Turtles/Worms

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QUESTION: Hi Jeannie
  Our boy Bobber, a red foot tortoise, Im pretty sure has worms. My wife was looking at him last night and it looked very much like half a worm sticking out of his mouth. We bring him out of his box every day and he just slowly walks to a corner of the house and sleeps. He eats very well,every day. A bowl of lettuce, some fruit. But then I remover the last time I talked to you, you said red foots don't eat every day. Our boy does, and sometimes when he's walking around the house,he tries eating things he shouldn't he's about 6 years old. Please help us.

ANSWER: Hi Don,

If Bobber does have worms, you most likely wouldn't know.  Generally they are only visible upon fecal examination.  So whatever Bobber had in his mouth wasn't parasitic, although he might have found an earthworm in the house and eaten it.  It's not really a good idea to allow a tortoise to free roam in the house.  For one thing, as you've seen, they'll eat all kinds of things.  For another, they can get stuck in tight spaces, and finally, the floor temperature is really too cold for them (especially a redfoot, since they're tropical tortoises).  He's probably sleeping because he's cold.  If you want to give him some exercise room, it would be better to create an area for him with a basking lamp, so he can roam around and warm up if he needs to.

You don't have to feed him daily, but you can as long as you don't overfeed him.  However, you do need to improve his diet.  He shouldn't be eating just lettuce and fruit, and in fact, lettuce should be fairly limited because it's not very nutritious.  Better greens would be dandelion, turnip, collards, kale, raddichio, chicory, mustard, etc.  His diet should be a base of healthy greens (varied), with fruit added 3-4 times a week, and veggies (squash, peppers, mushrooms, carrots, etc.) 2-3 times a week.  He should also be getting some kind of animal protein about once a week or once every two weeks (not too often).  This can be pinky mice, superworms, earthworms, snails, boiled egg, boiled chicken, crickets, etc.  Redfoots are omnivores, so they eat a lot of different things and really need that variety.  

Hope this helped.  Let me know if you have any other questions!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Me again Jeannie. I do give him " small tortoise food" made by pretty pets maybe every two weeks.also "forest tortoise food",made by zoo med. but I didn't say that the worm looking creature was round, about the size in circumference of a pin. It also had what looked like a brown head. I looked thru his poop today and I didn't see anything,but I have to say that sure looked like a worm. He always seems to be hungry( like me) but maybe I should give him his tortoise food and egg once a week? Also I have Sphagnum moss in his cage when I change his substrate. The package says it's safe but he tends to eat a little of that every so often. We just had him out with us working in the yard, and he tired me out having to keep running after him. He seems active enough outside, but that worm looking thing scared me.
   Thanks Jeannie,your great!  Don

Answer
Don't feed prepared foods (pellets).  It's not a good diet and really isn't going to replace real food.  Work on establishing a more natural diet of whole foods--greens, fruits, veggies, and some animal protein.  It's a little more work, but much healthier in the long run.

It's highly unlikely you would see anything in the poop.  There would have to be a really heavy parasite load for there to be anything visible, and if that was the case Bobber would be acting sick.  The only real way to determine if there's parasites is to take a sample to a vet and have them do a fecal float.  However, if Bobber is acting normally and eating well, I wouldn't even worry about it.  A certain level of parasites is normal in all animals.  It's only a problem when the load increases due to illness or stress.  Whatever you saw might have been some kind of worm, but it didn't come from the tortoise.  

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Jeannie

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Questions regarding husbandry of Russian tortoises and other Mediterranean species, sulcata, and redfoot tortoises; general tortoise and turtle care; box turtle care. If I can't answer a specific question, I can provide sources for further research. Disclaimer: My advice is not a substitute for vet care. If I think your tortoise/turtle has a specific medical condition or injury that warrants a vet visit, I'll tell you so, and if possible I'll help you locate a vet. It is neither legal nor ethical for me to provide veterinary advice.

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I have kept and bred Russian tortoises for over ten years and have other Mediterranean species plus redfoots and box turtles. I've worked with other tortoise and turtle species while doing volunteer rescue work; mostly sulcata but some leopards, California desert tortoises, yellowfoots, all box turtle species, red-eared sliders, etc. I don't personally keep aquatic species, but have access to a wealth of information and research to help you with any questions you might have.

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My knowledge is based on hands-on experience keeping, breeding, and working with tortoises and turtles.

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