Reptiles/My tortoise


My tortoises back legs have been swollen and red/purple shade and she/he hasn't been moving for a few days. Normally, we feed the tortoise cabbage or lettuce. She is about 5-6 years old and has has no problems ever before. I'm scared she's dead but it doesn't smell in the house. Please help. Also, she has a large terrarium with dirt for tortoises from the pet store and a food basin and big water tub. Also a hollow half log and two tortoise lamps. She is most likely a Russian tortoise

I normally would just reject this question outright, because you clearly didn't follow any of the directions. This tortoise is dying if she isn't already dead. The diet you were feeding her first of all is atrocious, so you apparently have done no research whatsoever on these animals. This tortoise should live multiple decades, but you will kill her in 5-6yrs. is a Russian tortoise. Frankly, if you didn't know that for SURE, then you have no business keeping the animal.

The only solution here is to see a vet IMMEDIATELY. Not tomorrow, not next week. There is not a SINGLE thing I can tell you to remedy that short of a trip to a reptile veterinarian. You aren't going to cure this at home, and that animal will suffer and die a prolonged death if you don't, period, end of discussion. This animal needs diagnostics and meds that you aren't going to have (that's IF it's still alive, which I doubt based on that photo).   

Chelonians can still be alive after they outwardly appear dead, but the only way to know whether this is a gas buildup post mortem or if it's inflammation as a result of sepsis, is to verify death. One way to do that is to check for reflex in the tail by straightening it and see if it is pulled back parallel to the body. Next is to attempt to open the mouth and check for reflex to the tongue being touched or scraping the roof of the mouth, or reflex from the eyes being gently touched. If none, and the eyes are sunken in, or a brown lividity spot is seen on the bottom of the shell, then the tortoise is dead. Based on this picture, I am pretty sure the tortoise is dead already.

Given how little you appear to know of these animals, I wold advise you to not get another. Your stewardship is wholly irresponsible, and in fact cruel, if you did not even know for sure what species it was (how can you be knowledgeable of care if you don't even know the species?) and your diet was so poor. This is nothing but a shame to obtain an exotic animal, and in this day in age when information is freely available at your fingertips, to see this happen. Such ignorance is inexcusable in the internet age. She could have seen 80 or more years, but I'm afraid that she's dead now before the average cat would have died.  


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts




YOU WILL GET A REJECTION OF YOUR QUESTION IF YOU FAIL TO FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS TO QUESTIONER IN FULL!. I am primarily here to assist with health concerns. I am here for the more difficult questions. Not for questions that you could research & easily find the answer yourself. My standards are that you provide DETAILED and RELEVANT background history on your pet before you ask me any question about it other than GENDER or ID. The requested information is in the instructions to questioner. Failure to answer each of those questions to provide that background, will result in your question being rejected. I can answer questions related reptile husbandry, identification (esp. in Texas and the SW), legal aspects, and advanced level medical care. I am the director of Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue (TX), a wildlife rehabilitator specializing in reptiles, a founding member of The Society for Horned Lizard Preservation, a subscriber to the International Veterinary Information Service,, educational content contributor to, and a Dept of State Health Services accredited animal control instructor (CE) for reptile handling. I do most of my own veterinary care in-house, including minor surgery and necropsy. I am most experienced in Chelonia with box turtles and common smaller tortoises; and in Squamata with everything from Anoles, Geckos, Beardies, and Monitors, to venomous snakes. I am most known for my expertise with horned lizards (Phrynosoma). With snakes, my primary expertise is in Crotalids (rattlesnakes), but I can answer a broad range of questions about various species. I am not aware of any reptile related question that I would not be able to provide some reasonable answer for. I have a direct style and may tell you something you did not want to hear; but the welfare of the animal comes FIRST with me, and I will always reflect that position in my answer, despite how it might make you feel.


I am a non-academic herpetologist with 25+ years reptile experience, and I am an accredited Texas Dept of State Health Services Animal Control Instructor for Reptiles (CE). I am a reptile rescuer, reptile wildlife rehabilitator, and subscriber to the International Veterinary Information Service, wikivet, and article/journal content contributor to Lafebervet. I have medical and scientific resources available, and I perform in house reptile veterinary care for my rescues. I am not a vet, but I read from the same materials and have had to correct quite a few in the past. The average vet is not well versed with reptile physiology and medical treatments.

Animals that I am currently caring for, or have significant rehabilitation and husbandry experience with: Horned Lizards (5 species); Eastern and Western Box Turtles; Painted, RES, YBS, Soft-Shell, and Cooter aquatic turtles; Russian Tortoises; Fire Bellied Toads; Fire Bellied Newts; Ornate Horned Frogs; Green Iguanas; Desert Iguanas; Spiny Lizards; Long Nosed Leopard Lizards; Anoles; Racerunners; Collared Lizards; Bullsnakes; Eastern Ratsnakes; Great Plains Ratsnakes; Kingsnakes; Gartersnakes; Cornsnakes; Boas; Pythons; Bearded Dragons; Water Dragons; Massasauga Rattlesnakes; Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes; Leopard, Mediterranean, Golden, Indo-Pacific, African White-Spotted Geckos; Savannah Monitors; Jeweled Curly-Tailed Lizards; Long-Tailed Grass Lizards; Fox Squirrels; Deer Mice; Hispid Cotton Rats; Merriam's Pocket Mice; Eastern Cotton-Tails; Blue Bar racing pigeon; Budgies; Asian Forest Scorpions.


Co-Founder & Director: Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue

Founder: The Society for Horned Lizard Preservation

Publications contributor. The Horned Lizard Husbandry Manual - self published 75 pages of care information on genus Phrynosoma.

Wikipedia entry "Horned Lizards" - contributed to a majority of the content., and various reptile related forums and email lists under the handles "fireside3" and PhrynosomaTexas".

My hands-on field, rehabilitation, and captive husbandry experience beats a PhD any day of the week. I am also a state accredited animal control instructor for reptile handling.

Past/Present Clients

I was requested to provide my care manual on the Desert Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos), for the Montreal zoo. My manual is also used by several other zoological institutions in N. America. I also teach reptile education to summer camps, and instruct wildlife rehabilitators on live saving and rehab techniques with reptiles.

©2017 All rights reserved.