Common tortoise diseases

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Common tortoise diseases

Post  Admin on Fri Apr 20, 2012 11:20 am


"Runny nose syndrome" RNS is not a disease, but rather a term used to describe an upper respiratory tract infection which may have several causes. It can occur in any species, but seems to be especially in , 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, despite treatment. Any animal that has been infected can, and often does, become a carrier. They may not display any symptoms, but can infect any tortoise that comes into contact with them. 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". There are several factors that increase the chances of your tortoise developing a respiratory tract infection: dusty conditions (resulting in irritation of the mucus membranes), foreign bodies lodging in the nostrils, inappropriate humidity or temperature, lack of sunlight, confinement in damp grassed areas , overcrowding, malnutrition, and stress.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 (mouth rot) accompanies RNS which can complicate matters even further.
Treatment: 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.

If a foreign body is not the culprit, ask your vet for a sterile swab. Take a smear of mucous from his nose and get this sample in to your vet 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 (Terramycin), Tylosin, and, especially, 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 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 and Cape angulate tortoises in particular) can be allergic to Baytril. Most allergic responses are vomiting and/or frothing at the nose and mouth. 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.

Soak the tortoise in a bath of tepid water for 30 minutes, with the water level just covering the plastron. If this does not work, consult your veterinarian for advice. This condition is almost invariably the result of poor dietary management. Increase fibre intake substantially. Laxatives commonly used are liquid parafin and lactulose. Dandelion root added to feed will often work here too.

Add alfalfa (rabbit pellets are compressed alfalfa) to diet as a temporary measure (they are rather high in protein for routine use) and change to a less hydrated food. Overfeeding of fruit is a common cause. Use drugs only if an infection is present, consult your veterinarian. Any foul smelling diarrhoea should be reported to your vet without delay. A fecal sample should be checked for evidence of worms or flagellate organisms

is a serious sign, consult your vet without delay. Can also indicate a very severe worm infestation

These are quite common in tortoises, especially in the ears. Take your tortoise to your vet at the first sign of any abnormal swelling. Abscesses can also follow minor bites or other injuries, such as a thorn penetration. Abscesses in tortoises will not respond merely to antibiotic treatment; they must be physically drained and all necrotic material removed surgically and the wound left to drain without stitching. Good

The most common causes of respiratory disease are: unhygienic and damp conditions, overcrowding, inadequate temperatures and exposure to "carriers".
Symptoms: Acute - gaping, stretching neck and respiratory difficulty, often mucous in nostrils and mouth, leg weakness and poor retraction, dehydration, depression, open mouth breathing. Some tortoises run about blindly. Urgent veterinary help is needed if the tortoise is to survive. Begin injected antibiotics at once. Even a few hours delay can prove fatal.

Symptoms: Chronic - persistent low level discharge from nose, weakness, poor head and limb retraction. Probably the most common disease found in tortoises. The tortoise should be treated by a competent veterinarian

Eye infections:
Infections usually respond to treatment with either Genoptic (gentamycin) eye drops eye suspension. Mild cases respond to Neomycin or Chloramphenicol eye ointment. Where you see severely swollen eyelids there is usually a primary bacterial infection in which case a course of antibiotics will be essential. Some eye problems are simply an indication of vitamn A deficiency. Supply vitamin A and use a mild eye ointment, if the condition does not respond fairly quickly get

Shell rot:
This is often caused by injuries and sometimes ticks. Treatment includes the removal of any loose shields and thorough cleaning daily with a solution of Nolvasan or Betadine. Exposure to air will aid cure. Where this treatment fails, flamazine can be applied once daily after thorough cleaning. Advanced cases may need simultaneous administration of an injectable antibiotic from your veterinarian.

Signs include vomiting, lethargy, distinct reddish flush or tinge on the plastron or under carapace shields (except in angulates). Haemorrhages of tongue and oral mucous membranes occur, jaundice, and the animal drinks excessively. This is sometimes caused by egg retention/rupture, or gut impaction. Obtain veterinary help immediately

For any external parasites you can dip the tortoise in Alugan or diluted tritix (Amitraz) 1-2ml/litre. Ticks can be removed manually - coat with alcohol or vaseline, turn on its back to loosen its grip and pull off. Apply a little betadine to the spot where the tick was attached.

Symptoms of worms: diarrhoea, anorexia, sometimes vomiting, Some tortoises splutter small volumes of liquid from the mouth. If left untreated, infection with worms can cause serious perforation of the intestine or intestinal blockage.

Treatment and prevention: Avoid overcrowding. Worm eggs can survive on the ground for long periods and can infect other tortoises feeding in the area. It is recommended that routine worming with Panacur or Oxfen be carried out twice yearly, once in the spring and once in the autumn. Never - ever - try to worm tortoises with any preparation containing Ivermectin - this product has proved consistently FATAL in tortoises of all species. Dog or cat wormers based upon piperazine should also be avoided. Required dose rates are high compared to mammals: 3 ml of a 2.5% solution per kilogram of the tortoise's bodyweight. Recommended dose of panacur is 25-50mg/kg, dose again after two weeks and have a fecal done two weeks later to check that you have in fact eliminated the infection. Infestations of hookworm are better treated at weekly intervals with the lower dosage rate until a fecal tests clear. All companions should be treated at the same time.

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