamin supplementation), however you would need to let me know what type of tortoise you have first, since care is different depending upon the species. Thanks.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 15 days ago.

There are a number of reasons why your tortoise may not be eating a normal amount of food or have a lower energy level. Some of them are transient and may be normal while others are more concerning and warrant a veterinary evaluation. However severe lethargy is concerning and is more likely due to an underlying medical, environmental or metabolic problem especially if environmental conditions are normal.

Tortoises may not eat normally due to emotional or physiological stress. Changes in environment such a new tank or changes in décor, or changes in lighting, temperature or diet might trigger temporary disinterest in food.

Tortoises kept with others may be bullied by a more dominant individual. The stress or physical intimidation may prevent a more submissive tortoise from eating. Close observation of interaction between animals is important and this may require separate feeding bowls, tank partitions or even separate housing.

Improper lighting (too little or too much visible light or UVB light) or temperature (too low) or humidity (too low causing dehydration) can negatively impact appetite and energy level.

As cold-blooded animals, tortoises require sufficient temperatures for proper digestion. Most tortoises not only require a gradient of temperatures in their cool to warm but also a hotter basking spot in their enclosure. (Providing your type of tortoise would be helpful to assess and make recommendations about environmental temperature and humidity.)

Before and after shedding, appetite may be down. Shedding is energy intensive and potentially itchy and uncomfortable so while they will commonly not eat during the shedding process, their appetites may be depressed just before and after shedding as well.

Some abnormal causes for appetite depression and lethargy include improper environment (such as temperature too low), mouth rot (infectious stomatitis), trauma, infection (viral, bacterial, parasitic), nutritional disorder (chronic malnutrition, improper diet metabolic bone disease, metabolic bone disease, Vitamin A deficiency (hypovitaminosis A)), urogenital disease (bladder stones), reproductive disorders (dystocia or egg-binding), respiratory infection, indigestion or maldigestion, and gastrointestinal impaction.

The bot***** *****ne is that if your tortoise is otherwise acting and looking normally and the appetite depression or low energy is temporary then it may be normal. However, if the tortoise is displaying any other signs of illness such as severe lethargy or weakness, sunken eyes, skin discoloration, abnormal defecation or urination or the depressed appetite and energy level persists more than a few days, a visit to a local veterinarian with experience in reptile medicine is warranted.

To help find a local veterinarian with reptile experience, here is a useful website you can use to search for a local reptile veterinarian. These veterinarians are active members of the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians, which means they have interest and experience in treating reptile patients:

(please note this site may not work on older browsers like Safari)

Please note that since you are outside the US, you will need to choose Advanced Search.

Advanced Search: Step 1 of 2, Member status

Select/toggle honorary member, life member, new grad, active veterinarian, and associate.

Press Continue.

Advanced Search: Step 2 of 2

Use the drop down menu in Country to select your country. Press Search.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 15 days ago.

It’s especially important if your pet is under the weather to make sure that their enclosure is clean, food and water are fresh and prepared hygienically and that the temperature is appropriate and that your UV-B bulb is in proper working condition. Here are some additional recommendations of how you can support your tortoise while they are under the weather or are awaiting their veterinary appointment:

-Healing and normal metabolism are linked to proper environmental temperature.

I don't know what type of tortoise you have, but for example for a Greek Tortoise (Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise), Testudo graeca:

Temperature recommendations: Require temperature gradient of 75-85F (23.9-29.4C) to a hot basking spot, 95-100F (35-37.8C) though they can take slightly warmer temperatures in the summer if provided sufficient shady spots or a cooler zone to retire to. Nighttime temperature of at least 70F (21.1C). Tortoises housed outdoors will need a raised, heated shelter if night time temperatures drop below 65F.

If you could provide what type of tortoise you have I can be more specific and provide care recommendations for your species of tortoise.

-Keep them warm. If they’re not moving around much on their own, place them in an area of the tank/enclosure that near the upper end of their warm zone, but not on top of a hot rock/heating pad or under the hottest basking area as they can overheat or get burned.

-Offer food, even if not eating. If your tortoise is having difficulty reaching or getting to their food, put the food dish next to them or you can also hand or tong feed them. Place a favorite food item gently against their lips and if they are hungry, they will bite at it. If not, don’t force it.

It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to force feed an uncooperative tortoise. They are likely not eating because they are not feeling well. Finding and resolving the underlying cause (environmental or medical) should hopefully help restore their appetite.

-To prevent or treat dehydration, you can give your tortoise a soak in a shallow dish of warm water for 15-30 minutes once or twice a day. For most tortoises 80F is a good temperature for a warm water soak. You want water temperature to be warm, near the upper end of their normal warm temperatures so they don't get a chill but not overly hot. Water depth should be to the shoulder but not deep enough for the head to submerge. If they are lethargic, monitor them while in the bath to make sure their head does not submerge. Dry them off after the bath to prevent cooling from evaporation.

-It's important to make sure their environment is clean as build up mold or bacteria in bedding material or excess dust can predispose or lead to respiratory infections. I recommend changing out the bedding completely at least weekly while your animal is ill (otherwise every 2-4 weeks is fine). Using a bedding that is not volatile or irritating (avoid cedar or pine), or overly dusty are recommended, such as coconut coir, organic topsoil, orchid bark, cypress mulch, and peat or sphagnum moss or even a mixture of these (for example, I like organic vermiculite free topsoil mixed with coconut coir and then topped with a layer of cypress mulch to help keep in moisture).

- It is also a good idea to re-evaluate your current husbandry practices as some common disorders are unintentionally caused by deficiencies or imbalances in diet, UVB lighting and calcium/vitamin supplementation or improper temperature and humidity levels in the environment.

I should be notified if/when you respond with additional information so we can connect about your tortoise but, in the meantime, I hope this information is helpful and I wish you both the best. Thanks again for posting your question to Sincerely, ***** *****